Dubai's Atlantis confirms Sandance NYE refunds

Every ticketholder, including those who attended, to be reimbursed

People watch the fireworks on the street outside Atlantis The Palm Dubai.
People watch the fireworks on the street outside Atlantis The Palm Dubai.

Sandance event organisers on Thursday announced a full refund to all ticketholders after failing to ensure everyone could access the event at the Atlantis The Palm hotel on New Year’s Eve.

Every ticketholder, including those who made it to the music festival, will be given their money back, a spokesperson for Atlantis The Palm said.

"Sandance is known for amazing experiences and we are extremely sorry for the huge inconvenience to all of our guests who had purchased tickets to attend the event on New Year’s Eve 2013. We understand that many guests wanted to enjoy Sandance on this special night and were unable to reach the venue or experienced significant traffic delays," a statement read.

"The situation was influenced by different factors that were not entirely owned by us, however feedback from our guests is extremely important to us and we are taking action to reimburse all New Year’s Eve Sandance ticket holders the full ticket value," it added.

Organisers said all New Year’s Eve Sandance ticket holders should visit, which will be live from Monday January 6-12 to fill in a short form to ensure the refunds process can be "fast and effective".

"Additionally, we would like offer every ticket holder of the New Year’s Eve Sandance event a 50 percent discount on the entrance ticket value for the next Sandance music festival and we hope to welcome you back," the statement said.

The news comes after thousands of revellers spent hours onboard packed buses attempting to travel to the venue, at the Atlantis Hotel on the Corniche of the Palm Jumeirah, with most only to eventually give up. Some managed to make hasty plans at friends’ homes on the Palm, while others were left stranded on the road as the clock struck midnight. Some had been separated from their friends and family.

Comments on social media websites have revealed some ticketholders believe they were treated like “animals” while waiting in huge queues to board a bus at the American University of Dubai.

It had been promised about 75 buses and a dedicated bus lane on the Palm would ensure everyone got to the event within 8-10 minutes.

However, people who complained online claim they were packed onto buses like sardines and forced to endure other people urinating, smoking and throwing up onboard during a journey that took several hours. Some claimed they were on a bus for seven hours.

Some drivers refused to let off passengers, forcing at least one person to activate the emergency exit button.

“We and thousands of others were trapped and pushed against the metal barriers and gates,” one Facebook user posted on the official Sandance page.

“People were fading away, girls were crying and begging for help from security to get them out, people were stamped down, and again others were yelling at to the security to open the gates to get people air and more space... Well, all what security did was to secure the gates and make sure that nobody gets out of that cage.”

Ryan Smith, who had travelled from the UK for the event, said “The bus driver looked fearful for his life as the policeman stood by completely out of his depth” when a stampede of people rushed for two available buses.

“I spent two hours pinned with hundreds of others like cattle without space to move, without respect to health and safety, with no concern for human dignity,” he wrote.

“After squeezing through a space of about two feet in the barricade, I found myself running like everyone—like wild people to the awaiting bus.

“From my observation, there were actually two available busses jammed in about 30 seconds—two double decker buses for the thousands of people all trying to achieve the same goal—to bring in the New Year.”

Hamza Moien said he bought 12 VIP tickets – worth at least AED600 each – and friends had flown in from around the world to celebrate NYE together.

“You Guys have spoiled our NYE, we WASTED our TIME - MONEY & NYE, we booked hotels and transportation we paid for all that, who is gonna pay for all that, and who is gonna bring the NYE back we loose,” he posted on the Sandance Facebook page.

“... me and my friends we all are soo p***ed off and angry, my friends rely on me and booked everything and pay for all and this is what we got.”

Commenting on an Arabian Business story published on Thursday, “Sandra” criticised the apparent lack of a plan to alleviate the chaos.

“Where was the crisis management plan? Where were the health and safety officials? I'm surprised there was no deaths to be honest,” Sandra wrote.

Roohi Shaikh, a Dubai event organiser who claimed to have been involved in organising a previous Sandance, said it was poorly managed.

“I have been in the events field from past 5 years and this is one of the most poor management i have come across my life,” Roohi wrote.

“Being a company who has been organising Sandance, its impossible to have the event so badly organised.”

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