By Dubby Henry
An Auckland couple decided to treat themselves to a luxury, first-class Emirates flight - but it turned into a nightmare when someone went through their luggage and stole more than $4000.
Steve Hay and his partner Andy had spent three weeks travelling in Europe treating themselves to first-class Emirates flights home, which cost them a hefty $27,000 all up.
The pair had splurged on some expensive items in France and had just received their tourist tax refund when they left the country. The airport insisted on paying it in cash, rather than risk something going wrong with the credit card transaction.
So when they boarded their Paris-Dubai Emirates flight on June 30 they had €2674, worth $4168 in their carry-on baggage.
The bag was stashed securely in Hay's suite and the pair headed to the plane's bar, where they spent about 45 minutes.
They returned, watched movies, ate and slept. Then Hay was woken - it was his time to shower, one of the perks of the expensive plane ticket.
When he came back, he went into the bag to get his pyjamas. The money was gone - all but €4.
They pulled everything apart to look for it, then went and told the crew.
"We spent the most hideous hour of our life waiting for the plane to land."
Security came on board and listened to his story. They photographed everyone's passports, searched the couple's luggage and turned the cabin upside down.
"They asked if we suspected anybody. We said we wouldn't have a clue."
Ultimately, security couldn't do much, and the passengers were allowed off the flight.
Hay spent the Dubai stopover trying to lodge a report with local police so he could claim insurance on arriving home. But he said he was told that within the airport he wasn't on Dubai soil so the police had no jurisdiction.
Less than an hour before boarding their flight home, he was told he could lodge a proper police report if he cleared customs - he would just need a visa. That would mean missing the flight and staying overnight in Dubai. At that point, Hay gave up.
"There was no way I was spending another day there and having to rebook the plane. I just wanted to go home - I felt absolutely sick."
On July 2, Hay emailed the company to log a complaint. Five days later, he received a reply from Hubert d'Souza from Emirates' Australasian customer affairs office.
D'Souza said the money had still not been found and that "regretfully" Emirates was "unable to meet any claim regarding this missing cash".
"Emirates does not accept liability for personal items missing onboard the flight. Some of the loss may be covered by your household or travel insurance policy. Therefore, may I suggest that you contact your Insurers who may be able to assist you with your claim.
"We appreciate your support as a valued Gold Skywards passenger. I hope this unfortunate incident has not marred your impression of Emirates. We look forward to welcoming you on board Emirates flights in the future."
Hay thinks that's laughable.
He feels Emirates has treated the couple as if they had lost the money. "We didn't drop it. It was taken. It was theft."
"If they came back and said, 'we're not liable but we appreciate your business and we look forward to having you again - here's a couple of grand worth of vouchers or an upgrade next time from business to first class' - that would have been dandy," he said.
"We would have said, 'we really appreciate that and we look forward to seeing you again'. But now we've decided we're not going to go back with them next year on principle."
He's upset that one of the world's most profitable airlines wouldn't compensate a valued customer for such an experience.
"You wouldn't expect on first-class return airfares that you'd have to secure your valuables when you wander to the bar," he said.
"Every time I hear Team NZ I really wish they would get a new sponsor. You're spending millions on a race boat. If you could give us a couple grand we'd be the happiest New Zealanders in the country."