Bangkok Phil

Why I will probably never fly with Emirates Airlines again.

Taking major airlines and their customer service department to task.

I'm writing this blog for two reasons. Firstly, because I'm sick and tired of lousy customer service from large corporate organizations (particularly major airlines) - and secondly, I need to get things off my chest. Writing angry blogs is therapeutic you might say.

I've flown with Emirates many times over the past decade or so. For my annual trip back to England (to see the family) Emirates has always been my go-to airline. I'm not what you would call a frequent flyer but I'd like to think I at least fall into the category of ‘loyal customer'.

Let's do business class!

In April of this year, my wife and I decided to spend our two-week annual holiday in New Zealand. We'd been there before, loved it and were long overdue a return.

Not many airlines fly from Bangkok to Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island but while doing our internet research, we saw that not only did Emirates fly that particular route (as a partner with Qantas) but they were offering their business class for 95,000 baht a person. This seemed like an excellent deal and Emirates' business class got rave reviews on every travel website and forum we looked at.

To Hell with it! New Zealand was the trip of a lifetime. Let's splash the cash and do it in style we thought. After booking our flights, it's fair to say that we started looking forward to the plane journey even more than the holiday itself. Another reason we treated ourselves to business class was that we were celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary. 

So far, so good

Fast forward to Bangkok Airport in early April and things couldn't have got off to a better start. We breezed past a long line of tetchy-looking economy class passengers and enjoyed a painless check-in. We ate our fill of a sumptuous buffet in a deserted Emirates business class lounge, and then once on the aircraft, we settled into our flat-bed seats for some serious shut-eye on the nine-hour flight to Sydney.

On the few occasions we were woken from our slumber, the staff fussed over us with delicious meals, ice creams and extra blankets. The service was exceptional. Nothing was too much trouble.

Our transit time at Sydney Airport was to be approximately three hours before the second leg of the journey - a three-hour flight on to Christchurch and hello New Zealand.

Then, about 90 minutes out of Sydney's Kingford-Smith Airport, it all started to go horribly pear-shaped.

I noticed on the in-flight system that our aircraft had started to veer south. Just at that moment, the captain came on and gave us all the bad news that there was heavy morning fog in Sydney and it would be impossible for us to land. So the plan became to divert the plane to Adelaide, re-fuel, spend about an hour on the ground and finally continue the journey to hopefully a fog-free Sydney.

Time to panic

I did some quick calculations in my head and worked out that we would miss our connecting flight to New Zealand by about 45 minutes. So near and yet so far! However, the flight crew assured us that we would be met on arrival by Emirates ground staff and we'd be well looked after. I didn't doubt it for a moment.

And true to their word, we'd barely taken a dozen steps off the plane and a jolly-looking chap in a crisp, white shirt addressed us by name, confirmed our final destination as Christchurch and told us of the latest developments. We were in luck - the good news was that there was one more flight to Christchurch that day and we'd already been rebooked on it. The bad news was that the flight didn't leave until late in the evening.

A generous cash voucher was handed to us to spend on food and drink (not sure why because our tickets included access to a business class lounge) and we were then encouraged to enjoy the delights of Sydney Airport for the next SEVEN hours. I began to wonder if I had time to nip out and take a stroll around Sydney Harbour. I've always wanted to see The Opera House - and this seemed one heck of an opportunity.

Sydney Airport

Alas, my wife had no Australian entry visa, so the whole idea was sadly a non-starter. Instead, we killed as much time as humanly possible in the dreadful, overcrowded Quantas business class lounge (where they clearly let almost anyone in it seems) and when we tired of that, we ambled around the numerous airport gift shops before deciding that there are only so many ‘I Love Sydney' boomerangs and toy kangaroos that one can stomach in a single afternoon.

It was also during this period of time that Qantas ground staff issued us with new boarding passes for the later Christchurch flight. Keep this part of the story in mind. We'll be revisiting it later.

Before we leave Sydney Airport (and a very fine airport it is too) can I just put the first black mark next to Emirates' name? Why on earth was the Emirates business class lounge closed for most of the afternoon? When it eventually opened for business, it was delightful. Far nicer than its Qantas equivalent, it was the perfect place for a couple of weary travelers to relax before a flight. What a shame we only had an hour to enjoy it and were forced to spend most of our time in the Qantas business lounge-cum-cattle market.

