Compo culture

Note: I am satisfied, based on Chris Miller’s comment (at 8 below), that he and his family did have a bad experience with Emirates well beyond an erroneous phone call for which an apology would have been sufficient.

Last month, British backpacker Michael Edgeley suffered chest pains on an Emirates flight back from Australia. The plane diverted to Mumbai, but sadly Edgeley died in the ambulance at the airport.

Also on the flight was the partner of Chris Miller from Tyneside, along with their two children. Emirates told Miller that his kids had chicken pox. And in a terrible mix-up with Edgeley,

When the backpacker later died, Emirates contacted Mr Miller in error with undertaker details.

Mr Miller said he had received a call from someone saying: “I have a couple of numbers for you, the first number is the undertakers dealing with the body”.

Mr Miller said: “At that point I believed one of my family was dead. I said, ‘What happened, what’s going on?’ but they put the phone down on me.

Mr Miller told the BBC he was hung up on when he asked to know what was going on. Emirates called again after 10 seconds to inform Mr Miller of their mistake. (Italics added)

Emirates has apologised to Miller, as they should. But is Miller satisfied with that?

Mr Miller said Emirates had not offered any compensation despite putting him through “absolute hell”.

Compensation for 10 seconds of “absolute hell”? I think not. If Miller’s family only came to the attention of Emirates by irresponsibly boarding a plane while the kids had a highly contagious disease, the stronger claim for compensation may be in the other direction.

21 Responses to “Compo culture

  • 1
    NPOV
    April 8th, 2008 15:27

    Isn’t increased litigation and claims for compensation by consumers just the price you pay for reduced regulation? Indeed, I’ve seen it argued quite strongly that the threat of being taken to court is a better way to regulate industry behaviour than state-enforced legislation. Something I can see a lot of lawyers vigorously agreeing with.

  • 2
    Rajat Sood
    April 8th, 2008 16:10

    Arguably much less than 10 seconds, because he surely must have spent the first 9 seconds wondering “what the hell is going on?” before the pain and suffering kicked in. As for litigation substituting for regulation, this can only work if legal rights and obligations are clearly defined. If you have stupid juries or judges who set ridiculously high standards of care, invent chains of causation or award damages well in excess of losses incurred, common law will not send efficient signals.

  • 3
    NPOV
    April 8th, 2008 16:28

    Cleary defined by who though? Laws are always subject to interpretation, and ultimately, to change.
    It’s hard to see why we should expect “clearly defined legal rights and obligations” to remain significantly more immune from the sorts of problems that dog state-imposed regulation.

  • 4
    Andrew Norton
    April 8th, 2008 16:52

    I suspect this kind of claim is the product of the tort law crisis around the Anglo world that Rajat refers to, which has conditioned some people to expect monetary compensation for minor or ephemeral suffering. Misfortune as a money-making opportunity.

  • 5
    Pete from Perth
    April 8th, 2008 17:35

    NPOV @1: “Indeed, I’ve seen it argued quite strongly that the threat of being taken to court is a better way to regulate industry behaviour than state-enforced legislation. Something I can see a lot of lawyers vigorously agreeing with.”

    Not that there’d be any conflict of interest in involved in their providing that opinion… ;-) .

  • 6
    Rajat Sood
    April 8th, 2008 17:53

    Yes, the type of decisions that stem from the “deep pockets” philosophy: where insurers are involved, they are made to pick up the tab regardless of whether the harm was within the risk, just because it avoids hard luck stories.

  • 7
    Jason Soon
    April 8th, 2008 18:25

    Yes NPOV the threat of litigation is theoretically meant to send signals to provider to take due care, etc and deter careless conduct. But what the hell is supposed to be deterred here and how does it help the consumer? less than 10 seconds – who is this guy, The Flash?

  • 8
    Chris Miller
    April 8th, 2008 19:54

    Please think about this before you comment on any story published on a newspaper/tv media site:
    Firstly can I start by saying that yes I am the person at the centre of the story. We had a perfect right to ask the airline for compensation based on the whole experience which you can see below. You should realise that going to the media will of course have ended any outside chance we had to get any compensation from the airline so we only went to the media because the attitude of Emirates was so appalling that we wanted to publicise how truly bad they were as a warning to other families.

