Abu Dhabi: Gary Redmen was waiting at the arrival lounge of the Abu Dhabi airport, looking tired and anxious to get back to his family in Thailand.
Redmen, 39, his wife and 9-year-old daughter had moved to Wahin, Thailand, a few months ago. "We had visited Wahin three times earlier and fell in love with the lifestyle. That's what encouraged us to move there for good," he told Gulf News.
Three weeks ago, Redmen was on a visit to Sunderland, England, via Manchester Airport, when political tensions ratcheted up in Bangkok. He was anxious to immediately return to his family.
"Even though Wahin is moderately safe, I'm very disappointed that I'm sitting here right now without my family," he said.
The anxious passenger arrived in Abu Dhabi from Manchester on an Etihad flight early yesterday. "In Manchester I was told there were no flights going to Bangkok and advised me to take a flight to Kuala Lumpur, which is the nearest destination to Thailand. From Kuala Lumpur I would take a taxi to Bangkok," he said.
Gulf News shared his story with an Etihad official, who immediately took action and found him a seat on the same relief flight that had just arrived in Abu Dhabi at 8:35 am yesterday.
Flight EY 408 arrived half an hour earlier, bringing 379 passengers stranded in Bangkok. "He is one happy person now," commented a spokesperson from Etihad Airways, who also said that "out of the 379 passengers who arrived in this morning's relief flight, only 39 got down at Abu Dhabi. The rest included 96 passengers transiting to London, 114 to Paris and 95 to Frankfurt."
An American passenger, Susan Harper, 58, had gone to Bangkok on November 23 and was among the expatriates stranded there.
She was visiting a friend in Bangkok for the second time and stopped in Abu Dhabi to visit another friend. She is due to depart for Heathrow today.
"I was visiting a friend in Bangkok when all this happened. In the meantime, the Thai government was extremely generous with all expatriates stranded, they gave us free meals three times a day and accommodation at a four star hotel," she said.
However, Harper spent her last three days sleeplessly, waiting for the earliest possibility of returning back to her country. "I spent two to three hours at the Etihad office hoping to get a flight back, till we finally found this fully booked relief flight," she said. She said the initial number of stranded expatriates in Thailand was around 3,500. "There are still plenty of stranded people in Thailand. The situation is sad, since Thailand is such a beautiful country and the people are gracious, even with the current situation facing them."
An Etihad spokesperson said the airline is finalising plans to resume scheduled services between Abu Dhabi and Bangkok as soon as possible. " We are hoping this will be Friday," he said. The airline is expected to operate an additional relief flight, at least for the first few days after the airport reopens, to help clear the backlog of stranded passengers.