Rubbing shoulders with the stars

The plane journey to Christchurch (when it eventually came) was memorable for really only one thing - my wife and I sat across the aisle from one of the biggest names in the music business.

Just as the plane was about to taxi down the runway for take-off, a casually-dressed, bordering on scruffy individual boarded at the last possible moment. Even with a tatty blue hoodie providing him with a modicum of disguise, you could still recognise his distinctive, straggly ginger beard. He plonked himself in his seat, rested his well-worn Adidas sneakers up against the wall and fired up a tablet. Only a famous celebrity would act in such a manner.

He then spent the entire journey answering e-mails and watching gangsta rap videos. My wife didn't look at all impressed when I told her we were sitting six feet away from Ed Sheeran.

After another amazing fortnight in New Zealand (and I won't bore you with the details) we made our way to Christchurch Airport for the return flight home. Three hours to Sydney, a bearable three-hour transit in Australia - and then the long nine or ten hours on to Bangkok. But that matters not one jot when you have an Emirates flat-bed seat to look forward to.

Oh, if only it were that straightforward.

Stuck in New Zealand

Our problems began at the Emirates check-in desk inasmuch as the Emirates ground staff didn't have the first clue who we were. After a lengthy period of head-scratching, puzzled expressions and much tapping on computer keyboards, they were still no closer to finding out. We simply didn't exist. Certainly not on the Emirates computer and passenger list.

Eventually, the Emirates airport manager was summoned to assist us and explain the situation. The Qantas staff at Sydney Airport (on the outbound leg) had failed to enter our details correctly in the computer system and the fact we had been diverted to Adelaide due to fog and had caught a later connecting flight to New Zealand.

The reality of the situation was that we had been mistakenly flagged in the system as a ‘no show' and as a result, our return tickets had automatically been cancelled. We were now well and truly stuck in New Zealand.

The airport manager asked us to give her more time to analyze the situation and come up with a solution. "Why don't you go and have a coffee and let me handle things" she suggested.

"Why should we have to spend money on fucking expensive airport coffees when our ticket entitles us to the use of a business class lounge where the food and drinks are all free?" I snapped.

I was - to use a good old expression you don't hear much - starting to lose my rag. The airport manager sensed that I was getting close to the point where I might start taking hostages. Eventually, even I realized that a calming dose of caffeine might not be a bad idea.

Two extortionately-priced coffees later and we were back with the airport manager.

Three options

"We can book you in business class to Sydney no problem" she said "but unfortunately business class from there to Bangkok is fully booked. I realize this is a huge disappointment but I have three alternative options"

I couldn't wait to hear them.

Option number one - and you'll like this - was to downgrade from business class to economy for the nine-hour flight from Sydney to Bangkok. Downgrade. Have you ever heard of anyone downgrading a flight ticket? No, neither have I. And that's exactly what I told her.

Option number two was for Emirates to purchase a business class ticket (at their expense) on Thai International Airlines. The Thai flight left Sydney at about the same time as the Emirates one so inconvenience would at least be minimal.

I wouldn't have thought it possible but suddenly option number one seemed a whole lot more attractive. Every seasoned flyer knows that Thai Airways business class is a far inferior product to Emirates'.

According to my wife, who spends a lot of time on Thai travel-related discussion boards, most Thais who are serious about travel, consider Thai Airways business class to be a total waste of time and money.

The third option was to book us onto Singapore Airlines. Now the airport manager finally had my interest. Good airline, quality service, I was sure their business class product would be something special. Only one snag though - the flight didn't leave till the following morning.

I just didn't trust Emirates enough to stump up for the extra night's accommodation in Christchurch with a bit of spending money thrown in. And I was certainly in no mood to fight them for it. Not only that but my wife had to be in work the following morning and she didn't fancy pinching another day away from her desk.

After much deliberation (we just wanted to get home at this point) we said a silent prayer and went with the Thai Airways option number two - and it didn't let us down. The whole experience was a joke to the point of embarrassment. The flat-bed seats felt like you constantly had springs sticking into you and the on-board service was non-existent. As soon as passengers started reclining their seats and drifting off to sleep, the stewardesses disappeared like farts in the wind. I'm not sure where they went but they were gone for the best part of nine hours.

