Airline goof-up: woman flying on emergency offloaded thrice

It took four boarding passes and three different flight options before Indian woman could finally fly home

Image Credit:
Grounded: Lidia Rebello was to take the early Sunday morning 0355 flight to Mumbai but ended up taking a late afternoon flight. This picture, taken at the airport, was sent by her to XPRESS

Dubai A two-and-a-half-hour flight home for a family emergency turned into an Indian woman’s worst nightmare.

When Lidia Rebello, 34, heard that her paralytic brother-in-law had suffered two heart attacks and was in the ICU at a Mumbai hospital, she booked onto the first flight, Emirates EK506 to Mumbai on September 23 at 3.55am.

However, at the check-in counter, Rebello was told that she and some other passengers had been off-loaded due to overbooking. “We were informed that those of us who volunteered to take a later flight would be compensated with an overnight hotel stay as well as a free ticket to the same destination valid for 12 months.

“Despite my telling them that I had no choice but to fly, I was issued a confirmed boarding pass, along with a seat number, for the next flight out, at 9.35am. I turned down their offer for a hotel stay, but accepted the flight ticket compensation. The next morning, when I turned up at the counter, the lady told me I didn’t need to check in again since I already had a confirmed boarding pass. I was so sure that if not breakfast, then I’d be there for my family by lunch hour,” says the insurance adviser.

That, however, was not to be. Rebello was again turned away before reaching the boarding gate for ‘trying to access immigration without a confirmed boarding pass’. “By now I was livid. It was insane that despite having a confirmed seat number, they wouldn’t let me through,” she says. “Going back to the check-in counter, the woman said she had no idea why I was sent to her and that I should just go and try again.”

After wasting time explaining that her boarding pass wasn’t confirmed, the airport service agent checked her system, only to find out that in fact Rebello did not have a confirmed seat and since the flight was fully booked, she would have to try again on the afternoon flight that day. “What’s worse is that she then tore up my boarding pass right in front of my eyes. By this point, I’d lost my cool. The Emirates airport services supervisor came up, made some phone calls and issued another boarding pass, which she gave to a staff member who was asked to escort me to the boarding gate. By this point, the flight was only 30 minutes from departure. I wasn’t shown the boarding pass until we reached the gate, at which point I got the shock of my life. It said ‘standby’. And I wasn’t alone in this mess. At least five other passengers were turned away from the gate, and two more were de-boarded due to overbooking once again,” says Rebello.

“I was given a meal voucher at some of the fast food outlets to compensate me for my inconvenience. I was close to tears and seeing my plight, another passenger offered to swap flights with me, only to be told that since his baggage was already checked in, offloading it would mean a flight delay and they couldn’t let that happen. So there I was, stuck at the airport, far from my family, while my brother-in-law was in ICU, awaiting his fate,” said Rebello in a phone call to XPRESS from the airport.

She finally got on the 1.15pm flight, surprised that after all her anxiety “the flight was half empty! I’ve had it with this airline. Three years ago, when my father passed away, I booked on an Emirates flight, but due to delays I ended up missing part of his funeral. To them it’s just a flight, but for people who fly on their airline, time is sometimes a difference between life and death,” says Rebello.

An Emirates spokesperson apologised for the confusion. “Emirates sincerely regrets the unfortunate series of circumstances which led to this customer being unable to fly on her chosen service yesterday morning. Excessive demand, last minute check-ins and a number of other factors led to the understandable disappointment. The customer was able to board a later flight to Mumbai – EK502 – but we fully appreciate the delay was unacceptable. Emirates provided an appropriate goodwill gesture to reflect the level of inconvenience caused.”

Your comments

  • gisha

    Sep 27, 2012 2:59

    the same happened to me as well when i had to travel on emergency lastmonth. All the problem is with the checkin staff at the counter. Pleaserecruit professionals instead of hiring people on a temporary basis.

  • kamal

    Sep 27, 2012 2:03

    I just can't believe that such bad experiences can happen with Emiratesflights. Need to think of choosing other alternatives.

  • syed touseef ahmed

    Sep 27, 2012 1:40

    similer incedent had occured with but in sharjah airport with Air Arabiaflight to bangalore (India). i hereby request the Airport Authoritiesto please contuct a special training to the people who issue boardingpasses. my case was a bit weired the lady in the counter made my wife pay for the excess baggage without even bothereing to check myfilght details.

  • SAZ

    Sep 27, 2012 1:34

    Sorry to know Mrs Rebello had to go through such trauma. I was insimilar situation when i wokeup one friday morning to a phone callinforming of my mother's demise. Quite contradictory to Mrs Rebellossituation my travel consultant and friend from orient travels had mebooked on the next available Jet airways and Emirates flight to mumbai.Dubai Airport Authorties staff were kind enough to accompany me until theboarding gate, and Jet airways was very cooperative in providing me witha staff and special service until I was right out of immigration and outof the airport within a span of 20 mins of the flight landing in mumbai.Not to forget the courtesy of the onfight staff who kept checking onhow I was doing on the entire flight. A big thank you to all of them. Icould make it much ahead of time for the funeral back home. For Mumbaiwe have flights every second hour if not every hour with differentcarriers. Why would one wait for a particular airline to fly them outthat too on a standby ticket. People need to come out of their rigidnessof sticking to a brand in times of crisis at least.

  • Nikhil

    Sep 27, 2012 1:29

    Suprisingly Horrible..... could not belive that it happened with EK.

  • Mohammed

    Sep 27, 2012 12:39

    I love to fly with Emirates. Only concern is their staff. When I wasflying to Hyderabad this month I had a mess too. They have missedone of my bags. Then they sent to my place the next day, which isgood but the time lost is lost. I could only give 10 points out ofhundred to Emirates staff at T-3. Based on the infrastructure they havethey must work on a Lean/Six Sigma model!

  • Mathangi

    Sep 27, 2012 12:25

    This has always been the case with emirates they always overbook you and then try to bribe you with overnight stay or free air ticket. I have heard a lot of people fall into this trap. A similar situation happened with us as well. The same excuse was given as was for this poor lady. But we stood by our point and were finally boarded. They upgraded us to Business class!!!!!!!

  • Nasir

    Sep 27, 2012 12:20

    Nobody is perfect. The situation for the passenger was very upsetting,but sometimes things happen this way too -- this time it has happened with this unfortunate person. The behaviour (most importantly expressionless orsometimes rude faces of check-in staff) giving signal that 'If it is notthere, it is not there' is really not called for. Such treatments to passengers cause some kind of dissatisfaction. Counter staff must improve on this. Otherwise Emiratesis known for reliability of service and has a good name in the industry.

  • Fatima

    Sep 27, 2012 11:11

    Lidia is not the only one ... even me and my family faced the sameproblem with Emirates while travelling to Mumbai in August. But, luckilymy husband was adamant and made the authorities to give us the seat. But,with Emirates the Mumbai sector is treated like unwanted ones. They makethe boarding passes from Terminal 3, then you go to Terminal 1 Gate toBoard the flight, from the gate, you go 2 floors down, then board thebus and go to Terminal 2 to board the flight. This we are experincingfrom the past 3 yrs. I do not understand why they are treating Indialike this.

  • reema ahamed

    Sep 27, 2012 7:36

    this is soo suprising. this may happen in air india but never inemirates. i thought most airlines have stopped overbooking by now.

Latest Comment

the same happened to me as well when i had to travel on emergency lastmonth. All the problem is with the checkin staff at the counter. Pleaserecruit professionals instead of hiring people on a temporary basis.


27 September 2012 15:14jump to comments

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