The saga continues

Call me naïve, but there was a part of me that thought that when we got on the plane that would be the end of the dramas; that our layovers would be smooth and straightforward; and, that having had all that extra time to sort everything out, Etihad would make sure that there was nothing else to make us despair.

I guess you’ve figured by now that that was not the case.

Arriving in Abu Dhabi, the stairs to the tarmac didn’t reach the door, meaning that we were stuck on the plane until they could get them to line up. When they did, a few of us made it to the buses waiting at the bottom, but then they decided that the gap between the plane and the top step was too big, so the remainder of the passengers had to stay on the plane even longer.

Airplane stairs not working - Etihad, Abu Dhabi

Next, there was accommodation “organised” for us to take a nap during our nine-hour layover, but we had to wait for everyone to get off the plane before they would tell us about it, and then we all had to stand in another queue while they phoned to make sure that there were rooms available at the hotel attached to the airport.

The one saving grace of the whole debacle was that the second we arrived at the hotel, tired, grumpy and starving, the staff asked us for our passports then directed us to the complimentary buffet while they sorted out our check ins without us.

I don’t know if it’s just a product of how hungry we were, but that buffet tasted like manna from heaven. Well, not literally. It mostly tasted like delicious Middle Eastern food, which was universally acclaimed by everyone we spoke to who had been on board.

Returning  to the airport after a few hours’ sleep, we made our way through all the security measures, including a painfully long compulsory queue to be added to the E-gate system (which I hope means we will just be able to use the electronic passport control gates in future trips through the United Arab Emirates) and settled in to the departure lounge,

Darcy Jo Wade, Abu Dhabi departure lounge

only to be informed that there had been some kind of security breach and we all needed to line up again and show our documents to be allowed back into the lounge.

That, of course, made the plane late.

But that was no problem for us, as we had a four-hour layover at Manchester Airport.

Never mind that it would have taken significantly less time to put us on a train to London instead of waiting for another flight.

Or they could have put us on a later flight direct to London, giving us more time to sleep in Abu Dhabi.

If we hadn’t been so hungry and stressed in Hong Kong we might have thought to suggest that when they booked the flights through Manchester in the first place.

In true, but by now farcical, fashion, our plane out of Manchester was also delayed, and what was supposed to have originally been an excited Monday morning arrival in London became a weary mid-afternoon Tuesday landing.

Airport departure board, Manchester UK

With only customs and baggage claim left between us and the beginning of our journey proper, we were beginning to feel like we had made it.

Jo Wade Darcy, Heathrow baggage claim

That success was short-lived, however, when only Darcy’s and my bags arrived on the conveyor belt.

Wade’s (containing all of our camping gear for the rally) had been left behind in Hong Kong.

From the computer system, which the very helpful but confused airport staff member allowed me to decipher, it seemed that they had intended to put it on the next flight to Abu Dhabi, where it would have caught up with us during our layover, and then carried on to London with us never knowing any different.

Somewhere along the line though, that didn’t happen, and no one was able to give us any more information about what might have happened.

We filled in the necessary paperwork for them to track it and return it to us, and then finally made our way out into the arrivals area, hopeful (but skeptical) that it would be returned to us quickly.

Over the next few days, as we completed little tasks like finding accommodation for more than one night, and getting my UK mobile number set up, we updated our details with the airline to make sure they could tell us anything they found out.

They never did, and haven’t been in contact to offer even so much as an apology for the whole dismal mess, but when I logged in to make a last minute appeal for them to find it before we started the rally without a tent or sleeping bags, I discovered that it had been handed to the courier to deliver to us and would be with us in a few hours.

When it finally did arrive (admittedly fairly close to the predicted time), seeing it sitting on the doorstep was almost as good as our Abu Dhabi feast.

Wade's bag finally arrived in England

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