Hello from Abu Dhabi! Regular readers know, of course, that my flights were supposed to go Edmonton to London, and after three days of visiting in England, continue through London to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Kuwait City. Abu Dhabi—part of the UAE—was nowhere at all on the list. Prior to today, I don’t even know if I have ever said “Abu Dhabi” out loud; I’m certain I couldn’t have spelled it for you before today, either.
Mom, I’m just fine. You can stop hyperventilating. I am not lost in the Middle East. I’m typing away in a very plush airline lounge (seriously, open hot buffet, open bar, marble and limestone as far as the eye can see, and full shower facilities) waiting for my connection to Kuwait. Let’s not pretend that we’re thrilled to be in the wrong country at three thirty in the morning local time, but we don’t need to get our knickers in a twist about things.
There are a number of events that can occur to send a traveller and her companions to the wrong country. In our case, things started this morning at the Heathrow airport, where we were pulled out of the check-in line and told our flight between Frankfurt and Kuwait was cancelled due to ground crew strikes at the German airport. Lufthansa was able to get us as far as Frankfurt, but had no way for them to get us, or our luggage, anywhere else from there. Ground crews fuel planes, load luggage and supplies, and perform safety and maintenance duties among many other things; we definitely don’t want to fly without their help, and I don’t think we legally could anyway.
The impeccably groomed Lufthansa woman who pulled us from the original line-up immediately installed us in a queue to rebook for a different flight that didn’t pass through Germany. We stood there over ninety minutes waiting to speak to the ticket agent, and were told one of our options was staying in London a little longer, and hoping for the strike to end soon so we could fly according to our planned route. Since we need to get a move on to Kuwait, we opted for the second option, which involved a completely different series of flights on different airlines.
We decided to try our luck with another airline, and Lufthansa’s first offering for us was a flight through a country that has been in the news for many violent attacks recently. I refused to fly there, not because I believed anything dangerous would actually happen to us, but because I knew I would be anxious about the possibility for the entire trip. Our second shortest new route required us to fly from London to Abu Dhabi, and then take a very short flight to Kuwait. Despite never having heard of the airline before, we signed up and decided to just roll with the punches.
For the record, Etihad Air was fantastic although I admit I was a little leery at first. Every staff member we encountered was excellent and very courteous. Astoundingly, the food was also terrific. I had a lemon mousse for dessert that was the highlight of my crummy day. Air Canada could certainly learn a few things from Etihad. It was also a very different kind of flight when all the announcements were made first in Arabic and later in English, and the signage was similarly bilingual.
The new flight through Abu Dhabi was only three hours later than our original flight, which seemed like a reasonable delay considering the complexities of international travel. Sadly, the plane that was meant to carry us out of London arrived very late from the flight prior to ours, and we took off well over an hour behind schedule.
Originally, the flight schedule left us about one hundred minutes to zip to the next terminal and hop the flight to Kuwait once we landed in Abu Dhabi. We planned to manage this as best we could with an exhausted senior citizen, and checked a map of the airport and gates so we could navigate it as efficiently as possible. Of course, due to Murphy’s Law of Travel, our actual connection window ended up being something like seventeen minutes, and it was not humanly possible to get to our luggage and ourselves transferred in that wee time span.
In London, we were advised that the Abu Dhabi to Kuwait route is very popular for business travel and there is a plane departing about every hour. We really didn’t panic while we waited in the ticket transfer line for Etihad Airlines here in the UAE. What we didn’t know, or we might have felt a bit more antsy, is that the once-an-hour business flights take place only during the business day. Hello, six hour layover after six and a half hour flight.
Anyway, here we sit, after enjoying some fabulous curried beef with tomato and a chocolate mousse served in a shot glass. There really and truly are televised camel races in the luxury lounge, right now. Tomorrow, I guess you’ll find out if we get to Kuwait on the revised, revised, revised schedule. If not, I think the breakfast buffet will be put out soon, so I’ll get to see what they do with eggs in a place far, far from home.
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