I was recently offered a job in Dubai and the proposing company was kind enough to send me to the UAE in order for me to have a look at the place and see if I liked it well enough to begin my post university career there. We finalized the dates and set up a schedule for my trip, and on the morning of 1st May, I received an email confirming me a seat on Emirates Airlines from London to Dubai. I was set to leave on the 9th of May on a red-eye flight and return on the 13th.
I set up an account on Emirates’ frequent flyer programme, Skywards, and added my itinerary details so that I could check in online on the morning of the trip. Sure enough, at 8:30am on Tuesday, I logged onto www.emirates.com, entered my reservation code and checked in.
Therein came my first disappointment – the aircraft operating EK Flight 004 that evening was originally scheduled to be a 777-300; alas, I saw that upon inspecting the seat map, that the aircraft had been downgraded to a lowly -200/ER. Not to worry though, at least it had Rolls-Royce engines and I wouldn’t have to break my record of only traveling on Rolls-Royce Trent 800 777s.
With the help of www.seatguru.com, I found and selected seat 11G, an aisle on the right hand side of the four centre seats. I printed out my boarding pass and then planned out the rest of the day.
My flight was scheduled to leave at 8:30pm in the evening; I decided to leave Oxford on the 4pm Oxford-Heathrow coach due to construction leaving Oxford and potential traffic on the M40. My fears were all for none. Traffic and construction included, I arrived at London Heathrow Airport’s Central Bus station a little after 5:35pm having had a very quick ride.
I made my way to Terminal 3 and found the Emirates check-in desks at Zone F. There was no one in the queue and I reached the desk immediately. The check-in lady was wearing a United Airlines uniform. She tagged my luggage, handed me a boarding pass in a folder, weighed my hand luggage and asked me for confirmation of my returning flight before asking me to proceed to the departures level where I could go through security.
Here is the folder she gave me:
Upon leaving the Emirates check-in area, I noticed the first thing about Terminal 3 which I didn’t like – the place reeks of B.O. You walk around and it just hits you suddenly like the stinging of the slap of a wet towel when you’re least expecting it. It was enough to make you retch. Anyone who has been to Terminal 3 before must know what I am talking about. There should be someone handing out bars of deodorant or soap at the check-in desks.
I eventually made it to security. There were a lot of passengers there and the queue had wrapped around itself about 5 times. After about 25 minutes of waiting in that queue, I think the effect of the Polo Sport that I put on that morning had been completed devoured by something more powerful.
Security was fairly painless and didn’t involve the strip show which we have to deal with when traveling from the United States. I collected my belongings from the X-ray machine and went out to the terminal.
Leaving the security area, I walked through a maze of duty free perfume shops, the smell of which usually gives me a migraine but in this case served to neutralize the BO that I had to deal with in getting there.
By this point it was about 15 minutes past 6 and I had nothing to do but to wait for Emirates Flight 4 to start boarding. I chatted on the phone with some friends and spoke with my parents as well. There were two Emirates “Send a picture” booths set up in the departures hall. Basically the booth has a keyboard, screen and camera and it takes a picture of you and then pastes it onto a Dubai background of your choice and you can send it to your friends. I did two and have posted one of the shots here for you all to understand what I’m on about.
Emirates Airlines Flight 004
Departure Airport: London Heathrow
Arrival Airport: Dubai International
Departure Time: 20:30 (scheduled), 20:35 (actual)
Arrival Time: 06:30+ (scheduled), 06:25+ (actual)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-21H, A6-EMF
Seat: 11G (later 11DEFG)
Around 7:15pm the gate was announced (Gate 19) and I walked over to the aircraft. I was one of the first passengers to arrive. I handed over my boarding pass and walked into the lounge. A Boeing 777-21H with tail number A6-EMF was waiting for us. I soon found out that this was an A-model 777 delivered to Emirates in 1996, making it one of the oldest in the fleet. I was glad to be flying on this aircraft. Since I couldn’t get on a 777-300, at least I was flying on a non ER version of the -200 so that was better than nothing.
