Emirates’ First-Class Customer Experience in Response to the Electronics Ban

Krysta Gahagen
5 min readMar 23, 2017

The United States’ Department of Homeland Security announced a ban on laptops and other large electronic devices on some flights from the Middle East and Africa this week. The new policy goes into effect March 25, 2017. This ban includes electronic devices larger than a smartphone, which means you can no longer bring your e-reader, tablet, or portable DVD player with you on flights to the US from ten international airports. While airlines will be able to carry the banned electronics in their cargo hold and passengers can still stow devices in their checked luggage, the option to bring these items in your carry-on bag no longer exists on impacted flights. This sudden procedural change will impact airlines in the Middle East and Africa and their passengers, but Emirates isn’t letting this change slow them down. In fact, they are giving us a great lesson in how a brand should respond to a challenging situation. Their reaction to the laptop ban is centered on providing a first-class customer experience to all passengers.

Let us entertain you. pic.twitter.com/FKqayqUdQ7

— Emirates airline (@emirates) March 21, 2017

What does this ban mean for travelers?

The obvious impact is that all passengers departing from the ten airports with electronics restrictions are forbidden from bringing their larger portable electronics in their carry-on luggage. Two groups have self-identified as highly impacted by the ban: business travelers and parents. Passengers flying for work are often expected to make the time spent in the air productive. With the new ban in place, digital work will have to wait. Individuals may consider taking new routes or adjusting their schedules (nights and weekends — eek!) to avoid being penalized for losing time to travel in the work day. The concerns voiced by parents center on their ability to keep children quiet and in their seats: tablets are modern go-to’s for keeping kids distracted and seated. Even passengers without work deadlines or children will still feel the impact of the laptop ban — Tweets and Facebook comments indicate that new restrictions are confusing and frustrating for passengers.

What does this ban mean for airlines?

Just like passengers, impacted airlines are adapting in order to comply with this new TSA policy. They are training their teams on the new rules and are making sure all customer-facing employees are well-versed and knowledgeable on what the ban entails. Airlines flying out of the ten impacted airports are adjusting their operations to best regulate and enforce the policies. In addition to the impact on the customer experience at the airport, airlines are taking responsibility for providing a clear line of communication to improve the planning, purchasing, and packing phases of air travel.

Emirates in-flight entertainment options are worth swapping for your first-class seat

“Who needs tablets and laptops anyway?”

The Emirates marketing team is a great example of an airline using media to broadcast a message to passengers. A video asks “who needs tablets and laptops anyway?” with a clip of Jennifer Aniston describing the impressive in-flight entertainment that Emirates provides. Emirates tweeted this video with the message “Let us entertain you.” This messaging is compelling and memorable and is simple and clever enough to send a clear message: you won’t have to be without a screen on your next flight. The tweet was retweeted over 2,000 times in the first day and a half.

Providing an effortless customer experience online and offline

Airlines and airports impacted by the electronics ban on flights out of the Middle East and Africa have an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons. In frustrating or confusing situations, they can improve customer experience by lowering customer effort. One way Emirates is doing this is by allowing passengers to store their larger electronics in the cargo hold, instead of storing them in checked luggage immediately upon arrival at the airport. This convenience allows passengers to work until the minute they board. They are also making it easy for their customers to stay informed. In addition to their sassy tweet, Emirates has updated the online resources that travelers frequently reference with information surrounding the electronics ban.

They’re pretty fly for an airline social media team

(Pun intended — and it’s true!) The customer support team at Emirates is made up of social care pros. Emirates treats Twitter and Facebook as legitimate customer support channels. They respond to customers in English and Arabic around the clock. With both the recent press around the electronics ban and with their PR and marketing efforts to educate customers, Emirates is getting asked a lot of questions. @EmiratesSupport is responding to customers in real-time. (We’ve covered their dedication to customer service before as shown by their impressive response times and ability to provide social media support at scale.)

@saff009 Hi Saffin, For now, the ban is for US-bound flights from Dubai. You can check on this link for updates https://t.co/09yErfIibv

— Emirates Support (@EmiratesSupport) March 22, 2017

In the past few days, many customer questions on Twitter have been around the new ban. Customers are asking if they will be impacted on upcoming flights and are publicly weighing the pros and cons of routes for future trips. In order to answer these questions, agents must know which airports are impacted, which routes are included in the ban, and when the new policies go into place. This is particularly important because of the public nature of social media. It appears there was confusion around whether or not routes to the UK were included (they aren’t), but the team consistently addressed these travelers as they would in any other customer service interaction. Agents on the Emirates social media team have shown a great deal of patience, critical thinking, empathy, and hard work this week. Congrats team!

The impact of a first-class customer experience

As a brand often associated with luxury, Emirates has invested the customer experience. Through the accommodations they are making in airports to the in-flight entertainment options to their helpful digital replies, Emirates is setting a strong example of a great airline customer experience. Research from Twitter indicates a 3% increase in customer spend when you successfully answer their questions and resolve their issues on social media.

Data from Applied Marketing Science for Twitter

Emirates is not about to let that go to waste. They have committed to providing a low-effort customer experience from start to finish and their customers love it, in spite of any new policies.

Want to learn the strategies, policies, and tactics that go into building a digital care program that provides low-effort customer experience? Download Sparkcentral’s Airline Executive Playbook today!

Originally published at www.sparkcentral.com on March 23, 2017.



Krysta Gahagen

daylighting at @linkfluence/@meltwater. previously @sparkcentral @shyp, @motionloft. interested in other non-work things sometimes, too.