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Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

San Diego
Level Contributor
10 posts
260 reviews
Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

I was going to submit a review of Emirates, but since TA doesn't take reviews of airlines, thought I'd submit a forum post to let people know about the customer service problems I (and others in our group) had on a recent flight to Sri Lanka and Male via Dubai.

In my mind, the most important aspect of an airline is to get you where you’re going, stress-free, without worrying that they won’t honor the ticket, seat or hotel they reserved for you. Here, Emirates cancelled all of my outgoing and returning flights on reservations I had made 6 months earlier, and I had 2-3 layovers each way, so this caused an enormous amount of stress, and was extremely difficult to resolve. I had to deal with this in Dubai, in Colombo in Male, again in Dubai, and even in LAX (where, according to American, Emirates “booked” our reservation back to San Diego, but never “confirmed,” it, so we had no seats, had to fly stand-by, which almost delayed us another 3 hours on the last leg of our trip, when we were anxious to finally get home. In addition, my friend Kathy booked a hotel with them in Dubai, which was on her Emirates reservation, but due to some mix-up on their end, they refused to give it to her, despite her going to at least 9 different Emirates desks in 2-3 airports.

It’s a shame they have such customer service problems, because the experience – once I finally got on the plane and had a seat– was very good. The positives: seats were comfortable and there was more leg-room than average; each seat has its own TV screen w/ hundreds of movies, TV shows and music (new releases and classics) you can watch for free on your own schedule, and internet available (for a fee) on certain flights. Hot towels for all guests, including those in coach – yes, we love hot towels, too. And a complimentary hotel stay in Dubai for those w/ lay-overs over 8 hours (including free airport shuttle and breakfast, lunch and/or dinner buffets, which were actually decent).

Other positives: very tasty meals – went with all curries – the curried potatoes and egg, fish curry (a bit hesitant about airplane fish, but was actually quite good) and lamb kafta – only 2 downsides on the meals: (1) the wine/drinks each time were served some 20 minutes later than the food, so wasn’t able to enjoy some red wine w/ my lamb; and (2) both times, it took a good 40 minutes for them to come through and remove the trays, which is a pain if you want to actually use your tray table during this time.

On the plus side, when they couldn’t find me a seat in coach for our 4 hour flight from Dubai to Colombo, they bumped me up to Business Class. It was my first ever international flight in business/1st class, and it was heavenly. My seat had massage function and fully reclined flat (especially appreciated on a 4 am to 8 am flight). Another one of my friends was also given a complimentary upgrade, and a couple others were offered the opportunity to upgrade for just $160 for that flight, so might not hurt to ask.

Overall, Emirates has a lot going for it, but customer service isn’t one of them – several people in our group had issues where we would expect to hear “sure; no problem, we’ll take care of that or fix that,” but instead, we heard over and over, “no; we can’t help you; try another desk, try at the next airport,” “we’ll try to fix it later,” “no, sorry.” It was extremely stressful and time-consuming just to try to get what we had initially reserved 6 months ago. Based on our experience, I would not book w/ Emirates Air again until I was convinced these pervasive customer service issues have been resolved.

.PS - I submitted a letter to Emirates outlining these problems, and received an unsatisfactory response - essentially telling me that I should have arrived at the airport 3 hours early, and not offering any apology or refund. In fact, I did arrive 3 hours early (and was 6 hours early in Dubai). Even with this amout of time, Emirates was unable to remedy their cancellation of my ticket. That's my primary complaint - when problems come up (and they often do in travel) - Emirates needs to be able to timely fix them.

42 replies to this topic
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
Level Contributor
15,059 posts
73 reviews
1. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service


Without minimizing the issues you allegedly experienced with them, what exactly are your seeking reimbursement or refund for? I'm not clear on this part..

If its for something you were *entitled to* under contract, law or similar, then that's one thing.. But if its a *discretionary* refund for something that's not a contractual part of the ticket, then that's a bit different.

I also note that those upgrades you got do represent a fair bit of "value" so to speak.. So I can't say you didn't get anything back from them or the like. Again, not a "pass" so to speak, but an acknowledgement that those upgrades you were given are high value things.

