Emirates Apologizes For Operational Meltdown

Emirates Apologizes For Operational Meltdown

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This past week has been one of the most challenging in Emirates’ history in terms of operational reliability. Dubai saw one of the worst storms in decades, wreaking havoc on Emirates’ operation. Even once conditions improved, the operation couldn’t recover quickly, both in terms of flights departing as planned, and in terms of being able to accommodate passengers (due to capacity constraints).

With all that has happened, the company is now issuing an apology, promising that things will start to improve.

Emirates President Tim Clark issues an apology

Emirates President Tim Clark has today published an open letter, apologizing to customers for what has happened at the airline in recent days. I think it’s worth worth sharing the letter in its entirety, as it’s quite well written and thorough:

To all our valued customers,

This week has been one of the toughest for Emirates operationally, as record storms hit the United Arab Emirates.

I would like to offer our most sincere apologies to every customer who has had their travel plans disrupted during this time.

On Tuesday 16 April, the UAE experienced its highest rainfall in 75 years. Lashing storm winds and rain disrupted activity across the cities. Our 24/7 hub in Dubai remained open, with flight movements reduced for safety, but 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.

We diverted dozens of flights to avoid the worst of the weather on Tuesday, and 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.

We were clear on our 2 priorities: Look after our customers who have been impacted by the disruption and get our operations back on schedule.

To free up resources and capacity to manage impacted customers as a priority, we had to suspend check-in for passengers departing Dubai, implement an embargo on ticket sales, and temporarily halt connecting passenger traffic from points across our network coming into Dubai.

We deployed additional resources to aid our airport and contact centre teams with rebooking and put on additional flights to destinations where we identified large numbers of displaced customers.

We sent over 100 employee volunteers to look after disrupted customers at Dubai Airport departures and in the transit area, prioritising medical cases, the elderly and other vulnerable travellers. To date, over 12,000 hotel rooms were secured to accommodate disrupted customers in Dubai, 250,000 meal vouchers have been issued, and more quantities of drinking water, blankets, and other amenities.

Behind the scenes, it was all hands-on deck for thousands more employees across the organisation to get our operations back on track.

As of this morning, Saturday 20 April, our regular flight schedules have been restored. Passengers previously stranded in the airport transit area have been rebooked and are enroute to their destinations. We have put together a taskforce to sort, reconcile, and deliver some 30,000 pieces of left-behind baggage to their owners.

It will take us some more days to clear the backlog of rebooked passengers and bags, and we ask for our customers’ patience and understanding.

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.

We take our commitment to our customers very seriously, and we have taken learnings from the last few days to make things right and improve our processes.

I’d like to also acknowledge and thank our teams across the airline, and our many suppliers and partners for their tireless efforts around the clock this week, despite the challenging conditions, to support customers, recover our network, and bring our operating schedule back to normal.

Finally, and once again, I want to offer, on behalf of myself, and all the teams across Emirates, our apologies to each and every customer affected by this disruption.

We will continue to work hard to live up to your expectations, and to our Fly Better brand promise.

My take on Emirates’ meltdown & apology

People often joke that Dubai can’t handle a bit of rain. While I’d say that’s somewhat true, the city in this case dealt with a massive amount of rain, which would cause disruptions just about anywhere.

Dubai is a very reliable airport hub, given that it rarely deals with weather events, as there aren’t snowstorms, or hurricanes, or tornadoes. So Emirates dealing with an operational meltdown due to weather conditions is exceptionally rare.

The effort of stabilizing operations is also a monumental task. When you’re running an airline that consistently has high load factors, with a vast majority of passengers connecting, it makes it very hard to get everyone where they need to go in a timely fashion. While the airline is now back to operating a regular schedule, it doesn’t change the fact that many travelers are still stranded in Dubai and are waiting to be rebooked, given that Emirates can’t suddenly double capacity overnight.

I appreciate the way that Clark’s apology is written, as the company actually takes accountability for many of the issues, which many airlines wouldn’t do.

Bottom line

Emirates had one of its toughest weeks ever when it comes to operational reliability, as Dubai was hit with its worst storm in decades. The airline has struggled to recover from this, given the high percentage of transit passengers that the airline carries, leaving a countless number of people stranded in Dubai.

While flight schedules are starting to normalize, there’s still a major backlog of people who need to get to their destination.

