Having enjoyed reading trip reports made by other over the past few months and finally signing up, I offer the following for comment.
The original plan was to fly to Europe in April/ May but the volcano in Iceland disrupted that. Flights were booked with Emirates and they were happy enough to change the dates, so I decided to fly to Madrid in August. Originally booked in Business Class, I was able to obtain upgrades on all sectors through the EK web site, but as upgrade seats only became available at different times I had to keep checking.
Flight: EK421 PER – DXB 22:30 13 AUG 2010
Flight Time: 11:00 hrs
Aircraft: B777-200LR Seat: 2A
On the day of departure I checked in online, selected suite 2A and printed the boarding pass. The complimentary chauffeur-driven car arrived on time and the driver came to the front door. He offered to carry my suitcases to the car and opened the back door for me to get into the vehicle. After a smooth drive to Perth International Departures, he dropped me off and wished me a pleasant journey.
Check-in at the dedicated First Class desk was conducted with courtesy and efficiently. My baggage was checked through to Madrid and new boarding passes were printed. There was plenty of time as I had come to the airport early intending to have a meal before departure. I was delighted to find that there was no queue at Emigration/ Passport Control and didn’t have to strip going through security. Once in the Departures Hall I made my way to the Emirates Lounge where I was greeted by name and shown the facilities on offer. There was plenty of comfortable seating, a business area with several working computers, spotlessly clean toilets stocked with tooth cleaning and shaving equipment, and a dining area with a wide range of salads, sandwiches, pastries and hot meals could be requested. There was also a good selection of beverages, both soft and alcoholic. I chose a cheerful looking tuna salad and a lemon drink.
A few minutes before departure the lounge attendant advised me that the plane was ready and invited me to board. By now most Economy passengers had boarded, leaving Business and First Class passengers (who are free to board at any time) a clear run. Perth International Airport has only one jet bridge at each gate, so all passengers must board through the “front door”. As a result passengers in J and F are generally invited to board after Y passengers to avoid congestion in the forward cabins. Again I was welcomed by name, even before showing my boarding pass, which I found surprising. The reason became clear shortly after as I was the only passenger in First.
A member of the crew escorted me to the Private Suite and offered some refreshment. I chose orange juice and made myself comfortable. A few moments later the purser came to introduce herself as Patricia and after a few general pleasantries pointed out the various features and controls in the suite. There then followed what seemed an endless procession of amenities: personal hand towel; pyjamas; slippers; socks; eye-shades; a leather bag containing shaving gear, antiperspirant, toothbrush and paste, hankies and Bulgari aftershave, body lotion and eau parfumée. I was also offered newspapers and magazines which I turned down, preferring to read the book by Orhan Pamuk brought along for the ride. Just before roll-back I was offered dates and Arabic coffee. The customary hot towel also appeared. Then we were taxiing to the runway and accelerating away for takeoff. I usually enjoy the view of the city lights, but overcast conditions meant that there was not much to see.
Dining aboard Emirates in First is on demand à la carte. A menu and wine list was brought (I didn’t think to take a photo) offering a wide selection of meals, aperitifs, three reds, three whites, Dom Perignon, a Sauterne and a Port. Having eating in the lounge I didn’t want anything big so I requested some cheese and a rather nice Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River. The cheese selection was quite impressive: five different types and generous chunks served with biscuits, crackers and grapes and strawberries. It was a meal in itself. During the meal one of the cabin staff introduced herself as Isobel and asked if this was my first visit to Spain. I replied that while I had indeed been to Spain it was my first visit to Madrid but that I would also be visiting Portugal. By coincidence Isobel came from Portugal and she was happy to provide me with some suggestions for places to visit while there.
The flight itself was uneventful, though a bit choppy over a much longer period than usual. Nevertheless, once the meal had been cleared I went to change into the pyjamas and on returning found the seat folded down and made up into a bed with mattress and duvet. It was pleasant to be able to close the doors and stretch out for a comfortable sleep, although I do wish something could be done to reduce aircraft noise.
A few hours later I decided to freshen up and change into day clothes. Patricia enquired whether I had a good sleep and what would I like for breakfast. I requested orange juice, an omelette and some caramelised French toast. Once more the table was prepared with a cloth and the meal was brought, accompanied by a huge bread basket, some butter and a selection of jam and honey. The meal was well presented and very tasty. Only one ting remained and that was to ask for coffee.
