31 December 05, EK419 BKK-DXB, Boeing 777-300ER A6-EBI, 0220-0600
Photo © Tamon Takeoka
On 31 December I travelled from Bangkok via Dubai to Istanbul, with Emirates Airlines. These were my first flights on Emirates and both types were new for me as well, so it was triple joy.
When I arrived at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport on the 30th at 22.30, the Emirates check-in area was packed with what appeared to be Chinese Muslims travelling to Jeddah for the Hajj. There were a number of counters for flight EK385 at 01.20 and my flight, EK419 at 02.20. There also was a special counter for the Hajj-passengers. First I thought it might be an extra flight, but apparently they all boarded the plane leaving at 01.20.
Check in went very smooth and I got my boarding passes for Dubai and Istanbul in no time. I also got the seats I had reserved, 17A on the 777 and 9A on the A330.
After some walking around in the terminal I headed for the gate and saw that flight EK385 was boarding, operated by 777-300 A6-EMN, which had come from Hong Kong. Not much later they called the passengers for my flight, which had started its journey homewards in Auckland.
I read many stories on this forum about the 3-4-3 layout on Emirates 777’s. I found that there was plenty of legroom, and the width of the seat was ok, I think. However, there was nobody seating next to me, so that might “improve” the experience. But, no matter what, the ICE PTV system was fantastic. Everything worked as it should, and I managed to fight back my sleep to have a go at the 500+ channels. Well, actually I stuck to a few episodes of Star Trek and some gaming (Blackjack, Yahtzee and Tetris… very addictive…) We got breakfast about one and a half hour before landing.
The triple seven’s cabin is very quiet. I was sitting next to the engine, and even during the powerful take-off the noise level was more than very reasonable. The stars on the ceiling, part of the mood lighting, are a nice feature in the cabin.
After landing we parked near the maintenance hangars and were taken by bus to the terminal. I had nine hours to go till my second flight, and had booked a room in the Dubai International Hotel, in the terminal, for a six-hour block. I was surprised to be awaited by an employee of the hotel at the entrance of the terminal. Then again, I guess they should provide that service given what they charge!
31 December 05, EK121 DXB-IST, Airbus A330-200 A6-EAA, 1450-1740
Photo © John Farrington - FlightLineImages
After getting some sleep at the hotel I surfed the net for a while in the business centre and then headed for the McDonald’s. The passengers for my flight were already being called to the gate one hour and fifteen minutes before departure. Again everything went smoothly and we departed on time, taking off from runway 30R behind a Kuwait Airways A320. After hitting some turbulence during the climb, we had a smooth ride all the way to Istanbul. I could clearly see Qatar, Bahrain and the oil fields in Saudi Arabia. The flight route took us following the Iraqi border, over Jordan and Syria into Turkey, and via Ankara and Bursa to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. The flight again was excellent, with very good food. I reckon economy class was only 35% full. The difference with the 777-300ER: a slightly wider seat, less legroom and a smaller PTV with less channels to choose from. If Emirates pushes ten-abreast sitting in a 777, I wonder why they didn’t put nine-abreast seating in the A330? Not that I’m complaining: I prefer the Airbus layout, as long as I have a window seat. Taxiing in at IST I saw some of Turkish Airlines’ new A320’s and an A330 plus a couple of 757’s of AtlasJet, and it was there and then that I decided to make a trip to Antalya just for fun. After clearing immigration I walked to the domestic terminal and booked flights for the 9th of January, going on Onur Air and back on AtlasJet, especially hoping to get a 757 or CRJ700 with the latter. I already posted a trip report about these flights.
I visited Sabiha Gökcen airport, Istanbul’s second international airport on the Asian side, about 40 kilometres east of the city. I had flown there before with Corendon Airlines from Brussels, but back then I had arrived and left in the dark. This time I could take some pictures. When I arrived, there were only three aircraft on the main ramp: a Pegasus 737-800, the Ford 737-700 VP-BTT and an Ural Airlines Tu-154. The Ford shuttle was about to leave for Stansted. After a cup of coffee it became a bit more busy, with another Pegasus 737, and a Turkish Airlines 737 and A320 landing. These planes would depart for Trabzon, Ankara and Diyarbakir respectively. On the cargo ramp I saw the 707 that caught fire not long ago, and a green/grey Ilyushin Il-76. Sabiha Gökcen is a nice little, modern airport and a very good option for Turks living in eastern Istanbul or Izmit, as it saves them the trip over one of the Bosphorus bridges and through the city.
