My daughter’s retainers were lost forever on Emirates — can you help?

shutterstock_139695640
By | January 1st, 2017

Abduljabbar Jaber’s daughter’s retainers vanish on an Emirates flight. He tries to get Emirates to pay for the equipment, to no avail. Can our advocates help?

Question: On a recent Emirates flight from Seattle to Amman, Jordan, the crew threw my daughter’s teeth retainers in the trash. The retainers were in a case on the tray table. My daughter was in the restroom and my wife was sleeping when it happened.

My family asked the Emirates crew for help in finding the retainers, but they were not successful. They also asked at the Emirates counter after their arrival at the Dubai airport. Again, they did not get any help.

I contacted Emirates customer affairs in New York, and requested compensation for the cost of the retainers. A supervisor refused to resolve the problem or offer any solution.


I also contacted Emirates CEO Tim Clark, but never received a response from him. In addition, I sent several emails to the supervisor regarding other bad experiences my family had with Emirates, such as charging my family $100 to carry on two bags.

Also, a day before the original return date, my daughter Sommer was admitted to the emergency room in Jordan and consequently was unable to travel for two weeks due to an extremely contagious illness. I contacted Emirates for help, but instead they charged us $557 to change the reservation, including a penalty fee. Despite these problems Emirates customer affairs is still refusing to replace or refund $440 for the retainers.

Would you please contact the right department or the right person at Emirates on our behalf to help us resolve the problem? I hope you can reach someone who is willing to do so. — Abduljabbar Jaber, Everett, Wash.



  • Alan Gore

    Thus frays Emirates’ reputation as “one of the great airlines.”

  • AJPeabody

    Unfortunately used wrong tone, letting airline rationalize “No proof that retainers existed.”

  • Rebecca

    Something doesn’t make sense here. If you get up to go to the bathroom, you have to put up your tray table. And, for sake of argument, it wouldn’t be something horribly difficult to find in the trash. It simply doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s more likely they were lost some other way.

    Add to that a bunch of random complaints that are literally barely readable (although I suspect part of that may be a language issue – which is still no excuse to take a nasty tone), I’d suggest staying away from this one.

  • greg watson

    I agree with you Rebecc, my case could never be mistaken for trash. Also, someone sitting with her , maybe, could have prevented this from happening ? I am not sure this case, or the way the OP handled it, is worthy of consideration …………….uncertain as to it’s accuracy.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Looking at the original story, the person sitting with her was sleeping. Also, I could easily see my kid leave something like a retainer on a tray table that, in a darkened plane, would look like trash. So I believe the story.

    But, I’m not clear how the airline is responsible because the kid was careless, particularly when there may be lots of trash and they don’t have time to sort through it all. The other complaints also weaken the case, because they don’t appear to be well founded.

    I bet a small claims case would be lost if there was any defense put on by the airline.

  • Tricia K

    I’ve dug in the trash for my own dental appliance that I carefully wrapped in a napkin (I forgot the case) but then forgot about the napkin when I dumped the tray in the trash. It’s a fairly common occurrence as many parents and orthodontists will agree. i don’t know who’s fault it was, but many orthodontists will replace them at a reduced cost–once.

  • Bill___A

    Buy some new ones and pay better attention next time. It would have been nice if the airline were able to help them but certainly not the airline’s fault. I had my glasses fall off the “tray” (it was a side tray not a fold down one.) on a business class seat once, while I fell asleep. The glasses were found on the floor of the plane, broken. I’m sure I could have speculated a lot of things about who could have had a hand in this but instead, I accepted responsibility, got the glasses taken care of, and I take steps to more effectively store them ever since.

    I think that a consumer advocate site is an excellent mechanism to hold people and companies accountable when they have done wrong, but we as passengers need to accept some responsibility for some things ourselves, and taking proper care of things or kids’ things ia a good place to start. I wouldn’t be bothered to try and get the airline to pay for these, it quite frankly isn’t their problem.

  • MF

    A lot of ‘blame the OP’ in the comments here. I do think that most pax think of their tray table as their ‘personal space’ while on a flight. That being said, for a FA to remove items from a tray table without the occupant’s consent is not reasonable, unless landing is imminent or some other safety issue is involved. As for the ‘proof’ nonsense, this is a customer service issue, not a death penalty trial. On the other hand, Emirates doesn’t want to be responsible for ppl’s imaginary personal possessions, and I’m sure more than one OP has tried to scam them.

