Trapped in Dubai with 2 kids

Old Jul 13, 17, 8:55 am
  #1  
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Trapped in Dubai with 2 kids

First time posting, wish it wasn't in these circumstances, but really at a loss...

My sister, a single mom traveling with two kids (7, 11), is trapped in Dubai, without luggage (correction, finally delivered) and facing a $18,000 ticket to carry on. This is still being resolved, and Iím really hoping they can find some sympathy, but so far there has been none and so I'm asking this forum for help, in whatever way, to end this nightmare and help her on her way.

First, I want to be upfront, she made a mistake, she failed to bring her kids birth certificates with her and an affidavit form. She is traveling from Houston (lives in San Antonio) to South Africa where these docs are required. She is visiting me and my family, at no small expense already.

Normally the airline checks and will not let you board if you donít have these docs, but they didnít. Thatís where the nightmare begins. She landed expecting all to be fine and was barred from her connecting flight where she is currently trapped. Heaven and earth has been moved to get those documents with her ex-husband signing documents in the middle of the night and driving 5hrs to deliver them to the airport to get them on route. The docs are currently in the air and will arrive this evening at which point the airline might find some humanity and help her.

They say there are no available seats in economy until the 20th . So stuck with two very unhappy kids, only recently with luggage, spending way too much for a hotel and the airline is saying they can't upgrade an existing customer, and make them over the moon happy, and let my sister and kids sit in economy.

Sheís tried, weíve called, we are at a loss. Might it get resolved today, maybe? Might she wait there for 5 days or be expected to pay a completely unaffordable $6,000 per ticket to carry on traveling, maybe?

We donít know what to do and so contacting this forum for advice or assistance in whatever way is possible.

Thank you
Justin
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Old Jul 14, 17, 4:13 am
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Sadly, this is happening every day and not only on Emirates. Emirates is just applying the law of not letting a passenger board without all proper documentation. The rule in South Africa has changed over a year ago. I had a friend trapped in transit in south Africa just after the change.

Planes may be full, but they do have no show too. Emirates seems to be nice enough to let her on the next available plane. The way to get higher chances is to potentially upgrade your ticket to flex plus for that leg if they allow it or ask how much would be an upgrade to business class. It's for sure not 18k usd! They may also consider re-route you to another airport in South Africa, they fly to JNB, Durban and Cape Town. It's school holidays for the moment in the country, so that's one of the reasons of full flights.

Waiting simply at the airport on standby may give you the best chances, but not that fun to do with two kids. Bear in mind, there is also a good chance they will not be able to sit you together if you are flying on a saver ticket.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 4:24 am
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Unfortunately that is the law. Emirates displays these requirements very prominently when searching for flights involving a South African airport and also in MMB.
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not really sure what one could do. If they can enter DXB check for cheaper one-way ex AUH or on other carriers and ask EK to protect the return?
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Old Jul 14, 17, 4:49 am
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Originally Posted by maisondubonheur View Post
Sadly, this is happening every day and not only on Emirates. Emirates is just applying the law of not letting a passenger board without all proper documentation. The rule in South Africa has changed over a year ago. I had a friend trapped in transit in south Africa just after the change.
But, shouldn't Emirates have checked if all the paperwork was in order before letting them even fly out from Houston?

I believe the carrier (in this case EK) is responsible for the passenger (in transit), so that's why they need to make sure everything's ok for them to enter the country they're travelling to, which in this case was SA. (And so, by having allowed them to start the journey, Emirates would be obliged to at least fly them home free of charge, or am I missing something here?)
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Old Jul 14, 17, 4:53 am
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Originally Posted by JasperT View Post
But, shouldn't Emirates have checked if all the paperwork was in order before letting them even fly out from Houston?

I believe the carrier (in this case EK) is responsible for the passenger (in transit), so that's why they need to make sure everything's ok for them to enter the country they're travelling to, which in this case was SA. (And so, by having allowed them to start the journey, Emirates would be obliged to at least fly them home free of charge, or am I missing something here?)
While the immigration authorities, if at the point of entry, will force EK to fly the passenger out of the country again, EK have every right to charge the passenger for that.

