So, travelling can be fun. But the travel that I am writing about was tiring and seemingly never ending. In this travelogue, expect to hear about my complaints with the service of the airline I travelled on, the broken seat, the lack of courtesy and some pros & cons here and there.
Every year I travel to the U.S.A., reason for which is irrelevant in the context. The travel is always very lengthy and the flights get pretty tiring. But the experience of the airline can make it bearable or worse. I chose to travel in the busy season but that should only mean more customers and therefore I assumed better service, right?
Wrong! Let me explain why.
I chose Etihad Airways for two reasons:
- It was cheaper than most of the other options (Emirates, Qatar etc.) which is great.
- It had a direct connection to Ohio, which means I didn’t have to buy a separate ticket for domestic travel from Chicago or New York. This also meant that my baggage would be checked in all the way to my final destination. Therefore, no baggage to lift nor drag anywhere, till the final stop.
The first leg of the journey: Karachi to Abu Dhabi
Till about last year, Etihad Airways only had one flight out of Karachi, which was the red eye at 5:45 a.m., and I, personally, hate those. This time I was booked on the new flight, which was scheduled for 10 p.m. The timing was great. I was in the airport by 7 p.m. to avoid traffic delays. The check-in was quick and smooth, my bag was not over the weight limit and it was all good. I asked, but unfortunately the instant upgrade to Business Class was unavailable because the flight was full to the brim. I have flown Etihad thrice and I have never found the upgrade option available. They might want to consider removing these flyers from the desk?
Anyway, the check-in was smooth, and I used my Standard Chartered card for the CIP lounge, which was ‘apparently’ for the Bank’s priority customers. Almost all banks’ priority cards work for the lounge but you can also pay Rs. 1000 to get in and enjoy a moment’s respite from the frenzy of travelling. The sofas are comfortable, and you have a free snack bar that you can enjoy. It just makes your waiting, till boarding, a lot better than sitting around at the gate.
Boarding was called 40 minutes prior to departure and I was seated in the aisle seat in what seemed to be a fairly new plane. I must say the new uniforms of the crew looked awesome. Much better then the dreary grey they wore earlier. Below is a summary of the good and bad:
- The 10 p.m. flight time is awesome
- A new plane with a new LCD looked great
- The snacks have been upgraded and now they come in a paper bag, which has a bottle of water, a chocolate, a sandwich, plastic utensils and a separate hot sandwich. Although I didn’t understand what the hot sandwich had inside, it was quite filling.
- Water was served instantly when I asked. (Previously I was told to wait till take off to drink water)
- I found the crowd of the airline to be fairly decent. Normally a lot of laborers are on board the red eye, who done have a definition of personal space and certainly don’t care if they hit you with their bag while placing in the overhead compartments.
- Takeoff and landing were on time
Watching my favourite show on the new LCD screen
- Since this is an earlier flight, you will have to spend 4 hours at the Abu Dhabi airport before taking the next connection. Obviously, this depends on what destination you are flying to. Some may have a shorter transit and some longer. For Chicago it was 4 hours.
Overall, it was a really good experience with the short haul. It set the benchmark in my mind for the long haul flight as well.
U.S.A. Preclearance at Abu Dhabi Airport:
The U.S.A. preclearance is the immigration service provided at the Abu Dhabi airport and therefore it makes you free of any immigration lines at the final destination. This is a pretty awesome feature. Yes, the security screening is more stringent and the waiting lines are long, but once you are through you don’t have to worry about immigration in U.S.A. Just pick up your bags and go.
- The preclearance at AUH takes away the headache of standing in long lines in U.S.A. after 14 hours of being cooped up in a flying metal tube.
- The security is tighter so you may need end up losing some items from the bag if you are not careful with what you take.
- There are no restaurants after you reach the gate area. And there is no time to stop and eat before the preclearance, if you have less than 3 hours layover in AUH. However you will a find a small coffee stand “grab & fly” where you can find some basic snacks.
I was cleared without a hitch at Abu Dhabi and it was great because I didn’t have to worry about anything in U.S.A.
However for all the travelers westbound to U.S.A., I will do a separate post on how to prepare for a problem free security screening.
Since the my journey is only half way, stay tuned for Travelogue 2, which will be posted in a few days. Expect to get the real picture of the long haul flight, so that if you are travelling Etihad Airways, you know what to expect.