Emirates has warned passengers who have had their flights cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic that they may have to wait nearly four months for their refund request to be processed. The Dubai-based carrier is hoping to get through a massive backlog of over half a million refund requests by some point in early August and has ramped up resourcing to “accelerate” the process.
“It is a difficult time for us, as it is for all airlines. We are dipping into our cash reserves by being proactive in processing refunds, but it is our duty and responsibility,” explained Sir Tim Clark, the outgoing President of Emirates who was set to retire in June but has agreed to stay on as the carrier navigates through the unprecedented crisis.
Before the pandemic, Emirates revealed that it normally processed something in the region of 35,000 refund requests a month. Now, the airline is “gearing up” to process as many as 150,000 refunds per month through early August.
Like many airlines, Emirates has encouraged customers to hold onto existing bookings rather than requesting a refund – a position that has become increasingly difficult to justify as airlines ground planes and slash schedules indefinitely. Earlier this month, Emirates offered three options for passengers:
- Keep hold of an existing ticket for two years;
- Exchange a ticket for travel vouchers valid for up to two years;
- Or request a full refund
It would appear that many passengers have opted for the third option as personal finances become just as squeezed as those of the embattled airlines.
“We sincerely hope that our customers and trade partners will choose to book and fly with Emirates again at a later time,” Sir Tim continued. “For those who have opted to hold their tickets or exchange it for travel vouchers, we look forward to welcoming you on our flights again soon.”
Emirates recently updated its flight inventory in the Global Distribution Systems which suggested the airline was eyeing a mid-July partial resumption of flights. The airline has not been drawn on committing to on a date when normal scheduled services might restart and Sir Tim said on Sunday that “announcements will be made whenever we are able to resume services.”
Etihad Airways, meanwhile, is targeting a May 16 partial restart of scheduled passenger flights. Earlier this month, Etihad said it wanted to resume flights by May 1 but has pushed back its plans because government imposed travel restrictions are unlikely to be lifted by that point.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.