stuck in dubai…

Sehba Sarwar

As the British Airways flight descends into Dubai, I wonder if we’ll make our Karachi connection in time. We already know that there might be some problems – as we descend, there have been several PA announcements informing passengers to allow all 14 of the Karachi-bound passengers Karachi to unload first since we have a tight connection to catch. Not knowing what lies ahead for us, I smile when I hear the announcements; this is the first time I’ve heard Karachi-bound passengers being given priority.

But once we reach the Emirates gate thirty minutes before our Karachi flight is due for take-off from Dubai, all 14 of us are told that we have been off-loaded because Emirates doesn’t want us to land in Karachi without our bags. We are exhausted. Most of us – including Minal and me – having already been in journey for more than 20 hours.

“Go to the transfer desk,” says the Emirates representative, barely glancing up from her telephone.

I dig my heels in and demand to speak to an Emirates Manager.

“This is a British Airways problem,” the woman tells me. “Their flight was late and they need to take care of you.”

Finally, Nisha, a British Airways manager, joins us and she tries to intervene on our behalf. As she talks to the Emirates representative, we watch other Karachi-bound passengers show their boarding passes and enter the gate.

I turn to Nisha and ask, “This is an airline feud, isn’t it?” I already had a hint about some conflict when yesterday morning I called Emirates to ask to use our miles for an upgrade, but was informed that I would have to purchase my ticket through Emirates to use their mileage rewards.

We watch Emirates Karachi-bound flight gate close and then are invited to rest in the British Airways lounge while BA representatives try to sort out the mess.

At 3:30 am, Dubai time, instigated by a fellow passenger who coincidentally is related to my sister’s husband, I write a letter of protest to Emirates. As I collect signatures from fellow passengers, Minal trails close behind me, watching me.

Once alone in our corner of the British Airways lounge, she says: “Ammi, you’re a protestor.”

I laugh. “Do you like that about me or do you not like that?”

I hear hesitation. “Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t … But really, I do.”