Tuesday, 4 March 2008


It’s such a typical Middle East story that I’m not going to bore you with the gory details. Suffice to say that I tried to book tickets for two relatives to come visit us over Easter using my abundant stock of Emirates Skywards airmiles and a few Dirhams more. It quickly turned into a 3-hour nightmare of pointless, long and frustrating conversations and music on hold that sounded like the Clangers playing Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares To U through long reeds inserted into their anuses. Sideways.

The websites didn’t really work very well (Am I the only person who thinks that the new Emirates website sucks at a deep and fundamental level?), particularly the Skywards site, which required customers to reset their cookies, clear the cache and stick marzipan copies of the Venus de Milo into their nostrils (they’re quite insistent on the last point) before it will allow even the simplest transaction to be contemplated.

So then you’re on to the call centres, which give you unparalleled access to morons who believe that your role in the transaction is to be led to the stun gun of their incompetence like cattle to the abattoir.

I ended up with one of two people’s tickets booked on a flight using Skywards Miles and being told to go to Emirates’ call centre to book the other ticket paying cash because Skywards couldn't take cash. Of course then the other ticket wasn’t available for under £1,000 – three times the price of any budget airline and pretty much double the normal Emirates fare for any other flight on that day. And the Emirates call centre couldn’t change the Skywards booking. So I had a useless Skywards ticket and a no-go madly priced Emirates ticket – and a couple flying on different flights on the same day – all with a great deal of ping-ponging between the two call centres and frenzied research on the EK website as the flights during the busy Easter period filled up around me.

Three hours and a great deal of tooth gritting later I got my two flights from the UK to Dubai: one on my Skywards miles and one using good old fashioned cash. Which is what I wanted, simply, to begin with. The angel that managed this was called Nikita and she simply did what could and should have been done in the first place: she helped me and was intelligent.

What amazes me is not that Emirates managed to waste three hours of my life, but that they wasted three hours of their booking staff’s time to complete a straightforward transaction that should have been simplicity itself and enabled by the website.

There was nothing that I wanted that was unusual or complicated. Just two tickets on one flight – using any combination (I didn’t care which combination) of miles and cash.

If there are many more like me out there, Emirates are blowing millions of Dirhams a year on managing long, complex and ultimately pointless transactions with furiously unhappy customers that are simply unable to conduct relatively simple and straightforward transactions on the company’s website or with its call centres.

Or perhaps I’m just unlucky...


EyeOnDubai said...

'bout time we set up the Dubai Institute of Customer Service Training, methinks,,,

i*maginate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
i*maginate said...

you know what they say...if you don't like it... ;-) looooool

yeah eyeondubai...with a few contacts here and there and a nice training program to offer, it might even be an idea to set up a company offering 'train the trainer' courses...what a bluddy good business opportunity. I can retire in peace!

Keefieboy said...

Potty as a potted cornflake.

Tim B said...

The thing I like about your writing, Mr McN, is that the angrier you become, the better it gets.
So if you could attempt to maintain a level of boiling rage, that would be good for us lurkers.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto your humble blog while searching for a site on how to make "plastic" by using a balloon and sand ( I had seen it once, long ago)....needless to say I got to your "kidney" bit. Hilarious! You have such command of the English language....I laughed aloud while reading of your odyssey trying to secure the airline tickets! I especially love how you can be ascerbic without profanity. Bravo!

alexander said...

Oh dear: I have, haven't I? I've gone and become an angry old man!

Oh well! Glad you're all enjoying my slow descent into splittle-festooned, gibbering rage!

As for profanity, wait for the post about Windows Vista...


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