Etihad Tried To Get Me An A380 Walkaround With The Pilot, But…

Filed Under: Etihad

My flight in the Etihad Residence from Abu Dhabi to Sydney is coming up very shortly, and I have one more update to share before the “big day.”

Last week I shared the five requests that I made with the Etihad Residence concierge team. As a passenger in the Residence you can make special requests, so I was curious to see what they’d be able to fulfill. These requests included the following:

  • A lobster roll as a midflight snack
  • Laduree macarons
  • Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc
  • An Etihad A380 model airplane
  • A plane walk around with the pilot pre-flight

Etihad-Arrivals-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 1

The concierge team got back to me very quickly and confirmed that they’d be able to fulfill the first four requests, while they didn’t acknowledge the fifth request. I assumed that this was intentional, and that they were still investigating the feasibility of it.

A couple of days ago I received an email from the concierge saying the following:

With reference to your request regarding a walk around of the aircraft with the pilot pre-departure, we are currently seeking approval from the Airport Authorities.

In line with this, may we please request for your permission for us to provide your passport copy to the Police for their review?

We would also like to mention that the request is not yet approved. However we will continue to follow up with the authorities and update you as soon as we have any further information.

As you might expect, my reaction was somewhere along the lines of this:


I still wasn’t expecting it to necessarily come through, though their effort really does mean a lot. Well, today I received a follow-up email regarding this, and it’s not good news:

Unfortunately the request has been denied by the Airport Authorities.

Heh. I’m going to assume (hope?) that the request was more generically denied, rather than specifically for me, but who knows. On a previous post, an in-the-know person did say the following:

Nothing in UAE law that prevents you doing the walkaround. We hosted a bunch of school children at our airport last month and they got to walk around (in small groups) with the flight crew of an A320 before departure. You may require a visitor pass and security clearance but those shouldn’t take longer than a days advance notice to set up if they are really serious about getting it done.

So maybe I was specifically denied, or maybe there are only exceptions for kids, etc.

Regardless, I really do appreciate the effort that the Etihad concierge put in, as they seemed to be very thoughtful with each request. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if the four requests are actually executed onboard.

Based on how good the concierge team has been, I’m sort of regretting not making Shawn Mendes related requests (ie, his music playing during boarding, a private concert, etc., etc., though perhaps there would be an additional charge for the latter?).

  1. in lieu of this, request an emotional support turkey.
    bonus points if it is related to the one TPG ate on Thanksgiving…

  2. I doubt it is specific to you (if it were, you’d have bigger issues in the UAE than just not getting an airside pass), but rather just Abu Dhabi Airport PRO Division being difficult. Bad luck.

  3. @Sean, or perhaps they were offering clearances only to emirati nationals/expatriates with a valid resident visa? And not those with transit visas?

  4. I get that it’s not the same, but maybe the pilot could do a walk-around with you after you land? Just an idea…

  5. Lucky, I think you should make your Shawn Mendes-related requests now in lieu of the recent denial for the walkaround. I mean, why not? Just do it!

  6. @Chandan – No, it’s not necessary to be a resident to get an airport pass. I don’t have a UAE residence visa anymore (and I’m not even physically in the UAE at present), but I still have an airside access pass valid till the end of August and renewed every 6 months.

  7. It isn’t too late to request Akram as your butler and have him sketch you mid flight…maybe while you are sleeping…

  8. Is it unreasonable to ask that there be no staff around when you’re in the residence as you like to walk around naked?

  9. Wait … you should totally request that Shawn Mendes music be played during boarding! I don’t think they need much lead time for that. I certainly prefer the idea of Shawn Mendes being the butler, but that might be a bit beyond their capabilities.

  10. Your request was obviously denied because they found out you dont tip Uber drivers.

  11. Try El Al. Pilots are always happy to take passengers into cockpit. Have been in both 777 and 747 mid-flight….

  12. Definitely worth the shot Ben. The concierge went above and beyond it seems to make your dreams come true 😉 I’d love to get a bird’s eye view of that….bird.


  13. As a pilot i am not at all suprized that its denied (as i mentioned in a comment on the original post a week or so ago).
    I dont know about UAE, but in most major airports in the world this wouldnt be allowed nowadays.
    This class of children it is reffered to, its possible at a smaller airport or in a company controlled and secured area of the airport.
    Its not long ago this wouldnt be a problem at all though. Just subject to the pilot discression.

