Wednesday, March 13, 2013


When I moved to South Africa we started really racking up frequent flyer miles.  With every airline we had an account; they all knew us as a number and treated us with the same mutual disdain they treated all their economy class clients. 

Emirates was the exception and quickly became my favorite airline.  Their planes were the and amenities were similar to all of the other airlines we travelled, but there was one special something about their service.  The food was better onboard; the flight attendants were wonderful and the greatest attraction - airport lounges – shone like diamonds, especially in Dubai.

I started booking Emirates flights each time, eventually becoming a “Silver Rewards Member”.  With Silver status I was awarded the Silver lounge on our Dubai layovers; food, cocktails and internet hook-ups included with the bathrooms and showers.  Ahhhh!!!

This is where I need to tell you that I have slowly fallen out of love with Emirates; the same way that one slowly falls out of love with a mate that is not the best match for them.  My main complaint, as I write tonight is they have too many times treated me badly in Dubai. 

It has been my experience that my Silver membership in the Skywards club (frequent flier) is not worth as much as it used to be.  The last three times I have flown Emirates their Silver lounge was “under construction” and I was “compensated” with miles in my account.  

This is not a fair trade at all; the points are miniscule in comparison with the airport lounge conveniences.

Tonight, Mario (sick with food poisoning) and I arrived in Dubai after spending quite a few frequent flier miles on an upgrade to business class.  We loved the flight, but when we tried to enter the Emirates Airport lounge a young receptionist denied us.  Our business class upgrade was a thing of the past and we were now “only economy passengers” (her words).  I was told I could use the lounge but Mario (not a Silver member) would have to wait outside in the airport. 

I asked politely (citing Mario’s weakened condition), even offered to pay for an upgrade but the girl stood firm, suggesting that we try the lounge above the Burger King – about a ten minute walk away.   We complied, realizing we were getting nowhere... she told us if I were a gold member I could bring Mario in with me.  As a lowly silver....not a chance.

At the next lounge the young man recited the same mantra: “You are only a Silver Member...If you were Gold he could come in with you.”

“What if he upgraded to business class?” I asked him.

“I can’t do that here,” he smiled.  Mario had to use the bathroom and so we went downstairs again to find one.  By now Mario was tired, but I was not giving up.

“Is there a way Mario can upgrade to Business class?” I asked.  The young man shook his head. 

“If you want to do that you must o to the next lounge that way,” he said, pointing us even further. 

“I called before we made the flight yesterday morning,” I told him.  “They told me I would have no problem bringing Mario into the Silver lounge.”

“Who said this?”  He asked, scrunching up his nose.

“This was Emirate customer service in South Africa,” I said.  Why does it matter?

“That’s not true,” he said.  He continued checking in the important business class members.

“You know what is sad?” I finally said.  “I have flown Emirates for years and lately it is not worth it.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said.  He didn’t seem too awfully sorry.  “You can’t stay here because you have an unusually long layover and it gets really busy.”

At the next Emirates airport lounge (another 10 minute walk away – schlepping luggage) could possibly help us upgrade, he said. 

When we got there Mario could not go any further; too weak.  The woman behind the counter at least knew what we were talking about and helped us into the right line.

“You can try over here,” she said, leading us to the Skywards counter.  “This is where they will see if this is possible.”

The woman behind the Skywards counter was as unsympathetic as all of the other receptionists...barely making eye contact with us.  While I was asking if Mario could use the lounge another man was asking if he could upgrade.  The girl helping him was giving rote answers in a condescending manner.

As we waited for the receptionist to upgrade Mario, it hit me: Emirates had become just like every other airline.  All of the normal cheap habits that airlines have, Emirates now adopted just to make a profit. 

What has happened to us, Emirates?  You once had a reputation with us as a wonderful, caring airline that took care of us; now you have lost that lovin feeling!

Tonight was the nail in the coffin- while customer service has been slowly slipping; the condescension is inexcusable.  They will us will lose us as customers. 

This was not the best way to leave out of South Africa... next time I’ll fly another airline.  

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