Here’s Why Emirates Flies “Visibly Inferior” Planes To India

Last Wednesday an Emirates 777 crash landed in Dubai. Fortunately all passengers evacuated safely, though tragically one firefighter died during the rescue efforts.

Once video footage of the evacuation surfaced, I posted about the number of passengers who decided to take their carry-on bags with them.

A lot of people online tried to justify what the passengers were doing, explaining that life in the Gulf for Indian workers can be very tough. Trust me, I understand that, and I get all the reasons that someone would want to take bags with them when they’re being evacuated. It makes perfect sense to me, and it’s a natural instinct not to want to part ways with your belongings.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that over the years several planes have exploded during evacuations, killing dozens and dozens of people. By slowing down the evacuation process, you’re quite literally putting other peoples’ lives at risk, and that’s something you don’t have the right to do no matter what the circumstances are.

Again, I get the hardships faced in the Gulf by foreign workers, but we’re talking life and death here, and the way I see it, this is a black-and-white topic. There’s simply no excuse, and I was harsh on this flight in the same way that I was harsh when a flight in the US had an evacuation. End of story.

An op-ed piece was published in the Times of India about the evacuation, entitled “Emirates crash-landing incident brings to light the deep-rooted racism against Indians.” The writer supports his/her argument with three points:

  • Some people were leaving racist comments on Facebook following the incident
  • A Twitter user explained the challenges of life in the Gulf, and that we’re not being understanding enough of the circumstances faced by Indians in the Gulf
  • A former Indian union minister, Shashi Tharoor, accused Emirates of sending visibly inferior planes to India, and wanted the airline to investigate

Let’s look at that last point, because it’s a Facebook post that received over 7,000 likes, was shared over 1,700 times, and has hundreds of comments, mostly in support of the idea:

So, he’s calling on Emirates to “review their policy on the type, age and quality of aircraft” used on their routes between Dubai and India. There are lots of comments suggesting that Emirates is somehow being unfair towards the Indian market, but there’s actually a pretty straightforward explanation.

The plane involved in the incident was A6-EMW, a 777-300 which took its first flight in July 2003, making it 13 years old. First of all, when an airline has good maintenance, there’s virtually no correlation between an airplane’s age and how safe it is. Planes go through all kinds of checks frequently, and every several years planes are basically taken apart and put back together. Even if there were a correlation, a 13 year old 777 is not old by any stretch of the imagination.

Nonetheless, it was one of Emirates’ older 777s, so why do they fly this to India? Very simple, because it’s one of their high density regional configurations, and not one of their “ER” (extended range) aircraft, since that’s not needed for such a short flight. Here’s a listing of Emirates’ 777 fleet, and as you’ll see, all 11 of the 777-300 aircraft were among the first delivered. Virtually all the later versions of the plane were 777-300ERs.

Not only is the longer range of the aircraft not needed, but presumably based on the route’s yield and demand, a high density configuration aircraft was a better fit.

Why might these planes be in worse condition, in theory (though I think this is very relative and circumstantial)?

  • The plane has more seats than the longhaul three cabin version of the plane, and generally more passengers means more wear and tear
  • Generally a plane that operates a lot of frequencies (meaning primarily short flights) will have more wear and tear, due to the number of flights it operates, rather than an ultra longhaul aircraft, which may just operate one flight per day

Basically there’s a high correlation between the total number of passengers flying a plane, and the shape it may appear to be in.

Emirates-777-Economy

Bottom line

We still don’t know what happened on Emirates flight 521, though I think it’s highly unlikely it has to do with the plane being 13 years old, or with the perceived condition of the interior of the aircraft. There’s a perfectly straightforward explanation for why Emirates operates these flights to certain cities in India, so there’s no need for conspiracy theories here.

(Tip of the hat to Apurva)

Comments

  1. I wrote a similar post about the evacuation of EK521 and went so far as to describe the behavior of people who stopped during an airline evacuation as “foolish”

    http://www.pointswithacrew.com/foolish-take-bags-airplane-evacuation/

    And I totally agree with Ben that I have sympathy for people who may not be as fortunate as I am, and who may be traveling with a majority of their worldly possessions on the plane.

    But…. if we can’t call out this behavior as destructive and potentially deadly, how will we ever expect it to change? I feel it is totally appropriate to engage in some “social shaming” in an attempt to correct this behavior. If I can get even one person to plan ahead and keep their important documents / papers / passport / etc. on their person during a plane flight so they don’t have to take their bags in an evacuation, I’ll count that as a win.

    On the other hand, someone I saw suggested that if people wanted to stop and get their luggage that they were welcome to do that as long as they stopped and waited for everyone else to evacuate first 😀

  2. Even if Emriates was flying older/ more worn planes due to European countries having more wealth so what? Should I be offended living in El Paso that American Airlines usually flies MD-80s out of here. I mean higher wealth markets have better planes in the US. Why is CLT to LAX not a premium transcon route and why is JFK-LAX considered one. It’s just a business decision.