Were any OMAAT readers caught up in this Emirates mess?

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  1. snory New Member

    One of the major issue was that they did not manage to secure the number of hotel rooms sufficient for the passengers who were stranded at DXB which was understandable given the circumstances.
    My thought was that since their Concourse A lounges are so extravagantly huge, couldn't they just migrate the business class passenger to some portions of the first class lounges; and then accommodated those stranded economy passengers without hotel in the business...

    One of the major issue was that they did not manage to secure the number of hotel rooms sufficient for the passengers who were stranded at DXB which was understandable given the circumstances.
    My thought was that since their Concourse A lounges are so extravagantly huge, couldn't they just migrate the business class passenger to some portions of the first class lounges; and then accommodated those stranded economy passengers without hotel in the business class lounge. At least the lounge has some number of day beds and couch that the passenger can make a make-shift bed with some blankets. And the lounge also has shower rooms which would be much appreciated for the stranded passenger.

  2. Kor Guest

    Wow, so many cry babies here.... as a person that was in Dubai last week I can say that Emirates handled things fairly well considering how severe storm was.

    Hundreds of flights cancelled, thousands of passengers had to be re-booked, and Emirates could not forecast all the problems that were out of their control.
    A person proposing to get a plane from Etihad or Qatar, as if it is like renting a car....

  3. Steve Montgomery Guest

    As someone who spent 8 hours sitting and trying to sleep on a cold stone floor with my wife whilst our flight was continuously delayed by one more hour, whilst we looked at a locked gate with many empty seats, whilst we received no food, no water, no communication, I disrespectively disagree. We will never fly Emirates again.

  4. Ray Guest

    My friend's experience:

    1. Booked to fly on 17/04 at 17:40 from Jakarta. Didn't take off until 2 am the next morning, with poor communication throughout;
    2. Once he landed in Dubai, stranded for >24 hours. Again, extremely poor connection from ground staff throughout. Emotions were high with other passengers visibly distressed or angry;
    3. He left Dubai Airport and toured the city for a few days. Unsure if it was his own...

    My friend's experience:

    1. Booked to fly on 17/04 at 17:40 from Jakarta. Didn't take off until 2 am the next morning, with poor communication throughout;
    2. Once he landed in Dubai, stranded for >24 hours. Again, extremely poor connection from ground staff throughout. Emotions were high with other passengers visibly distressed or angry;
    3. He left Dubai Airport and toured the city for a few days. Unsure if it was his own money or if the airline put him in a hotel (I think the former, judging by your post today);
    4. He made it to Bruxelles, which hey at least is in the EU! But... his luggage didn't come there with him

    British Airways & U.S. carriers have managed severe weather with much less chaos. Did Emirates really have no A380 to spare to clear the backlog? Failing that, why weren't passengers re-booked on other airlines? In the panDubainium passengers went through, why not charter from HiFly at that point? Etihad & Qatar were next door. Did they not have any spare seats for EK passengers? Shame shame shame

    1. Ray Guest

      I'd like to make it clear: he didn't leave Dubai until Saturday (20th) 2pm. So from Thursday 6:30 am, plus some 24 hours in the airport... at least he wasn't coming home to a dying relative.

      Begs the question: will any severely affected U.S. passengers sue? Friend's trying to claim his EU261 compensation now

    2. Antwerp Guest

      To be honest, what would you expect given the worst storm in 75 years to hit Dubai? And to compare this to the pain of coming home to a dying relative is both callous and cheap...and really uncalled for. It's dramatic and not at all relative to your friend's situation.

      Sue? For what? Would you expect everyone in Dubai to sue for lost work, time, revenue for the storm of the century? My word,...

      To be honest, what would you expect given the worst storm in 75 years to hit Dubai? And to compare this to the pain of coming home to a dying relative is both callous and cheap...and really uncalled for. It's dramatic and not at all relative to your friend's situation.

      Sue? For what? Would you expect everyone in Dubai to sue for lost work, time, revenue for the storm of the century? My word, could you be any more ignorant?

      Perhaps you should be more angry about climate change and start channeling your anger towards it instead. Or just be quiet in the meantime.

    3. Icarus Guest

      There’s no compensation under ec261. Just a refund of expenses.

      Sue who ? The weather ? You can still claim direct losses for accommodation etc under the Montreal convention even when a non eu carrier.

