Hello and thank you for reading this trip report outlining my journey from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Los Angeles, California, USA. I’ve broken it up into three parts – this is part 2 outlining the journey from Dubai to New York.
No sooner had I landed back in Dubai on 13 January from my Christmas holiday in California than I started planning the next holiday. I find that having a vacation to look forward to helps me motivate myself at work.
A large collection of my Emirates miles were due to expire at the end of May 2009, so I figured that I bloody well ought to use them before they become useless. Since my 25th birthday was coming up in early May, I thought why not celebrate it at home, since I hadn’t been home for my birthday since 2004? At the same time, I thought, why not use this opportunity to try out the A380? And since I’m on the A380, why not go in First Class? And since the A380 would only take me as far as New York, why not spend a day or two there since I haven’t properly been to the big apple before. A logical train of thought, no?
Everyday for 2 months, I logged onto www.skywards.com
and checked the availability of First Class redemption seats during the week that I wanted to travel to the US of A. And everyday for 2 months, no seats were available. My ideal routing would have been DXB
in F class on the A380 (EK 201), returning from Los Angeles in Business or Economy on Emirates’ newly started 777-200LR service (EK 214) two weeks later.
Then finally one afternoon in February, there was a breakthrough. I logged onto Emirates’ frequent flier portal and alas – saw that EK
201 was showing an available First Class seat on 29 April! I immediately called the service centre to book it. Just as the agent was checking the return flight, the outbound became unavailable! Bad luck!
However the mileage redemption gods would shine on me one month later. I came back to Dubai from Riyadh late one evening, and decided to check www.skywards.com
before going to bed. Low and behold – a seat was available on EK
201 on 29 April in First Class. I called the service centre to book it – and found that they were closed. Bugger, I thought to myself. I can’t book a multi-city itinerary online. At the same time, if I wanted until tomorrow night I may lose the seat. I would have to book DXB
now and change the return to LAX
later. I decided to go ahead with it so as not to lose my seat.
First Class on the way out, Business class on the way back. 105,000 miles for the First Class leg, 70,000 miles for the way back, plus a 10% discount left me spending 157,500 Skywards miles plus 260 AED in taxes. My Skywards balance dropped down to about 70,000, but at least I had my ticket!
I called Skywards the next day and found that I could not change the origin of the return leg since the ticket had already been issued. Ok, could I make a new reservation with the return from LAX
? “You’ll have to cancel the original ticket first sir.” Could you hold my seat? “No. We will have to refund your miles which will take 3 days and then you’ll have to call us back to rebook it.” So I may lose the seat? “I don’t know sir.” Alright – not to take any chances I decided to stick with what I had and not risk losing what I had worked so hard to get. Emirates was not in a position to do me any favours and I was already getting a US$ 12,000 ticket for basically nothing. Better not push my luck. I would just have to buy a roundtrip ticket on American Airlines between JFK
instead of a one way as I had originally planned.
Back on Emirates’ website, I went to the seat map and tried to reserve seat 1A since I figured this would give me a better view of Dubai taking off (assuming that the north easterly runway was used). 1A was not available, but 1K was so I snatched it.
Feeling rather happy with myself, I didn’t realise that I hadn’t actually requested approval from work. The fly in the ointment. I sent an email to my company’s vacation planning department requesting 2 weeks of leave, and saying that I was planning a trip to be home for my birthday. I was sitting on needles until the staffing lady got back to me with the approval 10 days later.
Fast forward to the 28th of April. At 8:29am Dubai time, I was on my laptop ready to pounce on the online booking system in a bid to secure seat 1A. “Online checkin is only available 24 hours before departure.” The clock ticked over to 8:30am. I tried again. “Online check is not available for this flight.” I picked up my mobile and dialled Emirates customer service centre.
“Hi, I’ve just tried checking in for my flight online and I understand that online checkin is not available – it’s EK
201 to New York tomorrow.”
“Yes sir online check-in is not available for flights to the US.”
“Ok – well can you give me seat 1A if available.”
“Sir that seat is reserved for unaccompanied minors.”
“Are there any unaccompanied minors on the flight tomorrow morning?”