  3. That’s just wrong and uneducated.
    When the Indian government recently removed the ban to fly to A380s to India, Emirates started flying the A380 to Mumbai.
    Plus a combination of 777-300ERs and 777-200LRs fly Delhi and Bombay all the time.
    Trivandrum is usually operated by a 777-300 and A330 and sometimes a 777-300ER depending on the season.
    I hope Emirates responds to that stupid comment.

  4. I once board 1 year old, relatively new AI’s B787, I was shocked. It was very dirty inside, the seats were torn, dent and dusty. Tray tables were mostly damage and collapsed because the passenger use it to nap, yes it can’t hold the body weight. Controller perfectly broke half into 2 pieces! I wonder how could he or she break it and why. Bottom line, the Indian can damage the equipment badly, make the cabin dirty like landfill within no time. I would says it is indeed Indian Air Bus (if you ever board Indian bus, you will understand) I do understand why EK use old plane on this route.

  5. I wish there was a way to automatically lock the overhead bin compartments in case of emergency landing so that no body can even think of retrieving their luggage. That will make the whole evacuation process so fast and smooth.

  6. And actually Emirates used to operate the A330 and 777-300 to Warsaw and Prague, and now both were upgraded to 777-300ERs and again Prague was upgraded recently to a daily A380

  7. The real bottom line is that the public doesn’t understand what an emergency evacuation means.

    The airlines are to blame. I flew yesterday. The safety announcement talked about the lights on the floor, the life vest under my seat, and even made mention of the need for people to remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides.

    They never said a word about leaving behind belongings. It needs to be made part of the standard safety announcement.

  8. Wow @ that person in the link who called the passengers ‘rats’. Only reinforced my dislike of British people – British people are nothing but vile, poisonous scumbags that deserve nothing but endless suffering and turmoil for every single atrocity they have inflicted upon the world. I wonder if the Brits using this incident to bash Indians… are aware that the same mad scram to remove bags out of the overhead compartments happened when the BA flight burst into flames in Las Vegas? Not so different now, eh? Eh?

    People need to introspect more. Subhuman savages like British people don’t get to stand on a pedestal and declare their moral superiority over everyone else. Call us rats all you want – Rats love hoarding and stealing things, and all that stolen Indian jewellery languishing in the Royal Treasury automatically accords y’all that status.

  9. If we take the defense of those who stopped for their belongings as legitimate, then the choice is still between a bureaucratic nightmare and death. I’d choose bureaucratic nightmare every time. There is simply no excuse for putting your life and the life of others at risk in this situation.

  10. What’s interesting is that if you look at the 15-20 previous flight history of that specific airframe, it’s actually only been to India twice listed on that page: http://www.flightaware.com/live/flight/A6EMW (once to TRV from it’s final flight, and once to Chennai)

    Meanwhile, it went to: Tunisia, Malta, Nigeria, Uganda, Kuwait…all numerous times during that timeframe.

  11. Are the people flying Emirates really the low level workers? Emirates is typically the most expensive on any given route. From DEL-DXB, Air India, Jet and SpiceJet are also considerably cheaper for nonstops. And there are any number of connecting flights that are cheaper than Emirates. Wouldn’t the lowest paid workers, the ones who are in many ways slave laborers, be flying the cheaper flights? Perhaps the people on board were a bit better off.

  12. Cathay was looking to acquire six of the non ER 777-300 from EK to replace their five aging 777-200 fleet, which including the first ever build 777. They are planning to fly with them for 5 or 6 more years.

  13. If we don’t understand why the Indian want to bring their bags during evacuation, we also don’t understand the logic behind the racism of Emirates.

  14. Given the comments I hear on my domestic LGA-RSW flight about Delta’s “brand new a319s” which are mostly 10-15 years old (with refurbed interiors), I will ask that government ministers looking to help themselves not others, to stop becoming experts without facts….

    “type, age, and quality” of Emirates planes can usually be summed up as – World’s leading manufacturers (Boeing / Airbus), relatively young, and top quality with great maintenance and appearance. A quick reference of the airline will confirm that without a self-righteous public call for an investigation with no offer of help or personal engagement.

  15. Sometimes comments from a privilege position is evidence enough. There is a disparity because the standard is always going to be different. If we were to go to the root of the issue, we have to muddy ourselves with ideas such as education.

    If information is power, then the information one receives from their experience of flying is the power.

