Emirates has processed refunds worth AED 6.3 billion ($1.7 billion) since April, during aviation’s worst-ever year. The amount is split between a staggering 1.7 million refunds, meaning that the average refund amount is roughly $1,000.
Airlines have found themselves in a very peculiar position this year. After an incredible 2019, everything suddenly ground to a halt in early 2020. Typically, if a flight is canceled, passengers will be rebooked. In this case, thousands of flights were canceled, with rebooking almost impossible given the vast schedule cuts.
This meant that airlines suddenly had a substantial refund burden across the world. When airlines were already facing a loss of income, it was the last thing air carriers wanted to have to deal with.
Refund backlog cleared
While some airlines such as British Airways and Qatar were able to keep a skeleton network running during the darkest days of COVID-19, this was not the case for Emirates. The Dubai-based carrier was forced to suspend all of its flights in late-March by government order.
The grounding meant that all of the airline’s flights were canceled, and the road to recovery was a slow one. It’s relatively easy to deal with a couple of cancelations from an administrative point of view, but nobody was prepared for the enormous task that lay ahead.
Rather than laying back and taking it as it came, Emirates quickly identified the need to allocate more resources to dealing with flight cancellations than usual. Indeed, the refunds team was grown rapidly from 19 people to 110. This was achieved quickly by internal staff shuffles.
In late April, it said that it had almost half a million refunds to process due to the government flight ban. For comparison, the airline usually receives 35,000 refund requests in any given month.
The airline made incredible progress in returning cash, with over 1.4 million requests being completed by early September. However, now the entire backlog of cases, amounting to 1.7 million claims, have been dealt with.
While Emirates has cleared the backlog, it is still getting many refund requests each day. However, according to Emirates’ president Tim Clark, the airline can now deal with these within seven days of the request being received by the airline.
Commenting on the news, Clark said,
In the early months of 2020, COVID-19 massively disrupted travel around the world and led to an unprecedented volume of refunds requests across the aviation and travel industry, including at Emirates. Through those difficult months, as we dealt with the impact of the pandemic on our business, we’ve never lost sight of our commitment to our customers.