Eventually we were approaching Dubai. The darkness was punctuated by an ever increasing array of lights and soon individual features could be recognised. The landing was smooth but the taxiing seemed to last forever. Yes, again we made our way to a remote stand near the cargo handling facility on the other side of the flower distribution centre. Once the plane was stationary and the doors cleared I was invited to deplane and felt a bit conscious of maybe 250 waiting for me to leave so that they could get off. I boarded the first waiting bus and was followed by passengers in J. The doors shut and we made our “scenic tour” of Dubai on the way to T3.
There was no queue at the remote transfer security station and again I didn’t need to strip before going through the detector. Not being a “duty free” shopper I made my way to the EK First Class Lounge. By now it was about 6:20 AM and the Lounge was quite empty of passengers. My first call was to the washrooms. These I found to be very clean, a young man was in attendance making sure that everything was spotless (the seats even had paper covers laid out in advance), the basins and mirrors were clean and he offered a rolled cotton towel for me dry the hands. I didn’t check out the dining areas or bars as I had eaten in flight. But as soon as I sat down a waiter was there offering some refreshments and snacks. The Lounge has free Wi-Fi, a business centre and a crèche. Passengers can even enjoy a complimentary message.
Flight: EK141 DXB – MAD 07:50 14 AUG 2010
Flight Time: 6hr 55min
Aircraft: A340-300 Seat: 2K
The next sector was to depart from G120 so I made my way to the old terminal building. The gate agent was friendly and wished me a pleasant flight and I made my way down the jet bridge. At the door I was welcomed aboard by name, shown to my seat and offered the usual pre-departure drink. There were two other passengers in First on this sector, a youngish couple occupying 2E and 2F.
Departure was delayed by an engineering problem and the Captain announced that he “hoped to be underway in about 5 minutes”. He later came and announced that the problem was fixed but the departure slot had been missed and they needed to “negotiate a new departure”. About twenty minutes later, after enjoying the offered dates and coffee, we were pushed back and began our journey to Madrid. Sadly, due to headwinds not much of that time could be made up on route so we arrived about twenty minute late into Madrid.
The flight was comfortable enough despite the aircraft being an old A343, although with upgraded seats. Cabin layout is two rows of 2-2-2, with lie flat seats with the screens folded into the seat. Some people would find that a problem but as I was reading it didn’t matter. Slippers, socks and eye shades were offered, but no amenity kit as there were ample supplies in the toilets. Noise-cancelling headphones were already in the seat pockets on boarding, along with a bottle of water. Menus and wine lists were also distributed once airborne. There was no turbulence as we made our way over Saudi Arabia and passing Alexandria and Tunis, crossing the Spanish coast near Valencia. There was some very minor buffeting as we approached Barajas.
On boarding I had been asked if it was my first visit to Madrid and I replied that it was. Obviously the message was passed back and a member of the cabin crew came up from Economy while I was dining to say that she would be back to see me latter. On being offered something, I chose the Iranian Caviar and a glass of Dom Perignon, requesting some hake and grilled vegetables for later in the flight. To accompany the fish I selected an Albariño from the Rias Baixas. True to her word Rachel came back and she offered some very useful tips on where visit, shop and see the best night life. It is this personal touch that I so enjoy about flying with Emirates.
On arrival in Madrid Barajas we “parked” at a gate in T4S. What an amazing place this is. Architecturally it is fantastic with its wave style roofing and passive lighting. But there are long walks, several levels and a train journey is needed to reach baggage reclaim. It is well signposted but can be a bit confusing at first. The first bags off all seemed to belong to the flight and cabin staff, only then did passenger bags appear. That’s the first time I’ve seen that as Priority baggage is usually the first onto the belt. Once I had collected my suitcases it was easier enough to find the way out and begin a wonderful vacation on the Iberian Peninsula.
Overall I was very pleased with the standard of service provided by Emirates. All members of staff, from check-in through to lounge attendants, gate agents and cabin crew were very courteous, friendly and attentive to detail, responding always in a cheerful manner and making my journey a pleasant experience. In particular, Isobel and Rachel, if you should happen to be reading this page, I would like to thank you for going out of your way to come up with suggestions for how my time in Lisbon and Madrid could be more thoroughly enjoyed.
[Edited 2010-09-05 03:32:33]