Photo © Michael Baldock
Near Istanbul Atatürk Airport I found a good spot to take pictures of aircraft approaching either runway 36 or 06, along the coast. And I visited the Aviation Museum, which tells mainly about the history of the Turkish Air Force. They have an impressive line-up of aircraft, and one civilian type on display is a Caravelle in faded Istanbul Airlines colours.
10 January 06, EK122 IST-DXB, Airbus A330-200 A6-EAL, 1910-0115
Photo © Fred Seggie - WorldAirImages
It was lashing with rain and close to freezing temperature the evening of my flight back to Dubai. We boarded on time but had a half hour delay because of the bad weather, and the wings had to be de-iced. The flight itself was excellent again. This time the plane was almost full, mainly Turks going to Dubai to spend their “Bayram” holiday there.
I had arranged a stopover package with Emirates when booking the ticket, and was awaited by a representative of the travel organisation at the airport. I got a transfer to my hotel in a Cadillac! The next day I picked up a rental car. During my I wanted to visit airports and take pictures wherever possible, because as we all know, the United Arab Emirates is not the best place for spotters.
On Wednesday I first drove into Dubai and found a good spot along the Corniche, under the approach path to runways 12 L&R. The planes were low enough there to take good pictures with my 300mm lens. It was a huge parking lot, used for a weekly market, and now it was completely deserted. Then I headed for Sharjah airport, had a look in the terminal, and drove on towards Al Fujairah, on the east coast near the Omani border. Upon reaching the airport I could see the tails of Lockheed L1011 VP-CGF and numerous Ilyushin 76’s. Windows on the first floor offer a view of the apron, which was full of (mainly) Russian jets. I managed to take one picture of an Il-76 in maintenance. Among the planes were Il-76’s EX-109, EX-054, EX-86916 and UN-76810, a DC-8, 737-200 and Yakovlev Yak-42. Then I drove back to Dubai.
On Thursday I had a pleasant surprise. While reading the newspaper, I saw an ad for the Al Ain air show which was being held from 11 to 15 January. I had no idea where Al Ain was, let alone that there was an air show! Needless to say, that would be my destination for the day. I jumped in the car for the 150 kilometre drive to this desert airfield, again close to the Omani border. It was a nice little show, not too crowded and neatly arranged with a seating area along the display line. The flight display included a para-dropping, an American Pitts Special, South African L-29’s, Extra 300’s (Jordanian Falcons, among others), a Sukhoi Su-26 and Su-31, a PT-17 and more small stuff. What I expected to be the highlights of the show, Mirages and F-16’s of the RJAF, turned out to be just a flyby. But all in all it was very much worth the drive.
I then drove to Abu Dhabi, and after a session in an internet café and a meal had a look at the airport before heading back to Dubai.
On Friday I went to my spotting spot along the beach again, and later drove to Ras Al Khaimah, about 100 kilometres from Dubai. Apart from the usual Il-76’s there are a number of 747-200’s and -300’s stored there. Back in Dubai, I spent the rest of the day walking along the Creek and through the Gold Souk.
14 January 06, EK372 DXB-IST, Airbus A330-200 A6-EAK, 0925-1825
Photo © Jid Webb
I checked in at 07.15 for my flight back home. It almost went wrong there. I had placed my suitcase on the conveyor belt, and before the girl did anything the belt started to move and I saw my luggage disappear, with no tag! They printed a tag anyway and gave me the receipt. Someone ran after it to find it and put the tag on, but it wasn’t until I saw it appear in Bangkok that I knew my suitcase had been found and had made it onto the flight in time…
After passport control I had to go through a second security check, which took ages. I don’t understand why though, because before check in you have to go through it as well and only passengers are allowed through to the check in area. Unnecessary extra delay in my opinion.
Boarding was by bus gate, and the flight itself again was excellent.
All in all, despite the ten-abreast seating in the 777, Emirates has taken the number one position from Singapore Airlines in my list of preferred airlines. Although I suspect that a lot has changed at SIA as well since I flew with them in 1994.
Today, 15 January, is my birthday and as a great surprise my partner has somehow managed to get an Emirates banner and a 1/200 scale model of an Airbus A330 from a local travel agent! A nice ending to a great trip.