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Dubai floods: Emirates says sorry; to return 30,000 suitcases to passengers

Dubai floods: Emirates says sorry; to return 30,000 suitcases to passengers

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: After the unprecedented flash floods of April 17, which paralyzed the desert city of Dubai in the UAE and brought life to a grinding halt, Emirates Airlines has apologized to the stranded passengers for the inconvenience and promised to return their 30,000 suitcases at the earliest.

The weatherman has warned of more rain this week.

Hundreds of flights were grounded and thousands of customers were stranded at Dubai International Airport after the historic rainstorm that assaulted the region after 75 years, the media reported.

Emirates CEP Tim Clark issued an apology on the company’s website to customers over the weekend: “I would like to offer our most sincere apologies to every customer who has had their travel plans disrupted during this time.”

“We know our response has been far from perfect. We acknowledge and understand the frustration of our customers due to the congestion, lack of information, and confusion in the terminals. We acknowledge that the long queues and wait times have been unacceptable.”

While the airline’s service hub at Dubai Airport remained open, “flooded roads impeded the ability of our customers, pilots, cabin crew, and airport employees to reach the airport, and also the movement of essential supplies like meals and other flight amenities,” Clark wrote.

He said the airline diverted dozens of flights on Tuesday last week as the worst of the rainstorm raged, and that “over the next 3 days we had to cancel nearly 400 flights and delay many more, as our hub operations remained challenged by staffing and supply shortages.”

Emirates on Wednesday last week urged travelers not to come to the airport, except in emergencies It also suspended check-ins for those meant to fly out of Dubai, put an embargo on ticket sales, and halted connecting flights from other cities to Dubai, leaving some passengers stuck around the world.

Social media lit up with angry posts from customers who said they received no help from Emirates staff and were unable to contact anyone at the company.

“12hrs waiting on a canceled flight and 6hrs waiting at this desk with people fainting, fighting and trying to keep sane and no communication from Emirates,” one Instagram user posted, along with a photo showing a packed crowd of people in front of Emirates screens at the Dubai airport. The time stamp on the photo was 7:05 a.m. Friday.

Another traveler told CNBC via social media: “It took me 48 hours to get from London to Baghdad via Dubai. Five hours on the tarmac in an airplane (in Dubai), one hour of which there was no one to open the gates of the aircraft bridge. I made my way out … found a hotel and went back, waiting 12 hours. Got on a flight and they served us almonds!”

Some people said they were stuck at the airport for over 20 hours, and others, stranded in foreign cities and connecting airports, said they had to book their own return home after receiving no help from Emirates.

Clark said his staff did their best to deal with the unprecedented situation, and that it was “all hands on deck for thousands more employees across the organization to get our operations back on track.”

The CEO wrote that the airline “sent over 100 employee volunteers to look after disrupted customers at Dubai Airport departures and in the transit area, prioritizing medical cases, the elderly, and other vulnerable travelers.”

He added that over 12,000 hotel rooms were provided for customers in Dubai, as well as 250,000 meal vouchers issued.

As of Saturday, Emirates’ regular flight schedules had been restored. In the letter, Clark said the airline still had more than 30,000 pieces of luggage to return to customers.

“We have put together a task force to sort, reconcile, and deliver some 30,000 pieces of left-behind baggage to their owners,” he said, adding that it will “take us some more days to clear the backlog of rebooked passengers and bags,” and asking for customers’ “patience and understanding.”

Clark pledged to improve the airline’s processes and thanked his staff for their work, as well as offering “our apologies to every customer affected by this disruption.”


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