      Anyhow typical of people like yourself who want to claim compensation even when the airport was closed which wasn’t within the control of the airlines.

    4. Icarus Guest

      It was an unprecedented event
      Staff couldnt get to the airport. There was no transport.

      Rebook other airlines who also cancelled their flights and were fully booked?

      A typical commentator who has no idea and think they can run an airline .

  5. RMc Guest

    WTF is an “employee volunteer”? I’m guessing that means Emirates voluntold them to work without pay.

    1. red_robbo Guest

      No - it's staff from other (non-operational) departments who are deployed to help out in customer service roles in the terminal.

  6. fod Member

    Oh, an apology, that’s fantastic news.

    It’s meaningless PR speak without compensation.

    I think you haven’t compensated someone until you’ve paid them just under what they would’ve accepted to opt-in to the inconvenience.

  7. Strand Ed Guest

    Emirates is not the only one who had a meltdown. Turkish Airlines cancelled all their flights to/from DXB this week, through Sunday. They have three daily flights on wide bodies, so that’s a few thousand passengers, in total! My flight was affected and Turkish declared force majeure, so I got zero compensation, zero help, zero apologies.

  8. Antwerp Guest

    Two Takeaways:

    1. With climate change really beginning to impact the world (it's just the beginning) these events are going to occur more frequently everywhere. Airlines are going to learn the hard way to have better operational plans for significant storms....even in the most unlikely places.

    2. I will never understand why passengers during operational meltdowns like this, who see lines of thousands and flights being canceled one after another, just don't accept the...

    Two Takeaways:

    1. With climate change really beginning to impact the world (it's just the beginning) these events are going to occur more frequently everywhere. Airlines are going to learn the hard way to have better operational plans for significant storms....even in the most unlikely places.

    2. I will never understand why passengers during operational meltdowns like this, who see lines of thousands and flights being canceled one after another, just don't accept the realities and go to a hotel for a few days to wait it out to let things calm. Yes, travel plans are altered. But it's just absurd to keep standing in eight hour lines, sleeping in terminals, to be given the same result. Especially in Dubai which has more than enough affordable rooms to handle these things.

    1. Icarus Guest

      Many passengers could not leave the airport as they would need a visa

      How would you propose getting to hotels with roads flooded, the metro suspended and no taxis / Uber ?

    2. Khizar Guest

      Airports/Governments should allow/create short time visa for passengers affected by these kinds of issues. But still getting to a hotel is another issue because of the floods.

    3. at Guest

      the latter would be problematic at the height of the rains but you can always issue temporary transit visas at the airport, particularly for unexpected circumstances.

    4. Antwerp Guest

      That's not entirely true. For much of the time there people were able to move around Dubai, albeit slowly. Not ALL the time. But windows were open between downpours and flooding and there was transportation available.

      As to the Visas, a vast majority could have obtained an E-Visa for up to 14 days without much issue.

      There are always options and no reason to sleep in an airport for days.

    5. Patti Guest

      I'll add that some passengers may not have had the money to afford a hotel. Dubai isn't exactly cheap.

      Just because they are flying Emirates or fly Dubai doesn't mean they are wealthy.

    6. Patti Member

      A lot of people caught there may not have been able to afford a hotel,even for a day or two IF they could gave gotten to one.

      Not everyone flying thru Dubai is wealthy and Dubai hotels aren't particularly cheap

    7. Antwerp Guest

      @Patti

      Dubai hotels are incredibly affordable. Of course, I am not talking the FS or Mandarin. But there are many properties in Dubai under Bonvoy, Hilton, and Hyatt programs that are as little as $85 a night. Sorry, if you can't afford less than a $100 a night hotel in case of emergency you really should not be flying internationally, especially with a connection.

    8. Antwerp Guest

      @red-robbo

      Flying in itself is a privilege. Let's hope that those who embrace it do so with proper resources to fall back on should things go south like at DXB. Do you drive a car somewhere without the resources to take care of yourself should the car breakdown or you encounter a snowstorm? If you don't, that's on you. Travel comes with hiccups.

      If you can't manage those hiccups financially you should probably not...

      @red-robbo

      Flying in itself is a privilege. Let's hope that those who embrace it do so with proper resources to fall back on should things go south like at DXB. Do you drive a car somewhere without the resources to take care of yourself should the car breakdown or you encounter a snowstorm? If you don't, that's on you. Travel comes with hiccups.