  • Bill___A

    Most of us commenters I expect have flown quite a bit (I know I have) and have had a lot of experience in the cabin of a plane. I am not quick to defend the airline crew by any stretch of the imagination, but the impracticality of scanning each person’s tray and coming back to those which may have a personal item on them is not practical at all. As mentioned, it was unfortunate that the flight crew wasn’t able to be more helpful but it most certainly is a case where the passenger has to be a bit more aware of that they are doing, and the possible consequences. A meal tray is something that one would expect is going to be removed at one time or another, and there should be no confusion about that.

  • JewelEyed

    I really can’t figure out how a retainer case could be mistaken for trash. The most common cause of retainers being discarded is when they’re wrapped in a napkin, which I could imagine happening, but in the case? How strange.

  • Mel65

    I’ve never flown Emirates, but they must definitely be a higher caliber of service than the other airlines I have flown! Typically the FAs walk through the aisles carrying the trash bag and you put your own trash in it or you hand it to them and they put it in; I’ve actually never had an FA reach over and take any trash off of my tray table.

  • MF

    Tray table v meal tray, it isn’t clear to me where the item was located

  • PsyGuy

    Good job, the other complaints are just whining about the business model (hate it or love it) the airlines have adopted. Bad fortune is not the company’s problem or responsibility.

    What I further disagree with is that this is somehow Emirates fault, the LW’s daughter left something valuable to be thrown away, this should teach her to take better care of her things. Consider this a life lesson in responsibility.

  • PsyGuy

    This PAX could have just as easily put the retainer in the seat pocket instead of the tray.,

  • PsyGuy

    Actually there are a lot of skinny people that can lift a tray table a few inches and squeeze out of their seat, I can.

  • BubbaJoe123

    How do they collect the meal trays then?

  • Bill___A

    Not sure either but in the greater scheme of things you just have to be more careful. They aren’t babysitters.

  • taxed2themax

    As I read it “… they were unsuccessful” implies some effort was made by the cabin crew… IF it were written something like ‘they didn’t try’ or similar, THEN I might agree with your assertion.

  • sirwired

    This is a marginal case to begin with, and certainly the laundry-list of odd complaints did the main complaint no favors.

    But, on another note, I am baffled at the suggested resolution. Small claims makes sense I suppose, but a DOT complaint? No contract or legal violation in making a mistake on-board; the DOT enforces Contracts of Carriage and DOT/FAA regulations, not every aspect of an airline’s interaction with a customer. And a credit card dispute? Dispute what? What could you possibly tell the bank you are disputing?

  • sirwired

    If there’s a bunch of trash bags, there’s not really any room to search them in an airline galley, nor is anybody involved dressed for it, unless the passengers are.

  • The Original Joe S

    I wouldn’t fly with them.

  • The Original Joe S

    I hate you! Ha ha ha ha!

  • The Original Joe S

    They swiped the newspaper I bought and paid for and gave it away while I was asleep. Now, I write my name on my paper in big red letters. Not difficult to recover it when you do that.

  • KennyG

    Just wondering if the retainer owner was in the bathroom, and the retainer owners family member was asleep, how do they know it was an FA that picked up the retainer and threw it in the garbage?

  • MarkKelling

    They have meal trays on the airline you fly?!?!

    Mostly the flight attendants throw a bag of chips or a small box of snack items at the passengers on the planes I fly on. ;-)

  • BubbaJoe123

    Sure they do, on int’l flights. Even in coach. This was an Emirates flight. It wasn’t Dayton to Atlanta.

  • jm71

    A lot of commenters are making assumptions. Were the retainers/cases on a meal tray (that would obviously get picked up)? If so, then fault is completely on the daughter, and it’s a lesson learned.

