Such a Bad Airport: Never Again (Dubai’s International Airport Mess)

I encourage all of you who have horror stories from the DXB airport to share them here.–kas


Part 1

by Kevin A. Stoda

Back in the late 1980s, I once flew the former Belgium national airlines to the USA from Brussels.  When I was on the plane and the plane was on the runway, the pilot came on the intercom and stated, we have to turn around and go back to the gate to replace one of our engines.

Naturally, I was actually happy that the national carrier of Belgium–then called SABENA (Societé Anonyme Belge d’Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne, which is French for  “Belgian Corporation for Air Navigation Services”.)–decided to turn back–thinking that it is safer to have a working engine that a failed one on my flight.

A few months later, I was back in Germany and shared of this incidence with one of my bosses at the community center where I taught part-time.  The manager laughed and asked me if I knew what SABENA stood for.  He then proceeded to tell me that the acronym SABENA stood for: SUCH A BAD AIRLINENEVER AGAIN.


Last July 2016, I had a horrible set of experiences transiting through DXB or the International Airport in Dubai.  Again, yesterday, I again experienced a horrible transit through DXB.  Therefore, I now would like to nominate it for the SABENA TROPHY AIRPORT, i.e. Such a Bad Airport Never Again (Award 2017).

First of all, one must note the UAE, where Dubai is located, has become a hub for exporting expatriates in recent years, so the city is absolutely short on key manpower these days.   This would partially explain the lack of helpful staff between terminal 3 and terminal 2 where I had to transit through yesterday in DXB.

I was arriving on an Emirates flight from Manila and had a 6-hour delay to move between terminals.  However, the Emirates service on board our jumbo jet arriving in the UAE at around 10:30am told us that staff would be waiting to meet us and guide us to our next terminal and/or destinations at the exit ramp.

This just did not happen.  There was no one on hand from either the airport, Emirate Airway, Dnata Courtesy service, nor from any other key welcoming figures at the exit ramp.  People were left guessing and asking all the way to the distant Dnata desk some hundreds of meters away. The signage was either small, non-existent or plainly unhelpful throughout the humongous DXB airport.


Photo taken at Terminal 3 by Moe on 8/15/2012

Finallly, after asking more than a handful of people, I made my way back downstairs half-way back to the exit ramp, I had just exited from nearly a half hour earlier. Downstairs was supposed to be a bus.  However, instead of telling me to go and get on this or that bus, the staffers there were looking at their smartphones, sleeping or ignoring us.  I finally asked which bus to get on.  One man asked me  to which terminal I was headed.  At that point in time, I did not know which terminal I needed to go to but I looked at my boarding pass (given to me back in Manila) and stated I needed to go to Gate F4, wherever that was.

The man looked blankly at me for a minute.  Then I said, “I am just trying to go to the FlyDubai flight to Salalah, Oman.”   The man who had barely picked up his head to glance at me when I came into the area then told me which bus I was to get on. (None of the buses had signs on them to indicate where they were headed.)

I got on that bus and was feeling pretty frustrated.  I complained about what had happened on my journey through DXB to the other tired passengers.  They all groaned in agreement.

After sitting there another 20 minutes–awaiting passengers to stumble their way downstairs from Terminal 3–the bus driver finally got the vehicle started in the hottest time of the day and we headed across the airport grounds.  Alas, a few minutes later–WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT– we stopped to let a slow moving monster of a plane cross our path.  That took another 20 minutes.

We all wondered why our driver had not been able to call ground control before leaving Terminal 3 about such blockage en route.  Later we FlyDubai passengers observed that other bus drivers at DXB also had no means of communicating to ground crews at DXB.  Communication between passenger vehicles and ground crew at DXB is non-existance.  The ground crew at DXB–under-manpowered as it is– simply shoves big vehicles in front of buses and makes them stop for huge periods of time for almost no apparent reason. 

Finally, our bus stopped at another part of Terminal 3 and we were told to get off.  Again, no one met us there at the bus nor explained a thing.  Inside, we were then told to wait another 20 minutes to get on another bus, which would take us to two other terminals.   In the meantime, we observed one bus driver having to come inside and tell some other waiting passengers to get back on the bus we had just gotten off of–i.e. if they ever wanted to get to Terminal 3 that day. (Again, where are the walkie-talkies and other communication devices for bus drivers at DXB?)

When we finally got on our next bus, we were again stopped en route–this time for no apparent reason.  We saw no jumbo jets–and sat out in the Dubai Summer Heat of 50 degree celcius while passengers almost screamed in panic:  “Let us off to walk.  Our flight is in less than half an hour.”

Finally, after another 20-minute delay, the  unlabeled buses got going again.  In all, it had taken 2 hours to move from Terminal 3, where we had gotten off our plane to the FlyDubai Gates.  I felt sorry for anyone who had had less than 3 hours to make that transit at DXB.

Unbelievably, FlyDubai (Arabic: فلاي دبي‎‎), legally Dubai Aviation Corporation (Arabic: مؤسسة دبي للطيران‎‎[2]), is a government-owned low-cost airline with its head office and flight operations.  This makes it a partner of Emirates Airline.  This means that the way we were treated at DXB is likely how Emirates treats all its partners.

Before going to rest, I complained bitterly about my journey to several workers in teh terminal–only to realize that they, too, are treated the same way by DXB and their employers.  Worse, they have to travel to and from the airport every day and it takes them 3 or more hours to do so–in the norm.

After a 3-hours wait in the FlyDubai Gate area, passengers again boarded an airport bus to get on their plane to Salalah, Oman.  It was 5pm but still quite hot outside.

We were driven up to our plane to Salalah but were not permitted to disembark.  We waited nearly a half hour for a second group of passengers and their bus.  Only then were we allowed to board the FlyDubai plane.  In the meantime, I had had to stand most of the time in the sun in the under-airconditioned bus.

Such disrespect for passengers and workers is all too obvious in my Dubai experiences these days.

Part 2 of this article concerns last year’s horrible journey through DXB–not alone on that one, but with family.








About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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