Photo © Krzysztof Skowronski [epwa_spotters]
The departure lounge never got very full and I began to hope that no one would be sitting in the seat next to me. At around 8:00pm boarding was called by row. I got on board the aircraft and found my seat, 11G.
The crew on board tonight’s flight were a mixed bunch to say the least. There were at least two Arab ladies and one Arab man in the cabin crew that I could identify. There was also an Englishman, an American man, a Nigerian lady, a Portuguese lady, a Polish lady and that was all that I could see. The pilot and copilot were Australian.
One of the nice things about Emirates is that they have an excellent entertainment system. Just experiencing “ice” (information, communication, entertainment) as it is called was enough to make an airline’s entertainment system an important choice for me when traveling. Since I don’t watch films and I have a very specific taste in television shows, I usually don’t bother at all with the entertainment system and just use my iPod or read a book. But no – ice was something amazing and I’ll get on to that later.
At around 8:20pm or so the doors were closed and not only was there no one sitting next to me, but only 3 of the 10 seats of row 11 were occupied! I had three empty seats next to me!
Regarding Emirates’ choice of 10 abreast seating in Economy on the 777, I used to think it was a silly idea seeing how almost all other airlines are 9 abreast, but sitting in my seat I didn’t think it was such a big deal. Yes – the seat was narrow, but not noticeably so. I defy anyone to tell me that they can tell the difference between seat width in economy on EK’s 777s versus any other airline’s.
Here are a couple of photos of the cabin:
We eventually got underway and taxied out from Terminal 3 out to runway 09R. I was playing with ICE as we were taxiing and just as we turned onto the final taxiway before reaching the runway I discovered that the aircraft was equipped with forward looking cameras. I turned it on just to see that we were behind an Air Canada A330-300 which was about to taxi onto the active runway.
A British Midland A320 followed the Air Canada A330 into the sunset and then the two Aussies in the front office of A6-EMF lined us up on 6R. Within a few moments, the Rolls-Royce Trent 892 engines spooled up and we were soon roaring down the runway. The pleasure that I derive from listening to the purr of the engines was unfortunately curtailed by two screaming babies in row 10 who screamed louder and louder as the captain applied more and more power. I videotaped their screaming and can post the audio is anyone is interested
After about 15 seconds, the pilots applied more power and I felt the engines surging. Concurrently, the babies increased their screaming to 70% N1. I don’t think full thrust was applied given the light load, but it was still nice to enjoy the hum of the Trents.
We soon lifted off the runway and were airborne. Next stop – Dubai. We headed east out of Heathrow, eventually banking to the right and turning ever so slightly south. Immediately after takeoff, menus were handed out. Here is a photo of the menu:
The dinner options for tonight were as follows:
Bresaola - air dried beef served with a marinated grilled vegetable salad, topped with shaved parmesan
Seasonal Salad - fresh seasonal salad, served with salad dressing
chicken medallion - sauteed chicken medallion served with a spicy sauce, accompained with basmati rice flavoured with mustard seeds and bell pepper ragout
fillet or tilapia - pan fried fish filled served with a saffron and tomato cream sauce, accomplanied with broccoli flavoured mashed potato, carrots and french beans.
morello cherry wedge - a crunchy biscuit base, topped with a fruity morello cherry filling, encased in a rich white chocolate mousse, served with a cherry coulis.
Bread and cheese:
bread and butter
cheese and biscuits
Beverages & Chocolates:
tea or coffee
I chose the chicken and it was actually quite good. I have to compliment Emirates on the meal. There were a lot of different things included on the tray and the white chocolate mousse was exceptionally good.
Here are a couple of photos of dinner:
The air-dried beef:
Overall, a good meal. I had a glass of French wine with dinner, which I forgot to take a picture of but it was good as well.
In the meantime I kept on playing with ICE. Here is a photo of the main screen:
There were something like 150 movies to choose from but of course I didn’t like any of them .