“I don’t know sir.”
“Well can you give it to me then?”
“Sir you may be asked to move if there is an unaccompanied minor.”
“Alright, if an unaccompanied minor suddenly shows up at the airport with a First Class ticket I’ll be more than happy to move to a different seat.”
And with that, I got 1A and prayed that I wouldn’t lose it to a 5 year old later in the flight.
Later that day, I got back to Dubai from a business trip to Riyadh (the details of that journey on Saudi Arabian Airlines are posted in the forums separately). Arriving so late, I only had a few hours to pack for my trip. On top of this, a friend from out of town was visiting and we were out quite late, so I didn’t make it to bed until about 2:30am.
My Emirates car was due to collect me from my apartment building in the Dubai Marina at 6am in order to get me to DXB
2 hours in advance of my flight.
At 5:45am, I was woken up to the sound of my mobile receiving a text message. Your chauffeur driven Emirates car has arrived.
I threw on a few clothes, grabbed my bags and headed down, taking a quick shot of the view out my window.
The usual Emirates Volvo V70 Estate was waiting for me in front of the door, and took me to Dubai Airport.
I took a couple of snaps of Dubai en route. The first photo is of the JBR apartment complex on the Jumeirah beach. The second is the Hard Rock café in Internet City, which is about to be torn down to make room for a skyscraper (at least that is the last I heard) and the third photo is the burj dubai (tallest building in the world).
I had only been to Terminal 3 as a passenger once before (DXB
last October) but at the time I was travelling in Economy and didn’t realise that there is a completely separate area for First and Business Class passengers. The driver turned off just before reaching the main passenger area. Getting out of the car, a porter quickly grabbed my 3 cases, put them on a cart and accompanied me inside.
A shot of the kerb side area:
Walking into the terminal, I was attached by a barrage of Emirates greeters who enthusiastically screamed “HI SIR
HAVE A GREAT FLIGHT SIR
” in my ears.
Emirates segregates their check-in desks into USA and non-USA for whatever reason. Here is the check-in area:
We walked up to the counter and the porter put my 3 bags on the scales.
I presented my documents to the check-in agent and told her I was going to New York on EK
“Sir, do you know about the baggage policy?”
Frankly, I had made the mistake of assuming I could check 3 bags since this was a First Class ticket. “Uhh, yes, three bags I think.”
“No sir, only two bags sir. The third bag is $175.”
“Are you sure? I think I am well under the weight limit.”
“Yes sir you are 16 kg under but our policy is by the piece not by the kilo.”
“Shall I carry on the small bag?”
“No sir it is too heavy.”
“So what do I do?”
“You can pay $175 sir.”
I asked her if it was possible to make an exception since I was so far under as far as weight was concerned, but she wasn’t having any of it and I was caught in between feeling silly for not having double checked and feeling a bit irritated in her manner of informing me that I had one bag too many.
Fortunately, a stroke of luck was heading in my direction. The porter suggested that I go to the luggage wrapping stand and get my two smaller bags wrapped together and that way it would just be one piece. I asked the check in girl if that would be OK
and she said that it would. Which is then exactly what I did. 10 minutes later, we were back at the check-in counter with two of my bags wrapped in several layers of foil, and it had only cost me 15 AED ($4) plus a very well deserved tip for my friend the porter. A far cry from $175.
Next step was immigration. I have an electronic gate card which allows me to bypass passport control. Of course, this being the UAE, the electronic gate card never works the first time and so it took me three attempts to get through.
After a brief stint through security, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Emirates had a set of lifts taking passengers straight to the lounges from the security area. Quite a nice touch! Here it is:
This means that F/J passengers can literally bypass the rest of the airport and go straight to the lounge, and board the aircraft from there. I wasn’t able to take advantage of this because I had a thing or two to do inside the terminal - I was told by a number of friends that tipping is a big thing in New York, and thought that it might be a good idea to break a US$100 bill into denominations more conducive to tipping. I decided to attempt such a transaction at the local currency exchange desk.
