When we were working on booking the trip to Australia, I suggested we build in as large a connection in Abu Dhabi to at least be able to spend a night there. While I’ve been to Abu Dhabi a lot of times, I’ve never managed to see the Sheikh Zayed Mosque there, and Shipra has never seen anything outside of the Abu Dhabi airport. So it made sense to build in a longish layover if possible.
In the end, we managed to get an approximately 23 hour long layover which would be because the EY A380 flight from Mumbai arrived at 23:00 hours, and the EY A380 flight to Melbourne departed the next evening at about 22:00 hours. We planned to be able to get out of the airport and catch some sleep at the Hyatt Capital Gate before we got out to see the mosque. A longish itinerary won’t be possible because we did not want to tire ourselves out before getting on our 13 hour long flight to Melbourne.
We did seem to run into a bit of an issue however. As an Indian citizen, the Visa is always the issue. While there are many a travel agencies which would sponsor a visa for you when arriving in the UAE, I was very keen to get a Transit Visa issued since it fit our purpose and was the cheapest visa option around. Here were all the options Etihad would be willing to sponsor, through their visa processing partner TT UAE Visas:
Like you can see, the Transit Visa was the cheapest option, and given that we were going to do a quick layover, it would fit our bill. We were led to believe that it was an easy process. We tried applying 14 days out but were informed we could only apply 12 days out, and applications could be made at least 3 clear working days out for a transit visa. So closer to our date, we tried applying again. The process appeared to be largely simple.
What they did not explain were the hurdles. And anything that appears easy is not!!!
We were booked to travel on Etihad, but our tickets were issued by American Airlines. So when we started filling the form, I ran into trouble on screen 3 where they requested the e-ticket number. This is a sample of the screen.
Like you would see, the Visa processing company wanted the e-ticket number, and they would only take an Etihad e-ticket number (issued with first 3 digits 607). That set me off on the wrong path. Since my ticket was not issued on the 607 number series but 001 series (AA stock), this wasn’t going anywhere.
I then contacted the hotel to check if they could help us in visa issuance who directed us to a vendor, where the base case scenario was to apply for a Tourist Visa. This was a no go because costs would creep up big time now. Next, I reached out to Thomas Cook in India, and they had a slew of Visa options available online.
This layover was quickly getting wasted since I would now be paying more for two visa issuances than my hotel and transport combined. So I figured I had nothing to lose and I went back to the TTUAEVisas portal and filled up the form again. In the e-ticket number I filled up the number from my AA issued ticket anyways. I either could get a visa or I could not, the choice was theirs. But I’d like to believe that I at least gave it a shot.
The next page had the next bouncer. I had all the paperwork scanned and ready. Now they told me they wanted it only in JPG format, and they wanted specific excerpts. For instance, cropped out leafs of the Passport with the personal information, visa copies of the USA et al.
By the time I came to this stage, I had already wasted a few hours with the e-ticket number issue and how to resolve it. I was not backing down now. So, I patiently set about extracting JPGs from the PDFs that my scanner spewed out and putting it in the format that met their guidelines. It was at least an hour’s work per person.
Eventually, I uploaded everything and the pages would frequently error out. That meant I’d have to start with the visa application number again sometimes. Once on the third attempt I was able to pay for the Visa and I got the confirmation that my application was accepted. I repeated the process for Shipra as well, and now that I knew all the steps, it took me slightly lesser time.
Our applications were sent for processing the next day, and lo and behold, within 24 hours, we had the transit visa in our mailboxes. With a very clear message on top of the visa image which mentioned that I could only travel with Etihad, South African Airlines, Air Seychelles, Air Berlin, Air Serbia and Jet Airways to utilize this transit visa.
Clearly the visa process for a UAE visa was not as simple as it appeared. It was a shot in the dark for me, but I eventually was willing to risk the money to find out how this works. And there was no problem in the end. So, if you have one of those Etihad tickets issued by another carrier, feel free to apply for a UAE transit visa with them, as long as you have good skills in cropping documents for your visa application.
Have you run into the same problem as I did ever?