A few weeks back now, I made a rather large error in a post I made concerning a guy called Chris Miller and the problems he had with the airline Emirates .
Having emailed Chris a few times, I asked his permission to re-post his account to which he kindly agreed.
"Please think about this before you comment on any story published on a newspaper/tv media site:
Firstly can I start by saying that yes I am the person at the centre of the story. We had a perfect right to ask the airline for compensation based on the whole experience which you can see below. You should realise that going to the media will of course have ended any outside chance we had to get any compensation from the airline so we only went to the media because the attitude of Emirates was so appalling that we wanted to publicise how truly bad they were as a warning to other families.
We could only tell the full story to journalists, we cannot control how they present it and clearly they are putting their own spin on it. That is how the media works. The media like a straightforward story but this was not a straighforward story. Consequently they cherry picked the story we went to them with and presented two parts - one part about the phone call and one part that we had been offered no compensation. The rest of the story was ignored or referred to without detail to produce a clearer story. What you may have read is therefore not the full story and you cannot fully comprehend what happened without understanding the whole picture.
Emirates is a big multi national company that clearly thinks they can just do whatever it wants to its paying customers. We are an ordinary family that was thrust into exceptional events 1000’s of miles from our home. We merely want people to be aware of what they did. We have no solicitor acting on our behalf, we are dealing with all the media ourselves in an attempt to show how any family could be treated by their incompetent staff. We have both travelled all over the world and used numerous airlines, we have never had cause to make a single complaint in all our years of travel. This was our first Emirates experience.
Just getting the story out to embarrass the airline is the start of us getting closure on all this.
The full facts are as follows:
On arrival at Mumbai after a passenger became ill the airline removed my family from the flight as my son had developed a rash during the flight. They then put the safety of my partner and two young children at risk by driving them around Mumbai in a dangerous, old taxi without seat belts or doors that closed properly in the full sweltering heat of the day with no air conditioning. After 5 hours of suffering with these unacceptable conditions my Daughter also became ill (later that day it was diagnosed as a viral infection). If your child contracts chicken pox you might get a local GP to confirm it but instead of calling a doctor to look at him in the airport they took my partner and two young children (and of course very young children don’t have fully developed immune systems and are always prone to picking up bugs), none of whom had any inoculations/anti-malarial protection across Mumbai to two municipal third world hospitals, exposing them to all kinds of potential diseases. The airline attempted to get our children admitted into a filthy third world hospital for 5 days as an adequate response to their condition (which we refused to agree to). They then had another two hours in a dangerous vehicle until they got into a hotel. As a consequence this caused both my young children to get additional severe respiratory infections which meant they were not well enough to return home even after my son had been cleared to do so over the chicken pox, and requiring both to have antibiotic treatments before they could fly.
I am sure you can appreciate how stressful it was for my partner to be on her own with two young children unexpectedly thrown into India and then come against bullying tactics which meant she was forced to travel across the city with strangers who she did not trust.
Yes, they called me up from India to tell me that one of my family was dead, in error. Instead of explaining that there had been a mistake they just put the phone down on me. 10 seconds or 10 minutes, 10 days does the time make any difference? If you are a parent believe me it makes no difference. Of course I was relieved to find out that they were alive. Emirates called me back but never explained to me about the first call or apologised. They called again I believe to see if they had made a mistake but certainly not to explain it, I had to work that out myself - they have never provided an explanation to this day. And they did not even say sorry at that point. I finally received an apology from UK staff after 4PM, 9 hours after the original call.
Yes they did fly me out BUT THIS WAS NOT COMPENSATION. Had I fancied a week stuck in Mumbai for a holiday maybe it could be considered compensation. My insurance company had agreed immediately to fly me out to help get my family home. Emirates also offered to do so but this gesture of course does not compensate us in any way - it merely enabled me to fix all the problems that they had created and get my family home.
Staff blatantly lied, were uncooperative, were unhelpful, failed to call me back when they said they would, provided no method of actually getting to speak to a senior member of staff to deal with the case and unbelievably initially told me that in what was an immediate emergency situation they hoped to get back to me with a response possibly within eight days - providing I put everything in writing by email to them.
Local staff in Mumbai stuffed up my families emergency visa status meaning we had to drag our children across Mumbai (a two hour journey each way) to spend a day in a government office to pay a £50 “fine” for them overstaying their emergency visas (because the kids had been made ill by Emirates actions they were unfit to fly for a further 5 days).