Time for action

When we returned home to Thailand, my wife and I felt angry. We had forked out a considerable amount of cash to fly business class but Emirates had palmed us off with an inferior product through no fault of our own. The Emirates airport manager in Christchurch was in total agreement and had advised me to contact the Emirates customer service department as soon as I got back to Thailand. She even gave me an e-mail address that she said not many passengers would have access to. So contact customer service is what I did.

In my e-mail to customer service, I outlined the details of the story above and just to add a little more ‘weight' to the complaint, I mentioned that last year - flying with my wife from Bangkok to Madrid via Dubai - Emirates failed to get our baggage on the connecting flight and we arrived at Madrid minus our suitcases. They were eventually delivered to the hotel at 11pm - six hours after our arrival.

I mentioned the suitcase incident because this was the second time we had flown with Emirates in a 12-month period, and the second time they had screwed up.

I received a reply from Emirates within a few days. Naturally it began by apologizing for all the trouble we had encountered and went on to describe the fog in Sydney on that fateful morning as "an extraordinary circumstance beyond their control"

As for the almighty cock-up at Christchurch Airport, when my wife and I were not even on the passenger list, the writer of the e-mail said "I am sorry for the difficulties incurred as a result of this. Please allow me to assure you that the event you have detailed is an isolated one, and not indicative of the level of service that we strive to offer our customers.

Hollow words and empty promises

After reading through several more paragraphs of corporate ‘copy and paste', eventually we got down to the nitty-gritty - in other words, what were we going to receive by way of compensation?

Surprisingly, Emirates firstly made reference to the delayed baggage in Madrid and offered us one hundred dollars to cover any costs and inconvenience incurred. Frankly speaking, I wasn't looking for any compensation. The delayed suitcases were history. But I was pleased with the offer all the same.

However, there was just one problem - Emirates made no mention of how they intended to get that one hundred dollars to us. They didn't ask for a bank account number or anything. So basically it was a hollow, empty promise.

Six weeks later (as I write this blog) and despite numerous follow-up e-mails to the same customer department (which have all gone unanswered) and many direct messages on Twitter (which have all received the same reply of ‘please be patient, we are dealing with the problem) - we are still no closer to seeing that one hundred dollars.

But the Madrid baggage episode is just a sub-plot. It was the business class fiasco from Sydney to Bangkok that my wife and I still felt most entitled to be compensated for.

Back to the e-mail from the Emirates customer service department. "Mr Williams, we would not like to have you remain disappointed with us, on account of your experience; therefore, without prejudice or admission of liability, as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience experienced, Emirates is pleased to offer you and Ms Weerawat 20,000 complimentary miles each, which will be duly credited to your respective Skywards accounts.

"Without prejudice or liability" - I think that's a paraphrase for "OK guys, here's a token gesture and we sincerely hope that it gets you off our backs"

Apart from American football and science fiction, if there's one thing in life that I have never had an interest in - it's collecting and juggling around air miles. I can never be bothered. On the rare occasion I've logged into my Emirates Skywards account to see what my current balance entitles me to, I'd be lucky to afford an Emirates key-ring. For me that's how air miles work. Other members cash in their miles and fly first-class around the globe for peanuts: I get the key-ring.

But I was naturally inquisitive. Exactly how much were 20,000 air miles worth? Well, if I tell you that according to the Emirates website, you need something in the region of 150,000 air miles (plus a payment of around 40,000 baht) to afford a return business-class flight to Europe, you'll appreciate how far 20,000 miles was going to get me. In fact, I worked out that if I added the 20,000 air miles to my existing balance, I could just about afford an economy class return ticket to Hong Kong.

Zero progress

In conclusion, Emirates had given us nothing. It really was ‘just a token gesture to hopefully get us off their backs'

I can't really say how much compensation my wife and I are looking for. I genuinely don't know. I don't feel entitled to something like a free flight to Europe - but I do feel entitled to something more substantial than 20,000 shitty air miles.

I've already told Emirates that they can keep the air miles because after all the inconvenience and stress that the airline put us through, I consider their offer to be ‘an insult'.

