This was my first experience of flying with Etihad Airways and luckily, I got a taste of a lot of things, apart from their business and economy class. I was on my way to Kingdom of Bahrain and I was booked from Delhi to Abu Dhabi to Manama. Well, I had an economy class booking but it just got fancier at the boarding gate. Last time I had flown in business class was an year ago, so of course I was happy about more leg room, choicest food and special attention. But there is a very interesting story behind it as to why the lady at the boarding gate upgraded my seat at the last moment.
It was an early morning flight and I was supposed to reach Abu Dhabi by 11:55 a.m. My connecting flight was scheduled for 12:55 p.m. and I was looking forward to landing in Manama by 2 p.m. There were 3 more writers accompanying me from Delhi and there were 2 others, flying in from Mumbai almost by the same time. We had an itinerary to follow from 3 p.m. Everything looked smooth on papers and I actually dint expect any hiccups or surprises, only till I reached Delhi airport.
The fun ride began right from the moment I presented the print-out of my business visa at the Etihad counter, the lady couldn’t trace my visa, online. She requested me to wait and asked her colleague to help. No luck again. Finally after ten minutes, they were able to give me a heads up and I was allowed to drop my baggage. The previous day, I had attempted a web check-in but the system could not issue me a seat in the second leg of the journey. I tried a few times and then gave up. So now, I was looking forward to two boarding passes. But as glitches would have it that day, she only gave me one boarding pass. I looked at her surprisingly and asked for the second one. She said, ” I am not able to generate from here. You will have to collect from Abu Dhabi. You will receive you luggage directly in Bahrain”
Who gets a half-way ticket when its all confirmed? I insisted that I needed the other boarding pass from here only, as I did not have enough time in transit. I waited, looked around but everyone was too busy to come to my rescue. I asked some of the passengers in the adjoining queue if they had similar issues, but not many knew what to say. They had their end to end boarding passes and were least concerned. I went back again to the lady at the counter and asked her to check for the glitch. She confirmed from another colleague and he assured me that for most of the people, they were able to generate but for some, they were not. They would email the problem further and I would face no problem in getting it at Abu Dhabi. I tried to explain that this was not a satisfactory explanation. I might not have enough time to sort out my issues in Abu Dhabi and I could not afford to miss my flight to Manama. But I could see, they really couldn’t do much.
Since, I dint have a choice, I proceeded towards the immigration queue. Usually, its an easy process when I am generally asked why am I traveling alone, but this time the immigration officer added to my panic. “Madam, where is your second boarding pass? Have you dropped it somewhere?”
I don’t have it sir. There is some glitch and Etihad representatives are not able to generate my ticket from here.
How is it possible. If its the same airline, why are they not giving you both boarding passes?”
“Sir, I insisted but they is some issue. I will have to collect it at Abu Dhabi.” Though he dint seem happy about my answer but he stamped my passport and allowed me to go ahead. He was worried that how would I handle things if something went wrong at Abu Dhabi. I assured him I will manage. And he smiled and wished me “All the best”. One side of me was trying to ignore the issue and move on, but one side of me was thinking why did the immigration officer talk in this manner. He must have seen many such cases when people dint have end to end boarding passes. This couldn’t be happening with me for the first time. Why did he over-react? He could have simply assured me that it wont be a problem and sometimes, such things happen.
I walked towards the security check but before that I also dialed the numbers other three writers who were traveling with me. One of them answered and was already at the gate. He added more tension to the situation as he heard that I was traveling with only one boarding pass. He said, “I have both. Why don’t you have? I don’t think so you will have enough time to collect your second boarding pass. Abu Dhabi is a big airport.” I said, I know but I can’t do anything. Every time, I discussed my problem with someone, they added to my problem.
Of course, I was not in the best of moods but what really struck me was that there must be at least one such counter near the boarding gates where passengers could reach out for their problems. I asked the people around but no one had any clue. I looked for people from Etihad Airways but dint find any. Why don’t we have a help counter for clarifications on such issues? Maybe there is one but I was not able to find. Do you know of any? However, by the time, we four writers met each other, there was another one who was sailing in the same boat as me. I heaved a sign of relief. I am not sure I was waiting to hear this but I was relaxed that atleast there is someone else like me who dint have a boarding pass for the next flight.
Interestingly, the flight got delayed. Now this wouldn’t have been a matter of concern otherwise but this time it was. We only had 55 minutes difference in our connecting flight to Bahrain from Abu Dhabi and since we were already delayed by 30 minutes, where was the time to collect the boarding pass in Abu Dhabi International Airport. We kept laughing over it and saying that the two who had boarding pass would go and keep the plane waiting for us while the two of us will rush to the transition counter. The flight got further delayed and by this time, we were quite sure that we had missed our flight. I laughed over and thought, it dint matter who had their boarding pass or not, now everyone traveling to Bahrain would have to take a new one or really fly like a superman to board this one. Technically, we would reach by 12:50 and the second flight was due to leave by 12:55 p.m.
Finally, the boarding began. I had a different zone from my three other pals. Everyone was happily making their way and I was trying to read their faces if anyone else was worried about their next flight. None, that I could spot. The lady who had met me at the luggage drop counter, was scanning the boarding passes. She looked at me and smiled. At my turn, she asked me if I was fine. I said, yes but I told her that I was stressed about the events that had taken place since morning. She took my boarding pass, cancelled my seat number, wrote 1D and whispered, “I have changed your seat. Enjoy, make a quick exit and sort your issue for your next flight. “ Before I could thank her, she was already on to the next passenger. What followed is in the pictures now….
The seat was extremely comfortable.
I was served a welcome drink, some water and wipe towel almost instantly.
Soon I was served a bowl of nuts and my favorite tomato juice.
I was asked for my choice of breakfast, that would be served to be after the take off.
And I was extremely happy about the raised foot support. I really like that for it prevents the swelling.
The blankets and earphones were provided as soon as I had settled in.
Overall, I had a great flight. And the twist of the story is by the time we landed in Abu Dhabi, it was 1 p.m. already and our connecting flight had left 5 minutes before. Even though I exited immediately, nothing helped. The moment I got down the bus, I took an escalator towards the transit flight area. Just when I reached the top, there was an employee of Etihad Airways, waiting with a board which read ” Bahrain”. He was carrying 4 boarding passes. It had our names and our next flight was at 4 p.m. So all the fuss was over. We had missed our flight. We had 3 hours to kill at Abu Dhabi airport. We went to the transit counter and requested them for lounge access. They dint approve but gave us some meal vouchers. The next leg of the journey was a humble economy class. Now, I am not really sure if this is what an airline should do to passengers. Half way boarding passes are not a good idea. What if there was no next flight till next day? What if someone is traveling alone? What if the time gap between two flights is too less and they are not able to manage the boarding pass. I didn’t have a visa of Abu Dhabi, I would have been stranded. But anyways, I will take it as a learning experience and prepare myself for future. There is nothing that passengers can do about it so I think the business class experience was a good thing that came out of it…
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