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The smashed Nora headdress . . . it cannot be repaired

New Europe Flights a Little Cracked

Sunday, May 20, 2012
PHUKET: The new ''Etihad'' daily link between Phuket and Abu Dhabi is a mixed blessing, trial flights using the new deal to leap to Europe and back to Phuket showed this month.

Based on my recent experience, the plan to transform Abu Dhabi and United Arab Emirates into a hub for travellers heading from Europe to Phuket needs a little more work.

Yes, Etihad Airways provided great service and excellent standards. Potential problems arise not with the smooth performance of Etihad, but with its new partner on the leap to Europe, Air Berlin.

While Etihad is a full-service airline with all the trimmings, Air Berlin is a stock-standard budget airline, with snacks and drinks. As a result, it lacks the customer service that should be provided in aligning itself as a partner with top-flight Etihad.

Our group went to Europe for an event to mark the 150th anniversary of relations between Thailand and Germany, and it was great to be entertained so well at Hamburg University, where the cultural exchange took place.

Sadly, the flight from Phuket to Abu Dhabi was with Air Berlin. Then we changed to Etihad to fly to Dusseldorf. Air Berlin then links to other cities in Germany and Europe.

We enjoyed Etihad between Air Berlin flights. It was a very pleasant interlude.

On the flight from Phuket to Abu Dhabi - about six hours - it was as though somebody forgot to turn on the airconditioning on the Air Berlin aircraft. Or perhaps they were just trying to acclimatise us to the desert.

The six of us were carrying 13 pieces of luggage packed with books, costumes for Thai dancing and gifts for our hosts. At Phuket International Airport, Air Berlin told us we could only take one piece of luggage per person.

By combining all our weight allowances, we would have come under the weight limit. Eventually, Air Berlin accepted that arrangement.

On the way back, it was a different story. We had booked flights from Hamburg to Phuket, and it turned out to be all Air Berlin. It was a complicated series of leaps: Hamburg to Munich, Munich to Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf to Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi to Phuket.

There were no Etihad flights to ease the pain. What Air Berlin didn't tell us was that one of their aircraft failed at Phuket International Airport.

As a result, we had to endure an alternative route, using Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok, and then Bangkok Airways from Bangkok to Phuket.

Hamburg check-in was painful. The Air Berlin staff told us we had to go via Bangkok, without explaining the reason - and wanted extra money for the luggage.

It took 90 minutes of hassle for them to admit that the luggage had actually been reduced from 13 pieces to 11 pieces.

In Munich, we tried to get on a flight to Phuket. In Munich, Air Berlin wanted again to charge us extra for the luggage. An Air Berlin staffer told me: ''This is your fault, not Air Berlin's fault.''

Really? We wanted to fly to Phuket and not to Bangkok, and it was our fault?

Munich to Dusseldorf. Dusseldorf to Abu Dhabi, with Air Berlin. We answered the call to board the aircraft . . . and there was a problem with duplicate seat allocation.

Air Berlin staff asked us for the receipt for the extra luggage. There was no extra payment, we said. We wanted to go to Phuket, and the airline was flying us to Bangkok.

Our party is split up, although we'd initially been allocated seats together. We check in again at Abu Dhabi, at the Etihad counter. Everything is perfect. We board the flight . . . but all our luggage does not.

We fly Etihad to Bangkok, not knowing all our luggage is not with us. Oddly, five pieces of luggage make the flight. The other six pieces remain in Abu Dhabi.

Was someone trying to tell us something? The flight, though, is excellent, not knowing the problem with the bags.

Only when we reach Phuket do we discover that half our luggage is in Abu Dhabi.

The upshot: we had to return to Phuket International Airport the following day to collect our left-behind luggage, which comes direct from Abu Dhabi on an Air Berlin flight.

Most of the unaccompanied luggage was badly damaged.

A traditional Thai Nora dancer in our party, whose elaborate costume, packed in a secure case, was broken into pieces, is still trying to negotiate a replacement settlement . . . with Bangkok Airways.

The headdress of a Nora dancer is elaborate and cannot be repaired. It must be replaced, hand-made, with appropriate ceremonies to the spirits.

Convincing Bangkok Airways of this is possible because they understand Thai culture. Convincing Air Berlin of anything, as we found, is much more difficult.

Our conclusion: Etihad is an excellent airline. It should choose its partners more carefully.

This is not an editorial promotion for the new ''Etihad'' service but a genuine review. Phuketwan's reviewer paid for her flights.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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No more Airberlin, good bye!!

Posted by Passengers on May 20, 2012 11:18

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Had my parents with Air Berlin to Phuket, they were not impressed at all !

Posted by Bjarne on May 20, 2012 13:45

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If you want to promote Etihad, that is up to you, for whatever benefits you seek. But please: as a "media outlet" you have a duty to at least get your facts straight. There is no such thing as "Air Bangkok". It's Bangkok Airways, and it's been in business here for close to three decades.

Posted by Jack Martin on May 20, 2012 17:04

Editor Comment:

We got it right the first time, Jack, and incorrect at the second mention. Thank you for kindly pointing that out. But if you think this is a promotion, your comprehension of what you read leaves a lot to be desired.

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This is the first time that I flew with Air Berlin and of course this is the last time too !!!! Etihad should choose the best partner.

Posted by nu_kuck on May 20, 2012 17:06

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I flew LTU (now Air Berlin) 17 years ago to Thailand. I flew Air Berlin to Klagenfurt/Austria 2 years ago.
I am not impressed, either.

Posted by Aachen on May 20, 2012 18:45

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Thanks for the article, you made my doubts about Air Berlin true, and even they have a good promotion price flying from Norway to Phuket i will for sure not choose them. Other carriers will be prefered. Flying low cost carriers should not mean they don't give you the service you should expect, even paying less money some minimum standards are expected and required...

Posted by tdr on May 20, 2012 18:53

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Ethiad bought a big share of air Berlin. Air Berlin is troubled by delayed Berlin airport, old machines and staff from different low cost take overs - LTU for e.g. And it's strategy is stuck in the middle between real low cost carriers and premium flyers like Lufthansa (also struggeling) and ethiad that are pampered by it's government Abu dhabi...

Posted by Lena on May 20, 2012 19:52

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Actually, Etihad owns 29% of Air Berlin since last December - as "Germany's second biggest airline" was nearly bankrupt then.

Posted by Martin on May 20, 2012 21:03


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