Month: April 2012

Life Lesson No 2: Redeeming Points with Emirates: Nearly Enough to Make Me Fly Qantas

I work in an environment with a mania for customer service, so it’s a bit of a rude shock to bump up against a business model which just doesn’t give a stuff.

From Emirates point of view, their points redemption process looks something like this:

  • customer selects flights
  • customer clicks ‘redeem points’ button
  • customer receives e-tickets
  • customer offers youngest born for sacrifice as token of gratitude

But as is so often the case, what the customer experiences bears no relation to what the provider thinks they’re providing.  This is what happened.

SCENARIO:  Long-time Emirates customers want to redeem points for fab trip to Thailand in July for a wedding.


  • check Emirates site for points required to get to Bangkok and back – all ok, plenty of points, so Thunderbirds Are Go….
  • log in to Skywards (Emirates points manager)
  • select flight
  • faithfully enter all data (including no of boyfriends, dates of measles vaccinations, name of family cat (deceased), favourite colour etc) CORRECTLY
  • click on ‘purchase tickets’ in state of high excitement and anticipation
  • Skywards counters with ‘YOU NEED MORE POINTS’ even though Emirates says we have enough
  • Buy extra points for $500
  • Enter all data AGAIN (including dead cat) although spirit is failing
  • Receive faintly snotty message saying that there is a ‘difficulty processing the payment’ which manages to make it sound like it’s our fault
  • Repeat data entry x 4 to no avail
  • All of Neil’s rewards points disappear from the system
  • Apply a large G&T in vain attempt to head off  impending nervous breakdown
  • Give up and go to bed

Customer’s Emotional State = Really Quite Annoyed with Emirates (in a Very Understated British Sort of Way).   Emirates Customer Service might like to note the soupcon of customer ambivalence there.


  • Call bank to confirm there’s not a problem with card/bank
  • Call Emirates who pass the buck to Skywards and leave me on hold for 1 hour
  • 20 minute shouting convo (due to very poor phone connection – not me going berserk) with Skywards lady in far off lands
  • Skywards lady refuses to access husband’s points due to privacy issues ie ‘get lost’
  • Refuse to get lost.  Point out that husband is at work and does not have 1 hour to hang around on the phone listening to Barry-Manilow-on-valium lift musak.
  • Skywards lady tells me how to access husband’s account which she could have done originally instead of telling me to get lost.  Not that I’m bitter.
  • Neil’s points are found and returned  (allow self small premature victory smirk)
  • Skywards lady kindly offers to book flights
  • Provide all details AGAIN
  • System fails.  Skywards lady then:
    • makes rude inference that we don’t have enough credit to pay for the balance
    • suggests I go into the Emirates office in Sydney to sort this out because she can’t.

Customer’s Emotional State:   Loathe Emirates with a Vengeance  (note, not Skywards, Emirates).


  • Take 1 hour bus journey to Emirates office on my day off
  • Wait for 20 mins
  • Speak to nice but clueless young man
  • Nice young man fails to understand the situation
  • Pecks at keyboard with one finger (a dead giveaway) but clearly has no clue what he’s doing even when challenged about lack of mouse clicking for 10 minutes. What’s he doing then?? Reading War and Peace??
  • NYM disappears and comes back with older woman who is a bit more clued up
  • She asks him what the problem is but he can’t tell her
  • I explain
  • Older female inputs all the data, smirks triumphantly and says ‘you don’t have enough points’.
  • Explain that ‘yes I do have enough sodding points actually’ (I didn’t actually say that because I like to keep a very firm grip on the moral high ground  and anyway, she was bigger than me.  I didn’t want to inflame the situation either but ooooh, was I tempted….)
  • Older female realises that Skywards and Emirates have 2 different redemption rates (what???)   Falls back on ‘it’s probably your card being declined.’  Pardon?  Call me oversensitive but to be told that effectively means ‘you’ve got no credit you cheapskate, and here you are trying to get flights for free’.
  • Retaliate with ‘I-work-for-the-bank and I’ve had this conversation twice before so don’t tell me there’s a problem with the bank’
  • 5 minutes of arse-covering by older woman
  • Told ‘we can’t do anything. Try again in 24 hours’.
  • I did; it still didn’t work but eventually it did.

This is the simplified version of what actually happened.  A very unpleasant experience – at no point did anyone apologise for what was happening – especially when I went to the Emirates office – it was more ‘why did you bring this problem here and lay it at MY feet?’

And although we were redeeming with Skywards, it is Emirates who own us as customers and to whom I now have no allegiance whatsoever.

Here endeth Life Lesson No 2:  if redeeming points with Emirates, keep the gin within arm’s reach at all times (for medicinal purposes only of course).