Background to the Trip
In November 2005, I and my mother began to search for flights, with the use of a number of different online travel websites such as Expedia, Opodo and Last Minute for a five week holiday to Singapore, which would take place in July and August 2006.
The reason for the trip is that family is located in the city state and that we can also use Singapore to visit other destinations around the Asia-pacific region.
Along with my younger brother and my father, we had a similar holiday in the summer of 2004, where we flew KLM Royal Dutch Airlines out of London Heathrow, with a stop in Amsterdam. We also had a tour of Beijing, flying on that occasion with Singapore Airlines.
This time though my father would not be coming along because of previous work commitments and my younger brother would be booking a flight at a later date because his holiday had not yet been confirmed by the company he works for.
As I started looking through the fares, it became obvious to me very quickly that a change of aircraft at a particular airline's hub airport would be needed. This was because Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Qantas were charging over Â£800 for direct flights from London Heathrow and Manchester for the dates that we wanted to depart and return. This in my personal opinion was an extortionate amount to be charging.
Even some airlines that could possibly provide a convenient one-stop service were not providing reasonable fares such as Malaysian Airlines, Thai & Cathay Pacific, charging over a £1000 return per person.
So the only airlines that could possibly be considered still were Gulf Air, with a stop in Bahrain or Emirates with a change of aircraft in Dubai. The former had an advantage with the fare costing only £440 return but the departure time of the return flight was at 05:25 am!!
The decision was made that we were to fly on Emirates. One of the main advantages with traveling with this airline is that you can select a number of different departure points from the United Kingdom towards Dubai and onwards to destinations around the world.
With my location in Exeter in the south west of the United Kingdom, it would be feasible when traveling on Emirates to fly from London Heathrow, London Gatwick or Birmingham.
Birmingham airport was the cheapest of the three, at only £489.80 return where as the other two departure points were being priced at around £570 return. From Exeter also it is cheaper to get to Birmingham airport, with the cheapest train tickets to the central station in the city at only £10 one way with Virgin Trains services departing at least once every hour.
Also add another train ride of only eight minutes to the airport station at just £1.70 single, it could easily beat hands down any fares towards London, because of the rip off fares that are charged for the Heathrow and Gatwick express services.
One final consideration that needed to be made was the schedule that we were going to be flying on with Emirates. My first preference would have been to travel on the afternoon flight from Birmingham and then connect into Dubai onto flight EK
404, arriving into Singapore Changi airport at 14:05 in the afternoon. Unfortunately on our date of departure from Dubai the flight was absolutely booked solid, with not a single seat left.
432 also fully booked on the day, with an arrival time into Singapore of 20:05 in the evening and with me and my mother not preparing to travel on flight EK
348, which has an additional stop in Colombo, Sri Lanka the only alternative was to connect to EK
352 in Dubai. This also meant that we were to be traveling on the evening flight from Birmingham.
So it was confirmed, we purchased tickets for myself and my mother at the price mentioned above through lastminute.com, at the end of November 2005 and at the same we joined Emirates frequent flyer program, Skywards.
My younger brother purchased tickets with the same itinerary at a later date for £571.70 and we were also taking a friend of his as well on holiday too.
So all we had to do now was to wait until our departure date.........
Monday July 10th 2006
The day had finally come that we were to be traveling half way across the world from Exeter to Singapore. At around 12:30 in the afternoon we said goodbye to my father, who for the next five weeks would be completing shifts at work (and the decorating
) and we took the car down to Exeter St. David's railway station.
Once arriving at the station we collected our train tickets from one of the machines and went up to the platform to await the arrival of the 13:23 train to Glasgow Central via Leeds & Newcastle, which we would be traveling on as far as Birmingham New Street.
The journey begins - Exeter St. David's Railway Station
The five coach Virgin Voyager arrived bang on time from Plymouth and the passengers quickly got on board to find what few seats were still available.
Those members from the UK will know about the problems with these trains from the start where not enough coaches were ordered originally by the leasing company. Then following a large advertising campaign by Virgin Trains explaining the new train services across the country people flocked to experience but there were not enough seats to facilitate demand from customers, leading to almost continuous overcrowding on some services.
However on this occasion it didn't matter for me and the rest of our party, we had reserved seats on this train service, two pairs of airline seats next to one another.
