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Dulles, Virginia – January 22, 2015

Since our flight to Abu Dhabi did not leave until around 22:00, I arranged for a 14:30 checkout from the hotel. About that time, we had a taxi pick us up for our ride to the airport. Not too long before leaving, I checked the airline’s, Etihad, website for baggage weight restrictions. I thought I saw our bags could weigh 25kg each. When I weighed them, all four weighed in at just less than 49 pounds, well within the limit. I did not bother to weigh our carry-on bags, nor did I see anything on the website regarding their weight.

Etihad Airways sign at the Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

The taxi dropped us at Dulles International Airport. We found our way quickly to the Etihad counter. We found out check-in did not begin until 18:00. We sat and waited. We wanted to change our seats to a two-seat configuration since we faced a 13-hour flight. That would allow Leslie a window seat and me an aisle seat.
As the agents set up the rope line, we found ourselves first in the cue. We thought we were set. Little did we know we would soon be doing the “suitcase shuffle.”
As soon as the line opened, the agent at the beginning of the rope line maze asked us to weigh our carry-ons. We were both nearly double the allowed 7kg. She directed us to an empty area of the counter that had a scale. Our mission was to get our four large bags to 23kg each and our carry-ons to 7kg each. We finally got close, but not exact. They charged us a $50 overweight fee. As I look back on the incident, I do not know what we accomplished with the “suitcase shuffle.” In the end, we went on the plane with the same amount of weight we brought to the airport. Oh well, lesson learned.
Adjacent to our departure gate, we found a small cafe. We sat and relaxed with a glass of red wine.
We boarded the plane with no further drama. During the flight, we did have numerous bouts with moderate turbulence. The flight crew was dressed to a fair the well. They fed us an incredible three times during the flight. In between each meal, I did doze reasonably well.
We flew on an Airbus A340-600. It is by far the largest plane on which I have ever traveled. Each seat had a monitor. Just before our flight began, an Arabic prayer for a safe trip played on the monitor. I just felt happy that we pushed back from the gate six minutes early.
For the duration of the flight, I set my monitor to shuffle through several different maps showing our relative location. One of the screens was a compass rose showing the direction and distance to two cities, one along the flight path, and the other was always Mecca.
As we flew into the Middle East, I found our flight path interesting. For example, we flew over the mountainous area between Iraq and Iran. I wondered to myself if that was due to any danger posed by ISIL. After all, we did present a target. I imagined there were very few inhabitants in the snow-covered mountains.

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