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Friday, May 26, 2017

Do i need a transit visa if i have to collect and recheck my baggage in Abu Dhabi (AUH)?

Am writing this because of my a surprisingly bad experience i had 3 months ago when i was traveling from Uganda to Malaysia. Having previously traveled to 4 different countries by air (Italy x 2, USA, Dubai, China), i thought i was now a pro only to be surprised by Etihad at their check-in counter when they denied me from boarding the aircraft in Nairobi (NBO).

This happened on 28th Feb 2017, i had bought a low budget e-ticket from KIWI.COM (Entebbe -to- Kuala Lumpur).
Those of you who have used low budget online travel agents before, know they cut costs by connecting you to different airlines some of which may have abnormal layover hours. This was new to me, all my past travel tickets were with a single airline, mixing airlines was a new thing for me. At first i didn't think it would be an issue, but then i saw warnings on my e-tickets like:

"Pick up and re-check your bags"
"Visas may be required in: United Arab Emirates, Malaysia"

Below is a summary of my itinerary, Entebbe-to-Kuala Lumpur which i was unfortunately forced to cancel mid trip by Etihad check-in personnel in Nairobi.

So, i boarded in Ebb but asked them to check my bag to Nairobi, where i would collect it and recheck-in at Nairobi, this was not necessary for this section of the journey but i made that decision when at Entebbe i realized that the flight is operated by Kenya Airways on behalf of Eithad for that small section of my trip, i i thought it wise to collect my bag in Nairobi and recheck it again but oh boy i was wrong, and it became the genesis of my problems during this trip as you will later realize. I reached Nairobi, went through immigration, collected my bag, exited through arrivals and headed to the departures terminal. When they opened the check-in counters, i approached the Etihad counter only to be halted by a Kenyan woman working at the Etihad counter and she told me they can't let me board the aircraft because i don't have a UAE transit visa which will be required when i reach Abu Dhabi, she referred me to her supervisor, they asked me to sit aside as they process other passengers, later, they made a few phone calls, called me and said i should cancel my ticket! just like that!

I didn't know what to do, the checkin counter was about to close, the aircraft was about to leave, so i called KIWI and asked then to cancel the ticket and get me another one, fortunately, they were able to get me on Fly Emirates from Nairobi to Kuala  Lumpur, but i had to pay for the new ticket and also wait 10hrs for the new flight. The good thing is they cancelled with a refund claim, but this is processed after 30 business days. However some money is deducted and you don't get a full refund.

It's 3 months later and am planning my return trip, this time from Jakarta (CGK) to Entebbe (EBB) and i used KIWI again to find a good yet low budget ticket, i found one again with Etihad through Abu Dhabi (UAE), layover of 3 hours which is perfect and they let me even carry 2 check-in baggage at no additional cost which is even more beautiful. 

This time round i took their VISA warning signs seriously and decided to do my own background checks if i really need a transit VISA in UAE?, because they also state that i have to collect and recheck-in my baggage in Abu Dhabi regardless of the fact that my itinerary is with one airline. The emphasized that even if my entire journey is with one airline, the Reservation number (PNR - Passenger Name Record) is different for the two sections of the journey, that is; Jakarta (CGK) -to- Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Abu Dhabi (AUH) -to- Entebbe (EBB).

So i made a few searches on the internet and here is what i discovered:

1. Used these links to find out if i need a VISA? or if am entitled to Visa-On-Arrival
     Before you fly to UAE
     Do i need a visa for UAE?

2. Types of VISAs and VISA fees

3. So i went ahead and wrote an email to TT Services (Etihad)

4. I got this response:
Email Response from TT services confirming that i don't need a VISA


Passengers with onward tickets transiting through Abu Dhabi (UAE), regardless of their nationality don't require transit VISA as long as:
1. They are staying within the airport
2. The layover time is less than 8 hours.

With the facts gathered above, am disappointed that the Etihad personnel in Nairobi denied me my right of boarding the aircraft to UAE yet:
1. A possessed an onward ticket with another airline (Qatar Airlines) - Confirmed and fully paid
2. I was not planning on leaving the airport at Abu Dhabi
3. My layover time in Abu Dhabi was less than 8 hours.

Clearly the Etihad personnel in Nairobi showed that:
1. They don't have full knowledge of the guidelines and policies
2. They made a decision without making any effort to consult the dedicated UAE visa services.
3. They didn't care about the inconvenience i had to go through to cancel and look for another ticket.

I hope this helps another passenger who could be in the same doubt
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