Emirates Airlines 11 hour late arrival

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Jun 17, 2019
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We travelled via Emirates from Ft Lauderdale to Dubai, then to Delhi, and then on to Kathmandu, spending several days in each city. The outbound travel was fair. The return trip was disastrous. Our Emirates flight from Kathmandu to Dubai, via a code share (EK2156) with FlyDubai on April 29, departed Kathmandu more than an hour late. Once aboard, the pilot announced the aircraft would be making an unscheduled stop in Lucknow, India, for fuel. No explanation given, but they knew they would have to stop for fuel when the flight landed in Kathmandu.

This raised eyebrows, and I calculated we would be more than 3 hours late in to Dubai, and our nearly 4 hour layover in Dubai for our nonstop to Ft Lauderdale (EK213) was dwindling to a precious few minutes. We landed in Dubai at 1:25 AM on April 30, and it was too late to make the connection for the Ft Lauderdale flight. Because of the time of day, there was only a very small staff at the FlyDubai connections/customer service desk, and their first response was to try to get seats on the next EK213 flight to Fort Lauderdale the next day.

We asked if there was any other way, and after FlyDubai personnel made a few calls, we were re-booked on Emirates flight EK237 departing at 8:05 AM on the 30th of April – not to FLL but to Boston, with a connection to FLL via another code share (EK 6151) on Jet Blue. This got us to FFL at nearly 8PM – 11 hours later than our original schedule. When all this occurred, our Emirates frequent flyer number and our Global Entry numbers were lost in the shuffle, and we were very surprised our luggage made it.

I wrote to Emirates complaining about the late flight, and they responded that the delay was due to operational reasons and therefore they were not responsible, and they basically told us they would do nothing to compensate us for the 11 hour late arrival. I understand Emirates does not fly under EU rules, but I guess there is no was to hold their feet to the fire, as it were, for underperformance.

My research showed the flight from Kathmandu to Dubai had been late departing five out of the previous five days, and in each case the flight had to make a fuel stop in Lucknow. I don't understand how an airline does not have enough fuel onboard to complete a 3 1/2 hour non stop flight.

The response from Emirates was "On behalf of flyDubai, we regret the inconvenience you and Ms xxxxx experienced due to the flight delay EK2156 from Kathmandu to Dubai on 29 April 2019, which is a 'codeshare' flight operated by 'flydubai FZ576'. Previously as mentioned the report received from flydubai reveals that this flight experienced a delay was to re-routed via Lucknow due to operational reason. ...Our Airport Services Manager in Dubai confirms that this delay caused you to miss your onward connecting flight EK213 to Fort Lauderdale on 30April. Our records show that you had been rebooked on the next available flight to Fort Lauderdale via Boston on 30th April 2019.

Our partner airline have expressed their apologies for your overall disappointment pertaining to the handling and your delayed arrival at your final destination.

We can appreciate the difficulties you were put through during the waiting period. This was an unusual and unforeseen circumstance which could not be controlled and the consequences of which could not be avoided by taking reasonable care. Regrettably, we are unable to offer you a gesture of goodwill."

So Emirates is washing their hands of any responsibility. I would like them to at least provide the same compensation required by the EU for flights that are egregiously late.
 

johnbaker

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Oct 2, 2014
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@DrDennyD Why would a Dubai based airline provide something required by the EU?

Ultimately, they got you on the next available flight (normally all that's required by contract). Did they do anything for you during your extended layover?
 
Jun 17, 2019
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We understand the rules for EU airlines are different, but customer service should be paramount irrespective of the airline. In fact, the next available flight we found out later was a flight to JFK, where we could have connected to an earlier flight to FLL. Getting on the next available flight would not have been necessary if the schedules included the "unscheduled stop" in Lucknow. This stop had occurred on that route several times in the days preceding, along with the late departure from Kathmandu.
They (Emirates/FlyDubai) offered nothing to ease the extended layover.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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I am not sure why you are bringing up EU compensation when your flights never touched ground in the EU and Emirates is not an EU airline.

I believe that the lateness and need to make a fuel stop has to do with the issues of flying over Pakistani airspace. If you are not familiar with the problem, there are tensions between Pakistan and India after Pakistan shot down Indian fighter jets after Indian military action over Kashmir. Pakistan has restricted flights over their airspace except if flying into or out of Pakistan.

