I’ve got this Press Release yesterday. I don’t usually publish passenger-related stories. Nevertheless, I found this story interesting and very informative.
Passengers win compensation from Emirates for marathon flight delay following two-year battle
- Passengers on Emirates flight endured 23-hour flight delay
- Airline tried to exploit ‘extraordinary circumstance’ loophole
- Two-year battle for compensation
- Case study in how airlines try to avoid compensation pay-outs
POTSDAM, Germany and PALO ALTO, Calif. – 28 April, 2016 – The process of claiming compensation for flight delays is not for the faint-hearted, as two Australian passengers have discovered. When Brett and Lisa Smith’s flight from Milan to New York was delayed more than 23 hours, they thought that their case for compensation under European Union legislation would be a simple matter. They were wrong.
Under EU 261/2004 compensation rules, passengers whose flight is cancelled or arrives more than three hours late can claim up to €600 (£473) depending on the distance of the flight. The compensation rules apply to flights departing from any EU airport (including Iceland, Norway or Switzerland) or arriving in the EU with an EU carrier.
The couple, booked on flight EK 205 from Milan Malpensa to New York (JFK) in April, 2014 experienced a long ‘creeping delay’. After check-in, they were advised the flight would be delayed by three hours or so. After finally boarding, passengers were told that the engine technical issue could not be fixed after all, and a part needed to be flown in from Dubai the following day.
Passengers were deplaned, returned through immigration, collected their bags, and transported to a hotel. Nearly 24 hours later, the exhausted passengers were finally on their way to New York.
The couple lost a day of their holiday, along with the cost of one night’s hotel accommodation, theatre tickets and dinner reservation, all of which was pre-booked, pre-paid, and non-refundable.
Ignoring the rules
Airlines are expected to inform passengers of their right to compensation in the event of lengthy delays. An estimated 11 million people per year in Europe alone are eligible to claim for €6 billion in compensation for flight disruptions under European Union (EC) 261 legislation. At no point during the 23-hour saga were the Smiths advised that they were eligible for compensation.
When Mr Smith, a frequent Emirates flyer, later contacted the airline, Emirates rejected the claim. The airline stated that the matter had been investigated by ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, and ENAC had ruled that the delay was due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and Emirates was therefore not obliged to pay compensation.
When Emirates provided no evidence of either the investigation or ruling, Mr Smith decided to contact the air passenger rights company (name of the company is known to the administrator of this blog) that advocates for travellers.
Mr Smith says: “I’m pretty relaxed about delays due to safety issues; these things happen. But I’m surprised and annoyed that the airline claimed there was an investigation and ruling to justify not paying out, when there doesn’t appear to have been either.”
‘Extraordinary circumstances’ – what counts?
Airlines can only legally sidestep compensation claims if a flight disruption is due to extraordinary circumstances beyond an airline’s control; events that ‘could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken’. These include bad weather, security issues, industrial action, and hidden manufacturing defects.
Airlines often try to avoid compensation pay-outs for aircraft technical failures, arguing that this also falls under extraordinary circumstances, but a recent European Court of Justice ruling (Corina van der Lans v KLM) rejected this argument.
It took two years, countless emails, forms, document submissions, and ultimately an investigation and ruling from the appropriate local ENAC Directorate to secure full compensation of €600 each for the Smiths.
“This case illustrates just how far airlines will go in an attempt to fob off passengers,” says Eve Büchner, Founder and CEO of the air passenger rights company. “The majority of passengers either don’t know their rights, or do not have the time, nerve or money to jump through the endless hurdles airlines put up in an attempt to force passengers to abandon their case.”
“It’s absolutely impossible for an individual who has no knowledge of the law and no experience of dealing with the claim process to get compensation,” said Mr Smith. “Which, of course, is what the airlines want. The airlines are happy to brush off customers with an array of excuses and push passengers to the point where they are forced to go to court. An impossible situation if you have to travel to another country to do so.”
It’s so sad that Emirates Airline managers were warned in more than a year and a half ago that public will soon know about the bad treatment of their employees and the violation of labour rights and that their image and brand will be ruined. They’ve got that advice as a threat when they should have got it as an advice in a good will and do everything to improve working conditions.
I am fully aware that every commercial, even a negative one, is still a commercial and that I am doing a great favour to Emirates by talking about their ad on my blog, but I am still going to do it just because I think that this ad represents a clear picture of EK management’s state of mind (to EK management: you don’t have to thank me!). It represents their values in life and their vision on how a working environment should look like. For all those looking to work and travel with EK, this ad is a good source of information. Watch it carefully.
This ad is like a dirty political campaign. A politician does not win elections thanks to their good programme and mission, but thanks to bashing on an opponent. If we know something about life, we would immediately recognize a dishonest man, a man incapable to create his own agenda, so he (or she) walks an easier way: he replaces lack of knowledge and skills with bashing on others. This is why the commercial is unethical and unprofessional – you don’t step over bodies (other airlines, in this case) to reach your personal goal. Or do you?