    However, if as it sounds to me they were on an otherwise empty table (or with other personal belongings, like books/headphones/etc, and the FAs were just proactively picking up what they thought was extra trash, then it is on them. Yes, many small people/kids can and do get up with the tray table down, and it’s reasonable to expect that I can leave my stuff at my seat when I go to the bathroom without the airline taking it. I highly doubt another passenger stole her retainer…

    As to Emirates “reputation as one of the great airlines”, meh — I only flew them once, and some things were very nice (the entertainment system on the long-haul planes is very nice), but the configuration of the planes are awful — their 777s with 3-4-3 seating are noticeably narrow and uncomfortable, the underseat spaces don’t line up, etc etc. I know other airlines are now following that lead and redoing their 777s, but it’s no less awful. Plus, I’ve decided not to transit via a country where sexual assault victims are arrested and charged with a crime for having an extra-marital affair, but that’s just my personal world-travel choice.

  • Annie M

    The only thing I don’t understand was why the FAs didn’t just let them go through the garbage.

    However his whining about the overweight bags and change fees makes me believe he not only takes no responsibility for his own actions but he even blames the airline for everything.

    I am curious how the daughter was able to get out of her seat to go to the bathroom leaving the tray table down. I know I can’t get out if my seat if I don’t put the tray up.

    Daughter should not have left the retainer on the table but I wonder if there is more to the story.

  • jim6555

    Or the retainer was left on the meal tray which was on the seat back tray in front of the middle seat and the passenger was seated in the aisle seat and therefore did not have to lift the tray to get up.

  • AAGK

    Do you know how much trash my dad looked through to find my retainers when I was a kid? A lot. I was always throwing them away by accident and never put them back in the case. I put them in a napkin. I’m not sure how this relates to the airline.

  • Lindabator

    Emirates is an international flight, so yes – they serve several meals/snacks

  • Lindabator

    they are one of the finest airlines around

  • Lindabator

    try putting it in your seatback

  • Annie M

    I had the same thing. And the only one blamed was ME!

  • AAGK

    Me too! Once I left it on a train and my dad drove the next 4 stops until he caught the train, ran on and found it on the seat.

  • The Original Joe S

    After I fall asleep while reading it, Ms Negative?

  • The Original Joe S

    so say you. I don’t wish to fly with them at this point. Opinions are like noses……

  • Lindabator

    why the snark? If it is in the seatback, nobody is “taking” it from you — You are the only negative one hear – just complaining., but not looking for a solution IS negative

  • Kerr

    Why would anyone else on the plane take someone’s retainers?

  • Tigger57

    This family has way to many problems and shouldn’t leave home! Take responsibility for your own problems! Why does it seem lately that everyone thinks someone else should pay for their problems?

  • KennyG

    Not sure exactly where I said someone else took the retainers in question.

  • Mel65

    I’ve not been served a meal on a flight in forever does everyone on Emirates get one? In that case I’d think they’d grab the tray and leave anything else. Maybe the retainer was on the meal tray then.

  • The Original Joe S

    Because it’s your typical retort to be snarky, Ms Snark! Ha ha ha!

    If it’s on my chest and I’m asleep, how its it OK to take it off my chest and give it away? Because I don’t agree with your solution, which is no solution [ see “ASLEEP”, above ], you keep telling me “SEATBACK” over and over. You DO know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, don’t you? It’s not operative. If I FALL ASLEEP, am I going to autonomically put it into the seatback while sleepwalking / sleepsitting?

    Now, if it were an airline-issued paper, then I can see the point. However, it was MY paper which I purchased. The solution [ see above – pay attention! ] is that I write my NAME on it in RED so that they leave it alone while I’m sleeping. The flight attendants can read……

  • Kerr

    You question the OP’s contention that a FA took the retainers. So if not a FA, then who took them? Can’t exactly claim they fell out an open window.

  • BubbaJoe123

    You must not travel internationally. This was a 16 hour flight.

  • KennyG

    Reread my comment especially where I said “like maybe the young girl actually lost it and now…..”. Seems like I wasn’t intimating anything you seem to have somehow read into my comment. I was pretty much directly saying, like so many people nowadays, it was possibly lost, possibly even by the daughter, but heaven forbid that the family accept any responsibility. Please show me where in the OP’s comments he said that he or his wife or his daughter or anyone else actually saw the FA throw out, steal, misplace or otherwise do anything sinister or accidental with the retainer.

  • PsyGuy

    Or stuff happened.

  • bpepy

    Ha ha!!

  • bpepy

    They are a great airline.

  • The Original Joe S

    That many people like them doesn’t sway my opinion. I like Asian airlines from the Far East.