The train made calls at Tiverton Parkway and Taunton before I went up to the buffet to find if there was any of Virgin's tasty hot bacon rolls. Once again I was to be disappointed as there were none in stock, so I instead settled for a chicken salad sandwich and a bottle of virgin diet coke.
The service made another call, this time at Bristol Temple Meads where at this point there were no more seats available for passengers and people started to jam up the isles. This stopped me from attempting a second time to get a bacon roll from the buffet.
One last call at Cheltenham Spa, where we didn't wait for five minutes as you normally do stopping there and we were at Birmingham New Street railway station just before 16:00 only a couple of minutes behind schedule.
Before we decided to head down to the airport, we thought it would be suitable to get something to eat in the Palisades shopping centre. We agreed previously that with four suitcases between us and a number of other soft bags and the price of left luggage facilities that it would be unsuitable to head to wards the larger Bullring.
But the Palisades is a very uninviting place to visit fro anybody who doesn't know Birmingham well and within twenty minutes we heading back down towards the train station, to head to airport, although we were booked on a Virgin Pendalino train, scheduled to depart at 18:00
We took the first train service that was available to head down to the airport, and this was the 16:40 Central Trains service to Northampton, for which its first call would be Birmingham International, where we would be alighting. Being a rush hour service the train was very full with every seat taken by the time we boarded, meaning that we just stood away from the open doors.
Departure from Birmingham New Street was exactly on time and we made good speed and as the train hurried though Marston Green, you can get some excellent views of the western end of the Birmingham airport runway. Only a couple of minutes later we disembarked at Birmingham International where there was quite a queue for the lift that would take us to the station concourse and onwards to the airport skylink.
Birmingham International Station, showing one of the same type of train we just alighted from only a few minutes earlier..
The four of us had to get into the lift at two different intervals, so that we could fit our luggage as well. After we were all on the top floor, we walked the short distance the airport skylink from the railway station to the heart of terminal one. To get to the check in desks you then had to take another lift downstairs where the desks for Emirates where located right at the end of the terminal, next to the desks for Pakistan International Airlines to Islamabad and Air Malta (to Malta, where else!
The four of us queued at the internet check in desk for economy class, having previously assigned our seats the evening before on the internet at home back in Exeter. But as we were on separate bookings as my brother's reservation was booked later in advance I and my mother went first. But we were probably better off queuing at the main line as the group in front of us; a couple and their SEVEN children had problems with their overweight luggage which took over fifteen minutes to sort out. It was though only 17:00, with the flight not due to depart for another four hours, so I didn't mind time being killed by others mistakes.
Once they had gone away from the desk we were asked to wait for a moment as the agent started to put tags on the fifteen pieces of luggage, tagged through only to Dubai and she asked us to come forwards afterwards. She was quite a nice woman but as she was checking us in, she was having a conversation with her colleague next to her about the number of hours that she was to be doing next week (57 to be precise). Doesn't bother me, but I can think of one particular member that would be pissed off by this
She informed us afterwards that the seats that we had chosen had been kept for both legs and handed out boarding cards for our first flight and also cards for the second flight inside a red wallet those constructions on what to do on arrival at Dubai airport. I then asked her how full this evening's flight was and she replied stating that there were only ten seats spare in economy class.
We both thank you and said goodbye to her and then waited for the other two to complete the formalities at the same desk, whilst noticing that there were many connecting onto other Emirates flights in Dubai including Dar Es Salaam, Johannesburg, Muscat and also a couple connecting onto a Sri Lankan flight to Colombo in Dubai.
But whilst we were waiting I realized that there was some luggage next to me on the floor that was unattended. I quickly pounced on the Emirates manager standing quite closed and with the security situation immediately phoned airport security. The security arrived to take the bags away but just in the nick in time the woman hurried from the economy class line saying it was her luggage. She was given a swift telling off by the Emirates manager for leaving luggage alone like that.
My brother and his friend came back to us with their boarding passes for the two flights for which on the flight out of Birmingham they would be seated six rows ahead of us although on the same aisle, so it would be easy to get to them if we needed anything of theirs.
A quick check on the departures board showed that BMI
Baby was not having the greatest of days. Flight WW
1081 to Prague, schedule to depart at 16:50, was to be delayed for four hours and flight WW
1005 to Edinburgh, due to leave at 19:50, was not expected to depart until 23:00!