I am not a fan of snobbish attitude where someone is spoiled and unaware of other people’s misery so much that they miss a shower and a bar onboard to the point they pass out and have nightmares. Now every EK passenger in the world has the right to demand a bar and a shower, including economy class passengers, because I didn’t see a disclaimer that this ad discriminates them. Yes, you have a subtle notification which only says Emirates A380 First Class Shower Spa, First and Business Class Onboard Lounge, but it’s not a disclaimer, just a notification. Disclaimer like this, for example: Shower Spa available only to rich passengers and movie stars would not look good, would it now?
There is a hidden message for cabin and cockpit crew as well: they are subtly asked to fly one unpaid hour more (in addition to all the unpaid hours they already work). It’s just like in real life, where crew and ground staff are constantly asked and/or forced to work overtime. This is an EK management’s vision of their favourite line – “going an extra mile for our customers”: crew get to work more for free, just because someone who has money and power (at this point you can look at Jennifer as a symbol of EK management) asked or threatened them. Nevermind safety and crew’s constant fatigue. Money and pleasure of rich rule the world.
This is an e-mail I’ve got from one ex EK cabin crew:
Saw the commercial – what a kick in the face for the hard working. I flew to Europe on Delta and had a chance to talk to the crew. Service was professional, without the circus atmosphere of EK. The crew had a real sense of authority…something EK will never allow.
This ad is, actually, a carefully designed manipulation. It discriminates and divides people on rich and poor (clearly sending a message that EK wants only rich passengers, that it cares only for them), it tells you that you should work for free, it mocks and revenges USA airlines for EK’s recent problems with alleged subsidies and it promotes superficiality. All this through ad’s fake funny appearance.
The commercial of a neighbouring airline, with another famous actress in the main role, is really professional one in comparison with this one and a real example of an ethical ad.
Bottom line, when you scratch beyond Jen’s charm and funny acting, this is one vulgar and unethical ad on all levels. As I said at the beginning: a clear picture of management’s state of mind.
Today’s main news about Emirates Airline is its refusal to be FIFA’s sponsor next year. As a reason for this we can find that “Emirates are reportedly ending the co-operation because of Fifa’s tainted image over corruption allegations”.
This news just made me laugh. One corrupted company is leaving another corrupted company and love is over once the corruption got into public. FIFA was not a saint organization before, occasional corruption allegations showed up here and there in media during past years. It seems that the newest one is going to backfire to FIFA’s head very hard so sponsors decided to leave the ship once it has sailed into public waters.
As I told you yesterday I’ve got many stories about employees’ experiences within Emirates Airline. This story of one cabin crew from Eastern Europe is just one of them. Many stories will follow.
I joined emirates in 2012. As a 22 year old Eastern European who has a restless soul and funny thoughts about settling down, I was full of enthusiasm and excitement when I gave my resignation letter to the head master of the school where I was working at to leave for the glamorous trollydolly world in Dubai. I had seen all the possible recruitment videos, read all forums where I – subconsciously cut out all the parts where EK staff treatment was discussed- and I couldn’t wait to turn new page, to leave my tiny salary and all-year-round shitty sky weather behind.
The sugar icing on top of the new glamour cake started to melt sooner than I ever expected. I can still recall, even after 27 months of serving chicken and beef and killing my brain and memory with numb obedience and no thinking, how a girl in an auditorium full of approx. 100 people, was spotted during the induction week by a speech giving trainer. This girl violated a big no go rule. She was drinking water from the bottle! As all hundred heads turned onto this blushing face, it became clear that there is no messing around with what you have been told. This girl was being embarrassed and humiliated in front of a crowd and as I later learned, this is airlines management works.
A friend of mine had a one on her flight review because the perfumes in the lavatories didn’t face the right way. Another friend had the same mark because she has bending for the trays in the cart in an incorrect manner. One on my favourite ones was on a long flight where the senior overheard a colleague talking to passenger who was from the same city as her, about her family and childhood. One should not discuss personal things with passenger! Although it doesn’t say anywhere that you can’t, the power gets into peoples head and as rules and regulations change more often than day and night, seniors often take advantage of it. And crew cannot be bothered to fight for their rights because that would mean giving explanations in the office on your rare day off. For the same reasons, most of the seniors on board request the crew to do most of the cleaner’s job after landing. If there is a blanket left under the seat or sachet of sugar on top of the galley, it might get documented and senior must explain in writing why it happened and what is the learning point of this event.