    On the flip side of the power are passengers who may gasp on take off, clap during landing, and may even cluelessly ask if the attendant can “open the window for fresh air” (actual conversation I overheard). We are expecting the same level of information intake across the board because we are able to understand, expect others to do the same. So no, it’s not quite racism as its classism — after all it’s champagne and shower in the sky vs. 3-4-3s. This reminds me of the character that Billy Zane played in Titanic when it was sinking.

    Even Snuggies come in 3 sizes, and yet we expect the information given at take off to be one-size fits all. For the sake of efficiency, and possibly the 20-80 rule, it make the most sense to do it that way (i.e. showing the safety video that may address the most people). But that does not always mean that it can be a blanket statement of understanding for all.

    And who’s to say that you are not tempted to reach for that bag that is your whole life even at a time like this, when you are not gifted with the 20/20 hindsight. It’s always easier to judge than to empathize.

  16. @Josh – Emirates, Qatar, Etihad have very cheap (I mean dirt cheap) fares to/fro India due to the high demand (even when compared to AI, 9W, etc – actually AI is known to very expensive among the South Asian populations). I have known colleagues who have flown biz on Qatar between Del-Ord for 1500USD before. Etihad publishes round-trip fares for under 900 USD between ORD-DEL frequently. There is significant competition for Trans-Atlantic flights and for flights to the Middle East – albeit for different reasons. I am not at all surprised if 75% of the individuals on board were migrant workers from Trivandrum (aka Thiruvananthapuram) since most of the migrant workers in the Gulf are from the Southern States – namely Kerala.

    I work for an aviation consulting firm and do a lot of business in India and do not support the claims by the government at all. Most foreign airlines actually fly their latest and greatest to India since there is a high demand for the premium products (the country is home to over 300 million middle class and a high absolute number of upper classes). Some examples: LH with the A380 and their 747-8, SQ with their A380 and 777, Emirates with their A380 from Mum and Del and so on and so forth.

  17. The general public of India who fly Emirates out of India and then mostly transfer in DXB to Europe/US have all noticed that the flight that flew them on the India DXB sector was very old than the one they flew immediately after to a Europe/US destination. Old means the seats were broken the ICE screen was small with LCD very dull. The other flight has fresh seats larger ICE screens live TV Wifi more smiling crew etc.

    I agree that the age of the aircraft has got nothing to do with safety but the general Indian public perception is not based on technical aspects of Emirates aircraft but their overall appearance. Also they cannot differentiate between of high density configuration 2 class cabins than 3 class cabins whether it is a 777-300 or 777-300ER/200LR etc.

    Hence the EK521 incident gave an opportunity for the Indian public to rant against Emirates choice of flights to India including the former Indian minister.

    When major revenue of Emirates is from India they need to address this aspect.

    BTW apart from BOM/DEL, BLR/HYD can also handle A380. But Emirates does not fly them here though they fly 3 x daily A380 to JED whose flying time is less than all Indian sectors.

  18. While I completely agree with the fact that given Emirates’ strong maintanence regimes, the age of the aircraft doesn’t really correspond to its safety. That being said, most of the 777s that Emirates flies to India are in fact the old crappy versions. And why that frustrates me, is because of the cabin products onboard. The IFE, being the biggest difference. These old 777s have the old and small low-res screens (in economy class) coupled with the ‘non-screen’ type remote controllers. And I’m sorry, but these old products really dampen the flying experience.. If you fly on their latest 777s, the experience is superb! Same goes in Business Class, where the screens are the lower res kind and the handheld controllers do not feature the iPad-like tablets as on the newer aircrafts. Even the electric shades for the windows are missing! As for first class, they still have those absolutely terrible ‘Skycruiser’ seats, and not the suites.

    Given the fact that Emirates charges the same cost for tickets on these flights, you just end up feeling cheated when you realize you’re flying such outdated and frankly, crappy cabins. I mean, how would you feel if you paid a fortune for flying first class and you don’t even get a suite? Or realize that the new aircrafts have those awesome 13.3 inch high-res screens in ecomomy while you’re stuck with the ancient pieces of shit in the aircraft you’re flying?

    Sure, most people may not even be aware that they are flying with old outdated cabin products, but for those who do, it really does ruin the otherwise memorable Emirates experience.

  19. and as I noted in an earlier post – evacuation controversies hardly only involve populations from South Asia – it’s prevalent among all populations of the world and there is no statistical evidence to suggest that a certain ethnicity departs from an aircraft faster than others. The only fact is that the majority of the public in any country are not frequent travelers and they are the ones who create difficulties. The airlines need to much more forth-coming with instructions on evacuations; especially as the aviation market grows at a rate which surpasses the supply for trained pilots and maintenance crew globally. BA in Vegas (western passengers) and Air China on Aug 1st where passengers were rushing to get their LV and Prada bags are just two recent examples.

