France 2014: Etihad Experience and Beyond

The red-eye special has never been our favourite flight, but in this case it was even worse. WARNING: Do not read on if you don’t want to read about a negative experience, but at the end of the day these sort of things make the best anecdotes.

I have never before been on a plane where they virtually ignore you for over two hours before you get anything. In this case it was almost two and a half hours before we were given a meal. And bad luck about getting a drink; even water. EY461 was our first impression of Etihad and we were singularly, or doubly (because there are two of us) unimpressed. Even though the second leg of our flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris was better, first impressions last. I know we have been spoiled by the high quality of food on various cruises, but aeroplane food has now become quite second-rate and particularly because it arrived only lukewarm.

Arriving at Melbourne Airport, e-tickets and allocated seats in hand, we were rather disgruntled to find the plane had been changed and rather than having a cosy pair of seats near the tail end of the plane, there was a third seat. Fortunately the man who had the third seat was a slim, friendly fellow who happened to be wearing a really nice aftershave. Thank goodness for that, as when we had walked down the extremely narrow aisle an offensive waft of body odour accosted us. Remember, it could always be worse.

Our departure time of 22:40 ended up being 23:10. A few late arrivals appeared to have caused this, but I thought that was fair enough if there had been connection problems. The pilot made up some of the lost time, only to find that our own connecting flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris would be delayed half an hour.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, suddenly that  connecting flight was delayed for three hours. Oh dear, we had already booked and paid for our train journey from Paris Gare d’Austerlitz to Argenton-sur-Creuse, having allowed a generous two and a half hours to get from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the station.

flying into Abu Dhabi

in Abu Dhabi airport

Abu Dhabi airport control tower and palms

The narrow seats and aisles on the B777-300 hardly provide enough room for me, let alone a larger person. Intermittent sleep occurred. Meanwhile, we had put my laptop up in the cabin overhead lockers as I knew I wasn’t planning to use it on the flight and besides, my large handbag needed to fit under the seat, only to find that when I pulled it out to use it during our layover in Abu Dhabi, the screen was broken and hence I couldn’t use the computer. Spoke to an Etihad employee who took a note of this and told me to contact Feedback at Etihad and ground staff at CDG airport.

devastated to discover broken laptop screen

The highlight of the layover was spending AU$20 on two coffees and a muffin at Abu Dhabi, but it was worth it. I had also managed to sleep for forty minutes on a chair that looked a little like a sun lounge. Funnily enough, outside the temperature would have been at least 40 degrees, and yet here we were inside almost shivering due to the air conditioning. This paints an unrealistic picture in your mind of what it’s like in Abu Dhabi!

At CDG the Etihad booth was closed, apparently opening up three hours before the next flight, so I took a photo to prove that they were closed. Spoke to at least three other ladies who had various complaints against Etihad.

at CDG there is no ground staff

We caught the train into Paris on the RER Line B. Met Patrick, a very nice French guy with a good command of the English language. We exchanged details and Dutchy and I might catch up with him and his family in Perpignan during the next week.

We duly got off at the Metro station St. Michel-Notre Dame, only to find Correspondance to Line C was undergoing maintenance work, necessitating catching the Castor bus to Gare d’Austerlitz, and losing even more of our precious time.

I explained in French to the line of people at the Billetaire that I was Australian and our plane was late and the train would be leaving in ten minutes. They kindly let me get in, but in retrospect why did the ticket guy sell us tickets down at the far end of the train? I like to believe that he incorrectly thought he was giving us tix closer rather than further away, but qui sais? Who knows? As it was, this cost us 92 euros, which we hope to retrieve from Etihad, since it was all their fault. Having purchased the tickets, we managed to race to the platform with barely two minutes to spare; and it was the last train for the night. In our mad rush, I managed to fall over on the platform, skinning my elbow. One of the attendants helped us get to Carriage 16, where we collapsed into our seats with a sigh of relief. The 16 euros spent on the train on beer, wine and a shared sandwich constituted dinner.  Time passed quickly typing all my initial notes for this post on our fantastic little Samsung tablet and before we knew it the 2 1/4 hour trip was over and we were disembarking at Argenton-sur-Creuse station, with only a 25 minute walk left, with our luggage to reach our destination, which took, including the layover and transport, a total of 35 hours’ travelling. No wonder we were exhausted, not to mention jet-lagged. I told you not to mention jet-lagged!

typing up notes on our tablet on the train to Argenton

Dutchy is pleased to be on the train to Argenton

Hey, I’ve heard worse stories than this, and these adventures are all part of the travel experience. We got here safely after all, ready to relax.