Here are a couple of shots of the inside of Terminal 3:
Following my (rather painful) currency transaction, I went to First Class lounge. Situated right next to the Business Class one – I’m not quite sure what the major differences are. The first class lounge has a “lounging area” with comfortable chairs, televisions, newspapers, and then a dining room where you can eat from the buffet or order from the menu.
Here is the dining room:
I decided to have a wee bit of breakfast, and while I was having it one of the waiters presented me with a menu and asked if he could get me something. I noticed that there were several breakfast foods available, but decided not to have anything additional.
Here is my breakfast:
Next I decided to check out the showers. Unfortunately, the First Class showers were out of order, so I went over to the business class lounge to partake. I was rather surprised to find out that the showers are not individual rooms (as they are in BA
Exec Club lounges) but rather just shower stalls within a bathroom. In between each shower, the attendant clears the towels but does nothing else. Frankly I thought this was disappointing. What if the guy before me had urinated (or something else) all over the floor? Or if he had a foot fungus? The other thing I didn’t like about the shower was that the steam from the hot water had no where to go and left the room feeling rather damp (I think this was pointed out by BA319-131 as well. Not sure if the First Class ones were any better.
A few photos:
Eventually it was time to board so I walked out of the business class lounge towards the First/Business class boarding gate which is separate to the one from Economy.
On the way to the gate, I saw this flight boarding and a part of me wanted to be on it instead, since LAX
was my final destination anyway:
The boarding gate for EK
Even though the display was showing “Final Call” there were no Emirates agents at the desk and there were just a bunch of passengers waiting around for something to happen. I had a quick look around to make sure that no last-minute unaccompanied minors had showed up in the queue. Finally, the checkin staff arrived and one agent came and starting going from passenger to passenger asking to see our passports, and then when I finally got to the desk they asked to see the passport again. What was the point of that?
From the checkin desks we took a lift one floor down and boarded the aircraft from there. I noticed that the A380 operating the flight this morning would be A6-EDE, just delivered to EK
4 days prior (25 April). I remembered seeing an Airliners.net thread in the Civil Aviation forum titled “Emirates receives 5th A380” and that was the one I was going to travel on!
Here is a shot of the beast:
The boarding jetway and the engines:
Flight Number: EK 201
Origin: Dubai International Airport (DXB), Terminal 3
Destination: New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Terminal 4
Departure time: 8:30am (scheduled), 9:05am (actual)
Arrival time: 2:15pm (scheduled), 2:05pm (actual)
Flight time: 13 hours on the dot
Aircraft: Airbus A380-861
Registration: A6-EDE (delivered to EK on 25 April)
Cabin: First Class
Arriving at the door of the beast, I was greeted by one of the flight attendants (Filipino female) who escorted me to my seat. She took my coat and put it in closet at the front of my seat. A few seconds later, a South African girl turned up with champagne and orange juice. I had a glass of Dom. A few moments later, a Lebanese flight attendant came round with newspapers (5 English ones and 1 Arabic paper) and a few seconds later, she turned up again with several magazines. I commented that there were so many to choose from and didn’t know what to take, so I selected Top Gear and said “this looks good!” She replied by saying that anything to do with cars would probably be of interest to a guy!
It was indeed a pleasure sitting and relaxing with a drink and a paper prior to take off, and not having to see nary a single passenger. Quite an ironic thought, since 300-400 were probably boarding downstairs and behind me.
A few shots of the seat:
The drawer with the writing kit:
The seat controller (which should have been detachable was wasn’t because it was broken), the headphones and the Air conditioning vents (one to the left at arm level, the other to the right near the top of the door):
A USB port (don’t know what this is for – maybe to charge devices?):
The minibar to my left (with pepsi, 7UP, mineral water, Perrier and juice). Electronically closable:
The Emirates suite familiarsation guide:
The seat pocket with magazines and things and finally the power port:
Seat 1E (to my right). The second photo shows the closet within seat 1E:
While waiting for pushback, one of the Flight Attendants came by with the kit bag, which included the kit bag itself, a hand towel, some slippers, a pair of pyjamas, and eye shades. The first shot is of the bag itself (on the right) and the rest of the amenities:
Also a photo of the TV
, the flowers and my glass of dom:
We pushed back from the gate around 8:50am and taxied out to the runway. I was hoping that we would fly out to the north west, and that I would have a view of the burj dubai (tallest building in the world) but alas we were going to be using 12L today.