It's now seven weeks since we returned from New Zealand and to my mind, we're no closer to any kind of satisfactory resolution. As I already mentioned, my e-mails to Emirates customer service are going unanswered. I'm being ‘pacified' by the occasional direct message on Twitter that asks for my patience and more time.

Alas, my patience and time have both run out.



I'll never buy a plane ticket above economy class. The cost is not remotely worth it in my opinion. It'll also prevent me from getting frustrated if I get shitty service because I'm paying for shitty service anyway.

By Jake, New Zealand (3rd November 2018)

Just wanted to chime in and totally agree with your comments about their customer service - it is absolutely atrocious.

I was trying to book a flight ticket on their website, it showed the flight and price and then when I go to enter my card details the flight is suddenly unavailable (but there is the same one available for more money). I contacted them and they said that the website is only a quote and the flights become unavailable. Ok, perhaps... however for over 30 hours after. the first cheaper flight is showing as available. The reservations team can't book me a ticket, the online team is telling me there is no problem, but no one can honour the cheaper price. After lots of talking to them, I say I want to complain. However, I can't complain, as the complaint service is only available to customers and I haven't booked the ticket!! Its a joke!

By Ed, Hong Kong (29th April 2018)

I believe you have been short changed.
Firstly, the emirates airline encountered fog, so have to delay departure. No problem there, it happens!
Secondly, there must be many customers that day stranded in that way.
Thirdly, Emirates forgot to make necessary connections for you, after the fog event. This is not your fault, but Emirates fault. They have to compensate you because they failed to ensure you have adequate connections. Also, because they failed to remember to connect you properly, you ended up having to take up an inferior alternative. You should also be compensated for this inferior service. Take it up with management at Emirates. Don't let it go, because you and your wife suffered trauma that day.

By UK Traveller, BKK (22nd April 2018)

My god I had to stop half way through what a pain ! I work for Ek, DELAYS happen WEATHER happens and YES people downgrade to get where they want to go. Get over your life

By Clare, Dubau (25th February 2018)

Im sure this was therapeutic, but do you actually think anyone read this all the way through.
I'm sitting in an airport lounge, bored out of my tits, and suddenly, I'm more bored than ever.
with all due respect, keep it short and relevant!



By Rob Dawson, Sydney (22nd October 2017)

Talk about emerates I just booked a flight on the 12th September to go Manchester 26 return to bangkok on 4 th oct my booking was accepted and my bank cleared the funds off my debit card i was then advised by the emerates office in Bangkok that my funds had. Been rejected and it would take a few days for the money to go back in my account it was rejected on the 12th and it is still not in my bank. Emerates tell me it did not get into there account and my bank say they can not get it back until emerates release it I am disgusted with emerates no one will tell me why my money was rejected or where it is Bangkok office sujested I try to book another flight with my card they are crazy

By Will charlton, Pattaya (17th September 2017)

First - Congrats on 10 years, say hello to Kalaya for me. And - We really expect better service than that for the cost. Next time you want to fly in class consider a private flight. They are not that difficult to find and less expensive than you might think. As long as your have a little flexibility in your schedule it's a better option.

By Ron Williams, Hong Kong (9th August 2017)

Understand your frustration but you learned a lesson about booking 3rd party websites and partner airlines. ALWAYS book direct and ensure they are not codesharing or understand the rules and consequences. I am Executive Platinum status on 2 airlines. I routinely fly 100,000 miles per year paying business class fares. They still treat me (and my peers) like trash. So saying "I've flown then multiple times in the past 10 years) doesn't mean crap. It's a new era and airlines have given up fare wars. In 10 years, you will remember the current situation as "the good days" of air travel. I'm in the industry and we all see it coming.

