This is an incredibly long complaint letter that I’ve spent a great deal of time crafting with the wife to ensure all the relevant details are included. Since Emirates Airlines has a 3,000 character limit, I’m forced to use this method to air my (considerable) grievances.
The full complaint is placed after the break.
Formal complaint to Emirates Airlines – 30/10/2014
Me and my family (my wife and 10-month old infant) had what can only be described as the worst flight experience of our lives in our last flight with you on 12 October, Flight EK 347 [KUL-DXB].
Problem 1 – Seats for our flight for the KL to Dubai portion of our return flight (12 October, EK 347) weren’t what we selected – leading to an extremely stressful situation and made us crawl out of our seats like dogs whenever we needed to go to the toilet.
This is very far away from your statement of “Comfort and attention to detail you can rely on whenever you travel”. As we were conscious we were going on a long haul flight with an infant, we had painstakingly planned and made extraordinary efforts in order to secure the most efficient seats for our trip to Malaysia and back. To such an extent that my wife physically went to the Emirates sales office in London to make the ticket booking, payment, meal booking, baby bassinet booking, and seat selection (based on the plane seating layout) there and on top of that, reconfirmed the seating via a telephone call two weeks before our actual flight date.
What happened was, upon boarding the aircraft (Flight EK 347 [KUL-DXB] 12 October 2014) we realised that our seats at 38F and 38G were not bassinet seats as per our original booking and subsequent confirmation according to the seat map shown by Emirates Sales staff at your London-based sales office. My wife was shocked to the point of tears because the return journey to London was approximately 17 hours with a 10-month old baby and we were faced with a tremendously stressful situation of being without the baby bassinet we had booked and a travel time where the baby would need to sleep. Also, what didn’t make sense was that other people in the bassinet seats clearly didn’t have a baby to care for so it is greatly distressing and confusing that we were moved instead of them.
One of the cabin crew, Monica, tried to help by swiftly looking for passengers at bulkhead seats to ask if they would swap seats with us. None in the central aisle were willing to swap with us. At the very last minute, the crew finally managed to find a couple who were kind enough to swap seats with us so we gratefully accepted and took seats 17B and 17C for the bassinet. But when we reached the seats, we discovered that there was another male passenger seated at 17A. As his own mobility would be severely restricted for the entire duration of the flight we kindly suggested that he could remain in his initial seat or swap to 17C so that he would not feel trapped in his seat once the bassinet was up. He graciously accepted our suggestion and took the seat 17C.
My wife had to crawl in and out of our seats from under the bassinet and even passed the male passenger’s legs to get to the aisle (refer to attached photos) to frequent the lavatory because once the bassinet and the entertainment tablets were up, both of us were stuck to our seats. She had to do this at least 10 times because she had poor bladder that day and we had to keep reaching the overhead compartment for baby necessities. The need to crawl was embarrassing and utterly humiliating to her. No passenger should have to endure this. Particularly not for such an avoidable situation.
Because of the whole seating disaster, what should have been a relatively straightforward flight (even with a baby) became our worst nightmare. It didn’t help that a female cabin crew with short hair (called Adrienne or a similar sounding name) who served our aisle on the port side. Before the food service started, she came with a garbage bag loudly asking us at the front row if there are any rubbish any passengers would like to clear.
That insensitive act woke our exhausted cranky baby who just fell asleep after much effort by my wife and I. This distressed my baby so much that she continued to be cranky and weepy throughout the entirety of the 7 hours plus of the flight till the transit point in Dubai. We had to work hard throughout to suppress her cries so as to not disturb the other passengers and families with sleeping children. All this stress was due to the insensitive cabin crew and very far from your brand promise that “your youngest travellers receive the utmost care and attention”.
The same cabin crew, Adrienne, started the food service but forgot our pre-ordered seafood meal which, according to protocol, should be served to my wife before the general food service starts. We made that order so that while one of was eating, the other could attend to our baby. The crew member was determined to get along with her food serving task though, so much that she was determined to pass us our meals while the both of us were standing up attending to our crying baby (that she had woken up) despite us being clearly unable to receive the food there and then. She was either blind, deaf or both! My wife was very angry and told her off before she asked if we would prefer our meals served later.
Other than our issue with that particular seemingly inexperienced cabin crew (Adrienne), the other crew were fine. The supervisor came to talk to us and tried to appease us. Later, the supervisor discovered the seating problem was all due to the change of aircraft from the initial 777-300ER to the 777-200LR, resulting in our very same booked seats to be changed from bassinet row seats to the second last row regular seats on the aft of the aircraft.
This should not have happened as the sales staff who helped us book the seats should have made a remark on the system to make sure we are given the bassinet seats in such case or aircraft model change. We spent almost 2 hours at the sales office (not including the travel time there and the sacrificial work arrangements I had to make in order for my wife to be able to make the booking) to make sure all our seats and bassinets were booked to our needs.
Problem 2 – Not provided or told about infant meals or infant entertainment pack
We were not told that we have to request for the infant meal or the infant entertainment pack in order to be given one. What is the point of booking the meal if we still need to request for it again when we board? The crew certainly made no effort to inform us of this requirement.
As such, we were not provided infant meals or an entertainment pack for nearly the entirety of our flights – we finally checked with the supervising stewardess on the last leg of our flight because we wondered why we didn’t get anything despite it stating in our booking that infant meal was provided.
Problem 3 – Baby was consistently woken up by crew rather than by passengers.
In the first portion of our flight, 25 September 2014, EK 008 (LHR-DXB) and EK 344 (DXB-KUL), the crew kept slamming the side panel (situated next to the baby bassinet and near the pantry area), despite me notifying the crew that it was jolting my sleeping baby awake and despite me sticking the Do Not Disturb meal sticker on the panel (due to being frustrated at a lack of other ways to stop crew from waking my baby up!).
I can understand the crew being limited in terms of noise control in the pantry area due to the need for food preparation and things they need to do on the flight, but surely they don’t need to keep slamming the side panel, even after I’ve notified crew that it is a problem? It’s particularly galling since I can understand if my baby was woken up due to other passengers as that’s not within realms of control but getting disturbed by crew?
Together, me and my wife spent hours standing throughout the flight to keep the baby settled and quiet. Clearly not a relaxing experience at all even after allowing for the extra work that comes with flying with a baby.
Which leads on to,
Problem 4 – Designating the storage of supplies at bulkheads where baby bassinets are located is a bad decision.
We understand that the Emirates had certain rules as to the specific location of every aircraft model to store their extra supplies for the flight services. However, based on our experience flying with Emirates on 380-800 and 777-200LR, the designated storage of supplies about bulkhead where the bassinets (sleeping babies) are, is a bad decision.
Reason 1: Dangerous
Perhaps no one ever told Emirates that it is dangerous to have any of these heavy boxes nearby as they could drop onto sleeping babies in the case of plane turbulence or an accident inside.
Reason 2: Loud Noises
Not only it is dangerous, it is results in loud noises when busy crew members rush back and forth to open and close the compartments directly above to retrieving the supplies they need to perform their duties. Even though the galley and lavatories might be just behind or close to the bassinet, those noises were muffled, and certainly not as sharp and loud.
Reason 3: Baby necessities
It’s puzzling that while baby bassinet seats are meant for carers of babies those same passengers lack sufficient storage space in the nearest compartment above them as Emirates flight supplies occupy 2/3 of the available space.
Suggestion: Relocate supply storage to either above the compartments of seats ABC or HIJ of the same row with bulkhead/bassinet seats or to the ones above the last row on the other side of the galley where they are no babies sleeping in vulnerable positions.