Boarding is announced bang on time. There’ll likely be no one definitive ethnicity/ country getting on Emirates flights – and today is no different with many holidaying Irish, a smorgasbord of very satisfied looking Asian tourists, Indian businessmen and a smattering of backpackers heading off for an odyssey in South East Asia. The boarding is orderly and the queue snakes a little bit as crowds congregate. Done according to row.
Seems a fair crowd as boarding begins for today’s flight to DXB
So besotted am I by this 777-300 nuzzled against the terminal, I took quite a few snaps. Only 2nd 777 for me, 1st on -300.
extends the arm of co-operation to EK
As is my protocol (unless a glass of champagne were awaiting me), I allow the frenzy to die-down, cursory glances about the gate area to be made, and the status change to ‘Final Call’
. Now I board. Very friendly interface with gate agents, boarding card remains intact and excellent to see three FA
’s in resplendent uniforms welcoming passengers and picking up kids for a hello just prior to entering the aerobridge.
Here we go, my first Emirates experience awaits.
’s greeting with smiles
I take one last swatch at my a/c before disappearing down the emerald tunnel and onto my first flight with Emirates airlines.
Seat……………….44A (Economy / Window)
Departure time......13.50 (14.05)
Arrival time……….00.25 (00.09)
LF: 95% Y
Distance….. ……. 3682 miles
Price……………. Approx. $728.00
A slight bottleneck just beyond the main door. But I take comfort in the cause of this being the warm, unhurried and personalised greeting each passenger is receiving. And I can pick and choose from an excellent selection of newspapers on a trolley. A generous galley space replete with three smiling crew members of varying origins allows passengers to ease onto the aircraft – like that mezzanine area you board onto on a large passenger ferry.
Check out this welcome! How hospitable does this look?
“Good afternoon Mr Addis CC you are right up the first aisle. Have a great flight”
, chaperones an African F/A. Wonderful.
Clearly a leisure-bias flight. Families are debating seats, Chinese are flitting around the cabin in excitement, people are up in the aisles generally taking their time. I find my seat without anyone at it and settle in. I have a large cabin bag which I stow once I have taken out my few essentials. 5 minutes later my seatmate joins me – an Asian lady – and thankfully the middle seat stays empty. On my seat is a pillow, a peach-coloured blanket and a sealed bag containing over-ear headphones and some stickers (Sleeping/ shopping/ Eating).
Stickers which are in vogue with airlines nowadays
Settled in – I can now take stock of my surroundings. Clearly this is an older A/C, as it feels a bit dated. The predominant cabin colour is cream-like, actually it feels like they’ve used a make-up palette such are the fleshy tones. The seats are big and paddy – which I sort of appreciate now as most airlines lean towards anorexic, clinical Recarro contraptions. The fabric is some sort of acid-trip peacock pattern. My seat-pocket it ripped off and one of my adjustable head-rest flaps hangs limply.
View to mid-galley which is staffed by male FA
I establish the front view camera successfully , then select a musical playlist, then have a look at films. With the added perspective of the camera you can appreciate and enjoy the whole departure process with more incite.
Long push-back from the terminal.
Emirates’ own produced in-flight entertainment is unfolding, with about four flustered FA
’s attempting to round up, seat and settle the enormous Chinese group. I can only describe it to settling a giddy class of kids. As one is settled, another pops up and goes off for a chat with a friend two rows back. The FA
’s are forced to be a little more terse now as the a/c pushes back making my head sway.
Nice view of terminal as sun makes an appearance
All lined-up. Braced for the thrill of take-off. The forward camera reveals the expanse of the runway off into the horizon
and some standing water in focus. As the nose squares up, what feels like a generous amount of thrust is applied and we accelerate nobly forward. After a few of those delightful weightless sways as we approach optimal speed, the aircraft surges into the demure Irish sky.
Next stop, DXB
I’ll launch into the service in the same way the FA
’s lost no time in doing on today’s flight. A very methodical and well practised procedure ensues. Each time originating from the mid-galley.
First – hot towels wind their way around. Two female FA
’s carry this out.
My mouth is like an Arabian desert and so ask one of the FA
’s for a bit of water. I notice she nods but continues on with her duties and doesn’t seem to have delegated the task. She goes down the other aisle. I fear the worst – is today a flight of FA
’s who just ignore? Is the reputation of Emirates wild-card FA
’s going to play out? Two male FA
’s distribute a delicate little menu with a nice close-up of an Olive branch. It is written clearly in the much recognised Emirates font (is this a trademark !?) and looks delicious.
Oh and here she is! With my water and a smile... phew. It’s all to play for.
Sensing a pre-service lull I get an FA
’s eye and ask if I might have a glass of white wine. I am even given a choice and she breezes off. Better than QR
who had previously briskly said “We will begin meal service soon sir”.
I only ask for this now as I am keen to settle down – I think a recent report mentioned something about how nice a disarming drinks run prior to service.
