Later, I would learn that it is standard operating procedure for Etihad to leave junior front line staff with no authority to deal with customers in any way other than according to a process and for managers to avoid contact with customers.
But I had not learned that as I went from place to place within the airport, asking information desks, security personnel (who got to recognise me as I wandered through the airport from terminal to terminal following fictitious leads of how to find an Etihad management office).
Eventually, a security supervisor came over and said his men were concerned because I was clearly not getting good information. That was nice – the security people were universally helpful and friendly and smiled each time I got scanned. They even stopped asking me to take off my watch and belt: it was becoming silly.
He took me to an office with no visible signs, in a part of the airport that was so quiet and so un-marked it was like no one ever went there, next to an unattended, pristine desk that looked like another transit desk. He knocked on a door and went in. A couple of minutes later, he came out with a young man who said he was there to help.
And he tried. He told me that he was not a manager but that the managers would not come out. The reason, he said almost apologetically, was that they were meeting to discuss what had gone wrong.
Maybe I’m a bit thick but I would have thought that the best person to tell them what had gone wrong was at least one of those who the wrong had been done to. But no, they didn’t want to come out.
I pointed out that the connecting aircraft was there when I arrived and that not only I but all the others were there before the last boarding time.
I got more story: the airline decided we would be late and that there would not be enough time to get the luggage from one aircraft to another. But we were not late, I pointed out. Even if the decision had been valid when it was made, it became invalid and Etihad must have known that before we landed. I was told we had a long taxi. No, I said. This is a tiny airport. I’m used to long taxis and this wasn’t one.
But in any case, they could have let us onto the plane and delayed the onward flight for a few minutes while our bags caught up. I told him about the “hot transfer” tags.
Apparently not, because that would have upset the entire airline’s schedules because of knock on effects. No, I pointed out: aside from the fact that that’s a ridiculous exaggeration, even if he’s talking about the schedule for that particular aircraft, it’s a long flight and catching up a few minutes would not be hard. It’s a flight into KLIA and that’s not a busy airport, even if they were a few minutes late, they would slot in easily. The flight is not so long that there’s a question of air crew hours. And lastly, for the onward flight, it would be easy to pick up a few minutes on the ground so that the aircraft did not miss its slot out of KLIA. So that’s not a good reason, I told him.