Many years ago, my best friends started moving. One joined the Marines, got out after his 4 years and moved to Munich. The other one graduated college and went to live with his stepdad in Dubai. We all haven't hung out together in almost five years so we decided it was time to make it happen. Dubai guy (DG) has constantly harassed me to go there, which I keep promising him that one day, one day, I will make it. Well, he was also getting married to an Indian girl in India in October so that was another reason why I decided to make it happen. Munich guy (MG) was already there when I arrived. He had been there for two weeks already.
I figured flights out of any bigger airport than MCO, where I would be flying out of, were probably cheaper. I had 25,000 miles on Delta to blow to cover the MCO - whatever other bigger airport part and the rest I had to pay for. I did some research of flights out of major U.S. airports to DXB and it seemed that the best flights (those that combined convenient flight times and prices) were out of JFK so after verifying if my DL miles could be used on the days I wanted to travel, I zeroed in on finding the best deal out of there.
The searching for flights alone was fun. For about $1000 I could go JFK - DME (or SVO? I don't know recall exactly) - DXB, but it involved a 6-hour layover to and fro so I declined that option. It didn't seem like you'd have enough time to get out and see the city, besides I was only going to be in Dubai for a week so I wanted to get there as fast as possible. The next cheapest was $1200 from ORD - AMM - DXB on RJ. The information I found concerning visiting/transit visa info for Jordan made it sound like it wasn't worth the hassle of transiting there so finally I went to the next cheapest, $1300 on Emirates. Interestingly, for $2000 I could go JFK - KBP - DXB on VV J-class style!
I had totally forgotten about the whole A380 thing so I didn't even look into that possibility! D'oh!
I had heard the rave reviews about Emirates so I was excited to try it out. The fact that I would be scoring 13,000 miles roundtrip on United was also nice. That puts me at nearly 50,000 on United which I plan on using to go to Europe sometime next year.
DATE: 9-29-2008 (Monday)
ATD: Don't remember (so it probably wasn't anything too far off the mark)
ETA: 19:45 (+1)
ATA: 19:00 (+1)
So finally the day had arrived. DL was able to check my bags all the way to DXB without having to charge me for the 2nd bag so I did not have to worry about re-checking them, the only thing I had to do was pay a change fee on my ticket since I had to postpone my trip by about 3 weeks. I was going in the beginning of September but then my friend's wedding came up and I changed it. After that I hung around my terminal, took advantage of the free Internet, saw some European heavies arrive and bought some trail mix.
As it turns out, my flight to JFK (DL 1) would continue on to LGW. I was not aware that DL planes were now equipped with PTVs but that was cool so I watched some TV. I started getting into an episode of "Mad Men" when we started approaching and I could see the Manhattan skyline. We were early but had to go all the way around the airport to get to our gate, passing all kinds of different airlines I had only seen pictures of on A.net but never in person.
Initially, I had about 4 hours to kill between this flight and the next one, but the taxiing to the gate took some 40 minutes offset the fact we were so early. By the time I took the train and made it to the EK counter the 4 hours were more like 2.5. I went to the luggage-less check-in counter to get a boarding pass.
I went down to the Duty Free/Food Court area, messed around there, then made my way past security. The TSA agent pointed out I needed to sign my passport. Oops! I had just gotten it in July (I became a U.S. citizen in May) so this was its maiden voyage.
I found my gate, which was still boarding the previous flight, an SQ flight to you guess where. I watched them do their thing then started seeing our 777-300 being towed to the gate.
To kill some time, I made some phone calls and saw the flight crew began to arrive, then came the cart with the newspapers. I grabbed a copy of the Khaleej Times and the Gulf News just to see what I was getting myself into as far as news. I was a journalism major at one point and remember a professor telling us to always read more than one paper to learn different styles and angles, ever since I try to read more than one local daily wherever I go. Most of the coverage was about Eid in Dubai.
Boarding was a pretty uneventful process. I took my seat in the first row of those sets of 2 by the window (46A) in the back 4 aisles of EK's 777-300ER. I initially chose that seat because I read that you get a little bit more leg room since you're on the curvature. I found that to not be of any significance, there was a LITTLE more leg room compared to the aisle seat I had on a normal row on the return trip, but nothing to write home about.
There was no one sitting next to me which didn't matter since the arm rests are immovable anyway. My first impression of the PTVs was that they looked like big screens compared to the small screen of DL's 757 I had just gotten out of. The seat also seemed very generous as far as pitch but lacking in width quite a bit.
To get into the spirit of things, I kicked off my shoes and put on the little socks that were in the amenity kit. Then I started fiddling around with the PTV system. There was basically something for me to watch or listen to the entire way to DXB and probably a few times around the world too. This was good because I rarely sleep on airplanes, if I do, it's just because I'm so exhausted that I doze off for 20-30 minutes a couple of times. In this flight, this would be OK because it would get there at 19:45 local so I would hang out with DG and MG for a few hours then go to bed for a full night's sleep.