Well I needn’t have asked as 40 minutes in a drinks service commences. I can’t congratulate Emirates enough in this respect. It is a full-bar service to do a landlord proud. And it is conducted excellently by the FA
’s as they give each customer their undivided attention.
Before me I watch with admiration as the Chinese group get their fill of spirits. Excellent... My delicate lady-seat-mate gets a Baileys. Now me.
“ Sir can I get you anything to drink?”
Pleasingly her accent has an Irish lilt and she delivers always with a cheery smile.
“Of course sir – would you prefer a single malt, blend or Irish?”
I am handed a Glenfiddich in miniature on a passing tray and beside it some savoury biscuit nibbles.
“Grand – and anything with that. Of course. The ice-cubes are quite large so will one do? Can I get you anything else sir? ”
No that is just delightful. I am awfully impressed that Emirates have three types of Whisky, as well as an Irish to boot on this run. Superb. The FA
also displayed a knowledge about the service too (perhaps her heritage?) ,unlike some other FA
’s, it wasn’t a beer poured between three cups or Johnny Walker poured like it was water. The later I don’t get too upset by actually.
Superb. Well – what with a single malt and a good feel for the flight ahead, I lower the draw-bridge to my seatmate and begin chatting. So, she is one of the leaders of the group that numbers 60 paediatric surgeons from Beijing on a sojourn around the British Isles encapsulating England, some of Scotland’s gaudy tourist traps and finally ending in Ireland. They’ve had a good time clearly as evidenced by the 600 photos I flick through on her camera of various members of the groups displaying the peace sign in front of plenty of recognisable landmarks.
Perhaps quicker than I would have liked we get down to the perceptions of China, the role of the government and all sorts of juicy topics. Extremely friendly. To pin this back to aviation – this middle-class, holiday-hungry section of Chinese society is a dynamite market to tap into for Emirates. Britain is foolish for making the visa procedure so convoluted for them.
During this nattering (we are also served a second round of drinks such is the insatiable demand for whisky from the Chinese) the FA
’s have done their bit and filled the cabin with hearty aromas of food. The plane now has an appetite.
“Hello sir – would you prefer lamb or chicken?”
“I’ll go for the lamb thanks”
I suspect this would be the option that runs our first.
If I can make the analogy between an upmarket hotel room in Japan (I’ve never been) and one in America (I’ve never been). Both cater to differing tastes – the Japanese pod will be orderly, space efficient, finished with crisp and clean edges and have great functionality. In contrast to the American pad where tastes are much bigger and bolder, materials are richer and at times some would say gaudy. Emirates for me definitely airs much more on the later analogy in many respects (also the cabin) , whilst Qatar Airways were always a more sleek, tasteful option. The tray is heavy! It is spaced out. It is gaudy with flashes of gold foil. All portioned into ridiculously shaped containers. It isn’t dainty, yet doesn’t feel cluttered despite the look.
The meal try arrives which much ceremony.
Here is an inventory – starter, main in tinfoil, ‘side-dish’ with bread roll, cup for coffee/tea, a blister of water, a foil-sealed dessert, and a dainty little box of Jacobs branded cheese and crackers. Two packets contain a full metal cutlery set and toothpick and the other with salt/ pepper/ sugar etc.
Solid metal cutlery
The starter is a rather easy on the eye smoked salmon, (I know at least one reporter who won’t like this) on a bed of lettuce and potato salad garnished with dill and cherry tomato. Really delicious and good to finally get a little sustenance in a starter (QR’s tend to be some sort of Arabic pulse). It lacked lemon but beggars can’t be choosers.
Starter of smoked salmon
Bread, butter and EK
I ignore the pre-packaged bread and go straight for the lamb medallions. How I’ve come to expect grisly shreds of meat on planes. But the lamb was like chowing down on a revelation. Despite swimming in a rich gravy, it had not been stewed and was almost quite pink in the middle. Tender as loving care one receives from a mother. Despite billed as ‘chunky’ the mash was smooth and well seasoned – not at all processed. The vegetables hadn’t been buggered either and so I enjoyed one of the most excellent in-flight meals. Top marks.
The lamb – absolute top, top marks here.
Keen to ensure that standards were consistent throughout, I tentatively flagged down an FA
, assumed my most vulnerable Oliver voice and asked if I might try the Chicken Masala. This came shortly.
Chicken curry – tender and well spiced.
Once more, an exceptional bit of catering. The meat was from the thigh and really delicious. No fat but much taste. The masala sauce was mild and rich, and the dish was finished nicely (though curiously) with a side of edamame beans. These were perfectly cooked with a fresh bite to them.
I cleaned my plate with a bit of kerrygold (this butter is everywhere in Africa alarmingly) buttered bread and set to the morrello cherry torte. Convinced this would be the downfall (I can’t abide rich fruit-infused puddings led by the eponymous Christmas pudding). But gladly the chocolate sauce (though plentiful and gloopy) was not too dark and the tart tang of the cherry sauce lightened the whole desert. It was really perfect.
