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South African Airways

South African Airways leaves family stranded in Dubai

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Alan J. Saffery, Alan J. Saffery.c  Jun 20, 2008

A British Family were recently left to fend for themselves in Dubai Airport when South African Airways failed to issue paper tickets for the new code-share route between Dubai and Cape Town.

The family, who lives in Armenia, purchased the tickets online and was told by SAA call center representatives in South Africa, twice, that they could pick up the tickets just prior to the flight. Arriving at the airport more that three hours before the scheduled flight, they quickly found out that they had been ill-informed to their detriment – the SAA airline office was to open just five minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. Despite speaking to an SAA representative on the phone, the family was left with the choice of purchasing the same tickets again at a cost of almost US$3200 or missing the flight, waiting until the office opened to get new tickets and then sleeping rough in the airport for 24 hours. The SAA representative, despite the airline being unable to deliver on their promises, refused to provide accommodation or provide compensation.

Being forced to take on the former option of paying for new tickets (largely because they were not thrilled with the thought of hanging around the airport with a five-year old child for 24 hours), the family just made it onto the flight with minutes to spare.

However, the problems didn’t end there. On arrival in Cape Town and seeking reimbursement for the duplicate payment, the family was told by the SAA Refund Department that according to their ‘system’ they had never even flown – with any of the purchased tickets. Despite eventual assurances that the refund would be made, the family remains out of pocket for three return tickets. In spite of numerous international phone calls and emails (those to the SAA Refund Department bouncing), SAA failed to respond or act on the refund request. Only after writing a letter of complaint to the SAA CEO, Khaya Ngqula, did they get a weak apology from the customer service department and the offer of a SAA voucher worth under $200 – hardly enough to cover the cost of a hotel room in Dubai had they been forced to stay there.

SAA, while apologizing and suggesting they will do their best to improve service, made it clear that they were “no changes made” to address the issue. SAA passengers are therefore warned to make sure they have paper tickets before they turn up at the airport. A safer option may be to fly with Emirates, the operating airline on this route.

South African Airways leaves family stranded in Dubai

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