Sunday, November 01, 2015

Never Pay Marhaba In Advance.

I recently flew to lovely, hazy Singapore, with a stopover in Dubai. It was a trip of many firsts: my first time in Asia, let alone Singapore; my first time flying Emirates; my first flight on an Airbus A380; and my first time in the famous Dubai Airport.

Since I had arranged for a four-hour stopover, I thought it would be nice to kill the time in a lounge. Since my lovely wife and I were traveling coach – not half bad on the A380 – the business lounges were out of the question. But fortunately there was a pay lounge avaialable: Marhaba.

After first getting a bite to eat elsewhere, we went to the Marhaba desk and asked about buying in. The attendants were quite friendly, and told us the lounge was rather full and thus we might not have a seat. I looked around, and while it was indeed full, there were some bistro-style chairs at a table. Good enough. We paid about 100 EUR for the two of us, and enjoyed the lounge.

I was planning on recommending it: it’s not as nice as a real business lounge, but it’s not too expensive and it beats just killing time in the airport. Plus, they mix a strong G & T.

However, the trip home went rather differently, and hence instead of a glowing recommendation I give you this advice:

Never

Pay

Marhaba

In

Advance

Why not, you ask? Wouldn’t it be cheaper that way, you ask?

Well yes, it would be cheaper, except for the part about Marhaba keeping your money if your flight is delayed.

Our flight from Singapore to Dubai was significantly delayed after boarding. We sat on the plane for over two hours waiting for the engines to be replaced, or whatever technical defect they needed to fix (the Captain left us guessing). Then we were further delayed in the air; and just to make sure everyone was in the best possible mood, Emirates canceled the dinner service, at least in Coach.

When we arrived in Dubai, with clearly insufficient time to make our connection, we hustled through security and asked an attendant what we should do. He told us we should hurry. And so we jogged to the gate, and found the plane waiting.

About ten minutes later we were boarded, along with a few slower joggers, and on our way back to Europe.

Marhaba Will Not Refund Your Money.

I had booked the Marhaba lounge, pre-paid at a small discount, back in Singapore this time, as I figured it would be better that way. I had entered my flight number on their web site, so their system was fully aware of the delay.

Once back at a computer, I sent them an e-mail politely reminding them that my flight had been so delayed it would have been physically impossible to go to the lounge before making my connection, and asked them to refund my payment if they had not done so yet. (Honestly I half expected them to have issued a refund already, since they knew about the flight, but then I am a computer programmer.)

Marhaba got back to me promptly and told me that unfortunately, since I failed to cancel the booking eight hours in advance – i.e., since I failed to call them from the air – they would be keeping my money. Have a nice day.

I thought, well, that can’t really be your policy if you’re providing airport services, can it? This must be a pretty common occurrence: flight delayed, services can’t be used, at least issue a credit for the next time, right?

Bear in mind that lounge access is only one of the services Marhaba provides. You can easily shell out hundreds of Euros (thousands of Dirham) on Marhaba services, and then what happens when your flight is delayed, or for that matter canceled?

So I asked for clarification. And I got it:

We regret to inform you that no refund will be processed for a no show booking since any amendments or cancellation should be done at least 10hrs prior to the flight. Please be advised that all no show bookings has no refund.

Never Pay Marhaba In Advance.

Maybe that’s just how they roll in the Emirates. Maybe it’s usually somebody else’s money. Maybe everyone’s rich enough they don’t care about such things.

But if you care about your money, or about the principle of the matter, then it’s imperative that you never pay Marhaba in advance, for anything.

If I fly through Dubai again I might use their walk-in lounge service, since a strong drink is a strong drink, but my credit card shall never again darken the Marahaba website’s door. Neither should yours.

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