Complaining is not Wasting Time: The Emirates Airlines Case
- Written by Roberto Castiglioni
Some people think complaining is a pointless excirce, essentially a waste of time; However, this is far from the truth, like a case involving Emirates Airlines shows.
In late October 2009, a person traveling with his own wheelchair boarded an Emirates Airlines flight from London Gatwick to Hong Kong via Dubai International Airport.
As the connecting flight required an overnight stay in Dubai, the individual requested his wheelchair to be returned at the gate in Dubai.
Upon disembarking in Dubai, the person learned that his wheelchair would be made available at its final destination (Hong Kong). The person immediately complained and, after some bickering, the airline employees manning the gate returned the wheelchair.
The traveler discovered that his wheelchair was damaged. He filed a damage report with the airline and continued his journey. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, the person with reduced mobility informed the airline via email he was now requesting airport assistance for the rest of his trip.
Unfortunately for the traveler, Emirates Airlines did not deliver on his request. In fact, the person had to explain his situation at every stage of his trip. At one check-in counter, the Emirates Airlines employee on duty took the traveler's tolerance to the edge. He brutally asked the blue badge holder what was wrong with him and why he could not walk normally.
Upon returning to the U.K., the traveler lodged a complaint with the airline. As per the repairs to his wheelchair, he had to chase the Emirates Airlines London Office for over 2 weeks to get this vital mobility device repaired and returned to him.
Unhappy with the airline's proposed solution, the traveler decided to seek legal recourse. The civil court dismissed his case because no monetary cost could be demonstrated. Eventually the court did not take the traveler's grief and distress into account.
Readers may be lead to believe that this person's experience is proof that complaining is a waste of time. Quite the opposite, as what follows shows.
During the court case, Emirates Airlines used several arguments in its defense. The most intriguing one for readers is the airline position with EU Regulation 1107/2006.
In their defense, Emirates Airlines stated that "the provisions of the regulation have no application once the claimant has departed from Gatwick Airport due to the destination airport being located outside the EU".
It is reasonable to assume that Emirates Airlines gives a clear message to travelers with reduced mobility, stating that once the aircraft doors close they are no longer bound to comply with the EU regulation.
In the following argument, Emirates Airlines quotes the EU Regulation 1107/2006 (the same one they say they do not have to comply with in the previous argument!) stating that the plaintiff did not make his request known within the rule's time limit (48 hours).
So what can say is the actual outcome of the traveler's complaint. For one, that the complaint gave Emirates Airlines the opportunity to express in a U.K. civil court that they think they should not comply with EU regulation 1107/2006.
As a result, people with reduced mobility traveling by air are now able to make a more educated decision when choosing which airline to fly.
The following noteworthy lesson is for PRMs. This case underlines the absolute need to place a request for individual assistance with any airline at least 48 hours prior to the date of travel.
Emirates Airlines itself appears to have learned something from this case. In May 2011, the airline overhauled the "special needs" page on its U.K. website. The difference between "before" and "after" is stunning.
Before (opens a new window. Please note web.archive.org supports text only for this page)
After (opens a new window)