Thursday, March 10, 2011

I felt like Gandhi, thrown out of train in the dead of night in a railway station

Fly Emirates is one of sponsors of the ICC World cup... what is the use if the front end can not guarantee basic service levels....!

Customer Service, lack of it @ Emirates, Dubai Airport
·          As I waited for boarding announcement on 28 Jan at 0100 hrs at Dubai’s terminal 3, I saw a report in Gulfnews: ‘Emirates to hit 50 mn customers’. Perhaps, 50mn minus 1, the solitary traveler being me! Any organization can spend millions on infrastructure, but if the guy at the front-end is not aligned with the core-values and does not manage customer, it is sheer waste of precious resources, in these tough times.
·          I remembered another news recently in Gulfnews about the quintessential Indian traveler ( was not very amused by it, as I felt I do not belong to that category, or always tried my best to be aware & manage same. Not because I am an upwardly mobile, snobbish executive, but I care for people around me…  (
·          I was put through a horrifying experience at Dubai airport’s new Terminal 3 of Emirates on 27th Jan, evening.
·          I was in Dubai on work, as invited by my business friends ( all entities being billion plus  dollar entities, including ourselves), and as such was a ‘guest’ there. Three days of hectic schedule, I was keen to get back.
·          I had a confirmed ticket to fly out of Dubai... I had reported well on time.
·          I was surprised to see a veritable serpentine queue at Emirates counter ( Gulfnews seemed to carry the photo of the same flashy counter-section in their article), but with many of the counters unmanned, it was just not enough from a customer service. When a customer raised this issue, he was rudely told ‘they will come at 5 PM’ !)
·          When my chance came, I was informed by the executive ‘there was some problem’ and ‘I should go to counter no 59 to pick up my boarding card’!
·          There was another gentleman ahead of me and another joined just behind me. Effectively, I was second/third among the unlucky passengers to face a dilemma.
·          I was told by another executive at the counter, Mr D, the flight is overbooked. He checked if I am ok to stay on and take another flight. I was politely emphatic, I had to go by the same flight. He started probing, ‘what was the emergency’. I said, ‘personal problems’, I just need to be back home. I was asked by him to wait for half an hour there, and they will try to help. I politely, moved aside.
·          Then, few more passengers reached the counter and objected vehemently when they were told the same. All refused to budge, insisting they will travel by the same flight only.
·          The lady supervisor, Ms N, who was at counter 58 was consistently impolite, bordering rudeness with all.
·          Then suddenly enters, Mr K, supervisor. His claim to excellence seemed to be his unique capability to speak Arabic and English, as indicated by himself. He explained that 16 seats booked, against 13 available. He wanted 3 volunteers.
·          Two local/arab youngsters were on the fence, along with two Europeans. Mr K persuaded the former. He just went on to check the names and faces of others and picked me as the 3rd scapegoat!! I protested. Just because others were more vociferous, he could not pick me up. He would have  none of it. He was the judge & the jury. He unilaterally decided, subject to his whims & fancies!!
·          I tried to appeal to the lady supervisor. Her response was the rudest. The way she spoke to me and enacted, was most disgraceful for a member of brand-Emirates. I continued to be polite, as that is my value-system. Requested her politely, to help me so that I could catch the flight. She just brushed aside all my requests, continued her work to allot others, packed her bags and walked away. In my 20 years of professional experience and travels across several countries, I have never, ever been treated by a lady staff.
·          I went back to counter 59, with Mr K manning his little kingdom. He was furious and indirectly threatened me to shut up!
·          I had no choice but to accept the verdict. Mr K was magnanimous to issue a free return ticket, as ‘compensation’, which I will never use! He asked his trusted lieutenants to issue hotel accommodation voucher. I requested for hotel in the terminal. He pronounced his verdict again, ‘ you will have only Le Meridian’.
·          I had no choice to go like a school kid to the hotel, come back and take the flight back at 2 AM.
·          My plan to do some shopping at the world-famous Dubai Duty Free, that too during DSF, thus denied ! ( DDF & DSF definitely lost a customer, however small!) The small list my son wanted, still remains in my ‘To Do list’, on my IPhone.
·          Dubai does not deserve K/N/D. Or, Brand emirates!! As a student of Marketing, I always loved the way Emirates managed their branding. But now I have a different perspective of the brand.
·          Everyone makes mistakes, but there is a way to handle  errors. That is the test of professionalism and individual character, apart from Corporate Culture. Is this the value brand-Emirates stands for ?
·          Lying down at Le Meridien, I was in a contemplative mood – I was wrong to experiment Emirates, when I hold frequent flyer mileage with local airlines. I was perhaps wrong to pursue an advice of Head-Training in my first job ( 20 yrs ago), ‘to take different routes home. To try different paths… to experiment & experience….’. I was foolish to stick to the schedule planned, by forgoing my right to travel first class.
I felt like Gandhi, thrown out of train in the dead of night in a railway station in South Africa. ( I know, all comparisons end there!)
PS : I had sent the above complaint, with correct names, to Emirates on 29th Jan. They sent an acknowledgement, they would look into it and revert… Then after a reminder, they replied saying they compensated as per policy by giving hotel acco & a seat in the next flight! No comments….

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