The Nation, Lahore


11 Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1418 - Thursday, July 17, 1997, Lahore

A bad journey on Emirates Airlines

A journey to remember



Dr Rana Jawad Asghar

We always have a lot of stories about our own national flag carrier - PIA, to tell. PIA is improving itself for the last few years but it has still a long way to go to achieve its glorious past. But sometimes, very famous and reputed airlines also mistreat their passengers and most of the time, it happens in the Asian sectors. I am referring to a Middle Eastern airline which is considered by many as 'the best'. We have to pursue them vigorously to tell them that we are not tongue less workers in their country but a full fore paying customers.

My last journey to Pakistan was a total mess. After three long and one short flight, finally I was in Karachi. I had a confirmed seat on Aero Asia to Lahore within the next two hours. I went to the counter for the boarding card and was told that I didn't have any reservation. Furthermore, they could not give me a seat until next day. I was shocked as I was tired after a long journey and wanted to reach Lahore as soon as possible. I have no relatives or friends in Karachi where I could stay. My ticket showed 'OK' and in America if its OK, it means OK. I started to argue but the staff was quite rude and unsympathetic. Shortly, I realised that I was not alone and that there were many more passengers like me who have come on Emirates flights and were denied downward connections.

This is not a single incident
Many people are experiencing same problems with Emirates Airlines
Click here to read other passenger's experience on Emirates Airlines


Some of us tried to persuade the 'best' airline's - Emirates - to intervene but with half-hearted effort, their staff told us that there was nothing they could do. I saw quite a many young students literally crying after the irresponsible behaviour. Problem was the money. Many passengers who were allowed to board in front of us were those who bought the ticket on cash from the counter. All of us who were denied boarding were Emirates passengers. It dawned on us there that airlines do not pay full fare to each other and this was the reason we were denied seats. Three of us refused lo leave the counter and spent nearly eight hours in arguing, quarrelling, fighting, persuading, threatening and pleading the staff.

Eventually, a Madam (from Aero Asia) came to our help and ordered the staff to arrange three seats for us in the next flight which was departing at 10 pm. Just consider, I was in the lounge before noon and by then it was 8:00 pm. That wasn't the end. Aero Asia charged me for excess luggage though I was well within my limit of an Atlantic traveller - 70 kg, but they refused to listen and charged me. The Karachi-Lahore journey wasn't a good one either and it was something I wasn't expecting such a treatment from a private airline.

For my return, I decided not to travel with Aero Asia although I had their flight coupon for Lahore-Karachi. I went to the local Emirates office and told their manager about it. I was ready even to spend some more money but he said he couldn't help as his airline had an agreement only with Aero Asia. I ended up with throwing my Aero Asia coupon and buying a fresh PIA ticket for Lahore-Karachi. Now, on my return journey, I experienced a delayed connection in Dubai (more than 14 hours). Normally, Emirates always provides the hotel accommodation but this time I was told that I have to stay at the airport and if I wanted to spend this time in a hotel, I have to pay extra money. Even though it was not my fault that they were not giving me an earlier connection, I agreed to pay them extra money for hotel and transportation in Dubai. And it is here where the real story of my agony in air travel begins.

It was after reaching Karachi on PIA that I was told that my international flight (Emirates) was late. There was a long queue of passengers and among them I came across a few people and made acquaintances. My new friends were Mr Bajwa - a civil servant in forties, Mr Memon - a businessman and Iqbal - a student, All of us agreed while chatting and killing time, that the service standards of Emirates had declined over the last decade despite of the fact that it has won quite a few international awards. Anyway, we reached Dubai and the three of us were given accommodation in the same hotel - Hotel Swiss Plaza. We came out of the airport totally dejected to find that vehicles of all other hotels were there except of the one destined for us.

After waiting for half an hour we called the hotel and were told that their bus was on the way to pick us up. It came after one and a half hour but the driver said he would go back to hotel after another two hours. Enraged over this, we called the hotel and a lady suggested us to take a taxi. Finally, we reached the hotel which was located in downtown and was in a bad shape. Both, rooms and the bathrooms were extremely dirty. We were told that the dinner would be served at 8:00 pm and if we missed, it won't be served again. There were quite many women from India and Russia with rather odd dresses who were roaming frequently in the corridors.

This is not a single incident
Many people are experiencing same problems with Emirates Airlines
Click here to read other passenger's experience on Emirates Airlines

In the dining hall too, we were the only three males and the rest were these women. The food was cold and badly cooked. We left the place for a walk and stopped at a Tikka shop in the street where we had our meal. At 2:00 am, we were again at the airport. After going through all the boarding, immigration and security procedures, it was announced that the flight was delayed. We were asked to leave this lounge and go to cafeteria for snacks. When we tried to come out, the security personnel refused to allow us to leave. It was a funny situation - the personnel were blaming us for their lack of coordination with Emirates. We were allowed to come out and go to the cafeteria. But again, we were treated like beggars and were told to a make a line outside the cafeteria. The Emirates people knew that the flight wouldn't leave before ten to twelve hours but they announced a delay of two hours which they kept on changing after every two hours. All this was being done to keep us at the airport and avoid putting us at a hotel.

Finding a corner here and there in the lounge, the poor passengers, old, young and infants, used their luggage as pillows and beds to sleep. Everyone was sick and tired of everything when we embarked again and it was 3:00, the next noon. In the final moments, a delay was announced again which really made everybody mad. People including myself wrote lengthy complaints.

I did not hear anything from the airline even after two months of waiting. I again wrote a comprehensive complaint and sent it directly to the airline chairman with a copy to CEO. It took another month and a half before I got a call from Dubai telling that my complaint was in process. After another month or so, I received an apology and a 300 Dirham in-flight voucher which I could avail only if I opt for another Emirates flight for the same route - meaning that for a US $ 76 voucher, I needed to spend US $ 2000. Besides, there was no mentioning of any steps to be taken in future to avoid such hassles. Ridiculous it was, therefore, I returned the vouchers. But it doesn't mean I have stopped my efforts. I am going to contact consumer protection agencies in the USA and would make sure that in future, Emirates treat predominantly Pakistani/lndian flights in the same manner as it treats the European and American passengers.

And before I conclude, there are some tips for my readers: - If you ever experience a similar situations, make sure to do the following:

1. Keep all the documentary evidence of extra payments you make. 

2. Take photographs or even make a video if the room in hotel is dirty or any substandard service is provided.

  3. Make a complaint immediately and keep a record of it. 

4. If you don't hear after a reasonable delay, write directly to the Chairman or Customer Relation Officer. 

5. Write your complaint giving full details about the dates you travelled and your flight numbers, etc. 

6. If you don't hear from them or you are not satisfied with their response, send all details in chronological order plus the company response, to some international consumer protection agency. You could find their address from any major travel magazine.

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Click here to read other passenger's experience on Emirates Airlines

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