On 4 August 2007, we were booked on flight EK 0725 at 10:00am from Dubai to Dar es Salaam.
We arrived at the airport in good time, around 2 hours before departure. Inside the check-in area, we tried to use the electronic check-in terminals, but the machine aborted the electronic check-in process without producing a boarding pass or giving any further information. After asking Emirates staff we were told to queue at the check-in counters.
Progress in the queue was very slow, not least since Emirates check-in staff were continuously calling other passengers (for flights to Karachi, Manila, etc., many with big families and large amounts of luggage) to come forward and push in in front of us. When we asked various Emirates staff about the flight to Dar es Salaam, we were told to stay in the queue.
Eventually, around 9:25am, we inquired – yet again – about flight EK 0725 to Dar es Salaam. By then Emirates staff Emirates staff told us that our flight had been closed, and there was no chance of us getting on it, despite the fact that (i) we were booked on that flight, (ii) had fully paid tickets, and (iii) had been there on time.
Emirates staff did not offer a single word of apology. Instead, adding insult to injury, one employee first accused us of having arrived late – which we denied, but he insisted – seeking to shift any responsibility away from him and Emirates Airline, and on to us. This claim is manifestly untrue, as there is a record of us having arrived on time.
When requesting to speak to the superior of the Emirates staff , we were told that the two of them were each other bosses – which cannot be true and was patently an intentional misinformation to prevent us from appealing to a superior level.
Emirates staff then alleged, with voice raised, that he had called out the Dar es Salaam flight. The fact is that neither us, nor – independently from us, in a different part of the queue – four other travelers from the United States (who also found themselves grounded) had heard or noted anything. There is no Public Address system in the check-in area of Dubai International Airport. The fact that we did not hear it was supposedly due to our own stupidly.
In one word, Emirates staff addressed our complaints about denied boarding by first aggressively refusing any responsibility, and then accusing us of lying and stupidity, and finally telling us to go away.
They then looked into the IT system, to see whether we could be booked onto the flight to Dar es Salaam on the next day (5 August 2007). On that occasion, they noticed that we were indeed checked-in through the electronic system, which had, however, aborted the check-in procedures. The record showed unambiguously that we had tried to check in at 8:39am, a long time before the closure of the flight.
We were then informed that we were put on stand-by for the flight on the next day (5 August), leaving us, in effect, stranded at Dubai Airport. We were note offered any accommodation and told to leave and come back next morning at 8:00am.
Eventually, we managed to get hold of the acting manager and superior who, after establishing that there was indeed a record of us having been there on time, recognized that ours was a case of denied boarding and he arranged for hotel and food vouchers to be given to us, and reassured us that we would get onto the Dar es Salaam flight on 5 August 2007.
To get to this point, i.e. a proper handling of a case of denied boarding in line with the most basic standards of reputable international airlines, had required three hours of hard arguments, untiring patience and continuous politeness on our part in the face of false accusations and unprofessional and abusive behavior on the part by Emirates staff.
On the next morning, 5 August 2007, when we arrived at Dubai airport at 8:00am, we were told by Emirates staff that the flight to Dar es Salaam was fully booked AGAIN and that instead we would be flown to Nairobi and then on to Dar es Salaam – which was, however, of no use, as we would have missed our (by that time already rescheduled) onward flight from Dar es Salaam.
Eventually, we were booked onto the Emirates flight to Nairobi, and then on an onward flight to our final destination. This rebooking necessitated a 7-hour stopover at Nairobi airport, and further stressful re-bookings with Emirates/Kenya Airways staff, rescheduling with our travel agent in Europe, as well as further queuing and seemingly endless waiting at Nairobi airport. Incidentally, assurance given by Emirates staff in Dubai that we had reservations for the onward flight from Nairobi turned out to be untrue.
Our experience with Emirates Airline, especially with the ground staff at Dubai International Airport, made a complete mockery of the words of Emirates Group Chairman and Chief Executive, Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum: “We never forget that only by maintaining our service standards can we hope to retain [the] business [of our loyal customers].” (Annual Report 2006/07). The severe shortcomings of Emirates service during this incident caused us not only significant physical and emotional stress, they also cut short our holiday by 1 day, forced us to rearrange programmed activities and compelled us to involuntarily spend time in Dubai and later on at Nairobi airport.
I am awaiting a response from Emirates (UAE) and Emirates (Germany).
Frankfurt am Main, GERMANY