Concourse A, Dubai International Airport
The flight into Dubai had been pleasant. Alighting from the Boeing 777-300ER I made my way along the jet bridge and down to security. There were long lines though they were moving quickly enough. I was able to use the Fast Track card that Ibrahim and given me and was soon going down the stairs to the train station.
A two minute wait and a train arrives, the safety doors open to allow passengers to disembark and I can board the train. As it makes it makes its way to Concourse A, I reflect on where else I have used an underground railway to connect between terminals:London-Heathrow, Zürich, Madrid-Barajas …
Soon enough I am on my way through the shops and heading to the escalator that will take me up to the Emirates First Class Lounge. The receptionist confirms the gate as being A4 before I enter into the inevitable Duty Free shop. This, as can be imagined, is less crowded than the open access shopping area one level below. I don’t spend any time (or Dirhams) here.
Nor do I seek out the dining room or cigar lounge. Instead, I make my way straight to the area adjacent to the gate, noting different styles of furniture in discreet seating areas. In places, the ceiling is decorated with colourful balloons of glass.
Light bites and fresh fruit are on hand to stave off the possible risk of starvation. Staff are present to serve and a waiter comes to my table and asks if I would like anything to eat or drink.
I content myself with a bottle of Voss still water and catch up on my emails, using the free, password restricted access, Wi-Fi internet. It is peaceful in the Lounge as no announcements are made.
Flight departure times and gates are displayed at several locations. Note all the Qantas flights?
Soon it is the advertised time for boarding. Going to the gate I see a rather bored looking staff member. Boarding of First passengers has not commenced but no explanation for the delay is offered. In the background a uniformed man from security is pacing. After about ten minutes another person turns up and he indicates that passengers can have their passports checked.
He is cheerful enough and now the previously bored woman at the gate is too as I am shown through to the lifts that go down to the jet bridge. But first the man from security has set up a table and wants to check everyone’s bags. This is a cursory check: “Have you any liquids?” A quick glance and I am on the way, down two levels in the lift and along the lengthy jet bridge.
Does it rain in Paradise?
Flight: Emirates EK420
Aircraft Type: A380-861 Seat 2K
Aircraft ID: A6-EOG
Scheduled Departure: 02:55
Actual Departure: 02:55
Scheduled Arrival: 17:35
Actual Arrival: 16:58
Tonight’s flight will be operated by A6-EOG, delivered to Emirates on 5th March, 2015, having first flown with test rego F-WWAX on 6th October 2014. It is configured as F14 C76 Y401.
Welcome back, Mr Elanus. Let me show you the way to your suite.
On tonight’s flight, it is Teesha and Bobby who are looking after the forward cabin on the upper deck. Bobby takes my jacket while Teesha offers something to drink. Breaking with habit, I request a glass of champagne. I am shown the bottle of Dom Pérignon 2004 before a glass is poured.
The usual offerings of newspapers, magazines, eye shades, slippers, amenity kit and pyjamas follow, the latter items being placed in a woven carrier bag. Teesha also asks when I would like to be able to use the Shower Spa. I request a time one and a half hours after departure. Meanwhile the Captain welcomes everyone on board and tells us a bit about the flight. Further announcements follow:
02:50 “Ground personnel please leave the aircraft.”
02:54 “Cabin crew, close doors and cross-check.”
The cabin lights are dimmed in readiness for a night-time departure, “Please use the reading light above your seat if you wish to continue reading.”
02:55 push back and the safety video is showing. “Welcome aboard this Emirates Airbus A380”.
03:03 the Airbus begins its taxi but must hold position.
03:18 “Cabin crew prepare for take off.”
03:19 the aircraft enters the active runway and commences its roll. Moments later I can feel it begin to lift. For such a large aircraft it seems much less laboured or lumbering than the A343-300.
Once airborne, Antonio, the purser, comes by to introduce himself, bringing with him the wine list and menu. He asks if I would like something to drink before dinner. I tell him that I will simply have a shower and go to bed but ask for a night cap: some Hennessy Paradis.
I decline his offer of canapés or nuts. While waiting for the drink to be brought, the shot of the legroom is taken.
After a while, Teesha also comes offering something to eat or drink. I say that I will just finish the cognac and then would like to have a shower before bed.
“OK. I will just check with my colleague to see if it is ready.” Sure enough it is and I am shown the way to the well-appointed spa, which is spotlessly clean. “Have you used it before?”
I mention having been on the inaugural A380 flight from Perth …
“How exciting!” ... and the absence of water to the hand-basins.
“Oh no!” she exclaims. “How embarrassing. But did they bring bottled water?”
We turn a tap to check if the water is running to the hand basin on this flight. Success.
Thoughtfully provided is a sturdy coat and trouser / skirt hanger, a storage cabinet with extra razors, toothbrushes, etc, and a hand-held hair dryer.
Plenty of cotton face cloths and Timeless Spa products are available, including shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.
The shower head is height adjustable and can be hand held. The water will not flow unless the door to the shower recess is fully closed with the latch. A gauge indicates how much water is remaining.
Warning lights will come on in the unlikely event of decompression or of needing to return to your seat. However there is a seat in the shower recess and a button for calling for assistance from one of the dedicated spa attendants.
The box from which oxygen masks will fall is just outside the shower recess.
And for those who lamented the absence of a shower-selfie on the last A380 flight …
The PJs are très chic, n’est-ce pas?
As I leave the Shower Spa, the attendant asks if I would like it to be made available again before landing.