Complaint: In-flight Issue No meal options on a 12 hrs flight
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Old Oct 17, 2014, 7:13 AM
irfan irfan is offline
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 2
Thumbs down No meal options on a 12 hrs flight

Here is a complaint letter sent to Etihad Airways .

TO: Etihad Airways
Date: October 13 2014

My wife and I were traveling from Boston to Abu Dhabi (BOS-JFK on American Airlines and JFK-AUH on Etihad Airways) on Oct 2 2014 and had a very disconcerting experience.

We happen to be practicing Muslims and eat Halal food.

We had an American Airlines flight out of Boston at 2:30 in the afternoon – what with returning a rental car and checking in four pieces of luggage, we decided to skip lunch and leave early for the airport. When we got there we were told that the flight was delayed by two hours - less waiting time at JFK but enough to get some cheese pizza at the airport.

On landing at JFK we noticed that our boarding card for the Etihad flight (issued in Boston by AA) mentioned seats A and B – window and middle seats. Giving in to my wife's unfounded allegation that I go too often to empty my bladder, we went to the Etihad checkin counter at JFK and asked to be re-assigned aisle and middle seats. The girl at the counter said there weren't any. Then she offered to seat us in the Exit rows where there was an aisle seat available but for $120 extra per person. We declined. Made a fuss that we were unable to pre-select our seats on EY as we had bought tickets thru American Airlines. She grudgingly relented and mysteriously an aisle seat became free and she gave us seats 22 F and G.

The EY flight was leaving JFK at 10:40pm. The next day was the Day of Arafat when pilgrims visit mount Arafat for the Hajj. Muslims who are not performing the Hajj are encouraged to fast on this day. I planned to. I was looking forward to dinner on board as after dinner I would begin my fast.

The dinner trolley came. Serving started about 7 rows ahead of us. I noticed someone seated in the bulkhead seat was complaining. Didn't know what about. A few minutes later it was our turn to be served. The menu we had earlier received showed three options, chicken biryani, lamb and vegetarian. I was looking forward to some chicken biryani. The air-hostess said they were all out of chicken. I asked for lamb. She said they only had vegetarian meals. My wife and I protested. The air-hostess said she would check. Came back and said there wasn't any thing else. On further protest she said she would check in Business and get back.

I paid for internet access and tweeted/facebooked and linkedin about my experience on board an aircraft 32,000 ft above sea on a 12 hours flight without much of a meal choice. Maybe someone on the ground below would be listening. Maybe Etihad's kitchen in-charge would get his act together and future passengers would not have to suffer.

Meanwhile, we continued to wait. Food was served to everyone. A little while later the trolley came again to remove the food trays. We asked for our meals. The air hostess said she was getting chicken prepared for us in the Business class galley. It would take time. We continued to wait.

I was running out of time as I had to start fasting and it was already 1:45am New York time and 4:45am local time in the Atlantic below. Finally, our meals came. We did get chicken. No sauce. No vegetables or rice with it. Just plain grilled chicken. I had to fast so I quickly ate it.

Eight hours later we were flying over the Arabian Gulf and it was time for breaking my fast. I took out a candy that I had in my pocket and sucked on it. Then I went to the galley and asked for water. Wasn't particularly hungry and we would be landing in an hour.

Immigration and baggage collection at Abu Dhabi airport was swift. We were out within minutes. It was a two hours drive home (we live in Umm Al Quwain). When we reached home my wife got a pleasant surprise. The wonderful aroma of chicken biryani! I had messaged my son who received us at AUH airport to buy some chicken biryani from our favorite restaurant in Dubai and it was waiting for us at home.

It is good to be back. But Etihad, you have lost the sheen.

syed irfan ahmad


Update: October 15 2014

I received a phone call and email today from a Guest Relations Officer of Etihad who mentioned:
1 – Etihad does in fact charge extra for Exit row seats because they have extra leg room. [ I thought this was the prerogative of Low Cost Carriers and not of a full service airline like Etihad. But I now stand corrected. (Etihad, flydubai, Air Arabia) - same bracket - check]
2 – "The limited storage space on board prevents us from carrying as wide a choice of meals as we would like." [On a 12 hours flight on a Boeing 777-300 it is not a question of a wide choice of meals it is more to do with anticipating the needs of your passengers – if within minutes you run out of two out of three meal options you do not have the right mix and somebody erred – the next time anyone plans to travel on Etihad, Bring Your Own Meal]
3 - "I regret that we did not meet your and wife’s expectations on this occasion. I would ask however, that you continue to offer feedback, something we welcome, as this lets us know where we are getting things right, and where there is room for improvement." [ You have just got to be kidding! You think I am a flight meal inspector who will voluntarily fly on Etihad again just to continue to offer feedback? Fortunately, passengers have a choice. I will religiously exercise this right!]