I just spent the last week giving a course in Dubai together with my colleague, the valiant M. The course was held in the control tower building at the new Al-Maktoum International Airport Dubai. Since my last visit here two years ago, traffic appears to have increased at the new facility, although it is still far from reaching capacity and most of the traffic is freight. There are a few passenger services to and from Al-Maktoum. But as far as I can tell, Qatar Airways is currently the only carrier offering a daily schedule. Other passenger services include charter flights by Finnair or BH Air from Bulgaria.
Fortunately, my flight home from Dubai to Amsterdam will be leaving from the old airport, which lies much closer to the city.
Getting to the Airport
Transport: chauffeur driven car
Price: complimentary for Emirates Business Class passengers
Duration: 30 minutes
The Emirates chauffeur service is free of charge for passengers travelling in Business and First Class. As my flights had been booked through a travel agent, I had to call Emirates to make the booking for the car, so I could not really say whether it might also be possible to make a booking online at the time you make the flight reservation. The service will pick you up or drop you off at any location within the UAE.
For this service Emirates operates a large fleet of Volvo station wagons, which is particularly convenient if, like me on this trip, you are travelling with a lot of luggage.
Emirates has its own dedicated premium terminal for passengers travelling in Business and First Class. We arrive at the curbside where a young lady in the smart Emirates uniform is already expecting me. She opens the door for me while one of the porters unloads the copious amounts of luggage onto a trolley. We are then escorted to the check-in counters. It really is quite amazing to see an entire facility of this size dedicated exclusively to premium passengers.
The young woman checking me in is highly efficient. I explain to her that my luggage shall be continuing on from Amsterdam to Basel, while M.’s things will need to go on the KLM flight to Zürich. But obviously all of this is not really a problem for her. She duly tags all the bags and even labels the boxes with the fragile instruments we are carrying with us to make sure they are handled with care. She also gives me my boarding pass for my onward connection to Basel.
The Emirates Business Class Lounge
Type of lounge: dedicated Emirates Business Class lounge
Facilities: toilets and showers, business centre, transfer desk, newspaper stand
Catering: hot and cold dishes, international cuisine
Wifi: available for free, there are signs with the password on the tables
My flight shall be leaving from gate B17 today. I still have about an hour or so to pass before boarding starts, so I figure I might as well check out the Business Class lounge located one floor up from the common departures area.
Terminal 3 is an interesting facility that was clearly built with the Airbus A 380 in mind. Passengers in First and Business Class are segregated from the Economy Class passengers more or less from the moment they enter the premium check-in area to setting foot aboard the aircraft. All the gates at the B dock are equipped to handle the A 380 and are therefore accessible from the upper level as well for premium passengers.
The lounge itself provides a good selection of hot and cold international dishes. Other than that though, it is more functional than elegant or luxurious.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Length as a bed: 76’
Recline: 180 degrees, fully horizontal
Facilities: reading lamp, handset, mini bar with drinks, USB and power outlets, divider screen for more privacy
Entertainment: AVOD – the Emirates ICE entertainment hardly needs an introduction, the screen is quite large and is operated either via touch screen or via one of the two handsets, there are noise cancelling earphones as well
The configuration of the seats is convenient. If you happen to be seated in the middle row of seats, you have two options. The seats in the even numbered rows are quite far apart. As a result, you have more than enough privacy. On the down side, seats on the even numbered rows are adjacent to the aisle, so people might brush passed you as they walk by.
The seats in uneven numbered rows are not directly on the aisle. However, this then means that you end up sitting shoulder to shoulder with your neighbour. But there is a privacy screen that can be raised and which is rather large.
Apart from that, the seat is indeed very comfortable and spacious. The only thing I really do not like, are the colours and materials that were used – plastic painted to resemble varnished wood is not for me. I also think it clashes with the mother-of-pearl and blue panels of the back of the seats.
The seat is partly leather upholstered, which I usually find a bit uncomfortable to sleep on because the leather will make you sweat. With Emirates this is not so much of an issue as they provide you with a mattress to place on the bed.
Emirates does not provide a vanity kit and I salute them for it. Does anybody actually ever use those things anyway? Instead, eyeshades and socks have already been placed at each seat before the passengers start boarding. Toiletries such as shaving kits and toothbrushes are available in the lavatories. Incidentally, the toothbrushes and toothpaste are both by Colgate and very good.
