Passengers held on an Emirates flight for five hours without food have expressed fury over being compensated with flight credits instead of money.
On January 7, hundreds of passengers were held on an aircraft at Auckland Airport for five hours while the airline attempted to fix a technical issue. At 2am, passengers were removed from the plane, which was rescheduled to fly to Dubai that evening at 5pm.
The disruption was not only stressful but expensive for passengers, who told the Herald they missed connecting flights, hotel bookings, train journeys and days of work at their final destinations as well as unexpected costs as a result.
Passengers who emailed Emirates to complain told the Herald they received an automated email stating a response could take up to 30 days. According to a spokesperson, Emirates Customer Affairs reviews all customer feedback, hence the waiting period.
However, those who have heard back, have not been offered monetary compensation but ‘Skyward Miles’ (Emirates’ version of airline points).
Passengers offered credit compensation
Sylwia Polc and Aniko Hegedus both received 50,000 Skyward Miles after emailing complaints about the delayed flight.
“As a gesture of goodwill and in consideration of the inconvenience you experienced, I have taken the liberty to credit your Emirates Skywards account with 50,000 complimentary Skywards Miles,” read an email to Polc from an Emirates customer service representative.
Hegedus, who was returning to Hungary with her husband after visiting New Zealand said the credit was “great, but far from enough”.
Travellers such as 20-year-old Darcie from Vienna said they are awaiting a response but say credits are not a fair substitute for monetary compensation.
“I believe we should be compensated, in some way rather than points,” she said, describing them as ‘virtually useless’ as they expired after three years and forced you to fly with the airline.
“I doubt anyone is thinking of using those points and flying with Emirates again, especially in the near future,” she said.
Sue McCannon, who flew from Auckland to Manchester, received the same auto-reply requesting compensation for costs she had to pay during the delay and the lost day’s wages due to arriving home late.
“I’ve asked for monetary compensation, I don’t want Skyward Miles,” she said, adding that she would not fly Emirates again after the experience.
Credits ‘absolutely worthless’ say passengers
Danish traveller Tine Meyer-Jægersborg, who had been visiting New Zealand with her children, said points didn’t make up for unexpected costs caused by the ‘flight from hell’.
“I would absolutely not accept Skyward Miles instead of money, partly due to the fact that we have additional expenses from the trip like new train tickets from the airport and home because we missed our original train,” she said, adding that they also missed work due to the delays.
Like Darcie, Meyer-Jægersborg said the credits were “absolutely worthless” as the experience put her family off flying Emirates again.
When asked why Emirates was offering Skyward Miles instead of monetary compensation and whether they intended to compensate passengers for costs accrued due to the delay, Emirates said privacy prevented them from commenting.
“For privacy reasons we do not provide comment on, or details of, individual customers,” said a spokesperson.
Ned Marks, who had his four-day Morocco honeymoon cut 24 hours short due to the delays, said he and his new wife aren’t expecting a solution anytime soon.
“From previous EU flight issues, it’s definitely taken at least a month and sometimes social media hassling to get anything,” Marks said. Since the EU’s comprehensive compensation rules didn’t apply in this instance, Marks said they expect it to take even longer.
What rules are Emirates accountable to?
For domestic flights, passengers can seek compensation for flight disruptions under the Civil Aviation Act. For international flights, passenger rights depend on your location, destination and where the airline is based.
If the airline is responsible for the delay, passengers should be entitled to a reimbursement of the airfare and other costs under the Montreal Convention, Consumer NZ states.
The amount you can claim is capped at approximately $11,400 and only applies if you’re flying between two signatory countries. However, New Zealand and the UAE are both signatories.
If the delay is the airline’s fault, the only way they can avoid paying passengers is if the airline can prove it took “all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid the damage [incurred by the cancellation or delay].”
Passengers are encouraged to make their claim, in writing, with the airline responsible for the delay. This should include the flight itinerary, a short explanation of the events, an itemised list of damages (costs) and receipts for all costs, Forbes reports.
If you don’t receive compensation, passengers should ask the issue to be escalated and emphasize that the claim is being made under the Montreal Convention, Article 19.
Those who still do not receive a resolution may have to pursue legal action with an attorney.
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