Monday, May 5, 2008

A Tip for Flying Emirates (and avoiding lazy service)

On more than one occasion, Emirates has messed up my seat. I like to wait to the last minute (or rather, my schedule and lifestyle is such that I'm always trying to buy tickets at the last minute), and use miles to upgrade a lot, which means ever so often there aren't any seats in business class and I get stuck in economy. This is fine when flying from Dubai to Bahrain, or even Yemen - then I'd rather save the money than pay to fly business. When flying to Sydney or New York however, both a little over fifteen hour flights, that extra leg room becomes a real issue and a full business class is a painful thing for my long-legged self.

I am a gold member at Emirates, which basically means that I fly a lot. I get preferential requests for bulkhead and emergency seats through this, which is nice. However, on three I have been given the seat behind the bulkhead, which is actually the worst, as the space underneath the seat in front of one (the actual bulkhead seat), is full and one can't even put one's feet there. One time I was traveling with a friend (who turned out to be a rather nasty person, but that is a whole other story and unrelated to our seating requests), who was rather injured falling off an elephant, and they messed up out seating, causing her significant additional pain on the Sri Lanka Dubai route and her return to the states Dubai to New York flight. When we complained, the stewardess said "it is easier for them to lie and tell you what you want to hear, because when you get on the plan it isn't their problem."

The last time I got stuck in economy was in March, but they were able to give me the bulkhead, which was good. However, there was a rather irate (and tall) Englishman in the aisle who had the same problem. He booked the bulkhead and got the seat behind. In his case, the stweardess was telling him that the reservation staff generally know which seats are the bulkheads, but they tend to vary by one number for different aircraft, but that said staff doesn't always check before reserving the seats. So apparently this whole "we reserve you a seat" thing is a bit of lie. Its more like "we promise you we'll get kind of close, but we also promise we won't make the full effort."

Which is why I have now started using the online seat reservation tool. One accesses this through a link on the confirmation email, and it shows a map of each plane, as well as your seat. I did manage to upgrade three of the four legs on my upcoming marathon trip (almost fifty hours of flying total), so I did that online, and then I went on to check that I did indeed have the bulkhead (and the window for the business class segments) I reserved. Which was good, as I also checked that the vegetarian meal I requested was confirmed, and it was not. This also happens quite a bit on Emirates.