IF YOU'RE going to fly economy class on Emirates Airlines long haul anytime soon be forewarned: They're cutting back on expenses so bring some of your own snacks and drinks.
Despite making a record profit of more than $900 million in their last year of operations, Emirates is cutting back so much in its economy class that its affecting their catering on board long flights. I experienced this a few weeks ago flying with them from Sao Paulo to Dubai and back. The flight is more than 14 hours nonstop and is usually packed. So it is obvious that Emirates is not losing money on this route, but is in fact making a good profit on it.
But one certainly would not think so by the attitude of their inflight crew. When I asked for a second glass of mineral water, both flight attendants who were doling out the drinks said: "Oh! That will be five dirhams extra, please!"
I was so shocked by their bad taste joke that I could only chuckle along with them, but they seemed rather embarrassed to have to say that.
Next, around three hours after dinner had been served I felt peckish and went to the back of the plane to get something to eat. The crew were placing sandwiches, fruit, chocolate and drinks out to allow passengers to eat at their will, as was pointed out in their inflight menu card. I asked an attendant if I could have a sandwich, and she said yes. Around 45 minutes when they were handing out sandwiches down the aisle I made the mistake of asking for another sandwich.
"I'm sorry, but you already took a sandwich, I remember," said the same flight attendant in an accusatory tone.
When I protested that Emirates was becoming stingy, she said she would come back and give me another sandwich if there were any left over. "We have to make sure everyone gets one first before we allow anyone to have seconds," was her weak excuse.
Sure enough, around 20 minutes later she returned to my seat and gave me a sandwich. When I later wandered to the back to get a drink, I saw that there were a good number of leftover sandwiches, fruit and chocolates.
Flying back from Dubai to Sao Paulo it was the same drill. This time I asked to speak to whoever was in charge of the cabin crew. Several hours later a flight attendant came to me and asked if they could use my name and seat number on a form they were filing about my complaint.
"I'm sorry sir, but we need you passengers to complain to the airline or they won't change their policy," said the clearly apologetic and embarrassed flight attendant.
Three hours into my more than 14-hour flight back to Sao Paulo I went to the back of the plane to get a soft drink. The flight attendant served it to me lukewarm without any ice.
"I'm sorry we've already run out of ice," he told me. "We'll try to get some from the front for our next service."
So, it seems its okay to let economy passengers go without ice while not even halfway into the flight, and food must be rationed too. Of course that would never happen to business and first class passengers.
Maybe I will fly on Qatar Airways next time I have to go to Saudi Arabia. It's just a thought.