Here are a couple of shots of ice:
First of all here is INFORMATION:
And finally, ENTERTAINMENT:
I found it funny how they transliterate everything exactly:
Even though I am not a huge movie fan I did eventually come across Lady and the Tramp which is one of my favourites. I watched it for just long enough to see my favourite scene:
Lady and the Tramp are having a romantic dinner together at an Italian restaurant:
They are enjoying the entertainment:
They are sharing a bowl of pasta and they each manage to grab hold of the same strand of spaghetti:
And Tramp shows his love for her by giving her the last meatball:
After all this excitement I decided to get to sleep. I stretched out across all four chairs and tried to figure out how best to take a picture of myself. I ended up putting the camera on the tray table of 11D and using an 8 second exposure (by this point the cabin lights were out):
Ladies and gentlemen – let me tell you what the advantage to 3-4-3 seating on a 777 is. If you are the only one in the block of four, you can stretch out across the four seats and you’ll have more space than will the business class passengers! And stretch out I did – across all four seats, to be specific. Four seats, four blankets, four pillows, it was great. The only thing missing was an eye shade – the Emirates seatback television screens are really big and they give off a lot of light. As a result, many of them were shining in my face and I had to use some one of the three extra pillows to cover my eyes.
I eventually woke up with about 2.5 hours to go after having slept almost as well as I would have done in my own bed back at Oxford. The lights were switched back on and the tea and cake service was started.
At this point I continued playing with ice. I was amused by this silly little girl who was singing the “Tayaran Al Emirate” song on the Arabic channel:
I then changed to the games portion of the entertainment system. There were something like 50 different games, a lot of which can be played against other people in the plane. I personally played Emirates’ trivia game. I found this interesting – one of their questions was as follows:
I personally thought that SQ was the launch customer for the 380?
The other interesting thing was the page on EK’s fleet. Notice how they’ve put a picture of the A330-200 for the 777-300/300ER and a picture of the 777-200 for the A330-200! And they also haven’t managed to put a picture of their 310.
All throughout this time, the tea and cake service was going on. Since I was still suffering from a cold that had started on Sunday morning, I had a cup of hot tea in order to soothe my throat which at that point was quite sore. In removing the wrapping of the cake that came with the tea, I managed to lose my grip on it and I sent it flying towards the ground. By the time I got around to picking it up, the 5 second rule was already invalid and I just put it back on the tray (I wouldn’t have touched it after it fell on the floor of the plane anyway).
Here is a picture of the tea:
The tea was good and I felt as though it helped my throat so I asked one of the F/As if she could pour me another one. I explained that I had a sore throat and that made it feel better. She came back with another cup of tea and another cake (which I also ruined, don’t ask me how) and later on she came and refilled it, which was nice of her.
With about 30 minutes left in the flight I switched on the airshow to follow our route and saw that we had made a bit of a turn over south east Turkey in order to avoid overflying Iraqi airspace. Instead, we had straddled the length of Iran and made the approach from the west.
With 10 minutes left before landing, I turned the forward looking camera on for the landing. At about 6:25am, the tyres of A6-EMF properly snogged the tarmac of Dubai International Airport in what was one of the roughest landings I’ve experienced recently. We turned left off of the runway (which I think was 15L…but don’t quote me) and made a huge detour, only to cross the runway again and head to the terminal building. We parked in between an Emirates A340-300 and a KLM 777-200 PH-BQ* (whichever of their 777s is called Hadrian’s Wall).
Disembarking was done through door 1L and so I got to check out the Business Class cabin on the aircraft (this particular 777 had no First Class). I have to say I was fairly unimpressed with the C-Class seats. They were wide and the pitch seemed quite good, but they looked flat and uncomfortable. I probably got a better night’s sleep on seats 11DEFG than I could have done on 1A.
Upon leaving the aircraft I was met by a tall, thin, Romanian brunette holding a sign saying “MR JASINE – EK 004” on it. She was from Dubai Airport’s “Marhaba” welcoming services. She asked for my passport and started a bit of chitchat with me as she sent for the buggy to come and take us to the passport control area. On the ride over there, she asked me if I had ever been to Romania. I told her that I had spent about 5 minutes at Bucharest Airport when the MEA 707 that was taking me from Istanbul to Beirut in December 1997 made a tech stop at Bucharest Airport. She didn’t seem particularly interested in the details!
