Emirates and the Foreign Office – somewhat less than helpful.

So, the parentals are stuck in Delhi because the Icelanders have decided to get us back for dissing their banks by opening up the earth and sending clouds of ash into our airspace, meaning all flights to and from the UK were grounded. They were meant to fly from Delhi to Dubai yesterday and then on to Manchester from Dubai. Still, when they couldn't fly they were transferred to a lovely 5 star hotel by Emirates where my mum was perfectly happy because she'd found two young travellers to look after and my dad was happy because he was drinking beer on the terrace and watching the world go by. However happiness was short-lived when a representative of Emirates arrived this morning and announced that as of midday, Emirates had discharged its duty to provide them with accomodation for 24 hours, they were now required to vacate their rooms and leave or speak to the hotel about booking in and paying for it themselves. Needless to say this went down like a lead penguin and they are now, along with the 22 other UK-bound passengers, staging a sit-it in the lobby of the Jaypee Vasant Continental. Apparently the hotel aren't that concerned because the militant holidaymakers are buying drinks however whether they'll be so cheerful about it when the sun goes down and they still refuse to move or when they've been there 3 days in the heat of Delhi and they smell like a tramp's slipper is anyone's guess. Emirates are being somewhat less than helpful. The passengers in India have been given no information other than that they definately won't be flying before the 18th April and if you try to phone Emirates you get a posh sounding chap announcing that they're very sorry but they are experiencing a high volume of calls and so you should ring back later. Helpful, thanks for that Emirates. Eventually I managed to get through to Emirates customer services and I found out something interesting – that no one in the call centre has a fucking clue what's going on or what's going to happen. In fact I knew more than they did, which seems to be a rather arse-about situation. Possibly the call centre staff should have been instructed to read the BBC News website before starting shift, since it would not have been an unreasonable guess that people might be ringing to ask about this.

Given that Emirates clearly didn't give a fuck, I decided to ring the Foreign Office for information. I got through to a posh sounding chap called Nick. I'm sure that all people who work for the foreign office are called Nick, Charles or Fiona. After hearing the explanation Nick came up with the following invaluable advice.

"Well if the airline have discharged their duty then the passengers are on their own and will have to pay for private accomodation and food until the airline will fly them back to the UK".

I explained that it was ok for those like my parents who could afford to do this but there were some young backpackers on the flight who didn't have any money. Nick didn't seem overly bothered about this, I don't think he really likes backpackers because he repeated the word as if I'd just said 'camel-turds' and informed me that they'll just have to find some cheap hotel to stay in at their own expense. Very helpful, we pay how much to have consulates across the world whose main function seems to be to tell you to fuck off and not bother them. Presumably they're too busy fantasising about the days when you were allowed to use natives as a hearth-rug and getting dressed for dinner with the colonel. They'll be sitting up and taking notice if my mother arrives at the Delhi Consulate I can tell you. My vocal abilities were inherited from a master. Currently my brother and myself are trying to figure out a way to get them back into Europe so they can travel back overland. Once that is done, I will be sitting down to write a sternly worded missive to both the foreign office and Emirates airlines. There's nothing quite like writing a sternly worded missive for warming the soul….

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12 Responses

  1. I don't want to incur your wrath… but isn't this what travel insurance is for?

  2. I contacted the travel insurance people and because it's an 'act of god' they only get £250 per person to cover out of pocket expenses. Just got a text from Mum to say that Emirates have now told them that they won't be able to get them back to the UK till the 28th if they stay in Delhi. Someone at Emirates headquarters is going to feel the full wrath of the parentals when they arrive back. They are currently trying to get flights to Dubai and then out to Rome where they will either be able to fly to Dublin and come back overland or come back overland through Europe and back on a ferry. They are not happy campers.

  3. I know there's a debate around this on Twitter. I'll post you the most recent update from C4 News feed:

  4. The airline are being bugger all use. The problem is that Emirates will get them back to the UK for no extra cost – but it won't be till the 28th, 12 days from now. 12 days accomodation in Delhi, of the standard that my mother will actually accept, is going to cost a whole lot more than writing off the flights and re-booking to get home another way. I don't think they'll fly Emirates again, their customer care line didn't have a clue and the passengers were left stranded. Having said that, I thought that the job of the consulate would be to find out from the airlines who is stranded in Delhi and offer them advice or assistance. Clearly I got that wrong as well.

  5. It's ludicrous that they're leaving such a long gap. They really should pay for accommodation if they're going to do that.

  6. Being cynical, I suspect they're trying to get people to abandon the flight altogether so that a) they don't have to refund them and so have pocketed the cost without having to provide a flight and b) they don't have to bother trying to slot them onto other flights which could be filled with another fee paying passenger. Who has the time to just loaf about in Delhi for an unexpected 12 days? Or the cash to pay for it? Ridiculous.

  7. Aren't they under an obligation like the EU companies to offer EITHER an alternative flight or a full refund? You should find out. I agree it sounds like they are doing precisely that.

  8. There's a very interesting graphic of who is flying what/where in the Eurozone here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2010/apr/16/volcano-ash-airspace-flights-iceland Italy is the nearest country with normal airspace, I'm afraid.

  9. They're trying to get from Dubai to Rome but the only flight they can currently find is £5k for the two of them. Which I believe in the old days was known as 'profiteering'.

  10. £5,000!!! That's absolutely fucking ridiculous.

  11. I know it's a frustrating time for everyone and I hate to be the devils advocate, but in unique circumstances such as this unfortunately everyone has to feel and accept some pain from the consequences. Hope your parents are able to travel very soon.Note some story that John Cleese paid a taxi $5000 to drive from somewhere to Brussels…guess that's beyond the means of backpackers.

  12. *snort*
    Hearthrugs! Heh!
    Am I bad for thinking the backpackers should just… take it casually and delight in the opportunity to travel with the masses? I mean – hostels or host family accomodation would be 'part of the experience', surely?? If they waited it out that way until normal flights resumed they could put it in the 'enrichment' category.
    re your parents being told 5000 pounds for a flight to Rome – Fark, that is outrageous, sic your mum on 'em that'll teach them.
    Maybe your parentals could find a nice B&B in Dhelhi too, without breaking the budget – after all, natural calamities (act of god – what god?) cannot be railed at, merely accomodated.
    My mum is going off her head here in Oz because she is flying out to England in two weeks… talk about flap, she is probs going to be fine, but she is stressing so mauch I am worried about her heart! She goes OS every year, you would think she was a little more blase about it all by now…
    Best of luck to your parentals – better tell your mum not to bring any backpackers home with her ! (but it followed me hooooome)

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