Abu Dhabi for less than 24 hours. Thanks Etihad (or not!)

Ah. Hello guys. By the time you read this, I would perhaps be cruising over Europe to arrive at my eventual destination in Paris, and a journey that started over 30 hours ago, would have been finally completed. Shipra and I started out of a very rainy Mumbai on Friday night, and we were booked on Etihad Airways to fly from Mumbai to Abu Dhabi and then connect on the flight to Paris CDG in a couple of hours. If everything was supposed to work like it worked the last month, I would have been in Paris at about 7:30 AM on Saturday.

However, with Mumbai being rained out, my incoming flight was diverted to Ahmedabad.

Understandable, weather was at play and I myself had a lot of problems getting to the airport. Eventually, my aircraft landed into Mumbai at 11 PM, instead of the original 7:15 PM. Shipra and I were at the Mumbai CSIA Lounge, waiting for more clarity on the situation.

Eventually, after many reschedules, we boarded the aircraft at about midnight for a flight that was supposed to depart at about 9:35 pm. At the lounge, the Etihad team told me that we would be landing int Abu Dhabi at the latest about 1 to 1:10 AM, and would be easily able to make my connection which was supposed to take off at 2:15 AM. They assured us that they would send a message to Abu Dhabi to make sure we would be on this particular flight, EY 31 to make sure we arrive in Paris in the morning itself.

However, after a 12 midnight boarding, we sat on the plane for at least an hour plus, to pushback at about 1:10 AM. The flight was pretty uneventful, as Shipra and me both almost passed out right after take off. We landed in Abu Dhabi at about 2:45 AM, well beyond our originally scheduled arrival time.

Etihad Disruptions

Once we landed, however, the real picture started to emerge. On arrival, our flight went onto a hard gate, just like it always does, and there was no one meeting the flight. Not just that, once we arrived at the transfer desk, we were told to head to the lounge and we would be assisted there. Passengers to Paris, London and many other cities, at least 10, lost their connections.

At the lounge, we were informed that we were booked on the next flight out. Unfortunately, that posed a problem. Etihad’s next flight for Paris left at about 7 AM in the morning, arriving at 2 PM into Paris. Shipra and me had booked ourselves an Airbnb in Reims and were planning to do some champagne tour on this day, to come back to Paris after 24 hours. So, arriving at 2 PM would have meant we only made it to Reims at about 6 PM at the minimum, and we would have had nothing to do in Reims after. Essentially, a lot of money paid to Airbnb was already down the drain, and we would just be making a trip to Reims for the heck of it now. And yes, Etihad could not even find us seats around each other, we were in different parts of the upper deck altogether.

Unlike American Airlines Lounges, BA Lounges or even Etihad’s own First Class Lounge, there are no agents who handle your case at the Abu Dhabi Business Class lounge of Etihad. And it was 3:30 AM in the morning or so. So, basically, the agent was relaying what the computer told them, and when I tried to rationalise something to them, they would just say it was not policy. When I would ask to sight this “policy” I would be told it is all internal and hence can’t be shared.

We requested Etihad to move us to the flight after, as in EY31, the one that arrived in Paris on the same schedule as earlier (7:30 AM morning) on Sunday instead of flying us out on Saturday. This posed an interesting difficulty. Etihad said they could move us to the flight, but we were basically on our own in Abu Dhabi. Or, we could live in the lounge for many hours, which was inside the airport itself.

Not a done deal, we told them, given we were going to be on the hook many times over. Airbnb that we paid for, and another hotel room in Paris as well now. Given it is the summer, last minute bookings in Paris would be very expensive. And at least on a cursory glance, the point-based hotels were not available for me in a good location in Paris that worked for me.

Eventually, after a whole one hour of back and forth, Etihad Airways supervisor Vishal turned up on the scene. He first went over the same narrative with us. Later, he climbed down to saying that we could leave the airport, and then later ask for a reimbursement of the hotel expenses, which the airline may or may not grant.

At two hours out, Etihad finally turned their stance. They managed to get approval for a hotel room for us for one day at Abu Dhabi, at the Premier Inn, which is the hotel right outside the airport. This was subject to the fact that we had a US Visa, which would enable us to get out of the airport into the UAE in the first place.

So, roughly at about 6 AM local time, we finally left the airport, after getting a Visa on Arrival in Abu Dhabi, and slept it out for a few hours at the airport hotel before resuming normal coverage on life. Luckily, as usual, we had packed a change of clothes in a cabin bag, which meant we had a fresh change of clothes while our bag sat inside the airport for the transfer to the next flight.

As a bonus, the airport hotel had a free shuttle to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Yas Island, so we went to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in the evening and returned back to the hotel in time to pack up and leave.  So much for grand plans to be sipping Champagne in France.

So, I’m curious to hear what more or less should I have done in this case, and what would you have done differently if you landed in a spot like I did? 

Comments

  1. Always a pleasure to read your trip reports. I can get a sense of what you mean.
    The Gulf carriers are great if everything goes seamlessly well. However if there is a glitch – you are pretty much on your own.
    Their customer service is robotic and unhelpful.
    I had a similar experience with qatar but being a OW Emerald, was given a hotel for the night but did not get a great connection.

  2. Happened with us earlier this year when we landed late for our connecting flight to Paris on account of Pakistan’s air space closure and a delayed departure.

    However, Etihad was prompt to put us on a flight of our liking the next day, provided acco in the same hotel as yours, arranged for the visa(I didn’t having a US visa on me, wifey did) and gave 2500 Etihad guest miles each without having asked for it!

  3. I faced this scenario a few weeks ago when Bombay had heavy rains and a Spicejet aircraft blocked the main runway. After spending the night at the airport, they kicked all international passengers out. We were exhausted with a 7 month-old baby and there was no way we could wait another couple of hours for hotel accommodation. I simply called the nearest 5* hotel that had available rooms knowing I could claim this on the trip interruption insurance on my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. At the hotel, met quite a few fuming stranded Spicejet pilots but that’s a story for another day.

  4. Under such circumstances, a fully paid up annual multi trip insurance should pay you all your costs plus some money for the hassles you went through for missed connects etc. Not sure if it covers departure delayed owing to weather.

    • Interesting- My annual multitrip refused to pay up saying it was freak weather involved which is not covered. Do you have any experience with a specific insurer?

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