Fog on the morning of 10 Feb

Old Mar 5, 18, 10:32 pm
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Fog on the morning of 10 Feb

Took me a few weeks to write this - almost "forgot" about the incident on the start of a vacation to Oman but I really have to document this to air my frustration.

Took EK 381 from Hong Kong in the wee hours of 10 Feb. First of all, a passenger "didn't feel well last minute" and his/her luggage had to be pulled from the aircraft. Jardine Aviation Services, the ground agent that Emirates uses, is not exactly the fastest and it took them forever to find that piece of bag to remove from the A380 and we pushed back at 0100 instead of 0035. Fine. Then as we started the journey, the aircraft had to go "down" to Bangkok before heading west, presumably because the headwind was very strong. (The pilot confirmed in later announcements that the head wind was extremely strong that day.) Then as we were near the Arabian Peninsula, we were told that we were being put on a holding pattern first for 45 minutes because of heavy fog in Dubai. Then after the first 45 minutes, we were being held for YET an additional 45 minutes as the fog continued. Finally we were allowed to touch down and the aircraft parked at 0735, exactly two hours behind schedule. And of course, we got a remote bay instead. They opened the front door and the back door to let passengers out to board the buses, and of course First Class and Business Class passengers (who unfortunately are the slowest in walking) got off FIRST. So given that we were stuck in the second cabin of economy, we ended up being the last to leave the aircraft. Depending on your connecting flight (whether to Concourse A or Concourse B/C), we got on different buses. Never mind how "long" that journey to the terminal took (should not be any longer than any other time being parked out in remote bay), when we got to Concourse B, half the passengers looked confused, and we just ran through security (very speedily) and were out to look for our gate. Oh yeah, thank goodness for the free wifi on the plane for 2 hours as I already found out which gate the connecting flight to Muscat (EK862) was leaving from. So we got to the gate at 0815 when the flight was supposed to leave at 0825, and the flight did not even board yet. We finally started boarding at 0835 and flight pushed back at 0900. The crew explained that the incoming flight from Stockholm was delayed for one hour and hence knock over effect.

When I thought it was over, it got better. Out at Muscat, got visa on arrival and were patiently waiting for our bags. By the time all bags came out from EK862 and we saw bags from another flight on the belt, we knew things were going wrong. Went to the Oman Air baggage counter (agent for EY) and turns out our names were on the list of passengers whose bags did not come with the flight (there must have been at least 30 names on the list). We were the first two people to report missing baggage; Oman Air ground agent said we should go directly to the EK office at airport anyway if we want to speak to any EK person. We were being picked up by a car to drive up to Jebel Akhbar so we were not sure how our bags would be delivered; I did know that there would be another EK flight later in the day coming from Dubai (EK864). We left our hotel number with EK; EK said that they would call the hotel when the bags arrived, send the bags to "the bottom of the check point down the mountain" and we connected with the hotel and the hotel promised that they would coordinate with EK.

So off we went to tour around before going up the mountains to check into our hotel. Then we handed our luggage report to the hotel, which was used to dealing with this. Long story short; hotel was going to Muscat airport to pick up some other passengers in the evening. They apparently have someone in the airport anyway during the day anyway and they checked in/dealt with EK. We tried to check our luggage status online, and we kept calling EK office in airport after EK864 landed except nobody picked up the phone. The only status we got was through web chat after dinner time and the agent traced our bags and ascertained that both were on EK864, but as to why hotel reception never got a call from EK or why there was no one answering the phone at EK Muscat office, he did not have the answer. The bags finally arrived at our hotel at midnight, thanks to the efforts of our hotel, rather than those of EK.

1) There were 85 minutes between the time EK381 parked at Dubai and the time EK862 pushed off. Either there is something in the system that said EK862 was taking off at 0825 anyway and our bags were deliberately not loaded. or they just missed the flight. Also, not sure if "BT2" on our luggage tag did not help (as opposed to "BT1"). Back then, I once docked in Dubai at a remote bay, and there were only 80 minutes till my connecting flight to Bangkok took off, and our bags made it (albeit with "BT1" on the tag) and were the first bags to appear on the conveyor belt, even before priority luggage.
2) Our flight was the ONLY flight that got held up for two hours. Most flights coming in from Australia / East Asia that morning were only delayed 60 minutes. Somehow I felt EK381 got bullied that morning.
3) If Dubai Airport has become so big that they can't handle anomaly or if an A380 has to be parked out in the remote bay, should they really think twice about their logistics FIRST before they do more expansion ?
4) Seriously.... 30 people had their bags missing in Muscat ?!

