After a surprisingly-long wait to check our bags at the Etihad counter (~30 minutes although there were less than 10 people in front of us), we cleared South African exit customs and entered the A terminal. Our tickets indicated that we were flying from “A00”, which we figured meant a gate in A terminal that was yet to be assigned… Incorrect. They actually have a gate A00.
We stopped by the shops to burn through the last of our rand. We bought some gum but could not afford anything else with our cash due to the elevated prices. Certainly make sure to buy your trinkets outside security!
Our pockets lightened, we headed down the hall and into a crowd. It took us a minute to realize that this wasn’t a line for our gate, but for gate A3. The hall was narrow and it seemed like everyone was hurrying to board an Emirates plane. Ends up that the plane not only wasn’t boarding, but was scheduled to leave after ours! So, we started pushing our way through the crowd, initially drawing mean looks and cold shoulders until we loudly announced repeatedly that we needed to get by to get to our gate.
|Looking back at the line at gate A3 that we just pushed our way though|
Although, we shouldn’t have rushed… we were at the end of what seemed to be a temporary part of the terminal. There were only narrow slits for windows and only a few chairs in the entire area. There was no A/C in this part of the terminal and it was quite warm! We lucked out by jumping in some seats just as they opened up.
Thirsty from our wait in the hot terminal, JT took his Nalgene bottle to the back of the plane to get some water. With everyone boarding, he got “stuck” back there, so he befriended the flight attendants and helped them keep people from using the bathrooms. It is Etihad policy that the bathrooms remain unused (since passengers seemingly regularly violate the no smoking rules) and seat belts kept unbuckled (due to sparks??) while the plane is refueling. The flight attendants would announce these regulations every few minutes. Sometimes – they noted – they have to make this same announcement 10+ times. So, it was no surprise that they had it memorized.
Once fueling was done, JT used the bathroom and headed back to his seat for takeoff.
Etihad Flight 603 – Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi
O. R. Tambo International (JNB): Gate: A00 (old C9?); Scheduled: 7:10p
Abu Dhabi International (AUH): Bus Gate 19A; Landing: 6:50 am
Registration: A6-EYC (formerly VT-JWJ); Airbus A330-202; First Flight: Nov 16, 2007; 254 seats (18 business / 236 coach)
Seats: 17C-aisle (JT) & 17A-window (Katie), coach
|This section of the plane – unlike the back section – has mood lighting|
|Etihad Flight 603 amenity kit contents|
|JT’s fish dinner|
JT finished watching the last 10 minutes of Interstellar – picking up where he left off on the flight to Johannesburg and then watched an episode of Louie (CK) before heading to sleep. After being awoken for breakfast, JT started Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1. The E-Box system was nice enough to note that there was not enough time left in the flight to finish the movie, but we still have the Abu Dhabi to NYC leg for him to finish watching. Katie enjoyed her Kindle before and after dinner and breakfast, again not utilizing the nice noise-cancelling headphones this flight.
Again, our flight avoided “war zones” and took a strange approach to Abu Dhabi (again this seems to be for noise reasons)
|Route from Johannesburg (JNB) to Abu Dhabi (AUH)|
|Buses lined up to pick up passengers from our flight|
|Katie enjoying the wi-fi at the Al Dhabi Lounge|
Unfortunately, we didn’t think to inquire about the availability of the showers when we first got there. When we were hoping to do so, all were being used and we were listed as #10 and #11 on the waiting list – albeit, we did have an earlier boarding time than anyone ahead of us; not sure if that got us priority. Either way, we were packed up and leaving just before 9:00 am when the shower attendant approached us to tell us that a shower was free. Being far too late to take the time, we said goodbye to our fellow Etihad travelers – pointing out to them that boarding supposedly already began – started our hike across the airport.
Enjoying the chance to get some exercise after sitting for so long, we kept up a solid pace and cleared through Terminal 1, the duty free gift shops, Terminal 3, and to the additional US-flights-only security screening – where we found no line. We took off our shoes, turned on our laptops and other electronics, and cleared through in no time. Onto US customs…
|We meet again “Tango November”!|
After letting the line die down, we finally boarded around 10:10 am, just 10 minutes before scheduled departure. With the backlog of passengers boarding and slowness with overhead baggage storage, we didn’t reach our seats until after 10:20. Katie found that her seat’s pillow had already been stolen. A flight attendant – who was originally wary of our story for some reason – ended up making a bit of a scene around our seats, asking for the culprit. Some American guys sitting a few rows behind us quickly offered up their pillows to defuse the unnecessarily-tense situation. After settling in, we were hoping to push back soon after, but we sat at the gate for an uncomfortably-long time.
Then, we were clued in why by the captain. There was a person on the plane being assessed by medical personnel for their fitness to fly. After a lengthy process, it was announced that the female passenger was deemed too sick to fly – but she refused to exit the aircraft. Quite a crowd of Etihad personnel was gathered around her seat to try to convince her to exit, but to no avail.
|Etihad cabin and ground crew around the sick passenger|
They announced over the intercom that they had to resort involving the police and that the police were going to have to board the plane to remove her. JT jockeyed for position near the mid-galley to watch the fireworks. However, it was just a single US customs agent who boarded the plane before the passenger finally relented. We wondered if the local authorities were unable to intervene, since we were technically in the US already!
With the stubborn sick lady finally off of the plane (with her bags), the flight attendants convinced everyone to sit down, and we were able to push back a little after 11:20 am – an hour late.
Etihad Flight 101 – Abu Dhabi to NYC
Abu Dhabi International (AUH): Gate: 59; Scheduled: 10:20a; Pushback: 11:28a; Takeoff: 11:45a
John F Kennedy International (JFK): Terminal 4; Scheduled: 4:35p; Landing: 4:58p; Arrival: 5:07p
Registration: A6-ETN; Boeing 777-3FX(ER); First Flight: Mar 1, 2013; 328 seats (8 first class / 40 business / 280 coach)
Flight Time: 13h 12m; Actual miles: 7,095
Seats: 41H-aisle (JT) & 41K-window (Katie), coach