Doha - Dubai - London on Emirates
The Economy Class product on Emirates' Boeing 777-300 (DOH-DXB) and the newer variants of the carrier's Boeing 777-300ER fleet (DXB-LHR) are in the spotlight today. In the end of the report I'll go into detail about the differences of traveling on the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 777. In addition, numerous pictures will give an impression of the city of Doha, Qatar's aspiring capital. The connecting flights on British Airways, bmi and Aer Lingus will be featured in the series' third and last part.
All those who have missed part 1 (including Emirates' A380) or want to read more about the background simply need to click here:
A380 Really a Step Forward? LHR-DXB-DOH On EK
Delights of Doha
More than eight hours after my arrival a Qatari friend picked me up at the hotel and showed me some of the most interesting parts of Doha. Our first destination was the giant Villagio Mall located in the Aspire Zone at the west end of Doha. The Italian themed mall...
...is equipped with fake sky interiors...
...a canal and bridges...
...as well as gondolas.
The Aspire Tower is a 318 meter (1,050 ft) structure located in the Sports City complex, in walking distance from the Villagio Mall. The tower, currently the tallest building in Qatar, served as the focal point for the 15th Asian Games in December 2006. Unfortunately, the visitors' deck was closed on that day.
A modern-style mosque located next to the Aspire Tower:
The Khalifa International Stadium in the Sports City complex is a multi-use stadium with a capacity of 50,000 people:
Now it was time to have a look at the city's skyline in the West Bay business district. Numerous new skyscrapers along the Corniche Street:
The Doha Convention Center & Tower is expected to reach a height of 551 meters (1808 ft) by its completion:
Still under construction: yet another example of stunning architecture:
This is the road to the The Pearl, an artificial island spanning nearly four million square meters. After completion it will be the first land in Qatar to be available for freehold ownership by foreign nationals. The project will create over 32 kilometers of new coastline, for use as a residential estate for about 30,000 people.
Certain parts of the island are completed, including some shops and restaurants, and are accessible for promotional purpose.
What would be an artificial island without a marina?
After sunset we went to the Souq Waqif, an old souq in the center of Doha which has recently been renovated and is an attractive place for a stroll or a souvenir hunt, with pavement cafés and countless shops. The Kassem Darwish Fakhroo Centre with its spiral minaret:
More than two hours later we had a delicious dinner in a beautiful Iranian restaurant - impressive wall and ceiling design:
Almourouj Inn Hotel
The location of the Almourouj Inn close to the old part of the city and the waterfront is nice, but that's it. First of all, the communication with the hotel staff prior to the trip hadn't been easy. After mailing twice and asking about the earliest possible check-in time, I had finally received a very short reply. They told me the room would be ready at arrival in the early morning, but I didn't read a word about the free shuttle being unavailable at night. See part 1 for more details about getting to the hotel:
A380 Really a Step Forward? LHR-DXB-DOH On EK
Once at the hotel after arrival, a young receptionist ensured that the hotel would charge only 50% for the first night (3 am to 12 pm) - but only a few hours later an older employee insisted that I would have to pay for two full nights. Apart from that, the room was only equipped with basic amenities and the breakfast buffet wasn't impressive either.
Views from the room:
Lovely, isn't it?
The hotel charged 82 Euro per night which is quite low for Doha, but it's definitely worth it to invest a bit more for a better hotel.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Doha (DOH) - Dubai (DXB)
Flying time: 00:45 (hrs)
A6-EMW (s/n 434), delivered in 03/2003
Economy Class, Seat 48A
Photo © David James Clelford [Airplane-Pictures]
Photo © Ryan Callaghan
Photo © Thierry Deutsch
Photo © Malcolm J.Bezzina
Quick Check-in, Crowded Facilities
At least the transfer back to the airport worked on the next morning. The hotel shuttle dropped me off after a 15-minute ride and I passed the luggage screening checkpoint to get access to the check-in area. The Emirates counters were mostly deserted and I got my boarding passes only a few minutes later. I had pre-reserved my seats online, so I didn't have to forward any requests. Passing security was a matter of a few minutes and I finally took a seat in the large departure/transit area on the second floor where you have good views of the runway. It wasn't very busy at that time and I didn't get many registrations, unfortunately.