    We could only tell the full story to journalists, we cannot control how they present it and clearly they are putting their own spin on it. That is how the media works. The media like a straightforward story but this was not a straighforward story. Consequently they cherry picked the story we went to them with and presented two parts – one part about the phone call and one part that we had been offered no compensation. The rest of the story was ignored or referred to without detail to produce a clearer story. What you may have read is therefore not the full story and you cannot fully comprehend what happened without understanding the whole picture.

    Emirates is a big multi national company that clearly thinks they can just do whatever it wants to its paying customers. We are an ordinary family that was thrust into exceptional events 1000′s of miles from our home. We merely want people to be aware of what they did. We have no solicitor acting on our behalf, we are dealing with all the media ourselves in an attempt to show how any family could be treated by their incompetent staff. We have both travelled all over the world and used numerous airlines, we have never had cause to make a single complaint in all our years of travel. This was our first Emirates experience.

    Just getting the story out to embarrass the airline is the start of us getting closure on all this.

    The full facts are as follows:

    On arrival at Mumbai after a passenger became ill the airline removed my family from the flight as my son had developed a rash during the flight. They then put the safety of my partner and two young children at risk by driving them around Mumbai in a dangerous, old taxi without seat belts or doors that closed properly in the full sweltering heat of the day with no air conditioning. After 5 hours of suffering with these unacceptable conditions my Daughter also became ill (later that day it was diagnosed as a viral infection). If your child contracts chicken pox you might get a local GP to confirm it but instead of calling a doctor to look at him in the airport they took my partner and two young children (and of course very young children don’t have fully developed immune systems and are always prone to picking up bugs), none of whom had any inoculations/anti-malarial protection across Mumbai to two municipal third world hospitals, exposing them to all kinds of potential diseases. The airline attempted to get our children admitted into a filthy third world hospital for 5 days as an adequate response to their condition (which we refused to agree to). They then had another two hours in a dangerous vehicle until they got into a hotel. As a consequence this caused both my young children to get additional severe respiratory infections which meant they were not well enough to return home even after my son had been cleared to do so over the chicken pox, and requiring both to have antibiotic treatments before they could fly.

    I am sure you can appreciate how stressful it was for my partner to be on her own with two young children unexpectedly thrown into India and then come against bullying tactics which meant she was forced to travel across the city with strangers who she did not trust.

    Yes, they called me up from India to tell me that one of my family was dead, in error. Instead of explaining that there had been a mistake they just put the phone down on me. 10 seconds or 10 minutes, 10 days does the time make any difference? If you are a parent believe me it makes no difference. Of course I was relieved to find out that they were alive. Emirates called me back but never explained to me about the first call or apologised. They called again I believe to see if they had made a mistake but certainly not to explain it, I had to work that out myself – they have never provided an explanation to this day. And they did not even say sorry at that point. I finally received an apology from UK staff after 4PM, 9 hours after the original call.

    Yes they did fly me out BUT THIS WAS NOT COMPENSATION. Had I fancied a week stuck in Mumbai for a holiday maybe it could be considered compensation. My insurance company had agreed immediately to fly me out to help get my family home. Emirates also offered to do so but this gesture of course does not compensate us in any way – it merely enabled me to fix all the problems that they had created and get my family home.

    Staff blatantly lied, were uncooperative, were unhelpful, failed to call me back when they said they would, provided no method of actually getting to speak to a senior member of staff to deal with the case and unbelievably initially told me that in what was an immediate emergency situation they hoped to get back to me with a response possibly within eight days – providing I put everything in writing by email to them.

    Local staff in Mumbai stuffed up my families emergency visa status meaning we had to drag our children across Mumbai (a two hour journey each way) to spend a day in a government office to pay a £50 “fine” for them overstaying their emergency visas (because the kids had been made ill by Emirates actions they were unfit to fly for a further 5 days).

    On the return flight home things directly in the control of the airline went from one problem to the next. They provided no food for our children for the whole day when they flew back to the UK, a flight which lasted 12 hours. The incompetent airline staff failed to re-book the original food we requested and paid for our children on the flights back from Mumbai. It was little surprise that both children arrived back in the UK totally stressed and in my daughters case physically ill once again. They then expected my three year old daughter to sit by herself on the flight from Dubai to Newcastle, putting us through the stress of having to argue and refusing to board the flight until the staff reluctantly sorted the problem out (after they once again lied to us, saying that the flight was full yet there were plenty of empty seats when we boarded) right upto the plane almost leaving. After all that had happened as a final insult the airline left our luggage behind in Dubai, so we had to wait and hour and a half in Newcastle Airport with two stressed kids only to find out our bags were not on the plane. The bags eventually arrived the next day, finally at our door after 5PM.