During OLCI one specifically clicks that one has all the documents required for travel.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 5:01 am
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Originally Posted by JasperT View Post
But, shouldn't Emirates have checked if all the paperwork was in order before letting them even fly out from Houston?

I believe the carrier (in this case EK) is responsible for the passenger (in transit), so that's why they need to make sure everything's ok for them to enter the country they're travelling to, which in this case was SA. (And so, by having allowed them to start the journey, Emirates would be obliged to at least fly them home free of charge, or am I missing something here?)
Yes, Emirates should have checked all necessary documents, however the check in agent probably didn't know as this is a SA specific requirement. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the passenger to have all the required documentation. In DXB, destination-specific checks are more thoroughly enforced at the gate and EK gets fined heavily if the passenger does not provide the required documentation. EK has the responsibility to return the passenger back to their origin if they do not possess the required documents.

You are unclear whether the change fee they are charging is $6,000 or that is for an upgrade? It is unreasonable to expect EK to upgrade your ticket for fault of your own. In fact, they should be charging you the no-show fee for that flight and applicable change-fees and fare difference for rebooking you onto the next flight. Hotel, food and visa costs in DXB are of course your responsibility too as it is no fault of EK.

My recommendation to you is to negotiate with EK to waive the no-show fee and change fees and put you on the next available flight. Frankly, it is your fault and you would be lucky to continue your journey with no other fees. However, you could try and argue they did not perform the necessary checks at IAH. You would probably have to get a manager involved and of course as usual, having status with the airline always helps.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 5:29 am
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Scans will be fine. Last year I scanned the birth certificates for my boss's children when they were flying from mauritius through joberg with a stop over and noticed they forgot the documents while they were already in mauritius.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 5:31 am
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Well, EK should not have let them board in IAH, so they are EK's responsibility in DXB. I don't understand why a scan of the relevant documents could not have been emailed to your sister. I'm fairly certain copies would have been acceptable.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 6:23 am
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I think all this could have, should have-talk isn't much help for the OP. I can understand that check in staff at HIA doesn't know about the migration peculiarities for all the connecting flights at DXB, unless there's a computer system that automatically lists all these requirements for each individual passenger.

But regardless, I would also check other airlines, if you are lucky, this won't cost an arm and a leg. If. Etihad would be a short transit, Qatar is a bit difficult to get to but still possible. Then there's South African, and if these options fail the European carriers (BA, LH, KLM/AF, ...) might also be an option.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 6:38 am
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Originally Posted by makrom View Post
I think all this could have, should have-talk isn't much help for the OP. I can understand that check in staff at HIA doesn't know about the migration peculiarities for all the connecting flights at DXB, unless there's a computer system that automatically lists all these requirements for each individual passenger.

But regardless, I would also check other airlines, if you are lucky, this won't cost an arm and a leg. If. Etihad would be a short transit, Qatar is a bit difficult to get to but still possible. Then there's South African, and if these options fail the European carriers (BA, LH, KLM/AF, ...) might also be an option.
QR would require routing via Muscat, while SA doesn't operate any flights to the ME.

There is a computer system which check-in staff should've used in IAH, it's called Timatic, and it does have the information about unabridged birth certificates.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 7:01 am
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Originally Posted by LondonElite View Post
Well, EK should not have let them board in IAH, so they are EK's responsibility in DXB. I don't understand why a scan of the relevant documents could not have been emailed to your sister. I'm fairly certain copies would have been acceptable.
I'm not sure I agree 100% on this.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 7:02 am
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OP - Let's start with trying to be helpful to your sister.

1. Call EK here in the US and ask whether it will accept a PDF of the documents and then "release" your sister. If not, can your brother-in-law produce originals to EK at IAH? Lastly, email PDF's to your sister, have her print and present them to EK. Have her print the email as well and have it handy if anyone cares where the copies come from. Bear in mind that EK accepting the documents for travel is only half of the battle. Will South African authorities accept them? TIMATIC --- below --- suggests not, but I don't have experience with the particular situation so can't speak to it.