  14. Btw, i see some asking for you to visit cockpit. Yes, no problem before or after the flight. But its not gonna happen in flight, at least when they know you will write about it.
    As far as the regulation, some nations allow it and its possible while flying in their airspace, but Etihad has a rule about it, and they must also obey their UAE regulation.

  15. When I used to work at an airport, the procedure for bringing a guest airside was that the visitor would have to deposit picture ID in exchange for a visitor ID. That visitor ID would in turn be associated with a regular ID belonging to an employee with the appropriate training (a course on how to manage escorted visitors airside).
    If the airport in Abu Dhabi has anything similar in place, it means that you can’t change status from escorted visitor to passenger while being airside.

    Ask Etihad if they could accommodate your request if you are willing to show up earlier and go through the airports regular procedure for escorted visitors. Although that might create a time conflict with you having to be escorted airside for the walk-around and then go back landside for the normal security check in time for boarding.

  16. Can you make another request 24 hours out? Something basic, just to see what happens?

    Make it less about something crazy, and more about what happens if someone books last minute and really wants to have Budweiser or something

  17. Shawn Mendes? I thought it was supposed to be Shawn Michaels. Enjoy your trip Lucky, can’ t wait for the only review of The Residence, that matters.

  18. As Sean M noted, it is possible for ADAC (Abu Dhabi Airports Company) to issue an airside pass without a residence vise. However to process the application through the police they will require the latest entry stamp/entry information from the applicants passport. So in practice the application cannot be processed until the apolicant has arrived in the country and will typically take two days to complete.
    This can be very painful when brining in an engineer from outside the country to fix an AOG situation for example.

    Dubai is slightly quicker and easier.

  19. @Mikael – They CAN process the airside pass application on the basis of the UID file number if the person is presently outside the country but has visited the UAE before. But it depends on your wasta though – I’ve seen plenty of others turned away with the same request. If you are Iranian or Arab though (or of Iranian/Arab descent regardless of nationality), all bets are off.

  20. @Lucky, I still can’t believe you want Cloudy Bay when Craggy Range is served. Be sure to do a taste test!

  21. How about a tour of the aircraft?! Like a tour of all the cabin classes, and a tour of the crew rest areas?!

  22. Ben, you have amazing taste in wines. Cloudy Bay is my favorite, but please do a taste test and let everyone know. Have booked the day off work on Saturday to follow your experience live.

  23. I’m sure Lucky would love visiting the cockpit.

    I suspect by publishing his rejection/denial that he’s hoping someone from the airline’s P.R. department will see this and overrule someone.

    This is why pre-trips should not be published. Too many opportunities for a smart airline P.R. stooge to enhance the experience.

  24. Sean Spicer is the only Sean/Shawn not mentioned. I also bet Spicey would be more than willing to drop everything and go. And, you’d be doing him a favor.

  25. Ben, while boarding or once the flight is over you should still ask a flight attendant if you can walk around with the pilot or visit the cockpit. Doesnt hurt to ask!

  26. I have a feeling they will ‘surprise’ you with the walk around once you get to the lounge (especially if you have already sent them your passport info).

  27. “I suspect by publishing his rejection/denial that he’s hoping someone from the airline’s P.R. department will see this and overrule someone”


    It will probably happen as SullyofDoha mentioned, as a “surprise” once he is in the lounge. Someone from Etihad will approach Lucky well in advance of boarding time and tell him he needs to come with them. Lucky will freak out for a paragraph or two wondering what he did wrong, where they were going, etc. And then…Surprise!!!

  28. Ben, an in-the-know contact tells me you could have had that walk around if the request had been made privately. Because you are a blogger and you will be reporting on this to a large audience, management was afraid it would receive countless similar requests from future travelers. It was nothing personal as they are keen to impress you (they definitely know who you are and are aware of the influence you wield).

  29. No airlines can match Air Canada
    At all times they are kind with lovely smile. Speaks three languages.
    It is a privilege to fly with Air Canada
    Try once you will love to fly with always.

  30. Lucky you should ask them if you can do it on an A380 in the US. I was lucky enough to tour the aircraft (not with a pilot but rather with a sales rep) about an hour before it did it’s daily JFK – AUH flight…I wasn’t even flying, all they had me do was go thru security as if I was flying (after getting my passport info ahead of time). What.A.Cool.Plane!

    You should also ask them if your butler would wear a clown costume on your flight.

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