The same day SVV was going under the knife in San Francisco for a shattered wrist, I was paying homage to the porcelain gods halfway around the world. Up until that point, my entire month in Africa had gone off without a hitch: Although I had packed Pepto Bismol, Cipro, a variety of antibiotics, Zantac, everything short of the kitchen sink, I didn’t so much as have an upset stomach once—until my flight on Emirates, that is. I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink the entire day until my in-flight meal on the overnight leg from Johannesburg to Dubai. About four hours later after eating it—“it” being poorly undercooked mystery meat—my stomach started gurgling violently. Uh-oh. That’s never a good omen.
I arrived amid a flurry of South Africans, many of them on holidays to Dubai, for a 24-hour layover in the glitzy city and went immediately to the transfer counter. I told the woman my problem, that I was very sick and had a connection the following morning to San Francisco (17 hours, it should be noted) and could she put in a request for me for the front exit row seat so I could be in close proximity to the lav (my current seat was a window in the back and would require I climb across a row of people each time nature called)? She said no, that exit rows weren’t released until the last minute and that I’d have to ask again the following morning.
I spent much of my time in Dubai terribly ill in my hotel room, then arrived three hours before my connection the next day. I immediately went to the counter, asked again for a better seat should I need a quick escape route and was told all the exit rows were booked (so much for releasing them “last minute”). I explained the situation, that I had gotten food poisoning from their flight and needed a seat with better accessibility. The check-in agent said sorry, no can do, no sympathy here. I went to another counter, this time customer “service” (a questionable term, no doubt), where the agent was equally as unhelpful. By this time, I was in tears, as I was having to frequently run to the bathroom, and two Emirates employees (after the previous two mentioned) went as far as to LAUGH in my face at my misfortune when they saw my pallid face, spouting, “she a funny passenger!” Nice. Just what one desires—mockery—as she bolts off to empty her internal organs in the loo. The worst part is my doctor had given me all sorts of antibiotics and pills should I get food poisoning, a bacteria infection, etc. but my bag was checked from South Africa all the way through, and the agents wouldn’t let me reclaim my bag to get proper medication.
I had all but given up–not only were the Emirates employees not willing to help in any way, but they clearly lacked all displays of human decency. So imagine my surprise when I went through the boarding gate and was stopped by security. At first, I breathed a sigh of relief: “Finally, some kind soul has come to my rescue, to move me to a more comfortable seat. There is a God after all.” WRONG. Rather, they heard my pleas and instead of aiding, sent a medical professional to me saying they weren’t going to allow me on the flight due to being ill! He wanted to check me out and hold up the flight; I told him I simply had food poisoning, nothing would make it better but time, that I had picked up something over-the-counter at a local pharmacy and that little could be done other than wait it out. I just wanted to get back to San Francisco, not stay in Dubai a moment longer. He raised his eyebrow, questioned my illness and didn’t believe I had food poisoning (let alone got it from the airline)—claiming it would only last a few hours if that were the case, not 24+. Funny, this inaccurate advice from a medical “professional” as food poisoning can last a number of days (something SVV and I learned the hard way over Christmas). I finally just had to tear away and scamper off in frustration as he wanted to give me a full examination before allowing me to fly or hold me back and put me on a later connection (still in the nose bleed seats, I’m sure). All this because I asked for a seat close to the lavatory!
I guess I should know more about this working in the industry that I do, but I do very little writing that has to do with airlines specifically. That said, I had always heard airlines have contracts of carriage that give passengers some rights, such as stating they’re required to relocate an ill passenger’s seat in such a circumstance. One Norwegian friend had a similar occurrence—food poisoning and poor treatment on Continental aboard a transatlantic LA to Oslo flight—and due to their code, she later got a free round-trip ticket because they handled the situation all wrong, similar to how Emirates did in this instance. The flight was far from full; in fact, all of business class was empty. They could have upgraded one of their premier members and moved me to their economy seat, but they said they only do upgrades when economy is overbooked. Though I think it’s pretty obvious that these days passenger comfort is the last thing airlines care about.
The worst part of it all? I figured, oh well, at least my United premier status is already renewed for next year considering Emirates is a United partner and my trip was nearly 25,000 miles in all, and that maybe, just maybe, it was a rather large price to pay for such insurance. Only, I returned home and checked my account online to find that while it is a United partner, Emirates is not a Star Alliance member, so my miles don’t even count, $@!#^$!@. If I’d known that, I would have forked over the extra cash for South African Airways. Spoken by a true traveler, yes I know.
How about you…have you had such an experience on any airline? Encountered such rudeness aboard Emirates? If so, pray tell! Misery loves company, especially when it involves airlines!
One thing is for certain, though: I’d rather fly Aeroflot for the rest of my days than ever giving a penny to Emirates again.