    In addition Emirates cabin Staff subjected my partner to abuse. Cabin stuff vindictively harassed my partner and called her a bad mother as they mistakenly believed she had requested an upgrade to First Class for herself while flying to Australia in the first place!

    When we got back to the UK I wrote to Emirates with a chronicle of all the events and appalling experiences they were responsible for. We pointed out that I had lost 8 days of work and we personally paid out over £900 in costs to keep my family in Mumbai and get them home – the delay in returning was after all the result of their local staff. We additionally asked for compensation for the stress, ill-health etc which all the family experienced. I can assure you there was no specific mention of the phone call in this request. The experiences of my partner and children in India were a lot worse. Our request for recompense was based on the whole of our experience on this journey, not one phone call.

    The airline wrote back and apologised for any inconvenience caused but refused us any compensation for anything which had happened. The airline has suggested that the medical treatment provided when they were disembarked was more than adequate for the circumstances and in the context of cultural differences between India and the UK. How can dangerous transport and exposure to third world conditions be in any way adequate or acceptable? We had full medical cover via insurance but the airline insisted on taking them
    - against their will and on the basis of lies from the local staff – and ended up having to sign waivers when we refused any further medical treatment in a filthy municipal hospital and requested a doctor attend once they had been housed in a quality safe local hotel.

    Emirates website boasts how wonderful the experience of flying with young children will be from “booking to disembarking”. I certainly would not trust the care of my family in the hands of this airline ever again. I would also warn any other family to be extremely wary about booking a flight through Emirates based on what happened to us and how we saw other families were treated on their flights. As experienced travellers we were shocked by the utterly unbelievable series of events and the staggering incompetence. We put our family’s lives in these people’s hands when you fly and I would just not trust Emirates again.

    Airlines are a law unto themselves, they can treat people how they like with very little recourse if things go wrong.I don’t think we were being at all unreasonable to expect that Emirates would compensate us accordingly for what was an extraordinary set of blunders. Instead Emirates dismissed us and the refusal to offer even a penny of compensation is an insult as it shows that they clearly don’t value customers and don’t consider our experience acceptable. Some gesture of compensation would have represented closure for the whole episode, offering nothing has left us angry and we were left with no option but to try and get back at the airline with the one thing left to us – bad publicity via the media.

    Perhaps none of you will understand what really went on in my head that night, nor in the weeks afterwards but the feelings I have expressed in the media were totally genuine, open and honest. I actually fully told my partner what really happened that night only a few days ago. I still feel anger at the fact my family were put in danger and that as a consequence my children were made ill by the airlines actions. Of course I have the utmost sympathy for the devastated family of the guy who actually died; it will have been utterly devastating. No dispute.

    I repeat, the media will simplify stories, the Radio 5 interview was also subject to edit and the questioning was pointed to only one aspect of the whole story I was trying to tell.

    Please don’t jump to conclusions unless you have the facts.

    If you still think we are unreasonable then that is your opinion, I won’t agree with you. I just hope none of you ever have to experience your family being put through anything like this.

  • 9
    JC
    April 9th, 2008 01:03

    Chris M:

    1.You should’ve used Singapore Airlines, as they’re vastly superior. Saving a buck will always cost you two bucks in the end. Note, it was a good thing you didn’t book them on Qantas as they would have still been stranded or possibly not have survived a fully dysfunctional service they offer.

    2. If you think that’s bad try United, American airlines or Continental, as that would have grown hair on you family’s chest by now.

    3. Dude, they were in India and unfortunately 3rd world standards apply. It’s a hot place this time of year and believe or not Indians have survived a trip in an Indian cab without A/c.

    4. I’d take a deep breath and be thankful they’re back in one piece.

    5. I think you’re over egging it.

  • 10
    Chris Miller
    April 9th, 2008 03:10

    JC
    3. Yes, they do have third world standards in India, but they also have perfectly good first world facilities. Emirates are a first world operator, they chose not to provide them for my family even though they exist in Mumbai. Non-Indians survive taxi journeys in India, however both my young children had burning high temperatures while being driven around in the full heat of the day – and it was of course totally unneccessary for them to be put into such transport.
    5.The airline hurt my family and treated us like dirt, sorry but I will never forgive them. Would you?

