Etihad Airways has a pretty solid reputation as an airline, especially if flying in business or first class. Even in coach, it is known to be fairly decent. I had some nice flights on my way to South Africa (blog posts to follow). But be warned, sometimes the flights are Jet Airways flights, on Jet Airways metal, operated by Etihad. That’s when it can get sketchy, or at least it did for me on the flight from Abu Dhabi to New York last week.
I understand that Etihad Airways (a United Arab Emirates airline) and Jet Airways (an Indian airline) are program partners, but why would an airline such as Etihad which works so hard to protect its reputation for good flight experience, actually operate a Jet Airways plane? From beginning to end, the experience was horrific.
There is a lot of security at Abu Dhabi AUH Airport, especially for flights to the United States. Having seen the World Trade Center Towers fall on September 11th with my own eyes, I am thankful for heightened security. For the flights to the US, after going through regular airport security, one then goes a second time.
First, we waited on line “upstairs” for clearance to leave the UAE . The lines moved painfully slowly.
The wheelchair line was longer than those for flights to Miami.
From there, we proceeded “downstairs” for US Passport and Customs clearance. I was so happy to see that they had a Global Entry machine! I breezed right through!
And then, we were cleared to go to the gate. Gate 59. I should have known when I saw the mass of people (“gate lice”) swarming to the plane, and the gate agents barely able to control them, that this was not going to be pretty.
The flight was filled. It was stuffed to capacity. It felt like it was beyond capacity. I saw it coming: I asked the flight attendant if perhaps there were any business class seats left for sale, but to my chagrin, they were all taken. I was too late. (The flight attendant did bring me a bowl of hot nuts as a consolation!).
People were all over the place. They were unruly.
The plane was freezing cold. The older Pakistani women next to me wrapped herself in 3 blankets, and when I got up to use the rest room, she added my blanket to her collection.
The crew was understaffed and the passengers were rude. The one saving grace was the flight attendant, Mohamed. He was amazing. Passengers were complaining to him, and practically ganging up on him for every little reason, including things like there being no chicken dishes left for the dinner meal. He tried his best to make everyone happy.
Speaking of food, it was rather atrocious. I’ve had pretty good meals on Etihad flights – this was not one of those flights. Everything was tasteless, doughy, high on carbs, and low on everything else.
One mid-flight snack was supposed to be a chicken salad sandwich. It was heavy on the bread and light on the chicken.
I’m sorry to say this, but many of the passengers were pigs. They threw garbage all over the place.
Finally, at one point, I looked around and said that I felt like I was in a refugee camp, not a plane. I’m sure that the striped blankets contributed to this feeling.
The entertainment systems are crap. They are hard to navigate, and, if you don’t use the remote, you have to tap so hard and often, that you disturb the person in front of you (like the woman in the seat behind me did).
And then, after 12 or 13 hours, the slow descent began. Yay, I was almost home. Suddenly, a faucet stream of water came pouring down on my head. It was almost comical, but it wasn’t. It was not merely condensation or a few drips of water. Was this a new variation of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Chinese torture? I jumped up and didn’t really want to sit back down as the seat was now wet, but the plane was full, we were landing soon and I had no choice. Mohammed found some unused blankets and covered the wet seat so I could sit down for landing.
I do not want to sound like a snob or an ingrate. If anyone knows me, they know that I strive to accentuate the positive rather than the negative. But sometimes the negative has to be told. The positive here is that I got to my destination safely, and for that I am grateful.