2. EK may well be sold out, but people cancel, no show, misconnect and so on. Once the document mess is cleared up, your sister ought to ask whether she and the children may show up early for the next flight and be placed on it space available (stay away from the standby concept).

Turning to the EK responsibility, because your sister cannot travel as ticketed, EK should have offered to return her to IAH. It will certainly take any remaining segment coupons and may attempt to charge her more after the fact. But, she isn't really stuck, the question is whether EK has the responsibility to get her to SA. It does not.

Turning to the broader issue because this is a public forum and this situation could happen to others:

1. EK's sole duty is to return the sister to IAH. It may charge her for that, presumably using her return segments. At some point local authorities at Dubai will force the issue on EK.

2. Air carriers check documents for one reason and one reason alone. That is because they are fined and required to transport people back to their origin if they deliver a passenger lacking required documentation. While this may be a passenger convenience as well, the duty to have all required documents for each connection and destination country is solely the passenger's.

3. OP points out that the sister made a mistake. For the sake of others, the information required for this journey is available through a number of sources, but perhaps the easiest is the database used by the air carriers themselves, TIMATIC. There is free access to the public through a number of channels. I checked TIMATIC for the sister's situation, presuming that she and the children are US nationals holding standard passports and are traveling for less than 90 days from the US to South Africa with a connection at Dubai. Below is a cut & paste of what TIMATIC returned. I edited out extraneous information not relevant to this situation.

4. The agent at IAH made a mistake too. Perhaps he ran TIMATIC with Dubai not SA as the destination. Perhaps he did not read far enough. But, all his error does is possibly subject his employer to fines. The agent at Dubai caught the error.

Minors younger than 18 years, traveling to/from South Africa:
a. with both parents, must hold an original full birth certificate containing information about the parents, or a certified copy, or an equivalent official document containing details of the minor and the minor's parents.
b. with 1 parent, must hold an original full birth certificate containing information about the parents, or a certified copy, or an equivalent official document containing details of the minor and the minor's parents; AND
- Parental consent affidavit from the absent parent; OR
- Letter of Special Circumstances; OR
- A court order granting full parental responsibilities or full legal guardianship to the present parent; OR
- In case the other parent is deceased, a death certificate.
c. with an adult other than a parent, must hold an original full birth certificate containing information about the parents, or a certified copy, or an equivalent official document containing details of the minor and the minor's parents; and parental consent affidavit, copies of identification documents of parents/legal guardians, contact details of parents/legal guardians and contact details of the person in whose care the minor will be.

This does not apply to minors if the information about both parents is included in the passport or other official travel documents of the minor.
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Old Jul 14, 17, 7:09 am
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Originally Posted by skywardhunter View Post
QR would require routing via Muscat, while SA doesn't operate any flights to the ME.

There is a computer system which check-in staff should've used in IAH, it's called Timatic, and it does have the information about unabridged birth certificates.
Yeah the usual KWI or MCT routings with QR, inconvenient but doable. I didn't mean SA metal but trying SA ticket stock.
Didn't know this is a Timatic entry, thought that's for passport and visa requirements (but I never flew to SA with a minor, so I can't speak from experience).
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Old Jul 14, 17, 7:11 am
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Originally Posted by makrom View Post
Yeah the usual KWI or MCT routings with QR, inconvenient but doable. I didn't mean SA metal but trying SA ticket stock.
Didn't know this is a Timatic entry, thought that's for passport and visa requirements (but I never flew to SA with a minor, so I can't speak from experience).
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Timatic is for entry requirements, of which this is on for a certain group of travelers (minors)
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Old Jul 14, 17, 7:37 am
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An unfortunate situation but I agree entirely with Often1's advice.

I think a question could be raised as to whether acceptance at origin means the OP should not be liable for costs, but it does not look as if EK is charging no-show etc., and it is simply an unfortunate situation with flight overbooking.
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