It does sound, only from what's listed, that you had issues to deal with and that's not a good thing. I would expect then to at least address or acknowledge those with you.... I don't know that I'd expect them to address each element* in specific terms* (if that's what you're looking for) about what they're doing or going to do about it - that I think is a bit outside of the scope of a passenger reply .. But I do think they should acknowledge whatever the disservice events were.

What was the unsatisfactory reply? It would be interesting what that entails...

Travel Safe,

Edited: 1:08 pm, April 26, 2013
Nuremberg, Germany
Level Contributor
6,078 posts
2. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

Yes, inflight service on Emirates is fine. But unfortunatelly ground service, if somethng doesn't work as expected, is a big disapointment.

And for me that is the reason why I put Emirates on my personal blacklist and only book them if I have no reasonable alternative.

Berkshire, England
Level Contributor
10,826 posts
59 reviews
3. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

You can post a review on the SKYTRAX website. Every airline is on there as well as airports. It is a very useful site.

San Diego
Level Contributor
10 posts
260 reviews
4. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

In response to GOPBI, my problem w/ Emirates is that they cancelled all my flights and connections, so in every airport (and during my vacation) I spent hours trying to make sure I could get on the flghts, and get a seat, preferably near my travel companions. This was very frustrating and time consuming. And this problem was never fully resolved -- I had to deal w/ it at each stop-over.

As for what I wanted from them -- a small refund for all my inconvenience would have been nice, but honestly, I would have been happy with an apology admitting that they should have handled this issue better and much more promptly; if they had wanted to give me a coupon toward furture flight or something, that might have been a welcome token of goodwill, too.

As for why their reply was satisfactory, their reply was merely "you should have gotten to the airport 3 hours early." As I mentioned, I did get to the airport 3 hours early (and 6 hours early in Dubai). It didn't matter. I had to be re-routed due to weather, and that's when Emirates improperly cancelled my flights (even though they were the ones who re-routed me).

The problem was that no matter how many hours Emirates had to try to remedy the problem/ re-instate my flights/seats, they weren't able or willing to do it. They just kept pushing me off -- try to deal w/ it in Dubai; try to deal with it in Male. Very frustrating.

Fredericia, Denmark
Destination Expert
for Bentota, Beruwala, Sri Lanka
Level Contributor
37,532 posts
7 reviews
5. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

Didn't you check in online? Then you would have seen your flights were cancelled even before you got to the airport;-)

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
24,298 posts
57 reviews
6. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

If your friends were travelling, were the flights cancelled, or just your personal bookings for the flights. For example, and I am not saying this is your scenario, a person who is late for the initial leg of a multi leg flight may have all subsequent legs cancelled.

London, United...
Level Contributor
25,632 posts
28 reviews
7. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

Ok, I think you need to provide some further detail on the " rerouted flight".

Was this on a separate ticket to the rest of the flights they cancelled? Did this rerouted flight mean you were late for one leg and this is when they cancelled everything?

Destination Expert
for Livigno, Lombardy
Level Contributor
39,474 posts
192 reviews
8. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

I'm also a bit confused, you say it was because of weather so was the first flight cancelled and then you missed all your connecting flights? If this is so you would have had to be re-booked where they had available seats on later departures.

London, United...
3 posts
9. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

Thanks for telling us your experience. I regretted booking Emirates, having encountered rude staff on the ground at LHR terminal three. Their baggage allowance may be lowest of all airlines including British Airways. if you have children or family travelling together this may not be the best option. The staff quoted an extra £600 for 'excess baggage' well above my ticket price luckily for us the excess baggage company at terminal three was much more reasonable quoting £195( 1/3 of what Emirates was offering)

If you are looking for great service and to be retreated with courtesy and respect avoid Emirates.

Brechin, United...
Destination Expert
for Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallee
Level Contributor
5,915 posts
41 reviews
10. Re: Emirates Airlines - Great Flights, but Poor Customer Service

If you are looking for great service , stay within the baggage limits.

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