Qatar Airways Boeing 777-300ER:
While there are many seats in the departure/transit area, the number of toilets is very limited. One facility was closed due to cleaning, so many people were heading to the next one. The size of the toilet facilities is definitely not sufficient for a transfer hub - if they are already crowded during a relatively quiet time of the day - how is it like during the peak times?
Boarding started early and a bus brought us to the aircraft. I had already spotted a relatively large Emirates tail in the distance from the terminal - and soon it was clear that the scheduled A330-200 had been replaced by a Boeing 777-300.
The plane was A6-EMW, delivered in March 2003. Always nice to board a wide-body via stairs:
The competitor from Abu Dhabi had decided to send a “slightly” smaller plane - A6-EIK, a new A320-200 delivered only two months before.
Mostly Empty Cabin
Who knows why Emirates switched to the 773 - even the A330 would have been too big for the low passenger load. The load factor probably reached about 30 percent, maybe even less. Good to see that the cabin was already equipped with newer seats and the (basic) ice entertainment system:
I was welcomed by a very friendly flight attendant and I immediately took the chance to ask about the today's landing procedure at DXB. He said we would approach from the desert and invited me to choose whatever seat I wanted. Originally I had picked 36K on the A330 seat map, but now I switched to 48A in the very last row. The seats were comfortable, but a bit hard - just like the latest variants on the A380.
The seat on the 773 is very similar to the latest variants used on the A380 and the newer 777s. Apart from the screen and the IFE handset, one major difference is the size of the IFE box:
Seat pitch was good as usual on Emirates:
After wet towels had been distributed and recollected we left the gate almost exactly on time and taxied to runway 34, passing some interesting aircraft, including one of two ex-Qatar Airways A330-200s destined for Turkish Airlines:
What's better than getting a light wide-body on an ultra-short-haul flight? Powerful take-off, just as expected:
The distinctive Museum of Islamic Arts is clearly visible here (center) - too bad it was closed on the other day.
The crescent-shaped Doha Bay...
...and the West Bay business district:
Construction work all over the place:
According to the captain, the flying time to Dubai would be only 39 minutes and we wouldn't climb higher than 21,000 feet. Many carriers wouldn't serve anything on such a short hop in these days, but Emirates does. Some 12 minutes after takeoff a friendly flight attendant handed over a breakfast tray with raisin pastry, chocolate muffin, fresh fruit and water - everything was very tasty.
Hot drinks weren't available - the time wouldn't have been enough. When I finished my breakfast, the plane had already started its descent.
I had been watching the airshow from the very beginning - there wouldn't have been enough time for anything else. I was already familiar with the basic version of ice, so there was no need to check all the features. While ice (available on 772, 772ER, 773 and older 77Ws) offers a choice of more than 600 channels, the new ice Digital Widescreen (available on A380, 77L and newer 77Ws) offers more than 1000 different channels of entertainment and is more comfortable to operate. No matter if it's the latest version or not - it's more than enough to remain entertained on long-haul flights.
We soon overflew the UAE's coastline and I realized that I wouldn't be able to see the Burj Dubai from my seat - because I recognized Sharjah on the left. Here's Sharjah Airport:
That looks like an exclusive place:
New residential area:
Large facilities, partly under construction:
We touched down on runway 30L exactly 45 minutes after takeoff, opposite to the Dubai Air Wing hangars:
Terminal 3 was mostly deserted on this side at noontide:
Dubai Airport - Transfer at Terminal 3
Disembarking was just a matter of a few minutes and the queue at the security checkpoint didn't stop me for a long time either. What would Dubai Airport be without the famous luxury car lottery?
Transferring at the shiny new Terminal 3 was a pleasure this time - no crowds, no rush.