      If you can't manage those hiccups financially you should probably not go - or choose accordingly an itinerary that does not involve a connection where you risk being stranded.

    9. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      With climate change really beginning to impact the world

      I'm all about common sense methods for environmental responsibility.... but some of you take "climate change" to a level of pathological absurdity.

      You ACTUALLY think that radically-alternating climate patterns are only "beginning" to impact Earth in the 2020s??

      Seriously?

    10. JP Guest

      @ConcordeBoy

      I don't get what you're trying to say. So you mean "it's gone quite far already, so you're being too paranoid about the future," or is it "you've seen quite a lot of those over the years, and you think it has just began recently?"

    11. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      The latter; just switch "years" to "eons," and you'll have it.

    12. Pet Guest

      During 4.5 billion years of its existence the earths climate was resolutely unchanged. it is only a few hundred years of human behaviour that has managed to change this otherwise unyieldingly consistent environment.

    13. kimshep Guest

      ."resolutely unchanged" ? Well, there's a 'fact' masquerading as total nonsense.

      So, you've never heard of the 'Ice Age' ? Or perhaps you presumed it was a 'drug' problem in the LA suburbs .... ?

    14. JustinDev Member

      Pax going off to a hotel is risky given that the airline is probably employing the rolling delay method. If they did not employ this method, I'm sure most pax would take the option of going to a hotel.

  9. Thomas W Guest

    Wild that throughout this huge disruption, the only mention of it on Emirate's website is a little notice about long call wait times.

    No operational updates or public information, no guidance on where and how to rebook etc. It speaks to the hubris of Emirates management that they clearly had few preparations for a major operational disruption.

  10. Serge T Guest

    Ben, I have a questioned regarding trip delay. Can you claim trip delay twice during the same trip? I know Amex offers 2 instances per year. My case was on Wednesday the flight was cancelled, had to stay in London. And had to change and rebook different flights to go to Tashkent. Then on Thursday the flight was delayed again 5 hours which in turn made me miss the new ticket I had booked which...

    Ben, I have a questioned regarding trip delay. Can you claim trip delay twice during the same trip? I know Amex offers 2 instances per year. My case was on Wednesday the flight was cancelled, had to stay in London. And had to change and rebook different flights to go to Tashkent. Then on Thursday the flight was delayed again 5 hours which in turn made me miss the new ticket I had booked which then made me not get to my destination for more than 6 hours. Would this qualify for two events on same trip or they considered it the same? Thanks

  11. DenB Diamond

    The pax tweet "had to rebook in queues like this" suggests that the app and website were unusable for the purpose. Was this true? Surely the carrier's app offers disrupted pax alternatives. What am I missing? Would any of you join such a queue in these circumstances? Was the app unsatisfactory? Maybe airports should have massive banks of self-serve "Manage my Booking" terminals...

  12. Patti Guest

    We fly to DXB and onward on Wed. Hope things have resettled by then.

    I started researching alternate airlines as our resorts already paid for. It was going to be an expensive work around.

    Now, I just need the volcano in Indonesia to settle down and them reopen the airport there.

    And yes, there's plenty of champagne in the lounges. I just need them to restock the ice cream bar.

  13. ConcordeBoy Diamond

    BTW, happy birthday Ben!

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Didn't he already go once, then come back.... or am I misremembering that?

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      He said he was going to go, but then postponed it indefinitely.

    3. Tiger Guest

      He decided to continue working for Emirates due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Otherwise he was stepping down in 2020/2021.

    4. Steve-O Guest

      He's been pretty good about timing his retirement(s) with severe disruptions that would see him leaving while the airline is in a state of despair due to lack of leadership at the upper echelons. So this would be fitting. Maybe IATA AGM in June 2024?!?!

  14. Vinay Guest

    I just got back home to USA after being stranded in Dubai for 3 days en route from India. Thank god I was in First Class!! I can't believe I'm saying this but I think I've had enough of that first class lounge!

    I felt a little guilty seeing everyone sprawled on the floor while I gorged myself with excellent food and free flowing Dom!

    Glad to be back though - what a mess!

