Emirates has lost a ‘deceptive advertising’ lawsuit brought by a passenger in New Zealand who convinced a tribunal that the Dubai-based carrier had sold Business Class tickets by advertising newer, more comfortable seats that weren’t routinely available on flights from Aotearoa.
Mark Morgan had chosen to fly with Emirates with his wife for a trip to England, but once onboard the plane to Dubai, Morgan says he discovered that Emirates was using an older Boeing 777-300 aircraft on the route with Business Class seats that didn’t go fully lie-flat.
The inferior Business Class seat also featured an older inflight system that was prone to malfunctioning, according to Morgan’s complaint to New Zealand’s Dispute Tribunal.
Emirates’ official website for the Kiwi market features images of its latest Boeing 777 Business Class seat, which goes fully flat, features deep padding, has a personal minibar and the latest generation of inflight entertainment systems.
Lawyers representing the airline, however, claimed these images and descriptions didn’t amount to deceptive advertising because there is a notice in small print at the bottom of the Emirates website which warns that the products and services advertised could vary from flight to flight.
For the Kiwi market, the airline was routinely using older Boeing 777 aircraft but Emirates claimed this was because flights to New Zealand were loss-making, so it had chosen to deploy older aircraft on these routes.
In any case, Emirates said the Business Class seat on its older Boeing 777s reclined to 166.1 degrees which was effectively a lie-flat seat for the “ordinary traveller”.
Disputes Tribunal referee Laura Mueller refused to accept Emirates’ argument, saying the website warning should only apply to occasional product changes.
“Emirates advertised a business class service that consumers were very unlikely to receive,” Mueller said in her judgment, as reported by Stuff. “This was the result of advertising a service that they were rarely delivering, not due to an occasional or one-off change of aircraft due to operational requirements.”
Mueller ruled that Emirates had breached The Fair Trading Act 1986, saying that the “advertising of a service that Emirates knew would unlikely be delivered is misleading and deceptive.”
Emirates initially offered Morgan a partial refund of just NZ $786, claiming that the service he received was only a 5 per cent reduction in what had been promised in its advertising.
Morgan, however, sought a more generous partial refund, plus a refund for a First Class upgrade fee (for a fully flat seat). The tribunal sided with Morgan and ordered Emirates to refund him NZ $13,555 by March 27.
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.