It was also nice to find masses of free seats everywhere. I sat down close to a glass front at the southern end of the Terminal and watched the movements on the runways. It wasn't very busy during that time of the day, but I logged about 20 new registrations until boarding. However, the pattern on the windows isn't very helpful:
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Dubai (DXB) - London (LHR)
Flying time: 07:09 (hrs)
A6-ECE (s/n 681), delivered in 12/2007
Economy Class, Seat 48K
Photo © Ingo Lang
Photo © Sneeze Lam
Photo © Jose Mendez
Photo © Jerome Mervelet
The gate was filled well this time and it was clear EK003 would operate with a reasonable load factor, probably about 70 percent. A6-ECE (delivered in December 2007) was parked at the gate, one of the newer Boeing 777-300ERs with the latest interior.
I had chosen the second last row which belongs to boarding zone F, following immediately after the premium classes. When I stepped my foot onto the aircraft, a friendly flight attendant welcomed me and addressed me by name again - just like on EK002.
The seats on the newer 777s are mostly identical to those on the A380 - comfortable, but a bit hard cushioned.
There was about one inch less legroom compared to the A380, but it was still enough. The seat is also 0,5 inch narrower than on the A380, but I didn't notice the difference.
Two other passengers sitting behind each other on 47J and 48J (next to me) soon moved to the empty last row, so I could stretch out, just like on EK002. As usual, wet towels were distributed and recollected.
Slightly Late Departure
Many freight pallets were loaded into the 77W's huge belly...
...and the plane was finally pushed back some 20 minutes late.
Instead of taking the short way to runway 30R, we started taxiing in northern direction, passing both sides of the whole terminal. I can't complain - it helped me to log some more registrations.
20 minutes later we turned onto runway 30R and the two giant GE90 engines kicked the 77W into the sky. Interesting planes on the ground: Iran Aseman Fokker 100 and an ex-AirTran 737-700 without titles - most likely one of two frames recently delivered to Iraqi Airways.
Sharjah's skyline in the background...
...and the usual land reclamation work:
As mentioned earlier, the A380 and the newer 777s are equipped with the ice Digital Widescreen system which offers a choice of more than 1000 channels of entertainment. All those interested can read more about its features in part 1:
A380 Really a Step Forward? LHR-DXB-DOH On EK
These are the highlights:
- - More than 200 movies, available in many different languages
- - Hundreds of TV features (comedy, sports, drama, kids' programs, etc.)
- - Nearly 10,000 music tracks on hundreds of albums (playlist builder)
- - Hundreds of radio channels (podcasts, operas, etc.)
- - More than 100 video games (including new games and all the classic ones)
- - Advanced airshow (moving map with 3D aircraft model, external camera views)
- - Regularly updated news
- - Duty Free shopping
- - Information about Emirates, Skywards, Dubai etc.
- - SMS & Email
- - Option to plug in a digital camera for viewing images
ice Digital Widescreen was easy to operate again - however, unlike on the A380, I noticed several bugs. The games weren't available during the whole flight and the flight duration display remained at "0:00" all the time. Btw - a feature exclusively available on the A380 is the tail camera view.
It took about 50 minutes until the first round of service (drinks and savoury biscuits) was started. I ordered ginger ale and got a regular size can this time - in contrast to the tiny one on EK002.
SMS to Germany
While cruising over Iran's beautiful mountainous landscape...
...I decided to try the option to send an SMS to Germany. The "Communications Central" main page:
You need to swipe a credit card first to identify yourself - then you can go ahead and start writing messages, either by using the handset's keyboard or a virtual touch screen keyboard:
Using the virtual keyboard was quite convenient, I really liked that feature. After the message is finished you can save or send it. Additionally, you can also receive messages on the screen. Sending and receiving a message costs USD1, and in order to prevent unintentional actions you need to confirm each transaction separately. Later I found out that it had worked. Great stuff!
Later in the flight I wanted to ask whether all the personal data would be deleted after the flight - but the flight attendants didn't react after I had pressed the call button. Some ten minutes later I went to the galley and asked. Not the way it should be!