As much as I have come to get used to EK, I would probably only fly EK if Dubai is my final destination, rather then connecting to other destinations. At least I know Doha, Helsinki and maybe even Istanbul airports would be more reliable for connecting flights
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Old Mar 5, 18, 10:53 pm
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zhaobao, that sounds like a frustrating experience indeed. Let me try summarize in bullet points what your concerns or complaints are:
  1. A passenger was sick and the off-loading delayed your flight by 25 minutes (assuming no other factors)
  2. The aircraft took a route that appeared longer to avoid strong head winds (and conveniently bypass the extremely congested Chinese air space)
  3. Due to fog your flight had to hold for around 90 minutes leading to a 2h delayed arrival (considering the 25 min delay on departure)
  4. You arrived at a remote stand and had to wait for F and J pax to disembark before you and the bus ride was too long
  5. Pax appeared confused at the transit security check point
  6. You managed to still make your connecting flight because it was delayed a few minutes (not sure if you're complaining that it was delayed or happy that you made it?)
  7. Your bags did not arrive in MCT
  8. EK promised to deliver your bags
  9. Your bags were delivered through coordination between EK and the hotel
Now, I don't like to bash, but the only points above that you can blame EK for are 4. and maybe 7.

There was crazy fog, leading to aircraft having to perform auto-landings in CAT III conditions. A result of this is that aircraft separation must be far greater, reducing the interval between arrivals and leading to delays. DXB was absolute chaos that morning, with thousands of pax missing connections. The fact you made yours is remarkable, that your bags didn't is not surprising and in the circumstance I wouldn't really be too upset by it, you received them the same day which is great. The hotel would not have received the bags without coordination from EK in some form.

It sounds like you're blaming EK for a passenger being sick, and blaming them for the fog, which is not fair.

The bus drive varies a lot in length, if you were heading to B and arrived at the southern end of the airfield near the Royal Terminal the drive is quite long, and requires stopping to give way to aircraft at several points, as well as a roundabout which is a bit of a choke point. No one likes the remote stands, but it happens to all of us regularly.

EK display connecting gates on the in-flight entertainment so you wouldn't have needed Wifi, though I have the Dubai Airports app on my phone and use that + wifi usually to track my onward flights. Also note that while disembarking as you noted there are separates buses for A and B/C, there would have been a person holding a sign indicating flights for which one should take the A bus, another way to identify your connecting terminal (if not mentioned go to B, the list is for A).

As for 4. F and J disembarking first, that's a benefit they paid for.
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Old Mar 5, 18, 11:21 pm
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Let me summarize

1) This complaint is to Jardine Aviation Services. If we didn't incur that 25-minute delay with the bag would we have beaten the system of the holding pattern ? EK385 via BKK sure landed on time that morning.

2) Not complaining - just stating the route plan. I am sure the headwind was really strong and therefore we took a different route.

3) Complaint - Not sure why other planes were only delayed by 1 hour but we were for 2. Would this have something to do with 1) where we had "already missed our original slot" ?

4) Complaint

5) Definitely not complaining that other passengers were clueless when I already had the information on my hand without having to speak with any EK agents. (I was just reporting what happened when we got to Concourse B.) Though there were EK agents around for you to ask questions about your connecting gate.

6) Happy that I made the flight but
7) Complaint that my bags did not. It's not acceptable that "these things do happen". If the value proposition of Dubai airport is to help people connect, then help people and their bags connect. This sure did not happen 4 to 5 years ago when Dubai Airport was not as big as it is today.

8 and 9) EK did nothing in dealing with my bags once they arrived in Muscat airport. It was my hotel that sorted it out with them proactively. Kudos to them.

By the way, I have never been successful in retrieving the connecting flight information on any of the flights on EK into Dubai over the last few years that I was on, all on A380. Yes channel 99 right ?
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Old Mar 5, 18, 11:28 pm
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Opening up an aircraft and finding a bag can be quite difficult, there are potentially over a thousand bags on the plane, and the computer systems would only know which "bin" the bag is in, which could easily hold 30-40 bags, if not more, with the label needing to be manually checked. Given the size of the aircraft one would require equipment, which may have already been moved away. It's frustrating but 25 minutes is plausible, albeit on the higher end of the spectrum for finding a bag. There may also have been other paperwork which took time, revised manifest, perhaps they revised the performance calculations given 150kg or so removed from the aircraft.