There is a constant fear of reporting which is stimulated by the company. A lot of reporters are magically upgraded in their carrier. On e senior reporting another that economy class didn’t do towels on a six-and-a-half hour London flight where they didn’t sit down and eat not even for one minute and instead by the time they finished the first service they should have already started the next one. The crew travelling as passenger reporting his/hers colleagues for giving them a full bottle of water although we shouldn’t but for god’s sake, for your own colleague! The reason why the purses don’t even give a 10 longer brake in the crc even on an empty quiet flight is because they have been reported and even downgraded because of that.
Long flights are for me the worst. Especially the ones where EK is violating all the legal rest time regulations. The flight to JFK is aprox 13-14 hours. Reporting time for the crew is 2 hours before departure. Given that the flight departs at 08.30, we need to report at 0630, take the bus – depending on the accommodation – at 0530 and wake up – again depending on the person – around 0430. In JFK the immigration procedures and bus ride to the hotel takes around two to two and-a-half hours. By that time most of us have been awake ca 20 hours. The ones with irregular sleeping patterns, probably way more. From the time we get to the hotel room, it’s usually 19-20 hours left until the wake up call. And the same long 24 hour shift can start again. Every one in this company knows that EK is paying fain for that in the US but its still cheaper for them than to provide us with one extra night of sleep and adjustment. The same flying time is applicable to Washington, Sao Paolo, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide. Two hour inflight rest in the A380 CRC where you can end up sleeping literally on the floor in the compartment which is located next to 4 toilets and main socializing area on this aircraft. It is rather impossible to have sleep when every two seconds there is a toilet flushing, many people talking, banging the door and what not. The same time ca 5 crew on the main deck have to attend to 429 peoples needs.
On one of my 15 hour flights, we had a 45 minute delay from Dubai. We reported to the duty around 8 AM, took off around 11AM, did a 15 hour flight, disembarked all 350 passengers, did our checks, cleaned blankets, headsets, sealed all containers etc, went through the immigration, sat on the bus. By the time we got to the hotel, it was around 9 PM local time whereas the wake up call is 7 PM the next evening. So I went to bed immediately when I got to my room, slept nicely the whole night, woke up in the morning, trying to adjust to the time difference and jet lag. But what should I do in order to be able to take another nap before the wake up call in the evening? So by the time we take off the next evening at 11.30 PM, I have been awake for 15 hours already, the jet lag and time difference doesn’t’ allow me to sleep twice in 12 hour daylight time. We arrived to Dubai and I have been awake over 30 hours. How can be held responsible if god forbid we have to evacuate, be alert, sharp and take care of my own and 350 other peoples lives? I filled out fatigue report stating that this layover time needs to be increased or Emirates should never say that safety is their first priority. The answer that I received from Ted Green one month and four days was that increasing the layover time is simply not possible.
A friend of my friend is in final warning because she fainted in the briefing and needed to be offloaded from the flight. But if crew is forced to do the flights like my Sao Paulo maybe 3 times a month followed by couple e.g CMB, MLE, NBO, ATH or IST turnarounds which take around 15 hours of your day?
I think we don’t even want to go to the salary thing. We get paid from the moment the aircraft pushes back. The longest that I personally have been delayed onboard with customers is 5 hours, together with signing in its 7 hours. We did a full service on the ground. For free.
The two years that I’ve been in the company, the whole concept of swapping flights have been changed; every month there is some new regulation which doesn’t allow you to change pretty much anything on your roster. And the rules- as they say – come from GCAA which is surprisingly ruled by the same man as Emirates. The chairman of the government-owned airline, Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, is also president of the CAA and on the board of the GCAA.
This is something to give thought about.
I don’t even want to start with the image and uniform issues. Every single crew is just so tired of it and just can’t care anymore. On my flight to LHR, the purser insisted to offload 6 people, because ones skirt was too long, the other ones too tight, the SFSs hair color was not correct, the SUPYs skirt was greased etc. We are asked to remove the jackets during I&U checks so that the SFS could see if our bras have appropriate color.
There are many examples of people who got sick while on vacation in their hometown. This is not acceptable according to Emirates. Even if you have a doctor’s certificate not to fly because of let’s say an ear infection, you will still get ordered back to Dubai, or an absent and a warning most probably. If you pop your ears and get permanent damage, you are not covered and treated on the insurance. Because of this punishment culture, there is a tendency to refrain from calling sick after a vacation, and to actually operate ill. You are mostly seen as a number and a chart which states your attendance.
Most of us are dream about a cabin crew job but in a different airline. People go to Europe and work for low cost airlines, where they have unions, laws and protection. In difference with our ground staff colleagues we get a nice pay at the end of the month and this is the one and only motivation for 95% of the crew. The rest enjoys the power, and in this two years I’ve actually seen about 5-10 people who do believe in Emirates and it’s way of taking care of their employees like in the middle ages. One the Emirates big value is being empathetic, that’s how we as the faces of Emirates – the ground staff, the crew, the pilots, should be. Why doesn’t Emirates show us how it is done?