  • 11
    David Rubie
    April 9th, 2008 11:59

    Andrew Norton wrote:

    I am satisfied, based on Chris Miller’s comment (at 8 below), that he and his family did have a bad experience

    Well, what a relief that is, Andrew is satisfied. Perhaps you could do a follow up on the Paxtons since Ray Martin is otherwise engaged?

    Chris Miller – That’s a horrible story and you have my sympathy both for your experience and for the actions you’ve taken against Emirates.

  • 12
    JC
    April 9th, 2008 12:37

    The airline hurt my family and treated us like dirt, sorry but I will never forgive them. Would you?

    No, but i wouldn’t go for the cheapest ticket either as you always pay for what you get. For instance when i can’t avoid flying Qantas I always brace myself for the worst possible experience. Inevitably they still disappoint.

    There’s also another issue. They were flying across the world and although we may no longer see it this way travel still carries risk.

    I think you ought to be thankful it wasn’t Qantas or any of the US airlines. Next time use Singapore and treat this as a cheap lesson.

  • 13
    Tom N.
    April 9th, 2008 15:09

    A terrible experience indeed. Without wanting to take away from it, I would still challenge the following:

    10 seconds or 10 minutes, 10 days does the time make any difference?

    I think it clearly would. 10 days is long enough to go mad with grief; 10 seconds isn’t, notwithstanding the shock and its aftermath that no doubt Chris experienced.

  • 14
    Fleeced
    April 10th, 2008 13:53

    I admit when I saw the blurb in the newspapers about compo, I jumped to the same conclusion that most seem to have done… but it sounds like there was a lot more to it than that.

    Chris – you have my full sympathy – and I support your actions.

    JC – yes, you get what you pay for… but even on the cheapest ticks, I don’t think you quite expect what Chris and his family went through. Funnily enough, I’d previously heard good things about Emirates… I will now think twice.

    I went cheap myself once – on Gulf Air – and didn’t have any problems with the flight (though Bahrain airport had a power failure and was stinking hot). These days, I have more money, and so probably wouldn’t be so cheap.

  • 15
    gideon sivleira
    April 13th, 2008 23:34

    chris, i wonder why all brits and europeans go to enjoy their vacations in these third world countries for months together, and then u say there are some good facilities in India…wot are u trying to say…pls make up your mind

  • 16
    Chris Miller
    April 15th, 2008 06:56

    Gideon – of course there are plenty of people who visit India and have a fantastic time. I did so myself a few years back. Of course, I entered the country then prepared with all the innoculations and anti-malarial protection you would expect. But then I was not a 1 or 3 year old child, I have an adult immune system – my children do not. I also chose to travel in safe transport. Had I got ill I would of used my travel insurance to access some of the top medical facilities available in the country. I am only saying that the actions of the airline put my children at risk and made them ill, they should not have been put in this terrible position and they should have been given access to the excellent medical facilities immediately. I don’t understand what you think I have to make my mind up over?

  • 17
    gideon sivleira
    April 17th, 2008 23:29

    yes chris, i understand wanted the airlines to take responsiblity of the medical facilities, but what about your own responsiblities as a citizen, u mean that they should not have been offloaded in india and put all the other co passengers at risk of the disease..????

  • 18
    Chris Miller
    April 22nd, 2008 00:50

    Gideon.

    Thank you for clarifying your comment. We have no issue whatsoever with them being taken off the plane and being treated, or waiting for the CP to become non-infectious. I have never said they should not have been taken off, just that they should have received acceptable treatment and care when they were. We did after all have full travel insurance who would have paid for a doctor to attend either the airport or a safe hotel local to the airport or even safe a/c transport to a clean western standard private hospital. Instead my partner and children were inexplicably taken against my will accross Mumbai in the circumstances and to the consequences described above.

    The issue is entirely around the airline putting my family at risk, making them ill and making one mistake after another which compounded the problem even further.

  • 19
    gideon
    April 29th, 2008 07:24

    so chris, wots the status now. did u get any compensation, and did your insurance company pay you.

  • 20
    Chris Miller
    April 30th, 2008 08:32

    We have not heard back from the airline, not that I ever expected them to do so.

    The insurance company paid for some things when they were out in India but not all. We are still out of pocket as a result of the airlines incompetence.

  • 21
    gideon
    May 18th, 2008 23:58

    hey chris, hwz u mate…so wotz up