  20. @caveman – I thought about that too but I worry that might cause even MORE delay as people try to get their stuff out of (locked) bins

    @pointster – And yes, that would be nice, but that would require people to actually LISTEN to the safety announcements, which nobody does 🙂

  21. I usually fly AA or UA (sometimes DL) internationally (mostly biz). So I would do anything for the sub-standard cabins that all are referring to here – anything is better than the trash flying around on our legacy carriers…

  22. I have flown many domestic airlines, from many different cities to Las Vegas. All of the legacy airlines fly their crap equipment to Las Vegas, because they aren’t trying to impress any business travelers. Example: Delta flies MD-90s on the MSP-LAS route.

  23. I think the less well cared for interiors with inferior amenities are pretty much endemic to flights to the developing and third world. We flew from Canada to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Addis Ababa and back on Lufthansa and you would not have known you were on the same airline. We flew coach and everything from seats to IFE to food were massively inferior flying into and out of Africa. Maybe just my experience, but I really don’t think so. You can also look at US airlines cabin amenities, etc, flying to Europe versus flying to South America. Many similar length flights, few similar business cabins.

    Why do they do it? My guess is because they can. Those flying into and out of Africa are willing to accept the inferior experience and are less likely to know that it should be better (much like domestic US flyers!). For those that are coming from outside the area, it is reasonably likely that it will be the only time they fly the route and they are relying on the reputation and their experience elsewhere with first world airlines, so they accept the inferior amenities the first time too.

  24. These guys should see the planes Delta and AA use in some flights to South America. I would be glad to take one of these Emirates planes that they call old and put on those routes.

  25. @Santastico – amen that!

    I typically fly to/fro DEL and to the best of my experiences, I have found little differences in premium products between the separate legs of the journey to the US and elsewhere in the developed world. I typically fly *Alliance products and sometimes CX. However, DEL and MUM are different since they are the political and commercial capitals and may not compare to the flights out of the second tier cities. Having said that, I have flown frequently on the LH flight which operates an aircraft with a complete full biz class from Pune to Frankfurt and thoroughly enjoyed the care and product. So, I do think the aircraft selections are city-specific and cost-specific, which make sense. I mean just look at AA, DL and UA….. all their aircraft and services are atrocious and we fly them because we have few choices!

  26. Dear Indians, vote with your wallets and boycott Emirates. Emirates exists solely because of subcontinental traffic – do you think they’d have a viable business model if not for the 1.3 billion potential passengers right at their doorstep? Emirates is what it is today because of us. The Kangaroo route from Aus/NZ contributes to a mere fraction of their profits – we are the real money spinners for them. Emirates needs to learn to respect us if they want our money, but we’re all well aware of the Arab supremacist mentality, so I wouldn’t count on that happening (which is funny by the way because they’ve contributed nothing worthy to human civilisation – everything they have today came from either ancient India/China or was invented by white men like those dazzling skyscrapers they have in Dubai)

    Give your money to Qatar or Etihad instead – they’re still Arab, but at least they’re decent – perhaps even Lufthansa or Jet Airways – or even better, hound our politicians until they revive AI and bring it back to its old days of glory. Let Emirates learn a lesson. We’ll see how they’ll survive without 80% of their traffic.

  27. @farnorthtrader

    Yes and no – I wouldn’t place the major cities in India (a developing economy) in the same boat as Addis Ababa (a city in a least developed country). For example, AC flies their brand new 787s to DEL as do many other airline mentioned above by many readers. My experiences out of Delhi and Mumbai have been very pleasant. With airline such as Emirates who operate a mind-boggling number of flights out of India, they have to differentiate the products. The routes from the bigger cities in India such as Delhi and Mumbai cater to the more well-off business and leisure travelers whereas flights from some of the southern cities (not all) cater to a slightly different demographics. At the end of the day, the aircraft for any airline are limited and they have to figure out how to use them. The cost for the flight tickets mirror the experience.

  28. Echoing what other people said — by this logic, AA is racist against the United States because of the visibly inferior planes they fly here.

  29. The ME3 airlines operate as de-facto flag carriers for India, and would probably have a lot to lose if they disappoint the Indian government or Indian people. In fact, AUH/DOH/DXB always seem like extensions of BOM/DEL.

  30. Countries with most number of cities served by Emirates: USA (10), India (10). I have traveled on inferior products out of the USA on Emirates too – especially out of SEA.

  31. To Dan @ Points with a Crew : “…I feel it is totally appropriate to engage in some “social shaming” in an attempt to correct this behavior…”

    Really? Are you bloody hell actually defending the racism towards the South Indians as appropriate social shaming?

    Shame on you Dan !!

  32. To support Jared above and add to John Oliver – Etihad flies to more destinations in India (11) than any other country.

    Qatar used to fly to 13 cities in India but have cut down to 8/9 since some of their routes were not competitive.

