Chaos In The Abu Dhabi Airport by R. Wayne Parchman
January 12, 2021
The Writing Traveler Series
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Chaos in The Abu Dhabi Airport
While flying from the US to Dhaka, Bangladesh, I was required to change planes in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. After making my way through the beautiful airport to the departure gate, I was greeted by a large crowd of young Bangladeshi men who were going home for a family visit from the contract construction work they were doing in the UAE.
In Bangladesh, as the most populous country in the world, there is not the same respect for personal space as we are used to in the West so there was much pushing and shoving to get near the boarding ramp. I appeared to be the only Westerner in the gate area.
After pushing my way to the check-in desk, I checked in for the flight and was given a boarding pass. As I tried to find some space to wait for the boarding call, I noticed that one of the Bangladeshi men was talking in a very animated and angry fashion to the gate agent and pointing at me. He then moved over to a group of his traveling companions and they all were glaring at me in a hostile manner.
So, I made my way back to the desk and asked the agent what was going on. He explained that the young man had seen my American passport when I checked in and was demanding that I not be allowed on the plane since he considered Americans to be infidels and the enemy of his people and were not welcome in his country.
He had made some threats of blocking my entry onto the flight so the agent said he had called airport security and the matter would be handled shortly.
No sooner had the agent said that when several airport security guards in uniforms arrived and grabbed the young man and started dragging him away. He was fighting with the guards and started pointing at me and yelling… “Kill him! Infidel! Kill him!” At this point, the guards pulled out short clubs and starting striking the man while dragging him away even faster.
This agitated the crowd even more and I now found most of the people in the gate were staring at me with angry looks and I really started to fear for my safety. Several airline personnel arrived and asked me to accompany them to a private room next to the gate where they said I would be safe while things calmed down in the boarding area.
I expressed my concerns about getting on this five-hour flight with an angry mob but was reassured that all would be fine. I was being upgraded to first-class and two airline security agents would accompany me on the flight. I was still not sure but learned there were no more available flights to Dhaka for two more days so I reluctantly agreed to proceed.
Boarding was uneventful as promised as I was escorted onboard through a side door that avoided the crowded gate area altogether and settled into an amazing first-class cabin on Ethihad Airlines. I was greeted by the Captain who assured me I would be safe and comfortable and apologized for the ugly scene at the gate. He also assured me that most people in the UAE and Bangladesh did not share the sentiments of that angry young man.
As it turned out, it was one the most pleasant flights ever, with amazing cuisine of the region, exceptional French wines, and incredible first-class service. The security agents stood guard at the entrance to the first-class cabin and there were no incidents at all.
Upon arrival in Bangladesh, I was again escorted off the plane before anyone else, whisked through immigration and customs, and found myself in a limo with my luggage already in it heading to my hotel.
It ended up being such a delightful flight that I couldn’t help but wonder if I could perhaps stage some similar scene before future flights to get some more of that wonderful treatment. Just kidding…..