Bangkok

Emirates Redeemed: Sydney – Bangkok

After the hideous experience of trying to redeem Emirates frequent flyer points for a flight to Bangkok, we turn up at Sydney airport to check in.

Standing in the queue, feeling suicidal at the thought of 9 hours in economy, I’m doing my usual silent cursing of Neil for yet again consigning us to the non-pointy end of the plane.

One day I’ll take a deep breath, superglue my mitts to the credit card and book myself into Business Class while leaving him in Crap Class.  I’ll be whisked into a world of champagne, chocolates and a lie-flat bed, while he’s shunted off down the back towards the bendy plastic cutlery, the hyperactive kids trying to kick a hole in back of his seat and the screaming babies from hell.

I’m feeling very sorry for myself, and then the check-in chick says ‘You’ve been upgraded’,  hands us the tickets (‘NLA’ scrawled on them in large letters -No Lounge Access – but I wasn’t complaining) and sends us on our way.

I’m convinced that this happy event has been created solely due to my genius as an influential blogger (Neil’s sniggering).  Two of the blog post views were in Dubai – not the usual cosmopolitan spread of Dundee, Edinburgh, Sydney and Maggieknockerty.

I’d like to think that the Emirates Customer Experience Fairy read my bitter outpourings and tried to make amends.  Neil says I’m deluded; it’s purely down to luck.  Whatever.

On boarding, normally they say hello very nicely, glance at your ticket then wave you vaguely in the general direction of ‘away’ ie off to a seat down the back.

This time however, it’s ‘Oh welcome Ms McDonald’ like he’s been waiting all his life to meet me.  He takes my ticket in both hands and holds it reverentially cupped in his palms.  It’s comical but, wow, do I feel special.

We’re shown to our seats and it’s all wonderful – the ridiculous amount of space, the lack of people, the quiet.  Heaven.

Then nothing happens.   For ages.

Row 10 is getting a lot of attention from one of the flight crew.  I hear him ask them ‘can I get you the wine list?’   I’m thinking ‘Here we go, the wine list is coming, the champagne won’t be far behind’.  Five champagne corks go off in the galley.

Row 10 get their drinks;  the giggling with the flight crew continues and….. nothing happens.  It’s so noticeable that it feels embarrassing.  I think ‘oh well, this is how you’re treated as an upgraded passenger’  but people behind us had paid full fare through to London and start to complain quite loudly about not feeling the love.

Not loudly enough to make any difference though, because it’s that sotto voce semi-whine, beloved of the English, that never achieves anything.  I’m  half English so I practice whining at Neil and he ignores me.

That glowy, I’m special feeling dissipates and I’m starting to loathe Row 10 who are now in full party mode, very probably drinking champagne meant for me.

So we sit and sit. There’s no-one in First and only about 10 of us in Business so who’s drinking all the fizz?

I feel a little bit depressed.  We’d got to the airport really early and hadn’t done our usual thing of getting trolleyed in the bar to dull the pain of Economy.  Instead, we’d kept ourselves pure for the Emirates Business Class Extravaganza, so there’d been 2.5 hours of anticipatory build up before getting anywhere near a plane.

The lower lip is beginning to tremble with disappointment and I start to fret about the 5 bottles of champagne going flat in the galley. Then a flight attendant arrives with a tray of Moet and suddenly it’s all forgotten.  The order for dinner is taken, the wine list is waved around and then it’s time to take off.

After a decent meal, Neil goes out like a light but I get carried away with the entertainment options, watching stuff until I’ve gone past being able to sleep.  This is when I realise I’ve left the vintage valium (c 1999 – only 5 tablets left) in the hold luggage.

But we arrive in Bangkok quite chirpy and head off to attend Linda and Yoon’s wedding in Krabi.  Excellent.

No upgrade on the way home so the first 20 minutes the trip was a bit grim until I decided to cheer up.  We’d had a relaxing break, attended a really wonderful wedding and had a great time in Bangkok.

Now plotting how to get Neil to agree to an upgrade for our trip to the UK at Xmas.

I’ve dug out the credit card; now where did I put the superglue?

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.

DAY 1 – EVENING

  • 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.

DAY  2 – MORNING

  • 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).

DAY 2 – AFTERNOON

  • 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’.
  • AAAAARRRGGHHHH
  • 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).

Bangkok – Day 2

We’re up and out early, locate the Skytrain round the corner and head off down to the river for some sightseeing. 

The river itself is a surging brown flow full of debris (vegetation, coconuts, the odd plank of wood) with a rather terrifying current – you wouldn’t want to fall in.   Activity on the river never stopped – it was just incredible.  These boats moved really fast… I loved it.The ferry dropped us off at a temple.  We were the only ones there; a little haven of peace and quiet.  

It was all stunningly beautiful.  The colours, the detail, the artistry – I hadn’t expected to love it all so  much.

After a long morning wandering around as tourists, we went back to the hotel for afternoon tea/cocktails then went out round Patpong market again all evening (endlessly fascinating – Neil told me his stories about the ping pong balls and razor blades).

Found a really good little restaurant – Ton Kao Surawongse –  in Surawongse Road round the back of the market. 

Spot the elephants….

Still couldn’t make my mind up between the Jimmy Choo or the Hermes knock offs and decided to sleep on it again.

Bangkok – Day 1

Bangkok was amazing – we had a brilliant time.  Neil didn’t think I’d like it (too hot/humid & lots of people hassling you) –  he hadn’t enjoyed it when he was there 15 years ago but things have changed and it was all reasonably relaxed.

We stayed at the Sofitel on Silom Road, not far from the river, the Skytrain and Patpong markets.  Our room was on the 24th floor – great views of the city – and especially beautiful at night.  

After a long flight on Emirates from Paris, dumped the bags, had a shower then up to the 27th floor for afternoon tea (!).  The hotel has it’s own outlet of Le Notre, the Parisian patisserie, so there were scones, jam, cream, sandwiches, lovely cakes and huge pots of tea.  This was served from 3-5pm, cocktails following from 5-7pm, while the sun went down and the city skyline lit up.  It was fabulous. 

We then headed out into the warm, humid night to have a look round.  Bangkok is Handbag Central – my life’s mission is to find the perfect handbag, so if I couldn’t find it here, it wasn’t going to happen.  I went through every handbag shop and stall and in the end couldn’t make my mind up. 

Went to bed and conked out for 9 hours.  Bliss.