By Ted Lindsley, Bangkok (18th June 2017)

Too long to read the whole book but airline can't be responsible for a fog I worked for an airline for 10 years and had millions of passengers who said I will never fly with this airline again did I care? No. better for me less passengers= better flight the best part was they did fly with us again because we were the cheapest or it was only us flying to those airports if the airline didn't get you enough compo and credit card didn't help always choose the flight/airline which offers the best for you

By Marcin, Uk (1st May 2017)

You are absolutely right. Big corporations (mostly airlines) want you to be a loyal customer but have very little or no interest of being a loyal provider. And what is all this about expiry dates for airmiles. Surely they should expire when used or when you die not when the airline thinks they should. So come on Emirates and the rest of you airlines try this for something new. Some customers are recreational travellers who do not have the privilege of somebody else paying their fare and they should be treated equally. One other thing. Stop the LYING. Why do all airlines try to convince me that on line, machine, iPhone and other modern booking in method is for my benefit. Its not. Its to save them money. How many people realise that by getting passengers to print their own boarding cards and other documentation saves the airline industry in excess of 1 million pound sterling per annum. Do we see the savings. Of course not the saving is used to administer there web site and machines. I do not have a Ipad, IPhone or any other coms gadget. And to cap it all when you get the somewhere like London Heathrow having spent a lot of money on a business fare to Sydney the first thing the ground staff is NOT Good Evening or any other pleasantry. Its "You can use the machine to b0ok in" I DON'T want to, I want a bit of old fashion service

By Davis, Germany (5th March 2017)

A lot of these commeets seem byass and jealous to me .if I pay a premium for a service I would expect to get that service . You should be offered financial compensation. Go higher

By Myles, England (19th February 2017)

Typical Pom whinge really. You blokes are never happy unless whining on about something that most of us wouldn't think twice about. Life is way too short to harp on about issues over which you have no control. Relax a little and you'll live longer.

As for Paul Wynter, (it's QANTAS by the way Paul) you don't have to worry about this "sweaty, tired and already flagged out ossie" because I always sit at the pointy end away from the "wealthy" Mr Dudley's slumming it in economy.

Adam the Aussie

By Adam Reynolds, Brisbane, Australia (20th October 2016)

Just because I was app 2-3 mins late to the Emirates Counter in Delhi Indira Gandhi Airport on a return flight, due to Indian Airlines connecting delay was forced to buy new one way ticket which cost nearly the same as the return ticket between Washington DC to NewDelhi purchased earlier.



By Don, USA (8th August 2016)

"Reading the comments to your blog just makes one realise why the airlines think they can get away with such behaviour. The responses are absolutely absurd"

Thank you Andrew for your support. Much appreciated. I have also read the comments below and was seriously beginning to wonder if I was the one in the wrong and I was simply moaning for the sake of it.

Funny, but I was talking to an 'industry expert' a few weeks ago and he got interested in my Emirates story. I directed him to this blog and of course the comment section as well. His own comments were interesting. He said "In cases like this, you will only ever get sympathy from people who fly at the same level. That is passengers who either use or have used Emirates business class. Those people who use and 'tolerate' economy class will always just view you as a whining idiot. Unfortunately that's the way the world works - especially the world of air travel"

By philip, Samut Prakarn (22nd February 2016)

Reading the comments to your blog just makes one realise why the airlines think they can get away with such behaviour. The responses are absolutely absurd.

You had paid and booked for a seat on a particular flight, the class doesn't matter. You should expect to be on that flight. The fact that you were not was entirely the responsibility of Emirates.

I fly 200k miles a year with emirates alone and am loyal as anyone but would never accept this service.

If I am bumped of any plane, I expect to be told the level of compensation before I accept the next option. This is just standard practice in the industry and I cannot believe that Emirates did not follow this protocol.

As a skywards member you would have priority and if they couldn't find you a seat in business they should try first. As a regular flier I would then expect them to bump another passenger who was not a skywards member (sorry it's a dog eat dog world). If all of this failed them they should be offering you at least a return business class ticket to your original destination or offer some serious cash compensation. I used to travel frequently on an airline between Miami and Montego Bay and we were often offered serious cash compensation for "volunteering" to be bumped as they had over sold the flight.

The bottom line is that there are airline rules and a code of practice. Emirates need to follow this and you should ignore the ignorant naysayers and keep fighting your cause. Bombard them with emails until they respond properly as try have yet to do so. Take the issue higher if you need to.

By Andrew, Now in transit in BKK. (22nd February 2016)

"The Emirates plane was full so you had the option of flying the next day"

We didn't have the option of flying the next day. My wife had to be back at work.

