Emirates is too big to care
About a year ago I started planning on our belated honeymoon and we started saving for what was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime. I always knew I wanted to go to the USA but the only question was what airline would be able to take me there. Initially the decision was to use United that flew directly from Johannesburg to NY and it would be a 14 hour flight. Then my travel agent brought to my attention that the Emirates (all our friends and family told us they were the best airline in the world) tickets was a bit cheaper but I would have to stop over in Dubai and fly 6 hours longer, something that sounded appealing to me as my best friend moved to Dubai and I could go visit him and he could take us around and show us Dubai and I could go up the Burj Khalifa (one of the main reasons I changed my plans). So we changed our plans to fly to Dubai 10 Aug with Emirates, not United, spend 11-14 Aug in Dubai en then fly on to the USA. We were so excited and started planning our activities accordingly as we knew the things we wanted to do could only be done if we booked in advance. On the 11th of Aug we would then land 5h the morning, take a desert safari, go up the Burj Khalifa and have drinks at the Bruj Al Arab (photos below) the evening, followed by a few days of further fun in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
On the day of 10 Aug we checked in at the Emirates counter 4 hours early for flight EK764 as we were so excited to go on honeymoon. For the next four hours there was not one single thing that leads us to believe flight EK764 was going to be delayed. When we got to the gate 1 hour before departure there was still no communication of any problems. We sat on the benches waiting for the flight to board and none of the ACSA signs showed any delays. 10 min before the flight was supposed to leave I walked up to the lady at the counter and only then did she mention that the flight was delayed 2 hours and that there was no reason for the delay yet, so we waited two hours. We then decided to walk thru the shops. Two hours later at 21h when we got to the gate still no reason for the delay and we were told that they have been handing out meal vouchers for the passengers 3 hours ago and we should have gotten some. When we got to the restaurant we waited more than an hour in line to get food that was greasy, unhealthy and cold by that time. We declined to have the food and went to buy our own meals and waited at the gate for further information.
90min of wait later, after having to ask around we were told that apparently the flight was delayed to for another 20 hours until 14h the next day and all the passengers had been taken to a hotel, we were never informed of this. We then had to walk across the whole airport to pick up our baggage at carousel 2, then carousel 6, then carousel 1 and finally carousel 3. We then asked the ACSA people (as there was not one single Emirates staff in the whole OR Tambo) if we could get a taxi to our house in Johannesburg and they said that they would not pay for it and we had to take a bus to a hotel in Boksburg to spend the evening there to return the next day at 11h to book in. We then went all the way across the airport in the freezing cold again (we had no warm clothing as we were on our way to the northern hemisphere) to sit on a freezing cold bus and wait 75min for the bus to leave to the supposed hotel. The bus ride took about 35min, we had to wait to book into the hotel for another 40min, walk 1,5km to our room only to find out we had two single beds in our room (even thou I explicitly asked for a king sized bed) on the first night of our honeymoon. I then walked to reception, as they were not answering the phone at 2h in the morning to change rooms but was told they had no other rooms. So we accepted it and tried to move the beds but the bedside table was bolted to the wall, so we spent the first night of our honeymoon in separate beds. We wanted to take a shower before going to bed, but we had no hot water and had to shower with cold water.
Between the cold walk, cold wait in the bus, no hot water and no warm clothing my wife got sick and was sick for the first two weeks of the holiday and could not enjoy the trip because of it. We could not sleep all night because there was a matric farewell at the complex and the kids were partying and boozing in the rooms next to us until 5h the morning and when we could once again not get thru to reception I went over to ask them to keep it down I was laughed off. We then got up at 5h, took another cold shower, was told the breakfast would be open at 7h, was not the case, took a bus to OR Tambo and waited for Emirates to open their counters. I then consequently called my travel agent to get us on the soonest possible flight to Dubai, that was 14h – something that was not communicated to us. The Emirates counter was supposed to open 8h the morning, at 8:30 I started running around the airport to get anyone that could help. After going to the third floor I finally found an Emirates employee that took me downstairs to confirm my seats on the 14h flight. As we were then waiting for the check in to open 11h, the rest of the passengers showed up (photos below), only to be told they would have to wait until 5h for the plane to be fixed as Emirates refuses to put them on other available flights as it was not their policy to “inconvenience” other passengers – still no communications of what the flight was delayed. So if I was not proactive I would have been fighting even more with Emirates to get to Dubai (after already having missed a whole day in Dubai, lost my tickets to to go up the Burj Khalifa and lost my deposits for the desert safari and Burj Al Arab). When we got to Dubai we saw the 5h flight was delayed another 5 hours.
When we finally got on the flight we clearly stated to the air hostess that we DO NOT eat vegetarian meals (as our meal choices that we made online were for the previous flight, not this one). And when the meals came around there was only vegetarian meals available and I nearly lost it. Luckily there was one protein meal from Business class available for my wife but I went without a meal. The general impression of the Emirates staff at the airports and on the planes were so unprofessional and unconcerned about us the passenger, it was shocking.
When we finally got to Dubai, one day late, our friends had to pick us up at the airport 1h in the morning, we missed out on all the activities we had booked for 11 Aug, could not get our money back, could not book for later as all the times were fully booked (photos below) and left Dubai mad at Emirates, sad that I would not fulfil my dream of going up in the Burj Khalifa, tired and disappointed in Emirates. To make it even worse a few days later I got an email from Emirates offering me 25,000 Skyward miles – I can't even buy a single ticket (never mind one for both myself and my wife) out of South Africa to any Emirates destination – I consider this an insult to me as person and this whole experience has tarnished the reputation of Emirates.
I then consequently emailed Emirates on 3 Sept to log a complaint. On 5 Oct Ronel Mostert, Manager Customer Relations South Africa, replied to me with a standard letter that they copied-and-pasted (even forgetting to take the previous person’s surname out) and stated they will only refund me for the missed excursions and nothing else. I requested them to call me back, only to state the fact that Emirates only deals with complaints via email. So I visited them yesterday only to be told they do not see clients themselves and I should log my complaint in writing. 9 July I get a response from Jonathan Bender Manager Global Customer Relations with the same template used by Ronel Mostert. I was then promised a meeting with Ronel, that never realised by Fanny Mokadi Snr Customer Relations Consultant but after 20 phone calls, 20 messages left they have still not come back to me.
Emirates have managed to make a trip that was supposed to be the basis of the happy memories of a couple into an absolute nightmare.
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