Sister ship A6-EDA parked to the left:
View from the tail camera:
Incidentally, throughout the taxi, I barely noticed that the engines were on – that is how quiet the beast jet is. Only when the takeoff roll began did the big GP7200s make themselves heard. Here are some tail camera photos of the takeoff:
After takeoff we turned back to the north west and headed in the direction of Europe. The purser came by to every first class passenger to introduce himself. He asked whether it was my first time in First on the A380, which I said it was, and he told me that I could order what I wanted whenever I wanted. He also signed me up for a shower – at 8:30pm Dubai time, about an hour prior to landing. He said that the cabin crew would be bringing a few canapés in about 10 minutes, and would like anything to drink in the meantime? Even though it was only 9am, I thought I might as well have a scotch. Unfortunately they didn’t have my preferred White Label, so I had a Chivas instead.
Moments later, the canapés arrived. One was a skewer with halloumi cheese and a bread encrusted olive, and the other three included a meet somosa, skewer of Thai chicken, and two prawns.
I swallowed it down and then went to the lav to change into my pyjamas. I decided not to use the Emirates one and opted instead for the BA
pyjamas I got on a recent First Class trip. I also donned my BA
First Class eyeshades – by far the most comfortable I have ever used – and came back to make my bed.
Emirates provide a sort of mattress cover to flatten the seat, so I selected the fully flat position, put the mattress on, undid the blanket, got the pillow ready – here is a shot:
I was just about to close the window shades when I realised that the window shades don’t work in the conventional way. You cannot manually open and close them – you must do it electronically, and there are two shades. One just blocks a bit of light, and the second layer completely closes it. First shot is of the window all the way down, the second is the electronic controls, and the third photo has the middle shade on its way down:
Naturally since I wanted to sleep, I shut them completely and around the same time, the cabin crew turned off the main cabin lights. And then I slept like a baby for the next 4 hours. Here is a shot of the suite with the doors closed:
I woke up around 2:30pm Dubai time and was feeling a bit peckish, so I decided to go into the galley and order lunch from one of the flight attendants. The menu was incredibly extensive – to the point where I wonder where they store all this food and how much of it do they throw away between flights? There were several appetisers on offer, including Iranian caviar (a taste I have yet to acquire), a number of salads and two soups. I opted for the zucchini soup and the Chilean sea bass with a glass of French white wine. I asked them not to bring any bread.
As I was placing my order, one of the Australian flight attendants who was working in the J class section noticed that I was wearing non-Emirates pyjamas and using non-Emirates slippers (I had brought a pair from the Four Seasons in Riyadh) and she asked me which airline they belonged to. That then developed into a lovely 20 minute conversation which started off with a chat about airline pyjamas followed by a comparison of BA
First Class followed by a discussion about whether Emirates will put the A380 back on the JFK
route later. As part of the Emirates A380 Cabin Crew, she only flies routes on the beast jet…which means that she ends up seeing a lot of New York, London and Sydney/Auckland – the latter being a good thing since she is a Sydneysider! But with the A380 coming off the JFK
route at the end of May she’ll obviously get to see other destinations more regularly.
I reluctantly headed back to my seat and not a minute later, one of the South African crew members came by to set the table and bring the soup.
In the meantime, I decided to see what was on television. Even though there are literally hundreds of movies and television programmes, there is barely anything that I am interested in watching. That is more a result of my own disinterest in cinema/television as opposed to anything to do with Emirates’ ICE system. Anyway, I did see that Fawlty Towers was on which is a show I do like, so I watched that while having the soup. The episode was “A Touch of Class” and featured Lord Melbury.
A shot of one of my favourite scenes, where Manuel comes into the lobby with breakfast for one of the guests, and Basil says “Manuel, there is too much butter on those trays.” Manual says, “no no senor, not on those trays…uno, dos, tres…uno, dos, tres!” Basil responds by saying “Hay mucho burro alli” and that’s when Manuel explains that butter in Spanish is not burro, but mantequilla.
