And the purpose of your advertising is…?

We assume companies that advertise to create new customers want to make sure those new customers experience a product or service that is in keeping with the advertising so they become repeat and perhaps insistent (loyal) customers. Apparently Emirates Air thinks differently.

They have been running a deluge of ads in the San Francisco Bay Area over the last few months, I assume to promote their new non-stop service to Dubai. They have been promoting the idea that the “future has arrived” and the Emirates experience would be exceptional.


Unfortunately, at least based on the example provided to me by my friend, Rebecca Morgan, the actual experience is far from that which is promoted. Perhaps to the extreme. Rebecca recently had the need to go to Dubai to speak to an international audience on customer complaint management, as she is an expert on the subject. (Which is ironic considering where this story goes next.)

Her Emirates Air experience started badly and went downhill. Upon arrival at SFO she was informed they had a strict 15lb weight limit for carry-ons. Since her briefcase and computer together weighed 15lbs, and they weren’t kidding about the 15lb weight limit, she was forced to remove EVERYTHING from her carry-on.  This included the books and magazines to read on the 16 hour flight, as well as her jewelry she had not intended to check. She reluctantly put these items in her suitcase and checked it. (As an fyi, on her return trip nobody weighed her carry-on and in all of her international travel this is the first time anyone ever weighed her carry-on.)

As “luck” would have it, when she arrived in Dubai and got to her hotel, her jewelry was missing. Without belaboring an incredible story of ineptitude on the part of Emirates’ supervisors, suffice it to say their position is that she should have reported the jewelry missing before she left the airport in Dubai (how she could have known it was missing while still in the airport is a mystery), and even then their position is they are not responsible for jewelry or pilferage. The circus act she has gone through to attempt to get this resolved has demonstrated to her the utter incompetence or lack of interest on the part of this airline’s supervisory personnel.

Aside from that episode I asked her how the flight itself was, given their “future has arrived” positioning. She flew coach over and business class back. (The gate agent apparently upgraded her to business class on her way back when in a continuing effort to find her jewelry or resolve the issue, she asked to talk to a manager since the gate agent did not seem to be able to understand her issue.)

Rebecca flies overseas a lot and her “gold standard,” as it is for most of us, is Singapore Airlines. Her commentary on coach was the future is the same as the past on current airlines and not even in Singapore Airlines’ league. She felt the Business Class experience was quite good with lie flat seats and other amenities now available on newer planes from most airlines, but again nothing “outstanding.”

What did Rebecca learn from flying Emirates Air to Dubai:

  1. Buy a lighter carry on bag
  2. Buy a lighter laptop
  3. Never check your jewelry, wear it all if you have to
  4. Never fly Emirates Air again and tell your friends the same thing

What did Emirates learn from this. Nothing as far as I can tell. Since the cost of the lost jewelry was less than Rebecca’s insurance deductible, we can assume it was not terribly expensive and for sure less than a round-trip ticket, and way less than the cost of a full page ad they continue to run. By offering her something reasonable, they could have easily turned a disaster into a raving fan, if only someone had the ability to think and the authority to do so.

They can continue to advertise and attract new prospects some of whom are likely to become “assassins” as Rebecca has for this airline. Effective use of advertising? You decide.


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1 Response to And the purpose of your advertising is…?

  1. Hi Mitch:

    Thanks for recounting my story. While the airlines was over the top for its stringently adhering to the 7 kg limit and not reminding me that jewelry wasn’t covered as the agent clearly saw me put it in the checked bags, I must take some of the blame. Since I did not intend to pack my pearl necklace and earrings, I didn’t review their policy that states they don’t cover jewelry. However, I’d have appreciated the agent refreshing my memory as he saw me pack my jewelry in the checked bag. I would have opted to wear it if I knew it wasn’t covered.

    It was also my fault for not putting it in the locked portion of the bag, rather than the outside zipper, but I think I was concerned about continuing to make the overly long line of check in passengers wait any longer. In retrospect, my bad.

    The Dubai agent did not have to upgrade me, so for that I am grateful. It does not replace my pearls, but it was a nice treat. However, the lack of anyone taking any ownership of my issue, including not following through with promised phone calls to me or mailing me complaint documents, is their problem.

    Am I overly picky because I’m an expert on customer complaint management? Perhaps. But actually, I’m always looking for great examples to include in my blog at . Unfortunately, this example will be on the thumbs down side when I wish it had been thumbs up.

    Will I fly Emirates again? If I am going to Dubai, yes, as the non-stop from SFO saves me 10 hours over any other airline. Will I come better prepared with lighter carry ons? Absolutely! Do I hate Emirates? No. Do I love them? Not as much as Singapore Airlines, but way better than most US carriers when flying internationally.

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