Emirates: My 50th Airline, to Europe and back
Friends, fellow avgeeks and social media expressed equal surprise and amusement when I said Emirates will be my 50th airline. To have traveled 49 and not flown Emirates or been to Dubai was a surprise for all.
When this trip was being planned, I had in mind to fly Ukraine International Airlines from Delhi, visit Kiev for two days before heading to Madrid – where I was to attend the graduation ceremony of my younger brother.
As things played out in Ukraine and the airspace closure by Pakistan – led to re-thinking of the plan and looking for other options. With a plan finalized to visit Croatia as well, we had to look for options which gave us good connections both ways, and the search ended with Emirates – the airline becoming by 50th airline!Booking & Web
The booking was done by a friendly travel agent, who also handled the visa part. We were stamped with a multi entry Schengen which took care of travel in Croatia and Montenegro. The trip involved four flights with Emirates, and one on Croatia Airlines – ticketed by Emirates. None of the flights were on the flagship A380.
Leading up to the day of departure, I used the efficient Emirates website to register for its FFP, explore meal options and block meals. I was amazed by the feature where the airline gives out the meal options for the flight, making it very easy to select meal preference.
An email had landed in my inbox to inform that check-in was open. I promptly checked-in which again was an easy affair.Day of Departure – Check-in, Security, Immigration, Boarding
We reached the beautiful Terminal 2 at CSMIA, Mumbai at 0715 hours for a 1010 hours departure. The counters were already open with a different queue for passengers who had checked-in online, which we joined. The ground staff was on their toes and seeing that it was taking longer, we were sent to the Business class counters which were empty. Bags checked all the way to Lisbon, boarding card for both flights in hand – we headed towards security and immigration.
One of the reasons why I always avoid Mumbai is the long queues for security and immigration but thanks to the time of the day and lack of international flights, it was a breeze this time around.
On the other side, a lone B77W of Jet Airways was on the apron. A cup of coffee with the views of runway and apron later we were near the gates.
A zone wise orderly boarding followed and being in the forward section of the economy class, we were one of the last to board the full flight. The B772LR doing the duty looked very small in the two-class configuration. On the seat was a pillow, blanket and headphones. The crew was helping passengers settle down and close the overhead bins to ensure an on-time departure.Flight & Connection
Pushback commenced at 1010 hours sharp! We taxied to runway 27 and had a relatively short take off roll. Service started soon with Drinks / Juice and meals together for the short sector. I opted for Veg Kofta while TW (The Wife) opted for Rarra Ghost. Meal comprised of Salad (Tasty), Gravy & Kofta (Forgettable) & Rice (nothing to complain). The dessert – Phirni, was exceptional in taste!
This was followed by Tea and then a round of coffee – which again was full of aroma! I explored some bit of IFE and planned detailed exploration for the next leg of 8 hours. We landed on runway 30L at Dubai and taxied to Concourse C. Our connecting flight was from Concourse B and we had two and half hours to kill.
The connection was seamless. Ample sign boards, quick security but few eateries near our next gate. Boarding for the next flight started in an orderly manner. The flight was light – 50% loads may be in economy or even less. This meant that we had a seat of three for ourselves making the journey comfortable.
We taxied out for take-off from runway 30R and followed the path taking us over Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Mediterranean and flying over Spain before entering Portugal.
The meal again was okay. Nothing to write about. The aircraft was an upgraded one with a better IFE and an interactive remote unlike the previous sector. I spent some time with the music and games before sleeping. The kind of entertainment which is available creates a problem of plenty for the user.
The seats and IFE.
A light snack was served about two hours to landing. We landed on runway 03 at Lisbin and taxied to an aerobridge at Terminal 1, parking next to a A330neo of TAP Portugal. With a light load, deplaning was quick, and the Portuguese authorities were quick to add officers to the immigration windows as the lines peaked.
Luggage took a while to show up and we were out through the green channel in no-time to head towards the phone booth and the public transport bus to the city.
Across the flights, the aircraft were clean and up-to date. USB charging and in-seat power plugs were available.
The return journey
We were not very happy with the meal on the way out and in the past, I have had cheese intolerance issues (partial lactose intolerance) so to be on the safer side I booked for Non-Lactose Meal. The airline did a marvelous job with the taste of this meal. So much so that on both the sectors, I forgot to click pictures of the meal – finger licking good food!
On the Zagreb – Dubai sector, the crew went around with unlimited water and juice runs unlike hardly any on the Dubai – Lisbon sector. In addition to this, the crew also did a snack run with boxes full of chocolate bars being taken around and offered to passengers.
The free data connectivity in-flight worked seamlessly on the way back but did not work at all during the onward journey.
On the service front, there were quite a bit of inconsistencies.
The whole experience was mixed. The first and foremost being economy class seats on the B777. Absolutely uncomfortable. The cost we paid for this itinerary was close to what Lufthansa or Swiss was offering at the time of booking. Given a choice, I would opt for an Airbus widebody over the B777 of Emirates next time.
Not related to Emirates was the chaos which travelers created at boarding the return flight to Mumbai at Dubai.
But Emirates gives options like no other. With 5x daily to Mumbai and most destinations seeing double daily flights onwards, there are multiple options available for the journey.
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