Moments after finishing the soup, the Chilean sea bass arrived. I don’t usually eat fish unless I have reason to believe that it is really exceptional, but today I wanted to have something light. The food was good, and I have to compliment the crew for not even allowing my glass of wine to dip below the half way mark of the glass before refilling it - which they did literally 4 or 5 times.
Here is the fish:
While getting something out of my bag, I noticed that I had a photo of our family Beagle in one of the pockets so I decided to pull it out and put it on the side to make myself feel more at home:
Three flight attendants noticed the photo and said how cute my dog is! The Lebanese flight attendant was hoping to get a dog herself and asked me what I thought about Labradors.
A Korean flight attendant came by to clear away the sea bass and offered me some dessert. I didn’t really feel like having much but I thought it would be nice to try something. She listed off a few options and I chose the pecan pie a la mode. I also asked her for a glass of port wine.
After the table was cleared I decided to capture all the different features of the controller for the benefit of this trip report.
First, the seat controls:
Next, the massage functionalities:
This is how you open and close the door, and enable the do not disturb sign:
Lighting control (table lamp, etc):
Never figured out what this is for:
Emirates propaganda being displayed when nothing else is active:
Subsequently I decided to go back to bed and see how much more I could sleep. I had had several glasses of wine by this point, and I managed to get another 4 hours of shut eye. By the time I woke up, it was about 7:30pm Dubai time and we would be landing in New York in about 2.5 hours. I went up to the “Social Area” in the front of the social area and had a couple of nuts. Here is a photo:
And the front staircase:
Then I went downstairs from the front staircase to see what the economy cabin was like. There appeared to be a 75% load factor. I say that because there seemed to be 2-3 seats empty per row.
I made it to the back of the cabin and decided to go back upstairs using the rear stair case, which was barricaded but I climbed over it:
I found a protective guard rail at the other end and I asked one of the flight attendants if I can come through. No, she replied rather apologetically. My seat is over there, I replied, and pointed forward, and she let me come through.
I decided to stop over at the business class lounge to have a cup of coffee. I happened to run into the purser and had a quick chat. While waiting for the coffee, I took a couple of snaps of the lounge and while doing that, one of the flight attendants came up and offered to take a photo of me. Not the most flattering eh??
And the other side of the bar (sorry I forgot to rotate it):
I sat down with that FA
and had a lovely chat for the next half an hour. She told me that her favourite city in the Emirates network is Seoul. I also asked her what her least favourite city was, but for some reason I can’t remember what she said. Oh – it was Moscow. Unfortunately, I had to cut short the convo to make my 8:30pm shower.
One of the other flight attendants caught me as I was putting away my bed and getting ready to have a shower, and she offered lunch for when I come back. What I really fancied was a ham and cheese sandwich – but I could have had another three course meal. They didn’t have the ham and cheese, of course, so the F/A suggested a beef pastrami instead.
The attendant of the port side shower (who I believe cleans and prepares the showers between appointments) grabbed me at around 8:35pm and told me that I could go ahead with it. It was an extremely peculiar feeling to have a shower at 37,000 feet but nonetheless it felt great! Here are a few photos:
The shower itself (again, sorry about the rotation):
Razors and combs:
screen above the razors and combs (you can tell from the location of the plane that I took this photo about half way through the flight, not right at the end ☺)
And a few of the inside of the shower (I’m literally kicking myself now for not having remembered to rotate the photos:
The first gauge shows you how much water you have left:
The bench and the shower itself:
The second I made it back to my seat, one of the flight attendants noticed and brought out lunch immediately. I started eating the sandwich before remembering to take a photo! So I got the camera back out and took a shot of the half that I hadn’t yet devoured:
While eating I amused myself by watching an interview with Alex Ferguson.
And reading the news:
While approaching JFK
, I took the following shots from out the window which I think are of Manhattan? I am sure someone will be able to correct me if I am wrong. Anyway, given my knowledge of the geography of New York I believe that these photos imply that we approached JFK
from the north.