" You chose the second shitiest option knowing it would be a shitty option"

It was the only option because we had to get back to Thailand that day (see answer above)

"You suffered inconvenience and stress because of ANOTHER AIRLINE you dolt!"

Well, I'll keep the personal insults out of it but just to say that they are partner airlines - not 'another airline'

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (25th January 2016)

Right so this whole problem was caused by fog, then Qantas. OK so you has a funky IFE, but I'd never buy a flight ticket business or not based on IFE (and its censored films) working or not

Emirates offered you 3 options.

The Emirates plane was full so you had the option of flying the next day. What did you expect them to do? Chuck off two passengers?

Two of the 3 options were offered so you can get back to your home country asap as I'm sure my customers would want. You chose the second shitiest option knowing it would be a shitty option. You then complained about assumed shitty option. Erm what?

You suffered inconvenience and stress because of ANOTHER AIRLINE you dolt! You had the option of having exactly what you paid for (albeit a day later) and refused it. Hell Singapore Business is arguable better then Emirates anyway!

Sorry but I don't see a single good reason for you not to fly Emirates again. While I side with you in general on corporate customer service, not getting it when it wasn't their fault and after being offered every conceivable alternative option and you choosing the worst, I have zero sympathy. Sure offering something that mean you have to use their service again rather than hard cash is galling, but that's how the majority of compensation works now. Certainly a 1st offer of it anyway.

By invisiblekid, Earth unlike yourself. (25th January 2016)

I just came across this post while googling for a company in Bangkok. My reaction when I read it.... 1st WORLD PROBLEM.

Imagine making this trip 100 years ago. Or even 20 years ago. I travel 200K+ miles a year. Flight diversions, missed connections, lost baggage, .... they are always a potential on any trip. If you get easily upset and irritated over minor conveniences I suggest you make your future trips no further than Chonburi.

By Robin, USA (18th December 2015)

It seems like you're a hard customer to please; things in this world are not perfect even if you pay the premium price. It seems that they tried to best accommodate something that was out of their control. Don't take this the wrong way, but I would probably hate if you were my neighbor. You seem like the guy that would cut down my beautiful rose plants if they inched a petal across into your property.....LOL/

In all honesty I have been also stressed by missed connections/missed flights. One time I had a missed connection and had to spend 1 night in Japan....I met a very cute food service girl who took me out and showed me the town' had me back just in time to get on my flight to BKK. Sometimes a setback is an opportunity for a great adventure.

Whats $100 to a man that spends $3000 on business class ticket?

By MorPhan, Las Vegas (16th September 2015)

Wow, what a bore this was. I'm afraid I just don't have much sympathy, they did everything they could at the airport and gave you three options, if you were so unhappy at the time you should have let them know that instead of accepting one of the options

If you are flying often you will experience delays, there will be cancellations, there will be lost luggage, missed connections. I'm afraid you just have to deal with it, and not moan like you were done the biggest injustice in history.

By George, Buckinghamshire (27th August 2015)

You have no interest in American football or science fiction? Blimey!

By Mark Newman, Thailand (29th June 2015)

I've always been very impressed with Emirates. They've upgraded me to business class twice for free when there was a problem, their facilities and staff are second to none. Re-scheduling is free ... what more do you want?
If you can afford 95K THB seats on a plane .... I'd say be thankful for what you have. Life has been good to you.

And of course you have never been interested in air miles - you have so much money that you don't need to be. Enjoy life and be grateful.

By Reality Check, Chonburi (16th June 2015)

Sorry, I've read this twice and I can't find the lousy customer service touted in the beginning. As was mentioned, if you fly as much as you say you do, then eventually, bags will not arrive with you. You got yours within 6 hours, that's not bad in my book. Scroll down to the part about cursing at a person because they suggest you get coffee while they tend to your problem. Granted, it's stressful to find travel plans disrupted, but to curse at someone trying to help you? You lost me there...and you bitch about having to spend $5 on a cup of coffee after spending how many thousands on a 2 week vacation? Come on. Anyway, you were offered 3 reasonable choices and (by your own admission) took the worst one. You sound like a whiny baby throwing toys out of the crib. STFU, take the miles and move on with your life. Geez.

By Seymour, Budapest (15th June 2015)


By JOE CLOUGH, SRI LANKA (14th June 2015)

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