Joyrides Down Under Part 2: EK A380 Revisited
Noun: A ride in a vehicle taken solely for pleasure
Verb: A ride in a vehicle with no particular goal and just for the pleasure of it
Ok, there seems to have been a small goal to my joyrides: that of trying out new aircraft and (hopefully) new airlines.
2 International flights.
8 Australian domestic flights, 3 airlines, 4 states, 5 types.
6 New Zealand domestic flights, 3 airlines, 2 islands, 3 types.
Welcome to my next series of Trip Reports. These flights over 3 weeks, summarised above, includes flights on Air New Zealand, Emirates, Qantas, Virgin Blue, Pacific Blue and Jetstar; takes me through New South Wales, Victoria, ACT, Queensland and New Zealand while travelling on 6 different types of planes. I hope you enjoy my journey around eastern Australia and also New Zealand. At the end of the final TR, I’ll write up a comparison between the domestic carriers in both New Zealand and Australia according to my personal experience with them.
If you missed the first TR of the series, here’s the link: Joyrides Down Under Part 1: Air NZ AKL-CHC-AKL (by NZ107 Dec 23 2009 in Trip Reports)
This TR will cover my AKL-SYD leg of the journey: my second flight on the EK A380, in Economy.
I couldn’t get enough of Emirates once I disembarked the first commercial A380 flight into New Zealand last February. It didn’t take long for the specials to start rolling in either. The Emirates website is very easy to use but the interesting thing is that they need you to provide valid passport details before they allow you to book. Luckily, my passport was still valid for a while so I booked this flight (for a bargain NZ$350 return) well in advance; in fact it wasn’t that long after my previous flight that I booked it! Apart from that, it is an easy website to navigate around. The other plus is the option to reserve your seat well in advance. If it’s not booked with Emirates, you’ll need to be a Skywards member to reserve a seat. On advice from other A.Net members, I decided to sit down the back for both flights and try it out. More details about this decision will be made clearer later.
I didn’t have much time to pack after arriving back from Christchurch the day before but managed to fit everything into the suitcase. Emirates have a very generous 30kg baggage limit for Economy – every gram was used wisely! Eventually the afternoon came around and it was time to head to the airport.
After driving myself to the airport, I found myself at the Emirates check in area. I was super early for the flight and there barely a queue. If you do happen to arrive at Auckland Airport flying Emirates about 2 hours before the flight, make sure you expect to stand in the queue for quite some time! That is, of course, if you don’t have Skywards Gold or Silver status (EK’s FF program); or aren’t flying First or Business. It was a breeze and it was interesting to note that I didn’t need to show anything other than my passport. Ten minutes later I was on my way, less one bag.
The Relatively Empty Check In Desks
Qantas/OneWorld Premium Check In Area
Check In Counters
Auckland Airport’s landside departure area in the international terminal has changed significantly over the last 7 months. There used to be many shops lining the walls leading to the security checkpoint. Now, a lot of those shops (including both main Duty Free stores) have disappeared in favour of a larger customs area and a larger airside duty free area (I’m assuming this will also grow in size) as you walk through towards the gate. I guess I won’t be going to the airport to have a nosy at what’s in the duty free stores anymore!
Comparison Shot From January 2009(first image) With November 2009 (second image):
Spotting From The International Observation Deck:
Three Big Trans Tasman Rivals
TG993 To BKK
Air Calin Back To Noumea
NZ105 To Sydney
Any Idea What That Hatch Is Under The Door?