  33. @Debit, that’s a nice strawman you’ve got there. It’d be a real shame if something were to happen to it.

  34. @Debit – obviously not. I don’t condone any racist statements, nor have I made any. Trying to separate the behavior from the people doing the behavior was the main reason I backtracked from calling the people “fools” to talking about “foolish behavior”

    I do stand by what I said that this behavior is foolish, and I think it is completely appropriate to bring it up in order to encourage future travelers (whatever their nationality) to a) prepare for emergencies by having their important documents on their person especially during takeoff and landing and b) leave their bags and evacuate promptly.

    If we (as a society) are afraid to mention inappropriate behavior due to the race, nationality or whatever of the people doing the behavior, how are we supposed to learn what is and is not acceptable?!

    I totally get that in the heat of the moment you might not be thinking correctly, and so I can understand what some of the people did. But, this should be a learning experience for them and all of us. Instead it’s turned into people defending that behavior, which is much worse. It’s one thing to make a mistake in a mega-stressful situation (it happens!). Totally another thing to justify the behavior after the fact and say you’d do it again

  35. TG and CX both send their oldest and most worn out planes to India / Sri Lanka. When complaining about the dated hardware I got the response from both airlines FAs that the oldest aircraft are sent there. When talking to Lufthansa maintenance they also told me the messiest planes to clean after arrival in FRA arrive from India. Based on these three of my experiences I can guess that perhaps also EK sends their old hardware there?

  36. @Rambuster…. hmmm…. interesting yet skeptical…. Especially since I have generally flown on fairly well-maintained TG and CX aircraft as well as nicely maintained LH aircraft….at least in Biz and First

  37. ^ What Pierre said. The exact same behaviour was seen when a BA flight burst into flames at LAX, and during the AF evac in Toronto. No one was called a ‘rat’ or denigrated on the basis of their ethnicity.

    I think double standards are a big feature of Western society – y’all put us under the magnifying glass all the time to make yourselves feel better about your supposedly ‘civilised’ selves, but it’s funny because you do the same stupid things anyway. Apparently twice – both on AF and BA. LOL

  38. Caveman u said the right thing.there should be an overhead lock system which engage in a crash landing.

  39. @Loz, you do know you are only allowed to denegrate one nationality per poost?

    It’s an accepted trolling rule 😉

  40. There is no excuse! No one want poor Indian workers die with their bags in hand! If Indian government wants new aircrafts from EK for India, maybe they should look Indian cars and aircrafts first!

  41. Facts? Facts!?! FACTS????

    Who needs facts when there’s a conspiracy theory that plays to your preconceptions, prejudices, and perceived mistreatment?

    The thing is, there is documented proof of foreign workers being horribly mistreated on the Arabian peninsula and that’s something that should be both condemned and ended. But, creating false controversy where there is no actual mistreatment or discrimination does nothing to help these workers and, arguably, hurts their case in the court of global public opinion.

    Facts people. They’re a thing.

  42. @Lucky “It doesn’t change the fact that over the years several planes have exploded during evacuations, killing dozens and dozens of people.”

    Huh? Please cite these ‘explosions’ during evacuations with the implied slowdown caused by people retrieving bags. The fact of the matter is all tangible evidence shows these (selfish) people have not caused any deaths. While I agree with you in spirit, creating fiction does not help. (FYI – Cellphones do not interfere with airplane systems. Remember that lie?!?!)

    “By slowing down the evacuation process, you’re quite literally putting other peoples’ lives at risk, and that’s something you don’t have the right to do no matter what the circumstances are.”

    Again, while I agree with you in spirit, there is NO EVIDENCE of a single death caused by people retrieving bags. The reality is if it were a problem, carry-ons would be banned all together, in the interest of safety.

  43. @mallthus – haha – who are we to demand facts here when even the news media does not care so much about them these days? it’s all about sensationalist journalism – and this is a blog so facts are irrelevant.

  44. Wow. Good job posting this lucky. Drives up your internet traffic and site views (including me). Nothing better to get people riled up!

    Apart from the retarded reference to 1 billion+ people as rats (seriously, are you f**** kidding me), old planes, old IFEs, old farts flying the planes, the real question here is: Why did it crash?

    I have heard a lot of “this might have happened”, “that might have happened”, etc. Isn’t the real question, how can Emirates/any airline avoid this in future? I know the official report will come late, but it is puzzling that a 777 crashes in normal….ish conditions.

    Always amazed at how easy people pass judgement on other cultures/races. These “world travelers” are supposed to have a more open mind, instead pass their judgement on an online forum. I shudder to think how the average man on the street thinks. Sad.

  45. 13-year-old airframe? That’s practically brand new in commercial aviation. Even newer compared to general aviation. I was just in a 32-year-old Piper Cheyenne last month. Of course, its engines and interior had been overhauled at some point, but nothing wrong with it at all. I certainly didn’t feel slighted to be in the ’82 instead of a newer plane.

