Emirates Explains Response to Flooding Disruptions

Thom Weidlich 04.25.24


The United Arab Emirates last week experienced its largest rainfall ever recorded. It was a major problem for Dubai International Airport. Tim Clark, president of Emirates, the Middle East’s largest airline, which had to cancel hundreds of flights, penned an impressive open letter apologizing to customers.

Record flooding is hardly an airline’s fault, but that doesn’t mean Emirates hasn’t been hearing from irate customers, who took to social media in droves to complain about not being able to reach their destinations or anyone at the airline. Emirates canceled flights of 200,000 passengers, according to The Independent.

Lack of communication was a particular target. “There was no information,” The Independent quoted one disgruntled customer. “A company like Emirates must plan for response in such situations.”


‘Record Storms’

Clark, who’s been president of Emirates since 2003, opened his lengthy (566-word), April 20 letter dramatically enough: “This week has been one of the toughest for Emirates operationally, as record storms hit the United Arab Emirates.”

He offered the company’s “most sincere apologies” for the service disruptions. When the deluge began on April 16, the airline diverted “dozens of flights” and over the next three days had to cancel almost 400 and delay even more, he explained.

“We were clear on our two priorities: Look after our customers who have been impacted by the disruption and get our operations back on schedule,” Clark wrote. Toward that end, he laid out the dramatic operational measures it took “to free up resources and capacity.” To wit: “We had to suspend check-in for passengers departing Dubai, implement an embargo on ticket sales and temporarily halt connecting passenger traffic from points across our network coming into Dubai.”

Numbers Invoked

In such a response and apology, it’s crucial to — as Clark did — lay out the actions you’ve taken to address the problem. He also invoked a lot of numbers, which is good as it adds specificity.

“We sent over 100 employee volunteers to look after disrupted customers at Dubai Airport departures and in the transit area, prioritising medical cases, the elderly and other vulnerable travellers. To date, over 12,000 hotel rooms were secured to accommodate disrupted customers in Dubai, 250,000 meal vouchers have been issued and more quantities of drinking water, blankets and other amenities.”

Clark was able to convey that by that Saturday morning regular flight schedules had been restored, passengers rebooked and efforts launched to return “some 30,000 pieces of left-behind baggage to their owners.”

Clear Backlog

So far, so good. Clark apologized for the situation and recognized the inconvenience for customers and explained how Emirates responded. Then he mentioned next steps: “It will take us some more days to clear the backlog of rebooked passengers and bags, and we ask for our customers’ patience and understanding.”

He was humble, admitting the company’s response “has been far from perfect” and even acknowledging customer frustration at “lack of information.”

He thanked his teams across the airline for their hard work — another crucial element to such a response. Then he closed by apologizing again.

Photo Credit: Emirates

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