If your bags were lost during regular ops, it would of course be extremely frustrating, but you need to realize that DXB was dealing with hundreds of delayed flights during extreme fog which was do dense that vehicles on the ground could not move safely at high speeds. In January I flew through DXB and the fog was so dense one couldn't see the edge line of the taxiway. There was a thread recently about a pax who missed a flight because of an accident by ground vehicles, would you have preferred that, so long as the bag made it?

The bag got to MCT on an EK flight, where it was then offloaded by EK contracted ground staff and someone from EK identified it as a misconnected bag with a PIR (lost bag report), liaised with the hotel staff and got it from the aircraft/ground handling staging area to them.

I barely ever fly on the A380, <10% of my EK flights, as I'm almost always on 77W-exclusive routes, but on the 77W the channel always works. Maybe related to the A380s general lower internet bandwidth problems.
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Old Mar 5, 18, 11:30 pm
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Oh and yeah the missed slot would've most likely been the culprit, I don't know exactly how UAE ATC work, but presumably there is an assigned slot, and if one missed it one enters a queue on a first come first serve basis for available slots, with other pre-assigned slots still taking precedence. So if the slot was for 0730 and the aircraft only entered the UAE/DXB FIR around that time, i.e. missed the slot, then it would enter an ad-hoc queue, perhaps behind 20-30 other such aircraft, but another flight that enters the FIR (Flight Information Region) after your flight, but has a slot at say 0755 and can make it, will still go in and land, while you're waiting for an available slot, either unassigned or missed by another flight, which might only be 0835, 0840 etc.

When filing a flight plan one is assigned a slot time, this can also sometimes lead to departure delays to ensure arrival at the allocated slot time.
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Old Mar 6, 18, 12:42 am
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As evidenced by some recent activity on this forum, even F pax miss their flight!

And also to reiterate: premium pax pay for those benefits and Y pax do not. If you want to deplane quicker, you can always buy a J or F ticket or spend enough to become I/O.
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Old Mar 6, 18, 11:49 am
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Dear OP,

It is a very unfortunate experience, and all the more frustrating that you see the clock ticking without being able to do anything.
Now, something puzzles me. You sound like a seasoned traveler, but you seem to have lots of pre-conceived ideas mixed with a newbie way of thinking.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... it took them forever to find that piece of bag to remove from the A380 and we pushed back at 0100 instead of 0035. ...
Depending on what is the "last minute", 25 minutes to open the hold and find a luggage may not be so bad. Indeed, the pax may have felt bad once inside the plane, and the ULD may have been the furthest to reach. Very annoying, but that's life. Next time, it can be you.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... the aircraft had to go "down" to Bangkok before heading west, ....
Pilots choose the best route. Let them do their job. They don't take a longer route (in distance) just to annoy pax.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... And of course, we got a remote bay instead. ....
Why "of course" ? I had met several delayed flights at DXB, and not all of them parked at the remote stand.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... and of course First Class and Business Class passengers (who unfortunately are the slowest in walking) got off FIRST. ....
Yes, "of course". As others have said, we paid for it.
And then, why are we (I always fly premium) "the slowest in walking" ? What makes you think that ? (To be honest, that is the part that made me react on your post). You had to wait all 90 pax to deplane and that's very long, no debate. But you have no reason to say "we are slow".

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... half the passengers looked confused, ....
I'm confused by this remark. DXB is one of the best in indicating connection paths. There are staff to guide you or panels that say where is your next gate.
But, I admit that first time flyers may be confused. Talking from experience, far from "half".

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... thank goodness for the free wifi on the plane for 2 hours as I already found out which gate the connecting flight to Muscat (EK862) was leaving from. ....
Obviously you didn't pay attention to the pre-landing video telling you which channel will show the connecting flights' gates.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... By the time all bags came out from EK862 and we saw bags from another flight on the belt, we knew things were going wrong. ....
?!? In many airports, several flights share the same belt.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... and turns out our names were on the list of passengers whose bags did not come with the flight ....
This is the surprising part for me. As the info was already available, the crew should have come to you inflight to inform you and have some paper filled. But the flight was probably too short for the paperwork.
Moreover, it is true that EK is not very good at handling delayed baggage at middle-eastern outstations.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... our bags were deliberately not loaded. ....
"Deliberately" ? Do you have proof ?

