Since Michelle and I had taken only an eight-day drop-and-flop holiday in Hua Hin (gulf of Thailand) I had decided not to inflict my travelogues on innocent readers. But the start of it went so off the rails I had to get it down in print.
We’d booked a business class Bangkok and return fare with Emirates, leaving last Thursday (Oct 18) evening and promising a flatbed for a sound sleep induced by a superior meal and suitable liquids. We would wake in Bangkok. Cap khoon Kaa!
One of the nice touches with Emirates is that it sends you a classy car and driver for your trip from home to the airport and back. An Audi A8 duly arrived and we set off. Our journey was halted at South Dowling Street while the world stopped for Prince Harry, his wife Meghan and a 5% foetus screamed past accompanied by a team of beautifully groomed coppers in various white vehicles, including a helicopter. That added 20 minutes to the trip and should have been seen as an omen from the dark side.
We boarded our A380 and settled into our business class kennels. I downed a glass of champagne while Michelle asked if it was okay to plug in her CPAP machine (needed to combat sleep apnoea) into the power socket in front of her. This began a chain of events that is best summarised in a letter which I am drafting to the managing director of Emirates with a cc to God if he’s interested. The words in brackets are observations and won’t form part of the final letter.
This letter has two intended outcomes. One is to assist Emirates Airline in properly addressing the needs of passengers in relation to CPAP machines. The other is to request compensation from Emirates for the wrongful and distressing treatment metered out to myself and my wife when we boarded flight EK0419 from Sydney to Bangkok on 18 October 2018
We had checked in on time and were seated in business class – for which we had paid full fare. My wife carried with her a CPAP machine which is used to assist breathing during sleep. On all the other airlines with whom we have flown, the machine can be plugged into a power socket near the seat. The Emirates A380 did not offer this service. In relation to the use of CPAP machines the company’s website covers only policy rules for the use of battery powered CPAP machines. So, in effect, my wife’s machine was irrelevant to the flight. This being the case, she decided to stay awake during the flight and offered to surrender the machine to cabin crew – to be returned to her upon arrival. This offer was declined.
There the matter should have ended, but the crew, later backed by the captain, deemed that my wife was now a health risk and we were offloaded during a humiliating public address announcement by the captain to the effect that the ensuing delay was because two passengers were being taken off the flight. Other passengers would have looked upon us as being engaged in some criminal activity. (At this point I did my lolly and shouted, “this is outrageous!” at the security team, done up in green flouro and equipped with anti-uprising devices. I could see that other passengers were thoroughly enjoying this piece of free live theatre. We all love listening to a spirited row between other people.)
From that point we were escorted back through the terminal, our unopened bags put through security checking and then taken upstairs to a service desk where, we were told, we would be booked on another flight and accommodated at a hotel overnight. The offer evaporated once we spoke to the service personnel. We were not offered another flight unless we paid a second full fare because we had been categorised as a ‘no show’ – which was clearly not the case. Moreover, we would be expected to pay for the accommodation. Later that night, without notice, your airline cancelled our return flight from Bangkok scheduled for 27 October 2018. It was also suggested that we might be charged for the delay to the A380’s departure of the Sydney flight when we were ejected.
Your service desk assistant said that we had been taken off the flight because we had not read, and adhered to, the company policy on its website regarding CPAP machines in which prior notice had to be given to the airline and a doctor’s certificate produced supporting the machine’s use. If you read your own online policy, you will see that it applies to battery-powered machines. Ours is a mains powered plug-in model and could not have been used anyway. We were therefore removed from the flight based on misinformation. Furthermore, I was also removed from the flight even though I had nothing to do with the CPAP machine issue.
To your credit, we have been refunded (yet to be confirmed) the full value of the fares, but not before a cancellation fee of ($ to be determined) each had been deducted. The facts are that we did not cancel, nor did we contravene your website stated policy, nor did we fail to board the aircraft on time. Even though totally innocent of these accusations we have had to meet the cost of hotel accommodation and taxi fares to and from the airport. That is to say nothing of the distress, holiday time loss and embarrassment caused to us by Emirates through this whole episode.
We therefore request that you return to us the cancellation fee you have deducted and that you compensate us for the other costs we have incurred. Since we believe you value your good name, we will leave the compensation figure for you to decide in the spirit of fairness. (if our anger doesn’t subside and, based on legal advice, we might go for a substantial trauma-based figure)
May we suggest that you reword your online policy rules regarding CPAP machines, bearing in mind that there are some millions of users around the world who use plugin models. As our offloading on Thursday would indicate, Emirates deems all of these people to be medical risks and should refuse to carry them. There are many CPAP user forums around the world and they should disseminate Emirates policy in regard to this matter. My wife would be happy to share this information on these public forums.
And so we returned home, tails between legs, and tried to explain to explain to our cats why we were back, and went to bed in somewhat larger spaces than we had anticipated. The next morning Michelle donned her travel battle suit and declared war. She was so scary that I escaped up the street for a haircut that I had intended to entrust to a Thai barber. He will sue Emirates for compensation as well. When I returned, Michelle had us booked on a Singapore flight for that evening. We love this airline, especially as they invite the use of CPAP machines, no questions asked. The downside of the flight was that is went via Singapore but not before it had stopped in Canberra to take on pollies for their needful study tours. We finally arrived in Bangkok not knowing what day or time it was. We were picked up by our driver for the three-hour car trip to Hua Hin. She had parked her Toyota all-purpose in the airport carpark which is roughly a quarter the size it should be. The way around this is to double park so that cars in designated car spaces cannot get out. The way around this is to leave every blocking car in neutral with the handbrake off. It can then be pushed out of the way to block somebody else. If you are having trouble pushing, there is are signs on the wall giving the phone number of official pushers who will come to your aid. I wonder how this works in sloping areas when all the cars illegally parked roll down to the lowest point. The pusher teams would need reinforcements.
We set off on another car ride, but although Prince Harry and party were not around, we were seriously delayed by pounding rain and crazy Saturday traffic. One huge sign that we passed near the city warned people not to place tattoos or draw additional features, such as moustaches or spectacles on images of the Buddha’s face because it was disrespectful. I agree.