    I have been on some rugged DL Mad Dogs in recent years which were in dire need of an interior overhaul. No bells & whistles, but worst: the seats were tired & worn out. For reference DL’s MD-88 fleet is probably about 25 years old, MUCH older than EK’s India route aircraft.

    @Loz: Are we being a bit hypocritical, by chance?

  46. While flying first and business class with both Etihad and Emirates can be an out of this world experience, flying economy with them is not even in the same realm in some markets. Economy product to and from Australia for example is decent but nothing like the front of the plane. However, try swapping to a flight at Dubai or Abu Dhabi to most Indian destinations, Casablanca or other similar locations and it is like switching to a cattle train. I have made that mistake twice and will never do it again. As others have mentioned, not just the aircraft are dated but in my experience the internals of the plane look like they have had millions through for a rave party. And the staff clearly do not treat passengers with the same respect that they do on other more Western connecting flights. It really is a case of double standards from the airlines’ perspective.

  47. It’s too bad they can’t fly on one of the defunct (IA) Indian Airlines planes… Once they flew IA and then stepped onboard an “old” 13 year new EK plane, they’d think they just arrived onboard the Royal’s flight!!
    I’d fly EK any day / any where because I know their high standards for safety!

  48. It has been 30 years since I was a FA for Pan Am. I flew to Delhi and Bombay all the time out of JFK. They have not changed in 30 YEARS! If there was a evacuation they would take all their possessions with them and not remove their shoes and puncture the slide at the exit door. I don’t know what is in their psyche but that is the honest truth. One flight I was on to Bombay, we lost several tires on take off out of Frankfurt and Pan Am did not want us to dump all that fuel and go back to Frankfurt, so the Captain called all the crew up in the 747 lounge and told us what happened and we were instructed to be sure and go on crew rest breaks, stow all luggage before landing and NOT TELL THE PASSENGERS because we knew it would be utter pandimonium. Before landing, you are supposed to pick out the most capable looking man and tell him what was going on so he could help people off the plane on the ground- I could not have picked a better guy- an young American doctor. We were on the front page of the Bombay Times- and thank God we landed without any sparks flying and igniting our plane.

  49. I love how people like Loz respond to vile, bigoted racists by…acting like a vile, bigoted racist.

  50. If there was a plane evacuation, I would grab my bags and probably push Ben aside to get to the exit faster.

  51. For the same reason Singapore Airlines flies nearly 20 year old 777s to Jakarta: they could use any aircraft and it would still sell like hotcakes. When you already offer the only regular widebody flights to a city there’s no reason to update it even further. Although the Jakarta route was the first to receive the new A350 on a long term basis =)

  52. Julia, I will respond to vile, bigoted racism by being a vile, bigoted racist myself. Something about fighting fire with fire….
    White racists aren’t going to stop being white racists if we bend over backwards and grovel in front of them. Why should we? That person who called us a bunch of ‘rats’ isn’t going to stop saying stuff like that if we’re nice to them in return.
    The only way to stop it is to bark back, and that’s how we’re going to deal with it now. And regardless of how much we bark back, that doesn’t make us ‘vile, bigoted racists’. We’re merely standing up for ourselves! Your kind started it, now we’re ending it.

    Can you imagine the sheer audacity of someone calling people ‘rats’ in their own part of the world? It’d be like me calling some of the Americans who tried to grab their bags off the overhead compartments of the doomed BA flight uncivilised albinos! Ooh, the disrespect.

    You are now going to feel the sting of being discriminated against when you’re at the mercy of China and India 50 years down the road. We’ve given you too many chances. You’re beyond redemption. Hail racism! Nice blog btw Ben, love reading it. The never-ending controversy on almost every single one of your posts is so fun.

  53. I will only blame airlines for this. Why would they let people carry heavy stuff inside the cabin. It irritates me when I see people bring multiple pieces of luggages, which are big and heavy. Can’t manufacturers give a switch to pilot to lock the overhead bins at the time of emergency. I know it will be expensive to design such a system but still doable.

    And I saw people making racist comments about behavior of passengers. For those, you should check photos of people taking their trolleys from burning British airways flight.

  54. I am an ex-EK flight attendant and I can 100% confirm that EK does NOT send old aircraft to India. On the contrary EK puts a massive effort into looking after their customers from the sub-continent and catering to their specific needs.

  55. Hmmm…I shall repeat. My bro was on the BA flight incident in Vegas last year. He had to push the ppl ahead of him who were too busy looking for their cell phones, hand bags, and in one case some bloody headphones rathern than exit the aircraft. I wonder what we would call these “civilized” westerners who endangered the lives of passengers behind them.