What this has meant is a longer and more congested routing depending on day and time of travel. So why did the plane have to refuel -- likely because of the longer routing -- so many things are taken into consideration in calculating proper weights and balances -- route, altitude, weather patterns (such as head winds), passenger loads.

Just because you do not understand how a flight can not enough fuel onboard for a 3 1/2 hour flight does not mean that there are not serious safety considerations taken into account when making the decision for a fuel stop -- it is not like a car which one just puts in the fuel. One of the worst videos I have ever seen was the crash of the cargo plane soon after take off from Bagram Air Force base -- that was a weight and balance issue and the flight stalled soon after take off -- and everyone died.

The closure of the Pakistani airspace has caused serious delays and problems for months -- and it is being treated as an extraordinary circumstance by the EU airlines -- it has not been tested in court yet.

I do not mean to sound harsh but I would not question a refueling stop over weights and balance issues and the problem of a reroute over closed airspace owing to escalating tensions which have included shooting down military jets. Sometimes there are bad travel experiences that have to do with outside factors that are beyond the control of the airline.
 
Jun 17, 2019
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I bring up EU compensation as a comparator - nothing else.
FYI the flight did not nor was it intended to overfly any part of Pakistan.
Also FYI, as a former Naval Aviator I understand the need for fuel stops, and I also know that a 737 can easily carry enough fuel for an 1800 mile flight.
 
Likes: bignevermo

johnbaker

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@DrDennyD Its great to talk to a fellow aviator. I just pulled a quick flight plan from VNKT (Kathmandu) to OMDB (Dubai). The most direct route overflies both Pakistani and Iranian airspace. Avoiding Pakistani airspace adds about 150 NM + onto the flight, most of which is over water. You'll also realize that VNKT is at a high elevation so the plane would have been significantly weight restricted. Given that Lucknow is the first lower elevation airport along the route, I'm guessing they traded fuel for passengers and baggage.

Short answer is that if Pakistan did close their airspace (and I have no reason to doubt @Christina H ), it seems that you got caught in an international pissing match. It probably was beyond anyone's control.

The best you will probably get is miles or a voucher but reading the reviews of FLYdubai, I think you're lucky you got home.
 
Jun 17, 2019
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While true, the Pakistani airspace was not closed - and the aircraft was not Indian but Emirati. Thanks for your input. The FlyDubai flight was truly a cattle car, and I have flown on many of those in the military, except it had seats slightly more comfortable than a C-130. BTW I flew A-3s.
 

johnbaker

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Oct 2, 2014
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@DrDennyD I fly the little GA planes where a pack of gum can make you overweight....

Here's a little piece of the NOTAM

E)PAKISTAN AIRSPACE WILL REMAIN CLOSED FOR ALL OVERFLYING
(TRANSIT) FLIGHTS TILL 28TH JUN 2019,TIME 2359 UTC (EST)

Looks like they closed the airspace to all overflights with the exception of some high altitude routes. Unfortunately, I don't have a really good high altitude chart for the region (I know shocking) but what I can tell the routes they left open don't touch Indian airspace.

The runway at VNKT looks short (10,000 ft) for a heavy aircraft at 4500+MSL. If they packed it they way it sounds like, I'm betting they traded fuel for people.

For everyone else who might be lost.... NOTAMs are Notice to Airmen. Its what governments put out to pass along information to pilots (some times boring stuff like a light is out or "fun" stuff like no fly zones for a Presidential visit).

Aircraft have certain weight requirements (ie you can't load more than x# of pounds) and the location of the weigh (referred to as balance) to be safe to fly. Aircraft performance also changes based on altitude so the higher the airport is, the more runway you need to take off. If you have a shorter runway, you have to be lighter to take off. The easiest trade off to make is to reduce the amount of fuel. In this case, the took off with less fuel and landed at the first lower elevation airport (where they can fuel up completely)

Yea I know wayyy too much information
 
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Sep 19, 2015
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I bring up EU compensation as a comparator - nothing else.
FYI the flight did not nor was it intended to overfly any part of Pakistan.
Also FYI, as a former Naval Aviator I understand the need for fuel stops, and I also know that a 737 can easily carry enough fuel for an 1800 mile flight.
The closing of the airspace has moved hundreds of westward flights daily onto one other routing over Oman. All airlines have been avoiding the Pakistani airspace -- not just Indian -- no airline wants to be shot down accidentally. Honestly I would not want to be in commercial jet that goes over Pakistan airspace now.