Conveniently, I had banged my knee on the bulkhead in the aircraft and it was quite sore, so I was quite happy to was quite nice to be able to bypass the 10 minute walk which I otherwise would have had to have done.
At passport control, my Romanian welcomer took me to the front of the queue and the immigration officer stamped my passport. Amazingly, we arrived at the baggage claim just as the bags were coming off. Less than 30 minutes after we had landed, I was already outside at the taxi rank. I bid farewell to Alina or whatever her name was and got into a taxi.
Unfortunately, the South Indian taxi driver didn’t know where the Grosvenor House was but I told him that if he just drove to Internet City that I’d probably be able to spot it. He was the friendly sort and we started talking about South India. He was from a town called Thirvananananananthanpuram or something. Unfortunately he didn’t know any Hindi, but I impressed him with my two or three phrases of Tamil.
After about 1 hour on the road, we reached the hotel. By this point it was about 8:00am. I checked into the hotel, had breakfast, went to sleep and then headed to Internet City for the first of my meetings with the company.
Sara, since I didn’t go to Los Angeles this time, I couldn’t take a picture of Snoopy so here is a picture of Lady instead!
Regarding my stay in Dubai, I don’t even know where to start talking about it. I am probably going to end up living there as of August, but in the event that I don’t, I doubt I would ever go to Dubai again.
Here are a couple of photos:
The view from my hotel room at long exposure:
The other funny thing which happened was that I hired a completely rubbish car and when I brought it back to my hotel to park it for the night, when I was trying to figure out where to park I decided to park it next to a Rolls-Royce Phantom :
I entertained the thought of getting my tripod and taking a picture of me along with the two cars but decided against it, haha.
On the last day there I drove around bur and deira dubai (towards the airport) and I found Sheikh Rashid Street and took a photo of it for my friend Rashid:
Enough of this for now and back to the return flight.
I was scheduled to return back to London on EK 007, departing at 02:30am on Saturday morning and arriving at LHR at 7am. The day started on a bad note – my aforementioned cough from Wednesday had turned into laryngitis by Thursday night and I had completely lost my voice. I couldn’t sleep from the discomfort and ended up calling room service in the wee hours of the morning to order a glass of warm milk and some honey. Eventually I fell asleep around 5am (after having watched Meet the Fockers on the 42” Plasma TV in the room) and didn’t wake up until 11:45am (even though I had set the alarm for 7:15am). By this point, breakfast had already finished so I went out to the Dubai Marina shopping centre to buy some antibiotics from the chemist.
I checked out of the hotel around 4pm and drove around Dubai for a few hours in the rubbish rental car that I had hired for the occasion. In my opinion, driving in Dubai isn’t a joy. In Lebanon, the driving is uncivilized, but people are usually looking out for where they are going and if you do the same, it becomes fun to drive. I felt like the uncivilized part of the equation was the case in Dubai, but that people didn’t really look out for where they were going. In particularly these huge roundabouts really give me the willies. I saw three accidents at the roundabouts in the course of the three days that I was there. They have these 4-5 lane roundabouts in the UAE and it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which lane you’re supposed to be in. In addition, some drivers like to exit from the inner lanes, cutting across a bunch of cars and that was exactly the cause of the accidents that I saw.
There are, in my estimation, two more annoying things about the roads in Dubai. One is that because of all the construction, the roads change on a daily basis and the routes are marked with cones only. Secondly, since they are always building new things, getting to one of the new places can involve taking a really weird, serpentine routing. As such, navigating by “oh that looks like it is to the right” doesn’t always work.
I should have prefaced everything I have said thus far with the fact that I only spent about 6 hours on Dubai roads, of which most were in the west, so I might be wrong on some of the generalizations that I made. If anyone is familiar with the situation please feel free to correct me.
From the Grosvenor in new (west) Dubai, I drove around the Jumeirah communities, went to the Jumeirah hotel, went to a Lebanese bakery and then headed out to Bur Dubai which was a COMPLETELY different place than the west. I went to the Al Karama centre and walked around a bit before eventually getting fed up and driving back to the airport.