At about 5 minutes past 2pm local time, we came in to land and I think it was on 22R. A smooth landing, and of course only the inboard thrust reversers deployed. Unfortunately it was bloody difficult to see out the upper deck windows due to the curvature of the fuselage – even more difficult to see than on the upper deck of the 747-400.
Welcome to JFK
, and a TAM 763 and LY
After a quick taxi, we pulled up to the gate and there was the end of the flight. All in all, a great pleasure. Deboarding was done using door 1L (the same one that I had boarded from) and surprisingly immigration didn’t take too long either.
I collected my cases and walked out. There was a gentleman standing outside with an Emirates sign. He directed me to the kerb and radioed a car to come and collect me. A black Cadillac DTS pulled up with a board with my name on it in the right passenger window.
Here I am in the car:
Once we got into the city I noticed this sign posted on one of the traffic signs. Literally 2 seconds later, the driver did actually use his horn. Interesting law!
By 3:45pm, I was at my hotel in Manhattan and that was the end of my Emirates First Class experience. All in all, very pleasant!
I am going to have to steal Abrelosojos’ intellectual capital on categories to sum up a trip report
in order to best convey my thoughts:
As with all other airlines except Etihad (at least that I am aware of), Emirates imposes incredible restrictions on how many seats are available for award redemption. I think that the reservation agent actually told me that there were only 5 seats in F class available on the A380 during the whole month of April!
Emirates is not in the habit of doing award customers any favours, but the 2 things that would have made my life easier when doing the reservation are (1) more seats open to award flights, (2) the ability to book mileage multi-city flights online instead of having to go through the call centre.
II. Pickup and check-in:
No complaints on the pick up. I loved being able to bypass the main drop off area at the airport by using the First/Business class entrance.
I thought that having two girls scream “hi sir have a nice flight sir” in my face was a little too enthusiastic for my liking, especially at 6:00am, but perhaps that’s just me.
Check-in was efficient. The only problem I faced was the baggage issue (that I had 3 pieces instead of 2). Mea culpa for being silly enough not to bother reading the baggage policy – however (1) I think that the manner in which the check-in agent communicated this to me could certainly have been improved and (2) I don’t see how the piece policy instead of the weight policy does them any favours. At least on a comparative basis I think that First Class passengers ought to be able to check 3 bags since other airlines I have travelled on do this for Business Class passengers.
III. Getting through the airport:
Not too much waiting, but still the usual mess (this is not an Emirates problem, but rather a Dubai airport issue).
Everything that I could have asked for was in the lounge – from a quiet place to relax, to a dining room to have some breakfast, to a business centre, television area etc.
The only thing which didn’t go well was that the showers in the First Class section were out of order. Also, I thought that the lack of proper shower rooms with a shower, toilet, sink and changing area was a bit disappointing, especially because I found out that even American Airlines offers full shower suites in their JFK
I liked being able to board one level up from the other passengers, however I thought it was a bit silly that several of us were waiting at the desk with the sign displaying “Final Call” and yet no one was there to process us. Also, why did we have to have two people check passports?
On the plus side, I was able settle in my seat and relax without having to even see any other passengers once I boarded. The true meaning of privacy and comfort, no?
Quite frankly this was the most luxurious seat I had ever travelled in. It was comfortable. It reclined to 180 degrees. It came with all sorts of goodies. It converted into a bed and had a cover to smooth out the bumps. It was not lacking for shoulder space and leg space. The door even closed. Bloody wonderful is all I can say.
The only thing I think could use some improvement is the controls. They are operated from the little TV
screen and don’t feature one-touch functionality. For example – to close the suite’s doors I had to keep pressing the button on the screen which took about 10 seconds. I’d have rather just pushed it once and let the system do the rest of the work. Trivial, I know!
I thought that the décor of the cabin was tastefully done and the overall experience was one of privacy and comfort. Even though my seat was next to the social area and showers, I was never disturbed by the noise and never noticed if people kept on going back and forth past my seat. This may have been (1) because I slept for most of the flight and (2) because I had the door closed but nonetheless…
I won’t really comment too much on the IFE, firstly because I am not a major user of IFE and secondly because Emirates’ ICE system has been reviewed to death on this forum. The only thing I can make mention of is that none of the cameras were working when we landed, but that may have been intentional.