A pillow, blanket and the menu have also already been placed at my seat.
Our departure is to the southeast, I believe. We line up on the runway and immediately accelerate. I really do think that there are only few aircraft out there that can match the A 380 in terms of overall ugliness. Having said that, the absence of any noise in the cabin, even on take-off, and the acceleration really are quite amazing.
The First Service
Hot towels: one before pushback and another after the breakfast service
Welcome drinks: orange juice, champagne is also available (Veuve Cliquot)
- apple of orange juice
- still water
- a selection of fresh fruit
- Blueberry yoghurt
- croissant, various buns
- additional pastries served from a basket
- tea or coffee
Service begins on the ground with a round of welcome drinks and hot towels. The hot towels are nicely scented and very refreshing.
Being an early morning flight, Emirates has reversed the order of the food service. The first meal is just a breakfast snack. But it hits the spot nicely. My only complaint is that the service lacks a certain amount of coordination: Emirates provides an individualised tray service, which is nice but tends to take longer. As a result, by the time I was asked if I wanted any juice I had already more or less finished the meal. Coffee and tea were only served after the meal.
The meal concludes with the distribution of another hot towel.
The second service starts just over two hours out of Amsterdam with the distribution of the third hot towel of this flight and an aperitif with warm nuts.
The First Course
Local Arabic Mezze – Hummous, Muhammara, Makdous, Moutabil, Tabouleh, Shanklish salad: the appetizer is very tasty. The individual dishes are full of flavour and taste quite authentic. The only drawback is that bread appears to be in short supply. Most passengers around me have already finished their starters by the time the crew eventually do a round with the breadbasket. Furthermore, the service process seems somewhat uncoordinated.
Salad with a choice of balsamic and olive oil dressing.
The Main Course
Next up comes the main dish, which takes seemingly for ever for to arrive. And when it does, the portion seems rather small. The taste is alright though, but certainly nothing special – roast chicken with mushroom sauce, vegetables, mashed potatoes and chives.
I finish the main course but it looks as though the crew is hardly in a hurry to remove the tray. Apparently there would have been dessert or cheese, but the crew appear to have forgotten all about that and do not bother to ask anybody if they would actually like dessert, tea or coffee.
Apparently there is a crew complement of twenty-five in the cabin on today’s flight, speaking no less than seventeen languages. Generally speaking the crew are very attentive, polite and friendly. So it is all the more of a pity that the service should take so long and be so negligent.
The flight eventually draws to an end. We land in a southerly direction on the famous Polderbahn, from where it takes ages to reach the apron area. Perhaps it is because of the size of the aircraft or because the pilot is unfamiliar with the airport, but today the taxi seems to take even longer as we are moving at a very low speed. At long last we pull onto our stand at the very end of the G concourse in Amsterdam.
I now have another four hours to make my connection to Basel with KLM, which is a good thing because I only realise once I’m in the KLM crown lounge that I have actually forgotten my wallet on the plane. So I quickly head landside and make my way to the Emirates ticketing desk at the departures level of the G sector. Fortunately my wallet has already been found and brought to the desk.
I have never fully understood what all the fuss is about with Emirates. And to be honest, I still don’t. Indeed I found them quite okay. Their Business Class product is not at all elegant or refined, but it offers a lot of convenience to passengers, starting with the chauffeur service – which would also have been available for me in Amsterdam – to the on board experience. The only issue I have is with their service concept on the A 380. I really do not think that it was a case of the crew not doing their job properly but quite simply that the service concept they have is unsuitable to be able to efficiently serve 76 Business Class passengers with the number of cabin crew available.
The European legacy carriers in particular are always keen to use and abuse Emirates and the other carriers from the Middle East as an excuse for their own failures and deficiencies. But I don’t really think that’s quite fair, is it? From what I can tell, Emirates is an airline just like any other. But where the old legacies try to pretend as though Business Class were something exclusive and luxurious – presumably to justify the extortionist fares – Emirates is far more pragmatic in its approach. And I rather like that.
Would I fly Emirates again? With out a doubt: yes!