QF25 To LAX
Being rated in the top ten best airports in the world by Skytrax (yes, whoever believes in their surveys), I was out to try and find what made AKL so great. Here it goes. Public transport – they have only just implemented a 24 hour public bus service to some place in South Auckland in which you can change to a bus which goes to the city (this is excluding the well established Airbus service direct to the city which is much nicer than the real public transport of Auckland). Extra effort would be required to get anywhere else, such as the North Shore or out west. No trains get anywhere close to the airport. Taxis are extremely expensive (Upward of NZ$60 to get into the city). Amenities – no free Wi-Fi - it’s only free to check the Auckland Airport website which I use when spotting sometimes. Ok, facilities are clean, I give them that. But you’d expect that from any good airport. Signs are quite clear. Maybe the lack of hoards of people makes it popular. Duty free shopping – the same worldwide where they push you right through/past the shops on the way to the gate. It beats me to guess why Auckland Airport is rated so highly. And apparently only ICN, HKG, SIN, ZRH, MUC, KIX, KUL, AMS and NGO are better than Auckland. I think I should check out more of these airports before making a valid conclusion but it is by no means near the class of Hong Kong.
Lines were rather long for passing through immigration and also for the security screening but once through that, it was easy going. Last time I didn’t give myself long enough to explore the new pier but this time was slightly different. I probably had too long there this time! It’s quite bare actually, there is only a little bookstore and some toilets down the pier. But I guess it doesn’t see the bulk of the traffic anyway. The original pier itself after the duty free shops hasn’t changed a bit.
On The Main Pier
EK435 To BNE DXB
EK 407 To MEL DXB
Smartgate is a new passport clearance system for those with NZ or Australian chipped passports. It allows you to clear customs by a machine scanning your face and seeing if it matches with that of your passport photo. There is a kiosk set up in Auckland which allows you to walk straight up to the machine without having to get your passport out at the other end.
I made it to the end of the pier – Gate 16 – the gate where today’s A380 was sitting and waiting to head back to Sydney and Dubai. Boarding time on the boarding pass was 1800 and there weren’t any signs that boarding would take place soon. No gate agents were present. No announcements about what was going on. There were far too few seats for the number of passengers due to fly out that evening.
Again, So Many Air NZ Planes
A6-EDC, Operating EK413 To SYD DXB
The new pier is one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in New Zealand. It has solar panels and collects rainwater for use in toilets.
Tonnes Of Room, Lack Of Seats
Nice Pictures On The Wall
19 Nov 2009
Routing: Auckland – Sydney (AKL-SYD)
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1845hrs
Actual Departure: 1909hrs (pushback), 1931hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 2005hrs
Flight time: 3hr 23 min
Aircraft: Airbus A380-861
A6-EDC is Emirates’ 3rd A380-800. It was delivered on the 15th November 2008, making it just over a year old when I flew on it. All EK A380s use Engine Alliance GP-7200 engines.
Photo © Sam Chui
Photo © Sam Chui
Photo © Mark H
Photo © Kavin Kowsari
Photo © Sarmad Al-Khozaie
Photo © Dmytro Myrnyy
Plenty of people were waiting around the gate and it seemed like forever before the first boarding call was made. It was made about 20 minutes after scheduled boarding time which surprised me considering the A380 lays over in AKL for a good 4 and a half hours. Maybe there was a delay in the crew getting to the airport or something but it didn’t seem right to have such a delay. I eventually joined the long Economy line to board but because there were no F or J passengers around, a lot of people were ushered over to the F and J boarding machines. Down the long corridor we went. There’s one side for Economy which leads to an air bridge direct to the front door on the main deck and the other side is for First and Business passengers leading to the first door on the upper deck. A whole stash of newspapers, The New Zealand Herald (Auckland’s daily paper) to be exact, were on a stand just outside the door. No wonder why so few people had taken them – it was the end of the day already.