On the return flight home things directly in the control of the airline went from one problem to the next. They provided no food for our children for the whole day when they flew back to the UK, a flight which lasted 12 hours. The incompetent airline staff failed to re-book the original food we requested and paid for our children on the flights back from Mumbai. It was little surprise that both children arrived back in the UK totally stressed and in my daughters case physically ill once again. They then expected my three year old daughter to sit by herself on the flight from Dubai to Newcastle, putting us through the stress of having to argue and refusing to board the flight until the staff reluctantly sorted the problem out (after they once again lied to us, saying that the flight was full yet there were plenty of empty seats when we boarded) right upto the plane almost leaving. After all that had happened as a final insult the airline left our luggage behind in Dubai, so we had to wait and hour and a half in Newcastle Airport with two stressed kids only to find out our bags were not on the plane. The bags eventually arrived the next day, finally at our door after 5PM.
In addition Emirates cabin Staff subjected my partner to abuse. Cabin stuff vindictively harassed my partner and called her a bad mother as they mistakenly believed she had requested an upgrade to First Class for herself while flying to Australia in the first place!
When we got back to the UK I wrote to Emirates with a chronicle of all the events and appalling experiences they were responsible for. We pointed out that I had lost 8 days of work and we personally paid out over £900 in costs to keep my family in Mumbai and get them home - the delay in returning was after all the result of their local staff. We additionally asked for compensation for the stress, ill-health etc which all the family experienced. I can assure you there was no specific mention of the phone call in this request. The experiences of my partner and children in India were a lot worse. Our request for recompense was based on the whole of our experience on this journey, not one phone call.
The airline wrote back and apologised for any inconvenience caused but refused us any compensation for anything which had happened. The airline has suggested that the medical treatment provided when they were disembarked was more than adequate for the circumstances and in the context of cultural differences between India and the UK. How can dangerous transport and exposure to third world conditions be in any way adequate or acceptable? We had full medical cover via insurance but the airline insisted on taking them
- against their will and on the basis of lies from the local staff - and ended up having to sign waivers when we refused any further medical treatment in a filthy municipal hospital and requested a doctor attend once they had been housed in a quality safe local hotel.
Emirates website boasts how wonderful the experience of flying with young children will be from “booking to disembarking”. I certainly would not trust the care of my family in the hands of this airline ever again. I would also warn any other family to be extremely wary about booking a flight through Emirates based on what happened to us and how we saw other families were treated on their flights. As experienced travellers we were shocked by the utterly unbelievable series of events and the staggering incompetence. We put our family’s lives in these people’s hands when you fly and I would just not trust Emirates again.
Airlines are a law unto themselves, they can treat people how they like with very little recourse if things go wrong.I don’t think we were being at all unreasonable to expect that Emirates would compensate us accordingly for what was an extraordinary set of blunders. Instead Emirates dismissed us and the refusal to offer even a penny of compensation is an insult as it shows that they clearly don’t value customers and don’t consider our experience acceptable. Some gesture of compensation would have represented closure for the whole episode, offering nothing has left us angry and we were left with no option but to try and get back at the airline with the one thing left to us - bad publicity via the media.
Perhaps none of you will understand what really went on in my head that night, nor in the weeks afterwards but the feelings I have expressed in the media were totally genuine, open and honest. I actually fully told my partner what really happened that night only a few days ago. I still feel anger at the fact my family were put in danger and that as a consequence my children were made ill by the airlines actions. Of course I have the utmost sympathy for the devastated family of the guy who actually died; it will have been utterly devastating. No dispute.
I repeat, the media will simplify stories, the Radio 5 interview was also subject to edit and the questioning was pointed to only one aspect of the whole story I was trying to tell.
Please don’t jump to conclusions unless you have the facts.
I wasn't having the best of days, and at some point opened up a BBC NEWS report, and immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion based on what I had read.
Now in all the posts I've made on this site, and on all the other blogs I run or contribute to, I've never done something like this before. I try not to post anything I can't back up with facts and I usually research things to death.
Having lived in the US I was exposed to the "sue the ass of anything that moves" culture, and what with other things going on in my own life at the moment, I passed comment on something I wasn't qualified to pass comment on. As Chris points out above, "don’t jump to conclusions unless you have the facts".
Needless to say, my post was quite offensive towards Chris Miller, but to give credit to him, he contacted me and was extremely polite and understanding. Had someone done something similar to me, I doubt if I would have had the same attitude, but I would like to think I would from now on.
Once again, I apologise to Chris for my foopar in my earlier post.
Posted by Chris Wright at April 20, 2008 2:25 AM
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