Emirates Ordered To Pay $8468 For Failing To Deliver Advertised Quality Of Business Class

One customer had enough with the misleading advertising claims of airlines, and when they bought a pricey business class ticket and wound up with old seats that didn’t lie flat which were different than what they’d been sold, they sued and won. They’re a hero to everyone who has ever been promised one thing, delivered another, and told by their airline to pound sand.

Airlines sell the quality of their premium products. They invest in fully flat business class seats, frequently with direct aisle access and even doors for privacy.

They display these photos to encourage customers to upgrade, often times on routes where those products aren’t even available. How many times have you see that business suite photo when being pitched a paid upgrade on a domestic flight?

And airlines promote their most premium products even when they aren’t fully rolled out yet. When United introduced its “Polaris” business class in 2016 they confused customers day after day. Polaris was understood to mean the new seats with direct aisle access, but it was just a rebranding of business class. I received a steady stream of emails from customers telling me I was wrong, their flight would have the new business seats, with the ‘proof’ being their reservation confirmation showing “Polaris” on it.

  • On the one hand airlines sell the idea of these products, to get customers to choose the airline and pay a premium
  • But when they fail to deliver these products, they fall back on the fine print of their contracts of carriage saying that equipment isn’t guaranteed, all they are ‘really selling you’ is transportation from A to B
  • In other words, their advertising it lying

One New Zealander had enough and got a court to agree, awarding US$8468 to be paid by March 27.

  • The man purchased Emirates business class which was supposed to entail lie flat seats

  • But he was presented with Emirates’ Boeing 777 angled seats. Even the latest generation Emirates business class is behind world standard, but the workhorse of the fleet still has seats that aren’t fully flat. (Emirates business class is much worse than most people assume, they have a huge brand halo off of first class.)

  • The seats were also “less cushioned than those shown in Emirates’ advertising, and the entertainment system was not a new, upgraded system, and “due to its age, malfunctioned”.” They expected a minibar? A decent premium product shouldn’t require you to serve your own drinks.

These are the ‘new’ Emirates 777 business seats, finally fully flat but in a dense configuration
Credit: Emirates

Emirates made two arguments.

  1. Their contract of carriage allows for aircraft substitutions compared to what’s advertised. However the product advertised wasn’t even generally being flown on the Auckland – Dubai route at the time and it wasn’t just the aircraft that was different than expected but also “services and Amenities.

    Emirates said they had to use the better planes on other routes because they were losing money flying to Auckland. I guess they made up for it by charging for things they did not deliver?

  2. No one can tell the difference between angled flat and fully flat anyway, the old Emirates business class is great! I don’t even know what to say to this.

Emirates has to cover “a partial refund of the price of the tickets” plus the cost of a one way upgrade to first class paid for by the passengers in order to receive flat seats.

A similar result woul be unlikely in the Unites States.

(HT: Live and Let’s Fly)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If air travel transactions ran like most hotel and car rental purchases, where the customer settles the bill upon completion of the experience, not weeks or months in advance, the airlines would be a hell of a lot more focused on delivering what’s promised, instead of shrugging and daring you to put up a post facto argument.

  2. “A similar result woul be unlikely in the Unites States.”

    Thank God. Our courts are already clogged up with enough dumb crap, we don’t need to add more.

  3. Just a note you can see the minibar in the business class seat in the photo just below your comment about it Gary ;). All the way to the left.

  4. Hi. I’d like to buy one of your gourmet fancy apples for $10

    Ok, open this bag when you get home and you will see your gorgeous apple.

    Arrives home to find an unripe orange.

  5. I’m with the customer on this one complete bait and switch smoke and mirrors
    However for me it helps me to know to never book Emirates premium cabins ever unless in First or business on an A380
    This happened to me many years ago on Singapore airlines with a crappy hard product in business class with no privacy and mediocre subpar seats that were more like domestic fc seats

  6. @Brian L – If you purchase something, that is what you should receive. If you purchase a Hummer, you don’t expect a Blazer in its place – even if they both get you to where you are going. He purchased something they were not even contemplating on delivering to him. Our courts need to be able to handle these types of cases and airlines would quit selling you what they don’t intend to deliver.

  7. Took emirates business with my wife when she was given bad health news. Flight to Milan was poorly staffed, no service, when I made a formal complaint the office they blew me off. Bad company…

  8. I think @Tom has a great idea. I’m not sure how to practically enact such a system but it would make the gap between what’s promised and what’s delivered a lot smaller.

  9. I guess I missed out because EK pulled the same crap when I flew SFO->DXB in 2012. Promised lie-flat but in fact it was the horrible angled seat. Then they lied to WSJ reporter Scott M. This is one reason of several reasons why EK is not at the top of my list – I don’t reward lying liars.

    I’m thinking a California small claims judge would just laugh this out of court, but good to see you can get justice in NZ.

  10. Stand by Qatar Airways, I am coming after you…. I checked in the other day on QSuites, had the seat and all, and then turned up at the Airport and the aircraft had changed to a dirty old, filthy 777, 19 years old according to the FR24 data, and of course the usual Middle east apology, “Oh we’re so sorry, operational issue” and then run away and do SFA about it. So good on this man for suing EK’s sorry ass, he should have gone for more.

  11. Someone should sue LH for promoting themselves as a 5 Star airline for years and selling one of the worst Business Class Seats of any European airline out there. They’ve been hyping their Business Class refresh for years.

  12. I agree emirates has a great reputation. But only for first class. Economy has you packed like sardines. You get more leg room on jetblue or American. And dont talk about the absolute pigs they have working at check in. Especially at JFK.

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