Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thanksgiving 2013 in Maldives: Male to Manchester via Colombo and Abu Dhabi


    It's always sad to leave the Maldives. Thankfully, there was no screw up on our departure arrangements unlike for our arrival. We were granted late checkout till 4pm and was going to take the last seaplane of the day that left the Conrad about 5pm arriving in Male around the same time (Male is one hour behind the Conrad).

    Our Sri Lankan flight to Colombo was scheduled to depart 10.30pm so we had a couple of hours to kill in Male. We decided on the easy and cheap option to just hang out in the new air-conditioned food court that had a coffee and Thai place and the only Burger King in Maldives instead of paying to stay in the Conrad Lounge or hop over to Male itself during this time.

    It was during this time that I almost lost a bag no thanks to my own fault. I forgot to pick up one of the bags when the seaplane staff returned the bags in the terminal only realizing a couple of hours later. By then it was almost 7.30pm and the seaplane counter and office was closed. I was lucky that there was still staff from the seaplane company around. Even though they were about to leave for the day, they made the extra effort to track down the bag and return it. Losing that bag would have sucked and I was grateful the staff was so helpful.

    Since we were flying in economy and there was no Priority Pass lounges in the international terminal in Male, we just hung out at another coffee place in the departure lounge waiting for our flight to Colombo. Thirty minutes before departure we proceeded to the departure gate but there was no signs that boarding was going to start soon. We waited and sure enough boarding didn't begin even past the scheduled departure time. There were no announcements or more information of the delay which was not too helpful. The plane eventually did arrive in Male and boarding begun about an hour and a half later.

    This would be our first time flying Sri Lankan despite the delay and hiccups pre-departure, things got much better on the plane. We were warmly welcomed by the crew on board the aircraft. The load was rather light on our flight today especially on the back of the A340 we were taking today. A rather delicious and spicy warm meal was served even on the short 1.5 hour flight. The meal was way better than the cold plate served on Emirates on the same route.

    The good part of the initial delay was that our layover in Colombo was going to be much shorter . By the time cleared immigration, collected our bags and re-checked in for our Etihad flight, we only had about an hour before our flight to Abu Dhabi which was just enough time to grab a shower and a drink in the contract lounge used by Etihad.

    Eithad operates a narrow body A320 on the four hour or so flight from Colombo to Abu Dhabi. A flat bed would be nice for this awkwardly timed 5ish in the morning flight. The leg room itself was great and even though the seats weren't lie flat, I managed to find a comfortable position and get some sleep after the late supper/early breakfast served after take off.

    The Etihad business class lounge was a zoo. It was packed and we couldn't find any empty seats. We were able to at least get a shower without waiting and just hung out the remaining time at the bar enjoying some food from the buffet and coffee.

    We were departing via a remote gate and the gate area was another zoo. However, there was a staff walking around pulling out business class passengers out of the line informing them to take a seat and wait for the business class bus instead of cramming with the folks at the back of the plane. Everyone got their cameras out when we arrived at the plane to find out we would be going to Manchester on a Manchester City FC theme plane. Oh the irony in that a Manchester City FC plane was taking me to Manchester to visit Old Trafford, home of Manchester United.

    Etihad operates a "staggered" business class seats and I had initially booked for both of us to be in one of the "couple seats". I didn't realize until it was too late that we had lost our original eat assignments and was now seated across the aisle together.

    Even though, the flight today was completely full in business class the service was still great. Etihad offers a dine on demand even in business class which I noticed several passengers taking fully advantage of it. A couple traveling with a baby took turns taking care of the baby while one of them ate. About an hour or so after take off we had a late brunch. I had the Middle Eastern option of prawns and rice which was one of the best business class meals I've had.

    As usual, we spent the rest of the flight catching up on movies before enjoying a steak sandwich from the snack menu an hour or so before we landed in Manchester. There were no lines through immigration in Manchester and we were in our complimentary Etihad chauffeur to our hotel an efficient fifteen minutes after we got off the plane. Overall, I was pretty impressed with our first experience flying Eithad in business class minus the crappy lounges in Abu Dhabi

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