    To Ms CAROLYNNE LOREK – I am a FA for a major European airline which flies to the subcontinent. To be honest, my worst experiences always involve flying to/fro the US for many reasons such as the utter belligerence and self-entitlement displayed by my fellow American passengers and their ability to ridicule our ways of doing things and commenting on how seating on board the US airline are so superior – between my cabin crew and myself, we would gladly offload them so they can fly on board their precious US airline. So hey, we all have our own experiences and views, but let’s not try and push them as the absolute truth since there are always contrary experiences and we only meet a fraction of the population of a nation.

    As I said earlier, the airline need to better educate their fellow passengers on evacuation procedures since no one reads that damn safety pamphlet in the seat-back.

  56. The fact that Emirates sends so called “old aircrafts” should not be the reason for the crash…I believe that the Network operations deals with planning with the aircraft routes and they send different planes to India or other places wether New or old aircrafts. Besides there old aircrafts are really well maintained and clean therefore it should not be a reason for crash…and 13 year old aircraft is relatively new

  57. This is for Gerard Tremeux- yes, Americans can be very belligerant- what does that have to do with the topic we are discussing ? You did not mention that you have personally worked an Indian flight- have you? Perhaps you are very close to a person of Indian heritage- I personally love Indians as they are so kind and friendly and flying there with 2 and 3 day layovers I really got to know them well. The flight perspective is a different thing entirely. I hope you are well educated to get a good job when you decide the flights to US are too much for you.

  58. Dear Carolynne – Merci for your compassion. Yes – I have close Indian friends as I do friends from other heritage including those from the US. My post here has as much relevance to the article as does yours – considering we are talking about behaviors of passengers we detest most through our experiences as FAs. My flight perspectives are very different from yours indeed – and fortunately or unfortunately, the int’l cabin crew which I lead share this experience that flying to the US is indeed very difficult and often a major topic of our pre-flight briefing. For the record, the problems which you cite during evacuation are just as prevalent on flights from other countries (including those that I have done numerous times between CDG and DEL and CDG and BOM), with my current employer, AF and my former employer, SQ.

    I appreciate your concern for my educational background, but I feel that I am in a very good position. However, it is always touching to have strangers worry about oneself 🙂

    Bonne journee!

  59. It’s a shame that indian government is twisting and turning the story of racism whereas they should be thankful that all the passengers are safe and show sympathy that the Emirates fire fighter lost his life saving them. Please don’t bring doubt n fear in the lives of people because somehow or the other Emirates is supporting them and feeding them to some extent so please be thankful to that.What if the same hapens with the Indian airlines what will their explanation be.So be mindful of what you say Indians.

  60. Willing to trade any of these “inferior” aircraft instead of the junk without IFE that I had to fly between MSP and AMS two years ago which didn’t even have a god damn IFE… they have changed it since but seriously which trans-Atlantic flight lacks an IFE in economy in this decade?????

  61. @Loz
    You are absolutely correct, there aren’t many places in the world for this kind of behavior,so they became managers of Emirates.

    @Samantha
    ME3 offers cheap fares ONLY if you are just transiting thru their hub. Standard capacity dumping/price lowering technique on India-USA market. Try Dubai-India O&D you will know. There are 11 other carriers including low cost airlines offer BETTER hard product at cheaper price.

    Bottom line, EK sends dirty dozen (of 157) to India.

  62. @Lucky
    One correction. These old B773s are 3 Cabin.
    India is EK’s lifeline, it will be bad if it loses Indian pax. But I think they are so big and tone deaf.

  63. How did the Arab captain and Australian First Officer of EK521 manage to escape the racist/ethnic maelstrom in this thread?

  64. Lol Oh Loz, sweetie, that isn’t fighting fire with fire, that is same sh*t, different smell…

    Even more hilarious is you making assumption and judgements about me without really knowing anything about my own history, ethnicity, etc. Between that and the other nasty comments you have made, it shows that not only are you just as vile, racist, hypocritical, and bigoted as others, you are also just as woefully ignorant. Either that, or using the bigotry of others to justify your own vileness. But that is ok, one you’ll day catch up and become more enlightened.

    “when you’re at the mercy of China and India 50 years down the road”

    Looooool. No. Just, no.

  65. @Julia

    That last quote made me laugh too, but more so out of sadness, because in ways we’re already at the mercy of China and to some extend India due to our dependence on them for imports, high expenditure purchases, and brains.

    I have to admit that even though I love the US as a proud citizen.

    Sad but the US era is sort of dwindling… As reflected by the best candidates our political parties could muster up..

  66. ….aren’t we already at their mercy? It’s not like we can influence them anymore and heck – we can’t even limit what they are up to… even when it affects us….

  67. @Lucky – After all has been said and done (and insinuated) about Indians in the comments above, I felt the need to put a few things to order here.