The flight attendants started to serve "lunch" more 1,5 hours after take-off - again quite late in the afternoon. Menu cards had already been distributed shortly after take-off:
Salmon and vegetable terrine served with a crunchy bean sprout and mushroom salad, sautéed prawn and fresh lemon wedge
- Parsley and mustard roast chicken: tender chicken breast marinated with parsley and mustard and slow roasted, topped with a light smoked cheese sauce, mixed spaetzle and vegetable casserole
- Lamb korma served with vegetable flavoured rice, garnished with roasted cashew nuts and fried onions
- Porcini mushroom tortellini tossed in a creamy sauce and garnished with a tangy tomato and basil coulis
Elderberry brownie: rich chocolate brownie base covered with a creamy elderberry flavoured mousse
After not getting the favoured lamb on EK002 I tried again this time - and believe it or not, it wasn't available for a second time in a row. Then I ordered the chicken - and I was positively surprised: the meat, the sauce and the spaetzle in particular tasted excellent.
The salmon and vegetable terrine was not to my taste, but the dessert was quite good. Btw - I found a small sticker on the side of my tray, saying "vegetarian Asian meal" - probably fallen down from another tray. Then I noticed that the dressing was missing on my tray. I called a flight attendant who promised to get me one. It took a while, but she finally came back with a small glass - probably taken from Business Class?
Now all I still needed was something to drink - but the two flight attendants with the drinks cart were still numerous rows away. The desired white wine finally arrived more than 15 minutes after the food, definitely too late. I had also observed that on my Emirates flights to and from Australia in 2006.
You can often look up into a starry sky when flying on certain Emirates types - the 77W is one of them.
The lavatory interior doesn’t look as modern as on the A380, but the nice wood paneling is the same.
I kept watching the advanced airshow most of the time...
...and when we were cruising near Berlin...
...one could clearly see the 777’s contrail in the evening sun:
About 75 minutes prior to arrival it was time for a light snack. Description in the menu card: ”Your selection of afternoon tea includes assorted reception sandwiches, mixed dried fruit cake and scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam."
Well, what to say? No matter if salmon and cheese sandwiches, cake or scone - every item tasted excellent. And even the drinks arrived earlier this time.
Approach to 9L
The approach to LHR wasn't as enjoyable as usual because runways 9L and 9R were in use. Of course, I switched to the front camera view:
We touched down on runway 9L after a flying time of 7 hours and 9 minutes and arrived at the gate slightly late. About one hour later I arrived at the Jurys Inn again and started preparing for the next day's trip to DUB and MUC...story to be continued.
Flying Emirates was a true pleasure again - despite some minor negative issues (preferred choice of meal not available, late drink service, unanswered call). The seats could be a bit more comfortable, but the legroom is generous on both the 773 and the 77W. ice Digital Widescreen is probably the best entertainment system available today - but even the basic version is better than most other carriers’ systems. Catering can be rated as superb both in terms of quality and quantity, even on short hops. And the presentation of the food is excellent, too. Again, the staff on the ground and in the air were friendly and motivated. With the opening of Terminal 3 even transferring at DXB has become convenient again. I can only recommend to fly Emirates.
Let me also add some words about the difference between the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 777. As I already explained in part 1, the noise level on the A380 is indeed very low, significantly lower than on the 777. Numerous people prefer a quiet cabin, but personally I don't mind about a higher noise level. Dozens of people sitting in close vicinity produce a variety of sounds, by talking, laughing or snoring (just to name a few) - and the lower the noise level of the plane is, the more you get to hear.
If you compare seat width and seat pitch on certain websites you'll notice that the A380s currently in service aren't really outstanding. Emirates' 77Ws are equipped with slightly narrower seats - but I didn't feel much more cramped. The 3-4-3 seating on the 777 is not as bad in reality as many people think - a preconceived opinion and a biased perception may play a role here.
The technical gimmicks such as advanced IFE and mood lighting are available on both the A380 and the 777 (or other aircraft). In Emirates' case you get the same IFE and the same type of seats on both the A380 and the newer 777s. To sum it up: Many of those who expect a revolutionarily different Economy Class product on the A380 will be disappointed.
Next report: MUC-LHR, LHR-DUB and DUB-MUC on British Airways, bmi and Aer Lingus.
[Edited 2009-04-23 11:15:45]