Morello cherry choc torte
All brought to a close by an Emirates branded chocolate and a perfectly timed coffee. Clearly a memo circulated to Emirates FA
’s to grossly underfill cups, as my cup was like staring into a well. Served on those ‘pass-me’ trays with extra sugar and milk available. I had no self consciousness with photos and the Chinese, buoyed by Baileys, were also taking photos of almost every element of the service today. The staff were great with all this going on.
I bagged my Jacobs crackers for a potential onset of hunger during the transit. This was another little culinary treasure trove and contained Jacobs cream crackers, ‘kiri’ cream cheese, a sweet chilli dip and mini crostinis. Brilliant!
Contents of Jacobs ‘snack-box’ taken at later stage – I suppose this acted as a snack during the later stages of the flight.
Amidst the meal service ad-hoc drinks services were conducted, where-by the Chinese lynch mob requisitioned many drams. Once the trays had been collected and the dust settled I began watching The Iron Lady. To echo the pundits, Streep gives the performance of a lifetime. But all this intense performing, numerous time-jumping scenes, the meal sitting happily in my stomach, the multiple single malts working pleasantly into my blood stream and the relative stress of the mornings rushing and stomach contractions lifted me off deeply into sleep.
Tremendous. I slept very soundly (regardless of the cronky head support) for two hours until some stray action must have roused me.
Initially upon waking, I felt a little cheated that my body had conked out. I so rarely take flights that I like to optimise the time on board. But because the initial part of this flight had been so unrushed, I realised I had actually only slept a couple of hours.
I pressed the call button for a glass of water. Erm.. No: sorry! Emirates crew aren’t too interested in the call button it appears. I pressed it a selection of times (sly tests) and it was not once answered or responded to. That said, the FA
’s kept up a fairly active presence in the cabin so one could always be flagged down without drama. Anyway, I wanted to hit the back galley and see what was what.
Clean toilets – I’ve got a technical fault with DSLR zoom, and wasn’t going to stand on the toilet seat, so the scope is a little constricted.
’s were all bustling away preparing a final coffee service. Apparently on this run there is no hot snack, but a good enough coffee and biscuits are served prior to arrival. I do reckon since the hour is approaching local dinner time that something of greater sustenance could be given.
Coffee boiling away in a busy galley.
I asked for a juice and it was kindly given to me. The Emirates were a different type of FA
altogether. Whilst I realise that the labour laws (or lack there of fair treatment) are flagged as being pretty ropey with Emirates, I felt the FA
’s were much more personable, friendly and (in particular) not shying away from a photo which was nice. The QR FA
’s are much more distant at times. A good example of this was that the FA
initiated conversation with me as opposed to vice versa as is often the case.
“So where are you off to then?”
initiated one of the cheery Irish FA
Superb, welcoming EK
crew onboard today. Males a little more reserved.
I told them of my impending prison sentence in Saudi Arabia. Upon which they suggested I might like another Whisky before the drought. Another insightful move. Despite being busy, they were happy to pose for a photo and were gracious when I told them how impressed I was with the service. The three blonde ladies were all Irish decent. The male FA
’s were a bit more kept so I didn’t chat to them.
Coffee service commences
Cabin... bit blurry.
They set off with trolleys whilst I talked to a pleasant elderly Chinese surgeon, confident enough to try out his English skills. We found our common ground on aviation matters and he said how nice the A380 that they had taken from Beijing was. I think that is right.
When the FA
’s returned I had my coffee in the gallery. It came on a savagely shaped saucer with a tasty branded biscuit. It was quite fine really. The FA
’s were always polite about passengers in the galley but clearly on an aircraft this size on a sociable-hours flight, where people like to mingle, some toes do get trod on.
For the last segment of the flight (the typical overfly of the Tigris and the emergence of blots of fire emanating from a vast flat plain of desert) I sit back with my tipple and take a second stab at The Iron Lady. Of a lifetime!
Second-stab at Iron Lady. Can’t get the annoying subtitles off.
It feels like we overshoot Dubai, and then fall into an approach pattern some way off. The forward nose camera soon brings into view the runways. We appear to crab a little, but straighten up for a very smooth arrival into DXB
Landfall over UAE
Runway into view on nose camera
Seconds before, not yet aligned.
Nothing can epitomise the menacing, massive force that is Emirates better than it’s nerve centre. DXB
is alive tonight, nay – thriving tonight, as it is every other night, with passengers transferring onto a web of networks spanning it’s enormous network. Aircraft glide past with a sort of frequency associated with buses, all bound to their final far-flung, diverse destinations. So efficient is our arrival (and subsequent departure) procedures, and the fine glare of the terminal windows, that I manage to pass through without the obligatory site of an Emirates A380.
Ruling the Roost
Cabin upon disembarking
I allow the plane to empty before heading out. The crew are there to say goodbye as well as further crew halfway up the aerobridge to wish you a safe onward journey. And so I am spewed out into the great DXB
Safely delivered by EBN
A final friendly goodbye on the jet-bridge