    1. ffi Guest

      Agree, they have never served Dom in the lounge, usually cheap swill

    2. Serge T Guest

      I was stuck in London and what I have to say was frustrating was their lack of issuing any communication whatsoever and that they took the AA route on delays. Basically having a rolling delay every fifteen mins for hours before cancelling. Also the amount of misinformation given at the airport in London. For instance I was connecting on fly Dubai. And the managers at EK airport reported that Fly Dubai will cease operations thru...

      I was stuck in London and what I have to say was frustrating was their lack of issuing any communication whatsoever and that they took the AA route on delays. Basically having a rolling delay every fifteen mins for hours before cancelling. Also the amount of misinformation given at the airport in London. For instance I was connecting on fly Dubai. And the managers at EK airport reported that Fly Dubai will cease operations thru out the week and weekend. And that their customer service had fully shut down. (I was connecting to them). That was not true. And my connecting flight operated almost as scheduled the day I was suppose to connect before my cancellation. I have screen shots of how every 15 mins. They will move the flight. On Wednesday they did that with the outbound coming into LHR for 12 consecutive hours until then finally cancelling it therefore cancelling mine. I know this is first world problem but I had booked myself on miles to fly their new first class and even then they did not make any announcements of last minute aircraft swap. I had used expert flyer until the last minute the incoming was showing it and the cabin was still a 1-1-1. But surprise when I got to the airport after another 6 hour delay. Surprise. They had swapped.

    3. EK-Flyer Guest

      Vinay Bhai,

      Why are you lying? It’s obvious that you definitely were not there or even if you were, you were definitely not in the F lounge as EK does not serve Dom in the DXB F Lounges (or any lounge). Dom is only served onboard in F.

      Don’t lie Bhai, just for some online clout. You sound like an idiot.

    4. Vinay Guest

      Please don't assume I speak Hindi by calling me "Bhai". This is a clearly racist post. This is no different than calling someone with a Latino name "Amigo" or "Hermano" without having any idea about the person's origin. India has many languages so you should avoid assuming everyone speaks Hindi. Go educate yourself or shut your mouth.

      Regarding the Dom in the F lounge - Did it ever occur to you that with no flights...

      Please don't assume I speak Hindi by calling me "Bhai". This is a clearly racist post. This is no different than calling someone with a Latino name "Amigo" or "Hermano" without having any idea about the person's origin. India has many languages so you should avoid assuming everyone speaks Hindi. Go educate yourself or shut your mouth.

      Regarding the Dom in the F lounge - Did it ever occur to you that with no flights actually leaving the airport, they maybe could have shifted some Dom from the planes into the F lounge?

      Not sure how someone earns "online clout" or even what that means but if you are clearly way ahead of me in terms of sounding like an idiot.

      Have a nice day fuming about my awesome experience you racist loser!!

    5. EK-Flyer Guest

      LOL what a clown pulling the race card. I’m also Indian, and Hindi is not my native language either. So nice try on that. Made you sound like even more of an idiot.

      Anyway, I’m sure EK’s first thought in an operational meltdown like this was to serve Dom in the F lounge.
      If someone else comes and backs you up, I will offer my humblest apologies. But I have not heard one other instance of this at all.
      So I maintain that you are lying.
      Good day, Bhai.

    6. Vinay Guest

      Dude, your jealousy is way out of control. I know it sucks being a 40 year old virgin aspiring towards middle management, but that's your fault - not mine.

      If someone else can prove you are actually amazing, I'll offer you my humblest apologies. But until that time, I will maintain that you are a class 1 Loser.

      Good day, Bhai.

    7. EK-Flyer Guest

      Brother I have no reason to be jealous of someone who supposedly drank some free champagne in a lounge I’m not the one trying to show off or prove something to randoms in a comment section LOL
      I’m just trying to keep the facts straight. And I especially hate when other Indians lie, as it makes the rest of us look bad.
      Unfortunately instead of offering any proof of your claims, you decide to spew insults instead.
      Says a lot about you!

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

JK Guest

Free flowing Dom in the lounge? Doubtful.

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NOLAviator Guest

What a strange post.

3
Antwerp Guest

@red-robbo Flying in itself is a privilege. Let's hope that those who embrace it do so with proper resources to fall back on should things go south like at DXB. Do you drive a car somewhere without the resources to take care of yourself should the car breakdown or you encounter a snowstorm? If you don't, that's on you. Travel comes with hiccups. If you can't manage those hiccups financially you should probably not go - or choose accordingly an itinerary that does not involve a connection where you risk being stranded.

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