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Etihad is an anagram of 'I hated...'

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Which is appropriate because I have hated every moment of dealing with them.

I hated spending over an hour queuing at check in and I hated it when I was denied boarding on Etihad flight from London to Hong Kong on 13 February 2014. I hated the reason being Etihad ground staff claimed I did not have printed evidence of onward travel when in fact I did.

I had booked a trip to Niseko, Japan for a week’s snowboarding through a HK travel agency departing on 16 February. I had an itinerary which I showed to Etihad’s Duty Manager at Heathrow and pointed out I was traveling with two snowboards. This was not accepted as evidence. I then had a stamped receipt from the travel agency forwarded, along with the number of my flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo. The Duty Manager also refused these further documents as ‘not evidence’ and the flight departed without me.

Duty Manager’s manner from the outset was unhelpful and extraordinarily callous. I explained I was carrying a snowboard for a friend who was traveling to HK on a direct flight later that day. I was carrying her snowboard was because she had recently been diagnosed with an incurable degenerative neurological disorder and one last snowboarding trip to Japan was on her bucket list. The Duty Manager told me that maybe I could get on a flight the following week. When I asked with whom I could lodge a complaint he told me I could only complain to him. At one point during our discussion I had to request that he stop enjoying himself so much.

I was obliged to buy another flight, on a more sympathetic airline, leaving that evening at a cost of £500.52 and spend 16 hours waiting in the check in area of Heathrow. Since then I have fruitlessly attempted to get a satisfactory resolution from Etihad’s Guest Affairs. They have relied entirely on reports from the Duty Manager at Heathrow that change from one email to the next. In his first report he claims I did not know the date or destination of my onward travel. In the next, after I sent documents to Etihad proving otherwise, he claims I did not have the flight number. In the one after that, when evidence of a flight number was shown to have been provided, Etihad claim only a booking reference or flight ticket is acceptable as evidence. Then they apologise for my inconvenience and hope to welcome me aboard Etihad flights in future.

Neither the FCO nor Hong Kong immigration state that a booking reference or flight ticket for a future trip is required, only that visitors comply with regulations. Similarly Etihad’s Conditions of Carriage state:
"You are responsible for obtaining and holding all required travel documents and visas and for complying with all applicable laws, regulations, orders, demands and travel requirements of all countries to be flown from, into or through which you transit.

HK immigration inform me “each case is determined on its individual merits.” I suspect a stamped receipt from a travel agent; a detailed itinerary with a large ‘VISIT JAPAN’ logo at the top and the number of a flight departing 2 days later would have sufficient merit.

Etihad claim to offer “the best of Arabian hospitality - cultured, considerate, warm and generous.” They appear to do this by ruining your holiday and offering simpering apologies and platitudes. Only when I sent an email to senior managers was the incident taken seriously. Since then I have been offered a “goodwill gesture” of a refund on the unused leg of my flight and an apology for the inconvenience.

So, based on the fact:
• I had to wait over an hour to check in,
• That an itinerary, a flight number and travel agent’s receipt was not acceptable as proof of onward travel
• That the FCO, HK immigration or Etihad’s conditions of carriage do not mention needing to present tickets for the next flight you will be taking
• That Etihad Duty Manager failed to use any common sense, humanity or basic customer service
• That Etihad Guest Affairs contradicted themselves in two consecutive letters and in the third refused to accept responsibility
• That I had paid £500 for a flight I’d already paid for
• That I spent 16 hours in Heathrow

Should I accept Etihad’s “goodwill gesture” to refund the ticket that I didn’t use? Wait for the CAA to begin its investigation? Perhaps the flight was oversold and Etihad were attempting to bump passengers without accepting liability. That would explain why check-in was so slow. Present the case to consumer champions at the national newspapers? Maybe they can publicise exactly what kind of company Etihad are.

In the meantime I just want to spread the word and hope you don’t have the same deeply unpleasant experience with this deeply unpleasant airline.

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