I was driving a car hired from Budget Rent-a-car and was told to return the car to their al-Rashidiye office (close to the airport). I reached al-Rashidiye around 8:30pm (at which point it was already dark) and drove around trying to figure out where their damn office was. In the process, I nearly ran over two women wearing black shador from head to toe who were jaywalking in the middle of the road. Should get them to wear bicycle reflectors at night.
I couldn’t find their stupid office in the end and was getting frustrated by the heat, the shitty air conditioning in the car and the fact that my throat was beginning to hurt again so I called Budget and was told that since it was after hours, I should drive the car to the A2 Car Park at the departures level of Terminal 1 where someone would meet me. I turned back around and headed back to the airport and called them from A2. I got out of the car and after having driven for almost 5 hours with only two brief stops, my back was completely wet from perspiration (fortunately I had anticipated this and had brought along a change of clothes).
When I parked the car, I got out and went to the boot to get my suitcase out of it. I have a black Samsonite case which has two latches that are locked by keys. I had made the mistake of leaving the key in the keyhole of the right latch and as I was taking it out of the back of the car, I found that the handle of the key had melted off from the heat and the keyhole was filled with the metal from the teeth of the keys! How annoying!
I decided to worry about that later, though, and walked into the terminal building. The first thing that I need to say about Terminal 1 is that it was a complete PANDEMONIUM between people saying bye to each other, children running around, people sitting on the floor, packing/unpacking and the like. Even though I had received the “Marhaba” welcoming service when I arrived there was no “Maa Salama” goodbye service to see me through the airport, so I had do everything by myself – pauvre moi
Fortunately, there is a baggage screening process before you reach the check-in desks and non-passengers are not allowed past that point. The queue to check-in was quite long and unfortunately I didn’t have my e-ticket number on me, so I had to wait in the queue instead of using the self-service machines. I was told that the plane was quite full and was assigned seat 20G.
From there I went through passport control. Again, there were a lot of people traveling tonight and the queues were really long. I was in between a Filipino woman and her two children on one side and three Chinese gentlemen heading for Beijing on the other side. Eventually we got through passport control and were presented with another equally long line for security. It seemed like an eternity until I got through. By this point it was past 10pm and I still had about 4 hours to burn. I looked around a little bit and did some shopping. I had been requested by about four people to bring them back boxes of Marlboro Lights (which are much cheaper in Dubai than in London) so I picked those up.
The terminal in Dubai is really nice and well kept and the shopping is great. I honestly can’t think of any airport that I have been to that is a better place to burn four hours than DXB.
I had just gotten off the escalator when I heard an announcement come over the PA saying:
“Al nida2 l akheer li tayaran l sharq l awsat, re7la rakem arb3a tnen tes3a al mootawajjiha ila beirut. Al raja2 l tawajjoh ila l ta2ira 3abra l bawwaba rakem arba3tash.”
Which was the final call for MEA Flight 429 to Beirut. I happened to be right next to gate 14 and found that there was a Middle East Airlines Airbus A330-200 F-OMEA waiting at the gate to take its lucky passengers back to Beirut. The flight was on its final boarding call and the gate agent was scanning left and right to see if any more passengers were coming on board. He caught my eye and asked if I was going to Beirut. I told him that I wished that I was!
Things got pretty boring really quickly so I decided to sit down and start writing this trip report. While thinking of airliners.net I remember seeing a picture of the inside of Terminal 1 at DXB on the A.net database and was thinking of taking some photos of the terminal but decided that they wouldn’t be accepted anyway.
I sat down and relaxed for a little while and listened to my ipod. In the meantime, announcements were being made to the effect of “Al nida2 l akheer li tayaran el imarat” over and over and over and over and over and over again. The Emirates operation in Dubai is really something!
Around 1:00am I decided to start walking to the gate. I stopped by the payphone on the way and made some phonecalls. My flight still hadn’t been called yet so I sat down again, this time closer to the gate, and started talking with a Tanzanian guy who had lived in Dubai all his life and was going to Dar for the summer (on Kenya Airways via Nairobi). We spoke for about 20 minutes, then exchanged emails and we each went to our gates.
