Abu Dhabi Airport Reviews
Horrible Airport, Horrible Staff Jul 06, 2008
This is one of the most miserable airports I've ever seen. In fairness, we were only in the departures area (reviews I've read say check in and security on the 'other' side are very fast), but it was horrible.
The bus into the terminal from the parking bay where out flight from MAN to AUH was the standard transfer vehicle, but very hot. I was glad it was a relatively short ride (short compared to some at DBX). The terminal building itself is a visual monstrosity - I can't comment on the architectural value, but the colours of the explosion-like 'flower' in the middle of the ground floor (blue, green and white) were combined in such a way to induce migraines. The circular design is good in some ways - it's easy to see where gates are from the opposite side of the terminal, but it means - as others have commented - you can see the chaos all around. Yes, AUH looks less like a global melting pot, but only because it's small so people can't sprawl out on the floor, but the swarms of people crowding the Etihad transfer desk was very uncomfortable - we were trying to find out whether we could pay to upgrade to business class on the next leg of our journey to BKK but the assistant we finally got to speak to broke off her conversation with us, who had queued patiently to speak to hear, to speak to other people who barged to the front of the queue to ask questions. We never actually found out how much the upgrade would have cost - she shouted 4 different prices but didn't confirm which was correct!
The options for shopping are - odd. Because of the circular design some of the shops almost look like their peeking out from under the upper floor. I ended up buying a pair of sunglasses, despite the shop assistants descending on us like flies as soon as we stepped over the threshold of the shop. On our return journey two weeks later my husband was buying a bottle of whisky and I'd gone to look around the shop and as I came back to the tills, a male shop assistant blocked the aisle I was about to walk down and pointed me in the other direction! As soon as I'd moved around he walked away. The staff in the whole terminal have attitude problems as far as we could tell.
There are a few places to get a snack, but only the Cinnamon City Bakery where you can get anything close to a meal, as far as we could tell - they serve burgers, saaj, fries, etc. However the service was bad - I mean no offence, but locals appeared to get served first, their orders taken in the queue or at their tables -- all the Westerners had to queue to the counter. The food delivery is disorganised there too. There is a Costa Coffee which was always queued out - it sold cakes and drinks, etc.
The ladies toilets were DISGUSTING, and the terminal building itself wasn't massively clean either. In no way do I mean to offend anyone, but a lot of the locals seemed to just let their children run riot - as long as they weren't bothering their parents, it was fine. There was nearly a pile up on an up escalator because a child was standing like a star - arms and legs outstretched at the top, facing away from the stairs. We were four back from the person at the front and got pushed as the man at the front literally had to lift the child away before we all tumbled. There aren't enough seats for the huge volume of passengers passing through both times we were there.
Our big problem is the security checks at the departure gates. Boarding cards had to be presented halfway down the tunnel to the satellite gates. Again, some people tended to push in front with no respect for the queues. The queues were long to the planes, as people piled down as soon as the flights were called. But it was at the metal detectors and x-rays our big problem occurred. After downing most of a 500ml bottle of water because we couldn't take it on board, I put my bag through the machine. The security officer shouted at me - rather rudely - to take my bag to the search table. After I gathered my other things (shoes, belt, etc) and I checked it was me he meant, a brusque little police officer at the search desk motioned to me to open the bag, which I did. He signalled to a female officer to go through it - she pulled out my sealed clear plastic bag, containing a 100ml bottle of perfume, a 50ml mini hairspray, a 50ml bottle of hand sanitizer and 19ml toothpaste. He made me take everything out and snatched the perfume, hair spray and sanitizer from me and said not allowed. The steam started to pour from my ears - I hadn't done anything wrong, the bottles were in the correct bag and nothing I had was in a bottle of more than 100ml, in accordance with Federal Aviation rules. I said no, they were and he just snapped back at me, no. When I asked why, he said because he said so! Ha...this was absolutely not acceptable, especially as I could see someone with what looked like a 750ml water bottle sitting ready to board the flight. I called for my husband and he argued along with me but the policeman wasn't budging. I asked him to call his manager - but he claimed he was the manager. I asked if that was of the whole airport, and he snorted and turned away. I tried to show him the volume of each bottle by turning the perfume upside down and he ripped them from my hands. My husband said the officer was in the wrong and to give me them back, but he refused, saying they had to go into the bin beside him - I said no and he glowered at me. So I said fine, bin them in front of me and he did - we said we were going to get the airport manager - this was absolutely not good enough.
There was 30 minutes until flight time, but this was now a matter of principle. We ran to the Etihad desk and asked for the airport manager or Etihad shift manager. She turned up after 5 minutes and we explained our predicament. She showed us the Abu Dhabi Airport leaflet detailing what we could and couldn't take and I said we were complying with their regulations. She led us to the gate and surprisingly enough, the policeman had gone. We walked straight through the metal detectors and were promptly pushed back to take off shoes, etc. The manager spoke to the officer at the x-ray machine who'd ordered me to the search desk, and they spoke in Arabic. She called the police officer involved and spoke to him - as she did, I went to the wheelie bin, which was locked! She said he claimed we had bottles which were too big - which we didn't. I said I'd show her, but the bin couldn't be opened. She spoke to the policeman again and said he said we had more than 1 litre of liquids, which we also didn't. They talked again, and eventually she said he refused to come back to the gate, and once something was in the bin, that was it lost. My husband and I told her one little policeman's bad mood can't be taken out on passengers obeying the rules - when others were going through with other liquids. I saw a woman on the flight with the same Calvin Klein Contradiction bottle I'd had confiscated, as well as others with 500/75ml water bottles. I explained my anger was because rules were not being fairly applied, that the officer's decision was costing me money (losing the 1/2 bottle of perfume) and that this was the worst treatment we'd ever received, and it was giving us a very sour taste in our mouths for Abu Dhabi Airport on our first time there. She merely shrugged and said they couldn't argue with the police, because it wasn't worth it. She agreed we'd been wronged but couldn't be anything about it.
The satellite gates are tiny - we had a Manchester flight and a Heathrow flight leaving from the same one within 5 minutes. The area was crowded, too hot and smelly, with not enough seats. The only plus point about the airport is because it's small you can get to gates quickly and there are lots of plasma information screens. The Bureau de Change still (somehow!) offers Deutschmarks, Francs and Italian Lira! Maybe the Euro hasn't reached Abu Dhabi yet.
So, we're very unlikely to use AUH again for three big reasons - surly, arrogant staff, hellish design, and bad facilities. DXB is bigger, but far better.
Part of the Thailand - July 2008 travel blog
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