Abu Dhabi, UAE
I’ve been pushing my weather luck while flying out of JFK recently.
Back in December, it was narrowly averting a massive snowstorm — and getting delayed about five hours in the process. Yesterday, the first leg of our trip to Nepal had originally been scheduled to leave Raleigh for New York at 4:15 p.m. Then came forecasts calling for blizzard-like conditions bearing down on the Northeast, prompting many regional flights into JFK to be proactively canceled.
Worried that our late afternoon flight would also fall victim, we pleaded with representatives at Vayama and Etihad before a sympathetic representative from American Airlines was able to make the switch. Our new flight time? 6 in the morning.
Arriving into New York at 7:30 a.m., we settled into a booth at Au Bon Pain for our 14-hour layover. Not an ideal start to an 8,500-mile journey. But if the weather held off and our flight bound for Abu Dhabi got out, we knew that we would be on board.
We burned hours with several epic Uno battles and then paid $45 for a 5-hour pass to the Oasis Lounge in Terminal 4, which served up complimentary drinks, food, Wi-Fi and couches overlooking the runway as a light snow began to fall.
At about 9 p.m., we boarded Etihad Airways flight 100 bound for the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Due to poor conditions on the runway and deicing, we were delayed about 2-hours — but grateful to get out of New York, especially since we later learned that 20 inches of snow fell.
Thirteen hours later, wheels were down in Abu Dhabi, the Middle Eastern city often overshadowed by neighboring Dubai, about 150 miles to the north. Our bags were checked through to Kathmandu so we quickly passed through immigration, negotiated a cab and were soon barreling down an empty highway at about 100 mph.
The speed warning beeps emanating from the car’s dash did not slow our Pakistani driver who was keen on showing us that, at least in another life, he could have driven a race car.
Our hotel for the 12-hour layover was the Radisson Blu, located on Yas Island, a $36 billion dollar development project (still in the works), that arises from the desert like a mirage, and, appropriately enough, is located directly across the street from the F1 Grand Prix Racetrack.
We had time for a few poolside drinks, taking in the warm evening, before heading upstairs to try and get a couple hours of rest before our next flight.
Tomorrow, our 40-hour journey to the other side of the world continues.