    Most Indians working in the GCC countries are manual labourers, who are just one step removed from slaves. I can go into details, but I know it won’t really change your mind unless you’ve met enough of these people. Fortunately, someone else has written far more eloquently on this issue – http://scroll.in/article/813593/emirates-crash-when-you-dont-own-your-liberty-and-property-your-possessions-become-most-important

    Judging them, who by and large are barely literate and have very little to lose, by the same standards you would judge an average American or European is silly. They’re not grabbing their bags because they’re stupid, they’re doing so because without the employment papers and cash in the bags, they might as well be dead.

    On the point of Emirates flying crappy aircrafts to India, it’s not just them. It’s common to pretty much every airlines flying to India. QR, EY, TK and TG are equally guilty on this front. This is simply a function of the crowd these airlines see on their flights (as is the case for Air India and Jet Airways) – the low income and lower educated crowd, which has little knowledge of aircrafts or flying etiquette. The interiors are often damaged and the FAs seem ready for war. I’m not suggesting these airlines send mechanically flawed aircrafts, but they do send the least prestigious ones. Whether this translates to lower care, I cannot say.

    Conversely, airlines which see a better heeled crowd have no qualms in sending their latest and fanciest aircrafts. Good examples are SQ and LH, which get higher paying customers, and hence have no qualms using A380s or 77Ws. Even TK recently switched from using old A330s to a newer 77W on IST-DEL-IST, thanks in large part to the marked increase in leisure travellers from India to Turkey.

    My point here is simple. Before dismissing the actions of the people on the flight or the concerns raised by some commentators, you should acknowledge that there are circumstances which you may not be aware of. It’s not (only?) race, but economics and education levels do play a huge part.

  68. I concur with DSG – and another point, as much as we like to say this is a developing world problem..that’s not the case… there are illiterate (especially when it comes to aviation and etiquette) everywhere including here in the US. I have been privy to a fare share of ridiculous situations in the US and Europe involving non-regular airline travellers and I am sure I am not alone here.

    Also, airlines all across the world use their fleet to suit the demographics. As said above, for premium customer areas (DEL, BOM or LAX, JFK, SFO, etc in the US) airlines use the better products to attract the premium customers – it’s a standard practice and does not in any way mean that the integrity of the aircraft is compromised. My travels to DEL and BOM on foreign airlines in premium cabins have always been pleasant and up to the expectations by western standards. Obviously I don’t fly to the second-tier cities in India so cannot comment on the level of airline interior standards. (Although I flew on the fully appointed biz class LH to Pune and that was excellent).

  69. @DSG

    You are wrong. I bet most of these are middle class and may even be Emirates Group employees. One guy interviewed was a Doctor in Dubai.What about US residents of Indian origin. HYD is EK’s #1 USA traffic source.

    All Indian carriers have very young fleet. Do your research. AI has some old classic A320s on domestic routes, but bulk of its fleet is young. Indigo’s doesn’t keep for more than 6 years. SpiceJet and GoAir also have young fleet.

    Indians do abuse interiors of Air India, because they think they paid for the planes. Counter intuitive, any one would think if you paid for you care for it. But they are well mannered in dealing with property of foreign and private carriers.

    EU carriers used to operate very old aircraft with torn interiors. But after losing market to ME3 they are operating new planes or planes with refurbished clean tidy cabins.

    While preaching others about brand new shiny planes, EK lost its way.

    It doesn’t have money to refurbish old leased planes. It does’t have money to change old J to flatbad or upgrade old ICE. All its revenue goes to paying for glut of new capacity it is adding.

    Question is why can’t it return all old planes immediately and have only relatively new ones. It will reduce the glut and core resource crunch.

  70. I travel in this sector regularly. It is true that the planes are indeed in a very inferior/degraded situation. The infotainment system is historic while the wear and tear is very visible. The 13 years mentioned in this article is an exception, as usually they are a minimum of 16 years old (I regularly check flightradar when i travel).

    I read a comment here about why should Emirates fly a good aircraft to a not so attractive or rich destination. Well Emirates became what it is today by flying these destinations. The main money maker for Emirates when it started off, has been and is the Indian sector, particularly the South Indian sector like the one in the incident above (Mainly due to the fact that the vast majority of expat workers ranging from blue collar to highly qualified executives are from this area of India). These flights were usually fully booked with 2 -3 flights daily in the initial days of Emirates since there weren’t many other players in this sector then. Also thanks to the laid back attitude of the Indian government since Air India is government owned. Even today, these sectors make the most money for Emirates.

    Now, what prompted me to write here is that I traveled this sector again last week. I noticed that all the planes flying now are brand new or less than 1 year old. Is it an interesting coincidence? You tell me Mr. Lucky.

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