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... Back then, I once docked in Dubai at a remote bay, and there were only 80 minutes till my connecting flight to Bangkok took off, and our bags made it (albeit with "BT1" on the tag) and were the first bags to appear on the conveyor belt, even before priority luggage. ....
If the flight was on time, baggage transfer is well organized. They can even manage with 65 minutes. If the plenty of flights are messed up - like that day -, they have difficulties reorganizing everything in the minutes.
And you raise a very good point. There is nothing frustrating than seeing non-priority luggage come out first.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... Our flight was the ONLY flight that got held up for two hours. Most flights coming in from Australia / East Asia that morning were only delayed 60 minutes. Somehow I felt EK381 got bullied that morning. ....
Yes. ATC was probably the ex of the captain.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... If Dubai Airport has become so big that they can't handle anomaly or if an A380 has to be parked out in the remote bay, should they really think twice about their logistics FIRST before they do more expansion ? ....
Don't worry they are hiring the best people with a very high salary to organize things well.
When exceptional things happen, it's a little bit messy. But it's the same elsewhere. Look at European airports during snow storms. I don't even mention US airports.
And FYI, even normal scheduled flights can end up at remote stand.

Originally Posted by zhaobao View Post
... Seriously.... 30 people had their bags missing in Muscat ?! ...
What part exactly surprises you ?
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Old Mar 6, 18, 12:08 pm
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Originally Posted by ioto1902 View Post
Pilots choose the best route. Let them do their job. They don't take a longer route (in distance) just to annoy pax.
Actually it's not even the pilots, it's the dispatch team, factoring in not only weather but also overflight costs. If it's an extra $10,000 to fly south and avoid flying over country X but thereby save $14,000 in overflight costs they'll do it. Not saying that's the case here, but not even the pilots plan the route to be short or long.
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Old Mar 6, 18, 1:08 pm
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Originally Posted by skywardhunter View Post
Actually it's not even the pilots, it's the dispatch team, factoring in not only weather but also overflight costs. If it's an extra $10,000 to fly south and avoid flying over country X but thereby save $14,000 in overflight costs they'll do it. Not saying that's the case here, but not even the pilots plan the route to be short or long.
But, OP knows better than trained and licensed Command Captains, licensed dispatchers and air traffic controllers of multiple nations.
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Old Mar 7, 18, 11:53 pm
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I was also delayed on the 10th Feb having to circle Dubai for well over an hour before landing. The fog was unbelievable, the first I knew we had landed was when the wheels hit the ground and you couldn't see the terminal from the runway. In the days before autoland we would have been diverted somewhere inconvenient.

The airport was chaos as noted upthread but people were being rebooked as fast as possible.

Unfortunately such thing happen, fog, headwinds, sick passengers etc etc and sometimes you have to suck it up as the OP should do here.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 12:44 am
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OP, I think you ended up alright: you made your connection and got your bags that same night. Could've been a lot worse given the situation!
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Old Mar 10, 18, 1:29 pm
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Another one of those inconvenienced that morning (hey, what are the chances? Well I suppose fairly high given EK size)

Inbound on an A380, we also ended up with a remote position. Lucky two times though that morning.

1. In that direction, we had a long enough connection (about three hours), so fairly OK even after delay
2. We sat in the back and the back door started letting out Eco pax fairly soon.

Still the ride to the terminal was extremely long. Felt like we actually landed in DWC!
And maybe we landed towards the end of the madness, or maybe it's the European in me - LVP are a fact of life for about half a year at least once a week and sometimes for days at a time - but that was no dense fog that we deplaned into.

As per missing a slot... I can't talk for the Emirati controllers, but that's not something one would implement on arrival. First, it would create chaos in holding - normally, one puts the latest arrival at the top of the stack and pulls out from the bottom. Which means a natural FIFO order emerges.
Granted, there are multiple holdings in different directions usually, but delaying on purpose one flight in the stack means that now the flights over it must leave the stack, descend to get under the flight somewhere else, then rejoin the stack.

You could argue you'd put the delay on the bottom, and pull from above, but that only makes the second problem worse - you're making the late flight use more fuel, and sooner or later, it's gonna run out. Going FIFO makes it more likely flights don't run out that fast.
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