Then came the final boarding call:
“Al nida2 l akheer li ta2irat l tayaran l imarat, re7la rakem saba3 al mootawajjiha ila london heeeeeethhhrooouu. Al raja2 l tawajjoh ila l ta2ira 3abra l bawwaba rakem wa7ed w arba3een.”
Which took me by surprise, because my boarding card said that boarding would begin at 1:45am and it was only 1:40am now.
Emirates Airlines Flight 007
Departure Airport: Dubai International
Arrival Airport: London Heathrow
Departure Time: 02:30 (scheduled), 07:00 (actual)
Arrival Time: 07:00+ (scheduled), 07:15+ (actual)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-243, A6-EKY
I walked over to gate 41 and found a long line awaiting me. It took about 10 minutes to get through the line and on the bus that would take passenger to the aircraft. After about a 5 minute drive we reached the aircraft.
As the doors of the bus opened, I was taken aback by the heat and humidity. It was a lovely evening for some spotting. There were a bunch of Emirates aircraft parked on the tarmac, including two 777-300ERs (E and Q) and an A340-500 along the A330-200s. Our aircraft was the last A330 parked remotely and its registration was A6-EKY.
Boarding was conducted from the stairs and when I got on the plane I noticed that there were already a bunch of people onboard (probably 60%) at least. This aircraft was 3 classes and the Business Class looked really lame. In fact, the C-Class seats on the 332 look very much like the Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy seats on their A340-600. Could just be a coincidence.
I took my seat, 20G. There was no one sitting in 20F. My first thought about the aircraft was that it completely sucked in comparison to the 777. For one thing, the seats were harder and not as comfortable, the screens were much smaller and the cabin felt much, much less spacious. The 777 overhead bins fold into the ceiling whereas the 330 ones just hang overhead, and so I felt a lot more claustrophobic on the Airbus.
Before taking off, the cabin crew sprayed the cabin with some funny sort of a spray, which they said was a requirement for landing in the UK. We started the engines and taxied out to what I believe was runway 30R. I was watching on the forward camera and I have to say that the resolution of the picture was much better on the A330 than the 777. In fact the view from the night sky was great.
Takeoff was smooth and powerful and we rocketed into the hot, dark Arabian night. The pilot on this flight was American and I believe the copilot was from the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The crew were also a mixed bunch – Arab, American, Chinese, Filipino, Black, Italian, German.
We were first served a Chicken Faijta sandwich as a quick, short meal, allowing the crew to finish the service quickly so that they could turn off the lights and so that we could sleep. And once the trays were cleared, sleep I did, until only 1.5 hours before landing.
When I woke up, the breakfast service was started. You’ll have to excuse me for not taking any pictures, I had been on the road for about 5 hours before arriving at the airport and had to sit on the airport benches in the terminal for another 6 hours before the damn plane took off and I just couldn’t be arsed to get my camera from the overhead bin.
Breakfast was nothing special – just a choice between an omelette or scrambled eggs. I had the scrambled eggs. They were OK, but nothing special, but in any event I wasn’t hungry at all, I just wanted to get home.
We eventually started our approach and as the tyres of our Airbus A330 gently kissed the tarmac of Runway 27L, I thought to myself, God Save the Queen. I was finally back in civilization. Not quite home, but it was certainly more home than the UAE and I felt much more comfortable in this place than Dubai. Deplaning was done through door 1L. Terminal 3 was an absolute nightmare. There were so many people going through immigration that it took me a whole hour to get through!!! Just thinking about it makes me tired! Fortunately my bag was already waiting for me on the carousel and I picked it up and got on the 8:30am OxfordHeathrow coach and was back home by 10am.
There ends my Dubai adventure. I hope this report wasn’t too long or boring. Sorry for the lack of pictures on the way back, but there wasn’t too much to report anyway!
If you’ve bothered reading this far, please leave some comments!
[Edited 2006-05-14 19:10:31]