Not long after take-off, we were fed and I was impressed by the spread offered here. I had the salmon with spinach and potatoes. I thought salmon was kind of sketchy choice for plane food, but I love salmon so I thought I'd check it out, and it was not bad for airplane food. Potatoes were a little dry though.
Within a handful of hours, the sun came up. It was a cloudy day wherever we were.
As this flight was mostly a day flight, we were asked to lower the shutters and I was the annoying passenger opening mine every so often to see what we were flying over. It seems that throughout most of Europe, the sky was overcast until we hit Eastern Europe.
Off the coast of Romania.
The rest of the way was spent watching Family Guy, Simpsons, 30 Rock, Mad Men, listening to some Arab music, and trying to sit through a Bollywood movie, which I failed. I don't remember which one it was, but it was older and there were these 2 evil dudes who had kidnapped some broad, they broke out in song and dance at one point. The only movie I ended up watching was "Recount," about the 2000 U.S. Presidential elections.
Since there was no one sitting next to me, I would play music on my PTV and play a game on the other one every now and then. I found the joystick to be kind of cumbersome and awkward to handle but I liked the ice hockey game. Multi-tasking at its finest!
The ICE system was awesome in terms of content but there were a couple of operational issues with them. I don't know if this is about the ICE system in general or just the one on my seat:
1-The "remote" would not retract right every time. I'd have to tug the cord itself or stretch it out all the way and slide it back in little by little.
2-When you'd go back to a certain show/movie/CD, some of them would start over, others would pick up where you left off.
I finally fell asleep while listening to the Eric Clapton autobiography. His voice is kinda soothing I guess, or I guess I hit one of my exhaustion points.
Another novelty here, for me anyway, was that every so often (I'm guessing at prayer times?) the PTV would show which direction Mecca was.
At one point, we were given a snack. It was a fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwich on ciabatta. It was really good and I almost went for seconds. I was kinda hungry still so I just chowed it down and forgot to take a picture of it but it was just your average Economy fair, kind of plain looking, wrapped in plastic.
In the midst of the boredom of a 12-hour flight, I was curious to know whether we'd fly over Iraq or not. The answer was a resounding no.
After multiple episodes of TV and shutter-peeking, we were allowed to open them as the FAs prepared to serve the afternoon grub and again another above-average meal. I had an omelet with a chicken sausage with some other stuff. The dessert thing on the top left was one of the best things I have had in an airplane ever. I am not sure what it was but it seems like it had the taste of a berry cheesecake under that cake-looking top.
As day gave way to night, we started approaching DXB and seeing all the lights. We were about an hour early but I didn't call my friend because I figured with customs and all, it'd be enough time to kill that he would be there when I'd get out.
My first impression of DXB was how modern it was, everything looked so clean and pristine. Another thing I noticed is that when we were walking over the terminal, there were people sleeping side-by-side on the corridors or by the moving walkways. I had seen that before, but it seemed like it was A LOT of people. I guessed it was people who missed a connection and now had to wait until the next day for a flight?
I also noticed how much you have to walk to get to customs and baggage claim. Get out of the plane, walk down long corridors, up and down escalators, moving walkways, it seemed like a maze. I finally get to passport control and the guy just asks me where I'm staying, he stamps my passport and off I go to get my luggage. By the time I got out of customs it was only 20:00, about our original arrival time. After having Etisalat tell me I was dialing wrong a couple of times, I managed to call DG and told him to come pick me up. He lives in Knowledge Village for those familiar with Dubai so I just sat down and took it all in for about 40 minutes as I waited for him to arrive. The arrivals area wasn't as nice as the rest of the airport and it was a little chaotic getting out of there. The Eid holiday probably had something to do with it too.
We stopped at a Lebanese bakery and got some food and desserts. I have never had such sweet baked goods, so good it makes your teeth hurt. After we ate, we went to a bar on top of a hotel nearby and caught up some more and had a couple of beers.
Until I went to bed that night, I was in a daze, kind of blown away that I was there. It was like I couldn't really grasp the idea that I was in somewhere so different only 12 hours earlier. As for my no sleeping until local bedtime strategy, it paid off. I went to bed around 1a.m. and woke up at 9 the next morning, not really feeling jet-lagged at all.
I won't bother with pictures of Dubai itself but we did a lot, we camped out in the middle of nowhere in Fujairah a few miles from the Omani border, went to the beach, we did a desert safari which was a totally touristy experience but fun nonetheless although I'd love to see the desert with some natives, not in a 4X4 with a bunch of other tourists and in a caravan of 50 other 4X4s.
India was also amazing, a whole experience in itself. I was initially only looking forward to the wedding, but I'm glad I went. I'd love to see more of India some day.
No trip report on the DXB - JFK flight because I didn't take pictures. I don't like not having visual aids with trip reports. All I can tell you is that it was crowded and cramped. We did board out of the A380 gate although we were flying on a 777-200LR.
If you're interested in seeing my pictures from Dubai and India, check them out here:
Thanks for reading!