Queuing Up To Board
Down The Economy Side Of The Air Bridge
And so I stepped into the A380 for the second time. I must admit it didn’t feel as special as the first time. I was welcomed on board by one of the stewards upon presentation of my boarding pass: “Welcome aboard, Mr. Young, your seat is the window seat on the far side”. It’s always nice to get personal welcomes as you board the plane. I don’t think I get quite enough of that It does make you feel a bit more special than “just one of those 300 odd Economy passengers”. I made my way down towards the back of the plane, taking pictures as I went until I finally came to my row – 74 – situated in the middle of the 3rd Economy section on the lower deck. I took my window seat with someone already sitting in the aisle seat. I was surprised that EK hadn’t got rid of their in flight magazines yet – it was something that they said they were going to do to save weight. The IFE book is very thick as well. The windows – yes, I had kind of forgotten how hard it was to take pictures or see out of them. But I got a firm reminder of it when I sat down. It’s positioned rather high as well in comparison to other windows – much like the 737 vs A320 where the 737 window is lower than the A320. Maybe that’s just my experience from the airlines that I’ve been on. There is plenty of reflection from inside the cabin and it is definitely not photographer friendly by any means of the imagination. Below is a guide to how big it is, in comparison to my Nokia E63. I came up with that idea to show window sizes using a scale but I just never remembered on my other flights. One other thing that people don’t like about the A380 is the fact that the wall curves and is so far away from the seat. It’s very uncomfortable to lean against the wall and another few photos below show this.
Stairway To Heaven
First Section Of Economy
Distance Between Wall And Seat
Emirates, like all other A380 carriers, have their Economy Class configuration on the lower deck in 10 abreast, 3-4-3 layout. The seat wasn’t too bad but I retract my comment in the other TR about the seats being soft. But they weren’t too hard either however it’ll take a long haul flight for me to figure out if it’s entirely comfortable. Though, in saying that, it is a very nice seat for a 3 hour journey. The table is nice and folded to allow more room for the PTV and remote. The cabin is very spacious, although it must be that much better in the premium classes. They still do quite a good job in taking away most of the claustrophobic atmosphere. The ceilings are high and it doesn’t seem like there’s another level on top of you. There’s plenty of space to stand up in the seat.
There is a power socket in every arm rest apart from the ones on the aisles and those on the walls. So it means 2 for the 3 people sitting on the side of the plane.
Thankfully, nobody came down to sit in between us so there was plenty of space to stretch out. I had a chat to him about various things including planes and he seemed quite interested in the mood lighting! It took just over 40 minutes from when I boarded the plane to when we pushed back. Hot towels were passed around the cabin and recollected just before pushback. The pilot came on over the PA and announced the various details about our flight, expecting the flight time to be 2 hrs 50 min, cruising at an altitude of 40,000ft. He also announced the languages which the flight attendants spoke – all sixteen of them! I couldn’t believe it when he said sixteen. Included of course were: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic and Mandarin. That is one very extensive list and I’d say it would be hard to surpass. And this is only for the AKL-SYD flight with quite a few people like me only travelling as far as Australia! It wasn’t long until we were moving under our own power. The taxi took us past all the buildings (on the other side of the plane to where I was) right to the base of Runway 23L. There were a few movements in the moments prior to us holding short of Alpha 1.
Alpha Taxiway And Unused 23R/05L Runway
Two TV Screens Setup For Departure
We held short at Alpha 1 and waited for the last NZ 733 in the queue to depart. The soft whine of the EK A380’s EA engines signalled the spooling up and our imminent departure from Auckland. Late in doing so, however, at least we were on our way. Rotation occurred around the International terminal meaning we used up about 2/3 of the 3635m long runway. The wing flex is pretty cool as well although no way near as noticeable as the 787 – isn’t that going to be a thrill to fly in! I was surprised at how quickly the flaps were retracted. We were barely 2 minutes into the flight. We turned slightly towards the north and en route for Sydney. And about the same, the Emirates “information” programme started playing. Too bad it can’t be disabled because it takes out quite a lot of time out of such a short flight! I just want to get onto doing what I want on the system like looking at the cameras and watching the airshow. 15 minutes into the flight, the menu and arrival cards were distributed. It’s nice of EK to still provide menus in Economy.