At least the inbound flight from Dubai was expected ten minutes early.
We needed to get some food to eat, so we went back upstairs to the JD
Weatherspoons pub, where I ordered fish and chips for £7.75.
The first floor of Birmingham Airport terminal one, taken from the JD Weatherspoons pub..
With still three hours until departure, we went through to the departures area of the terminal, where we went to look around the shops, where there was a nice selection of alcoholic beverages, chocolate and also the packet of 1000 cigarettes!
I bought a huge tub of mini dairy milk bars and then went up to the C doors to take some images, some of which are shown here.
Ryanair's EI-DAZ completes pushback and is about to head to DUB as FR673.
Turkmenistan Airlines T5412 begins taxiing to the runway before flying to ASB.
EI-DEN arrives from DUB as EI274.
VP-BUJ arrives from TAS as HY 211.
G-TOYA taxies in.
The apron around the C doors.
I met the other three in the terminal, where my brother and his friend were scoffing into a burger king meal. During my holiday I am trying to stay away from the fast food junk that I have become so accosted to over the years. Whilst waiting I went onto one of the internet terminals and spoke to a friend for five minutes and checking out airliners.net.
Once the other two were ready we walked down to the D concourse and the long corridor to our gate, which was not quite ready for the passengers to go into the gate area, but there was a gentle stream of persons beginning to appear.
At around 20:20 the aircraft was ready for boarding where business class and skywards gold and silver members were allowed to board straight onto the aircraft, where a long line began to snake down the corridor for the people "in the back".
I just waited to the side and sat down on a chair as the line moved slowly. I mean whats the point waiting in long lines that don't actually go anywhere. I mean the plane isn't going to go without me (unless you're really late) so what is the point of putting pressure on my feet!!
Is the captain looking at what I am doing??.
Air Malta Boeing 737-400 At The Opposite Gate.
Emirates Airlines EK
From: Birmingham Elmdon, England (BHX
To: Dubai Dubayy, United Arab Emirates (DXB
Scheduled Departure: 21:10
Actual Pushback from Gate: D41 @ 21:03
Takeoff: R15 @ 21:17
Scheduled Arrival: 07:10 + 1 Day
Landing: R12L @ 06:46
Taxi to Stand: T5
@ 06:55, Bus into Terminal
Passenger Loading (Approximate) -- 95%
Aircraft Type: Airbus A330-243
Registration: A6-EKQ (First Flight 12/18/1998, Delivery To Emirates 10/03/1999)
After the queue had calmed down sufficiently, we went straight onboard and were welcomed by a friendly male Spanish flight attendant who directed me to the left hand side of the aircraft.
Before departure another flight attendant, this time a chinese woman offered me a hot towel with a warm smile, so first impressions were excellent.
Wing Of A6-EKQ
Before we pushed back, I had a sufficient period of time to find out what was available to watch on the personal entertainment screens. Although it wasn't the ice entertainment system that I will look forward to when I travel on a Boeing 777-300ER back to Birmingham, the choice was still wide varying. Movies included Curious George, Ice Age 2 and Shadows in the Sun.
The seat was very comfortable, complete with a footrest, adjustable headrest and 34 inches of legroom. I was however punished however by the fact that there was an entertainment box under the seat in front of me, so I simply improvised and put my feet in the gap between the wall and the seat in front of me. This allowed me to stretch a hell of a long way.
The Cabin Of EK 38 before departure
Air show In Arabic
All the passengers were onboard by 20:45 and we pushed back from the gate ahead of schedule. The safety video was played to us, which took a long period of time as it was spoken in both English and Arabic. Whilst taxiing the weather began to take a turn for the worst and it began to rain heavily and this continued as we performed a rolling take off on runway 15.
During the initial cruise towards 37,000 feet, a passenger was asked twice to stay in his seat over the speakers although I was unable to view who it was, this was still quite a dangerous thing to do. Once the cabin crews were released after 10,000 feet, menus were distributed to all of the passengers. Here is the selection:
* Slices Of Smoked Salmon, Served On A Waldorf Salad
* Fresh Seasonal Salad, Served With a Ginger Dressing
* Sauteed Lamb Medallions, Served With An Onion Sauce, Accompanied With Red Skin Potato Wedges, Romano Peppers & Red Pepper
* Creamy Butter Chicken, Served With Saffron Basmati Rice & Fried Eggplant Topped With Tomato Concasse.