I had the pleasure of being served by 4-5 cabin crew, all of whom were delightful. They were all friendly and professional without being sycophantic. The same is true for the purser.
On other Emirates flights I have experienced cabin crew who have come off as sickly sweet in an attempt to provide what they think is exceptional service – unfortunately it comes off as exceptionally insincere. Not today however, and not in First Class. The Cabin Crew were excellent and struck a perfect balance between providing efficient service with being chatty. I also had at least two 20-30 minute conversations with two flight attendants which I found very pleasant.
While the flight attendants were all exceptional individually, as well as in their teams, I find that Emirates lacks a national identity to emulate and this is what I think is missing from the experience. There is not much the airline can do about it. In the same manner that stepping on board a Qantas 747 is like stepping on to a small piece of Australia, or stepping on board an Air France 777 makes you feel like you are somehow in France…stepping on board Emirates, you could be anywhere in the world. Just as the UAE has no mainstream national identity, neither does Emirates. I don’t know if there is a solution (I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be served by Emiratis, however). This is at least somewhat important to me because I do value the intangible part of the experience. Emirates can buy the biggest plane, install the nicest shower, recruit the best flight attendants from the world, but fundamentally they can’t create a cultural experience from scratch.
While I didn’t sample too much of the menu, I still had plenty to eat and thought that everything was very good. The choices were endless (I would have tried some Iranian caviar if I liked caviar) and I appreciated the ability to order whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.
I think it’s also worth noting that the temperature of the food was perfect. On a previous flight with Emirates (as well as a previous flight with Virgin in Upper Class) I have had soup that was so hot that it almost turned my tongue into charcoal.
Again, no major complaints here. The two important questions to me in terms of drinks on an airplane are (1) do they have white label and (2) do they have Pepsi – my favourite blend and the only soft drink I drink. In the case of the whiskey, no airline I have ever travelled on has served Dewars, and as for the Pepsi I already knew that Emirates don’t serve Coke ☺
The one comment to make is that I thought the wine list was not particularly extensive – 3 reds and 3 whites if I remember correctly.
I actually wanted to take the menu with me, and I left it on my seat while having a shower with the intention of asking the cabin crew if I could nick it but unfortunately they had already taken it away by the time I came back. I apologise that I can’t share with you everything on the menu. However I did take a few pictures of the menu and would be happy to share with you some of the things that were on it if anyone is interested.
Amenity kits and other freebies:
The amenity kit was the same one I had received in business class on a flight to Johannesburg in October 2008 (well, it was made of a slightly different piece of material). It was fine but nothing special, and a far cry from what they give you on Etihad which is literally as big as a laptop bag. Peculiarly, there were no ear plugs in the kit bag (I had to ask for them separately and frankly they weren’t very good).
The eyeshades that Emirates provided were fine, but not anywhere near as good as the pair that BA
give in First Class – but then again, the amenity bag on EK
in F is bigger and more versatile than what BA
Other freebies – pyjamas, a hand towel and slippers. I used none of the above. I had brought my own slippers and pyjamas, not because I wasn’t expecting Emirates to provide them but rather because I just didn’t know what to expect.
Other than the fact that the cabin crew held back the business class passengers until the First Class cabin had completely cleared away, I don’t know what else ought to be expected from the disembarkation phase.
Thoughts on the aircraft:
The one comment I have about the A380 is that it is a lot quieter than what I am used to. Otherwise, I don’t really think that the aircraft is revolutionary. All of the other niceties about my flight were down to the Emirates configuration rather than some feature of the A380. For example, it is nice to have the space to have showers and lounges, but at least the latter could be (and has been done) on other aircraft as well.
Nonetheless, if I was travelling in a premium class I would choose to fly the A380 again. For economy, I think I would stick with the 777-300ER. Fewer passengers!
Thanks very much for reading, and I would be delighted to hear your comments. I hope I can entice you to read part 3 as well (JFK
PARIS, FRANCE...THE BEIRUT OF EUROPE.