Continued from India Beckons: JFK
I had ten glorious days lazing around Bangalore, spending precious time with my aging dad, and with heavy heart, had to bid goodbye and leave.
Third leg: BLR
Booked a Meru cab at 7am for a 10.35am flight to Dubai. Cab was on time, and after gassing up en route (why?) arrived at BIAL six hundred rupees ($12) later. Check in was amazingly efficient and quick, less than 10 minutes. Passed through security with no lines and was in the Departures area within 15 minutes of arrival. Impressive, but we wre the only international flight at that time.
I stopped by the Kingfisher Sports Bar for a quick breakfast, and the place was adorned with emblems of speed, like F1 cars and sports figures. However, the service was very, very slow as most staff had not yet shown up. I eventually managed to get a Masala Omelette and Coffee and ambled over to the bookstand, where the books were not even stacked properly. Not a good impression, my friends!
Eventually the flight was called and we boarded. The 330 has a nice 2-4-2 layout and I had a window seat. Once again, however, we had a delay. The freight palette had become stuck in the belly and it took over an hour of banging noises in the belly before we pushed back. Got a lemonade and hot towel pre-takeoff and soon we climbed out of BLR
. We took off to the East, and it was quite some time before we banked around due W towards Mangalore. It was a beautiful day and we flow over Coorg and the Western Ghats (home of the dreaded 'ghaaties'), quite a sight in the morning. I resolved some day to overcome my fear of the lack of public sanitation and visit these places. We then took a turn to the left and headed on course to DXB
Lunch was served - mutton korma and rice - and the time just flew by. I just love watching the clouds go by and day dreaming, especially having been ravished by the need to work in my younger days. Eventually we reached DXB
and hour late, parked at a very remote stand and were bussed to Arrivals.
At arrivals, there were various lines, and a tall officious man in a dishdash was herding the various lines to the booths. He was pretty gruff pushing around some of the Indian workers from the villages and that was sad to see.
Given the overnight stay, I opted for the Holiday Inn Express across on Airport Road, and it was a good choice. The nice thing about hotel bars in Dubai is that they tend to have ladies of the evening hanging out, so it gives it a colorful atmosphere like a Chicago speakeasy. Too tired to indulge in wine, women or song, I went upstairs and flopped out for the night.
Impressions: I liked the flight and the 2-4-2 seating. Plane could use refrurbing but not bad. Good service at the right price. Good crew, unobtrusive and not pushing 'good service' in your face.
Fourth Leg: DXB
EK201 A380 A6-EDA
Got up at the crack of dawn and took the Airport Shuttle form the Holiday Inn. Went through Passport Control and headed to the shopping and departure area. I was craving a coffee and croissant and headed over to a Costa Coffee, where they actually serve you at the table. Alas, they had microwaved my croissant and I could see how hard it is to import an entire culture and place in in the middle of nowhere.
The flight was eventually called and there was a very long line waiting to check in at the gate. Again, I was surprised at this - BA
boards a 744 routinely in 20 minutes flat, tops 30 minutes. After you check in , you are sent to a holding area below - more waiting! You finally board the aircraft and the separate bridge for premium pax makes sure you don't annoy them on the way in. Trouble is, you don't get to see the lavish digs they have upstairs and they don't have the satisfaction of gloating as you pass by humbly to the rear of the plane.
I managed to get a window seat this time 72A right above the wing. The windows are small, and the wall space between the bulkhead and the glass in quite thick - like a porthole on a ship ( or Concorde). The cross section is also odd because of the two decks - the sidewalls curve out so you are not at the widest point of the aircraft.
The wings are HUGE, and the control surfaces are massive. If you are over the wing, it does dominate your view (like in a L1011). It was nice to have the space between the seat and the side wall and there was plenty of leg room.
We took off late because of ATC restrictions but soon enough we were flying. It was a very smooth takeoff, like a flying living room, headed over the Bandar Abbas area and on over Kuwait on our 14 hour journey.
Again, there was no refreshment service to get us started, and they jumped in to meal service right away. I do hope someone from EK
is reading this - guys - lets have the refreshments first, please!
We had breakfast ( Mixed Griil, Omelette or Paneer Tikka) and lunch (Butter Chicken, Fish or Veg Curry) - all very nice.
Our routing took us over the Caspian Sea, Black Sea, Baltic, North Sea, Iceland, Greenland and then down the airways to JFK
. It was a long wait for luggage - par for the 380, said the baggage handler. It was back to winter, reality and dreaming of my next trip.
Impressions: Very good experience on EK
- friendly and helpful FAs. They don't stare you down if you approach them on break in the galley - more like join the party. The A380 - mixed feelings. The cabin is OK
but wish it had been bigger. The seats were so hard it made the long trip miserable ( but it could just be me). The A380 also means long check in queues and long waits for baggage. I think Boeing still has the best interiors - clean, uncluttered spaces.
is my gold standard, I'd say that EK
is a different animal, and what they lose in perfection they make up in friendliness. I think EK
is slightly ahead of AI
and more cosmopolitan than IT
. All in all, EK
has built a major, game changing airline that blankets the world, and the end-to-end execution is impressive.