The airlines are certainly not pleased with the situation -- more fuel and labor costs because of the international tensions.

Flydubai is a low cost airline and I have no doubts that the configuration is such but it seems that that is the only carrier for the route.

There are times when travel is just lousy.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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@johnbaker thank you for your explanations -- I think it is great that you can explain these issues from a pilot's point of view.

I am just a passenger who travels yet still has a touch of anxiety about flying -- I know it is one of the safest forms of transport, but it is more the lack of understanding and lack of control. I have deluded myself into thinking I can avoid most motor vehicle accidents with my Mario Andretti like moves....

I also remember over two decades ago when a few passengers and I were denied boarding out of LGA over a weights and balance issues -- did not understand the severity of it and was upset. Now I would be much more accepting and philosophical about it.
 

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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You had a bad trip, DrDenny ... something that all experienced travellers run into now and again. You returned home later than you thought you would. Christina's right, sometimes a trip is just lousy. You put it behind you and move on. My colleagues have outlined how to file a complaint and ask for some compensation for your inconvenience.
 
Aug 29, 2018
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#12
While true, the Pakistani airspace was not closed - and the aircraft was not Indian but Emirati.
While true, the Ukrainian airspace was not closed - and the aircraft was not Russian, but Malaysian.

oops.

Even to the best trained anti-aircraft gunners they all look like airplanes. (And keep in mind, in addition to Pakistani air space problems, there's been some recent naval activity against oil tankers. That's another blue touch-paper.)
 
May 26, 2018
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#13
One would think that if this is a semi-permanent issue, they would factor the fuel (a.k.a. “technical”) stop into their scheduling. Also, it would be useful - especially when flying into this type of airport - to check the on-time ratings for flights ahead of time.
 
Sep 27, 2018
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@johnbaker thank you for your explanations -- I think it is great that you can explain these issues from a pilot's point of view.

I am just a passenger who travels yet still has a touch of anxiety about flying -- I know it is one of the safest forms of transport, but it is more the lack of understanding and lack of control. I have deluded myself into thinking I can avoid most motor vehicle accidents with my Mario Andretti like moves....

I also remember over two decades ago when a few passengers and I were denied boarding out of LGA over a weights and balance issues -- did not understand the severity of it and was upset. Now I would be much more accepting and philosophical about it.
We had the same problem trying to leave St Maarten a few years ago, the wind was coming off the mountain and we didn't have enough power to get clear, yet with a tailwind going out over the ocean was also too risky. So they unloaded 30 passengers and their luggage off the flight, and then we waited for 3 hours for the wind to die down at sunset. What kept everyone happy was the pilot updating us with real information on why we had to wait. So even though we were 4 hours late on a 5 hour flight, we made it home safe and sound.
 
Likes: jsn55
Sep 27, 2018
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One would think that if this is a semi-permanent issue, they would factor the fuel (a.k.a. “technical”) stop into their scheduling. Also, it would be useful - especially when flying into this type of airport - to check the on-time ratings for flights ahead of time.
Used to have the same issue in the winter from Seattle to Hong Kong. In the winter, the old 747-200 didn't have enough fuel battling the jetstream, so we routinely had to stop for fuel. Most of the year the flight was fine, and the return trip had no issues, so no schedule change was needed.
 
Likes: jsn55
Jan 28, 2019
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Having these explanations makes a positive attitude so much easier! Y thanks to all of you. If the airline had provided this I formation, there would probably have been no complaint, and the rest of us would not have learned so much .
 
Likes: FrankL183

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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#17
Having these explanations makes a positive attitude so much easier! Y thanks to all of you. If the airline had provided this I formation, there would probably have been no complaint, and the rest of us would not have learned so much .
What a lovely post, mschlick! We LOVE to be appreciated.