Lining Up Runway 23L
NZ 6 To LAX
Rotate! With International Pier In The Background: AR A342, NZ Planes
The Auckland Isthmus
The entertainment system, ICE, has been covered in detail by many and also by me in my other report on the A380 so I have decided not to do a complete overview again so if you have missed my other TR on the A380, the link is provided at the end of the TR. One thing I had missed out on however was the ability to view your own photos using the USB port next to the screen in front of you. I was shooting in RAW so I had to create a JPEG file to be able to view it. PDFs and music can also be played on the system. But the main function I like about the IFE is definitely the Airshow and the cameras situated in the tail, nose; and the camera looking straight down (the last one is very boring to watch when crossing the ocean!)
I Can See Through To The Next Seat!
Fifty minutes into the flight, the meal service came to me in the third section. The choices (also shown in the following pictures) were honey baked ginger chicken with rice and stir fried vegetables or grilled lamb medallions with thyme jus, oven- roasted parsnip, carrot, broccoli and sautéed potato cubes. Because we were in the third cabin (quite a long way down), the most popular choice had already run out – that of the lamb. We were told it would be a 20 minute wait if we did want to take lamb. I was really hungry by then so I gave up on the lamb and took a chicken. People around me were asking for the lamb and in the end I believe they ran out of that too and so some people had to settle for the chicken anyway. It was quite a nice meal although there wasn’t enough rice to go with the main and the chicken was a bit on the salty side. The dessert – sticky date pudding – was delicious and I wish they gave bigger portions. Strangely enough, the drinks weren’t following the dinner service closely enough. I was too hungry to wait around to have a drink with my meal so I ate it all. I think most people around me were long finished as well by the time the drinks cart came around. Twenty nine minutes later, yes I repeat, nearly half an hour later, the drinks cart finally arrived beside my row. I had finished my meal a good 10 minutes prior and definitely needed something more than the 200ml package of water to wash down both the salty chicken and the sweet pudding. This type of wait shouldn’t be necessary. I ordered a coke and a red wine. The red wine wasn’t too bad, a bit on the dry side but I do think that taste buds are affected by the high altitude. And the coke, like usual, came in the cute little cans.
The Waiting For The Drinks Continues
Nice Sunset While Eating
Is That Drink I See?
There was one more thing that annoyed me during the flight. The call button was faulty on my seat and it kept on going off randomly. The good thing was that they were quick to answer it whenever it went off until most of the ones serving my area came to my side for me to tell them that there was something wrong. I’m glad that I could have got a drink at nearly any stage of the flight however! I seriously wouldn’t have liked to carry on to Dubai with that problem. It also seems that a fellow A.Netter, Foxecho, travelled on EDC but a row behind where I was sitting a few months before I took my flight and the FA call button was malfunctioning then as well. I wouldn’t have a clue about how long something like that would take to fix but with tight schedules for the A380, I don’t think it’ll be fixed anytime soon. Someone else about 3 rows in front of me had the same problem too.
After the meal trays were cleared up, I decided to have a wander around the cabin. First of all, I checked to see if I could pay a visit to my favourite Economy Class toilet. I got down to the front of the plane and to my anguish, the stairs to that particular toilet and the cockpit were roped off! It now has a sticker saying “Cabin Crew Only” on it. It’s such a disappointment that they took away the right for passengers to use this toilet but the crew must feel happy that they get such a big toilet to use. I had a wide angle lens too on this trip, ready to show everyone the size in one picture but it wasn’t to be. I had to settle for another toilet which was much, much smaller than the roped off one.
Over Wing View
One Day, First Class!
No! The Biggest Toilet Now Out Of Bounds!
I returned to my seat after a rather brief stroll up and down the aircraft.
Mood lighting is one great invention. I enjoyed watching the colour changes occur and I was lucky to see ‘stars’ appearing in the form of LEDs in the ceiling just before the cabin lights were brightened for disembarking. Here’s a run through of “sunset” according to the mood lighting:
Part Pink Stage
THAT Call Button
Purple And Fading Orange
It's all about the destination AND the journey.