* Raspberry & Chocolate Torte
* Bread & Butter
* Cheese & Biscuits
* Tea, Coffee, Soft Drinks, Alcoholic Beverages
To my surprise I went for the lamb instead of the chicken and I certainly made a great decision. Even with plastic cutlery that was given to me, the lamb was soft and perfectly cooked so that the knife could gently glide through it and the wedges were a great accompament. But the best part of the meal had to be the raspberry and chocolate torte, so much so that I also had my brother's as well.
My meal of Lamb Medallions -- Sorry About The Photo!
During the meal we were offered drinks, for which I asked for a diet cola and I also had a cup of tea. All in all it was a fabulous meal and at that point I felt on top of the moon for choosing Emirates airlines.
We Are Now Over Over Hungary, After Previously Passing Over Leipzig, Germany and Now Going Towards Bourgas, Bulgaria
Following the meal I went up to the toilet, where there was a queue of four people around. The Spanish gentleman and an Iranian woman member of the crew were intelligent enough to offer the passengers a drink before we released our waste into the storage tanks of the Airbus A330-200, for which I had another diet cola.
I also had a quick sneak peak of the crew meals, they looked absolutely vile and were some sort of biscuit (looked like ryvita) and some of those frozen mixed vegetables. I just hope they are allowed to get leftovers from the passengers if there were any.
Also in the galley was an off duty pilot, who was flying back home to Dubai and when I said where I came from he was surprised that I chose Birmingham airport ahead of Heathrow or Gatwick. We also had a conversation about our flying habits and even the cabin crew got involved.
I went back to my seat and then sat down to see what was on the entertainment system. Although it was a wide a varied selection none of the movies really appealed to me. I tried to watch Curious George but felt it was a bit too childish for my liking about twenty minutes in.
So initially I settled down to play some games of Tetris and yep, I was completely rubbish at it. At least the PTV was touch screen and that the television handset was in the armrest and not down the side, like Singapore Airlines is. One of the other functions of the PTV was that you could get a front view camera on landing!
Then the cabin crew announced that the full detail of the world cup final in Berlin, that was played the evening before was also avliable on the entertainment system, including the horror of Zinedine Zidane's head butt!
Now the aircraft had climbed to a new cruising altitude of 41,000 feet, as we made the diversionary turn to avoid Iraq.
Aircraft Completes Turn To Avoid Mosul & Kirkuk
The World Cup Final On My PTV!
After passing to the east of Kuwait, we descended back down to an altitude of 39,000 feet and the crew started a drinks service, although I had found out in the menu card earlier that there was to be no breakfast service, which was the most disappointing aspect of the flight.
The crew offered us one cold drink, this time I had an orange juice and also had a cup of tea afterwards. Also given to us was a small oat cake with blueberries that was edible but, only just.
Nearly Into Dubai!
As soon as the tray was cleared, the cabin was prepared for a decent into Dubai airport. The descent was quite a fast one and we were from cruise to landing in about fifteen minutes.
Out of the window you couldn't see anything notable apart from water because of the heat haze until we were on a very short final to the airport. At that point I could see part of Dubai city but not the major landmarks such as the Burj El Arab and the Palm Beach.
More importantly though we landed on runway 12L just under 25 minutes ahead of the schedule, where we then taxied to one of the remote stands, next to where the new terminal is being built.
Getting off the aircraft was not a pleasant experience as for me initially I found it hard to breathe because of the dry heat of the Middle East, something which I had never experienced before.
Taxiing Into Stand T5, Next To Two Company A330-200s
But we were onto buses very quickly as we were transferred towards the terminal. During the ride there was an automated message telling passengers that if they were transferring in Dubai, to get off at the first stop and if Dubai was passengers final destination then they must alight at the second stop.
The driver was maybe a reckless, as he took a couple of the turns quite quickly, making me and other people lose their balance and making one person fall onto the floor.
The ride was only around five minutes and we got off at the first stop as requested for the security control for transferring Emirates passengers.
All in all this was a very good flight with Emirates Airlines with excellent food, very friendly cabin attendants, comfortable seating and an early arrival into Dubai. But let's see if the standards can be matched on a second flight with Emirates in just over two hours time.
One Point Deducted For No Breakfast Service
[Edited 2006-07-26 03:41:26]