Let's get to know one of the world's best airlines: Emirates. I got the opportunity to make a whole 4 flights with this company, and I'm eager to share my experiences.
Flight 1. Moscow, Russia (DME) - Dubai, UAE (DXB)
Takeoff took place from Moscow Domodedovo International Airport (DME). It has never been my favorite airport, so I was a little hesitant. However, since my last visit, when it was undergoing extensive repairs, construction on it had been completed and it was newly refurbished inside and out. The terminal no longer resembled a construction site and looked pretty good, actually. However, it was still as cramped as I remembered it.
Departure check in is divided into several areas, and Emirates was departing from area A. For nighttime check-ins, there were more than enough booths to go around, including luggage drop-off booths, where everyone could get tags for their bags (no comparison between these tags and the tags issued by CSA Travel Insurance). I even managed to get my seat changed to a better one.
Domodedovo is pretty built-up, so I couldn't get a look at the planes. I couldn't even get a glimpse of the Boeing 777-300ER which I was boarding, so the photo below is from airliners.net.
Boeing 777-31H/ER. Tail number: A6-ECS. © Gerry Stegmeier / www.airliners.net
My ticket said that boarding would begin a whole hour before departure time, but, unsurprisingly, they only let us on the plane with about thirty minutes to spare. However, after getting on board and taking in the spotless interior, I figured it was worth the wait. The soft color scheme of the paneling and upholstery was very relaxing and gave the plane a comfortable feel.
Each seat included a pillow, a blanket and earphones. My seat was next to the emergency exit, meaning I had room to stretch my legs and have a good nap. And of course the in-flight service was unforgettable. The flight attendants spoke perfect English, and there was even a Russian amongst them. After talking to her for a bit I learned that the crew always flies on the same type of plane, just like with most airline companies.
The flight attendants began doing a safety check – seatbelts, seat upright and stuff – though emergency procedures were explained by means of a safety video. After takeoff, they distributed menus. This added to an already large pile of odds and ends that had accumulated on my lap, and the seat pocket was just out of reach, although this is no big deal. In the menu below you can read what I had for dinner, and see everything in the photo below.
The food was delicious. This was the first time I've ever had marinated shrimp.
I did some exploring of the entertainment system, which featured Emirates' ICE layout (Information, Communication, Entertainment). “Information” include everything from flight information, a GPS and live cameras to a bonus Skywards program. From the communication menu you could make a call, send a text message or email “back to earth”, or even to somebody else on the plane. Entertainment included movies and games. All of the controls were on one panel, while the screen folded up into a side rack on the seat. This was inconvenient because I kept bumping up against it with my foot, and you can forget about the luxury of watching a movie and eating at the same time.
The Emirates flight magazine was full of ads, but there were a few interesting articles in it too, in English. I learned that the company's air fleet is made up completely of long-haul airliners, obviously intended for international flights.
The restrooms were in exemplary condition.
Landing was smooth. At the end of the flight, I took a picture of me and the flight attendant who'd been serving my row and entertaining my ceaseless questions and requests. After disembarking, we boarded a bus; the terminal was quite a ways away - about 15 minutes' drive (!). We also got into a bit of a bus traffic jam by the gates.
Dubai International Airport (DXB) is a hub for a whole 6 continents, so it was already teeming with people at 6 A.M., the terminals were full and all the shops were already open.
International flights arrive and depart from Terminal 3, while most of the stores and services are concentrated in Terminal 1. There's about 30 minutes' walk between the two, and the differences are pretty glaring. T3 is a long, narrow corridor with crowds of people and shops everywhere. Meanwhile, T1 has travelators and all kinds of services, including a post office (found next to gate 118), currency exchange, lounges and so on. The passage connecting the two terminals featured a garden with a fountain, next to which there was an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of aviation in Dubai.
The airport had free wifi, and in addition to the pricey cafés there were also a McDonald's and Burger King. There were even some cafés a Muscovite would find familiar, you can check them out below.
Although Dubai makes a good airline hub, it's not as convenient as some airports when it comes to sightseeing. The windows don't look out onto the runway or the planes, and even if you do get a glimpse of them, it'll be through three layers of glass. I'm also not the biggest fan of crowds. However, I really appreciated the lounge chairs at the far end of T3 (next to gate 222), they were very convenient.
Flight 2. Dubai, UAE (DXB) - Hong Kong, China (HKG)
Boeing 777-31H/ER. Tail number: A6-EGL. © Bruno Bevivino - Roma Spotters Club / www.airliners.net.
I continued my journey to Hong Kong on another Boeing 777-300ER. This time we were allowed to board 40 minutes before departure time, and I got a seat at the very back of the plane right in the midst of a rather noisy group of people. For this reason, and also because I wouldn't have much time to rest and recuperate in Hong Kong before my connecting flight, I requested a change of seats and got one at the front of the cabin. The flight lasted 9 hours, and Emirates again demonstrated professional conduct and superb service.
We were again given menus and dinner was served (which, I should note, was different from what we served on the previous flight!). After that, the lights were dimmed and everyone was left to their own devices. I covered myself with the blanket and tried to catch some sleep, while many others watched movies. After several hours, the flight attendants offered us some more food (a sandwich and muffin, pictured below), and drinks.
By the way, packaged together with the earphones I got three stickers to put on my seat: do not disturb, wake me for meals, and wake me for duty free merchandise. I'd suggest taking advantage of these. I successfully slept through all of the duty free merchandise Finally, we began our descent to Hong Kong, the blankets and earphones were collected and we were asked to buckle our seatbelts. The cabin crews on both flights used the PA at the beginning of the flight, to introduce themselves, towards the end and after touchdown. We landed on runway 07R/25L, as far as I could tell by the signs, which wasn't easy since it was already dark in Hong Kong. The plane emptied fairly quickly and everyone took the ramp to the terminal building.
The airport in Hong Kong, officially known as Chek Lap Kok Airport (赤鱲角機場), is located on a man-made island. It's made up of two terminals, one of which (T2) doesn't have any exits leading out onto the runway. T1 (the 3rd largest airport terminal in the world by footprint) is a multistory building with arrivals being admitted on the first floor, while departures and check-ins are handled on the second. You can find information booths everywhere, so don't be shy and ask if you need anything – it's easy to get lost.
To make my connecting flight, I had to go through customs, which took nearly two hours, thus I wasn't particularly interested in wandering about the airport. Check-in for the flight was divided into zones for convenience (unlike some airports I could name... *cough* Charles de Gaulle *cough*), and getting to the right gate was just a matter of following signs. There were plenty of shops and amenities, though if you want to send a postcard, you'll have to get some Hong Kong dollars. The postcard itself is easy to buy, but stamps are only available from vending machines which accept nothing but the local currency (3 HKD for an international stamp). Everyone was fluent in English. All in all, the airport left me with a good impression. Oh, and Russian citizens are allowed to visit Hong Kong without a visa for 14 days.
Flight 3. Hong Kong, China (HKG) - Dubai, UAE (DXB)
The return flight was also at night. This time I was able to have a walk around the airport before heading to the check-in. The Emirates stands were conveniently placed a little way away from the main flow of passengers. Only a handful of others were checking in with me. There were more than enough check-ins for economy class passengers, too, and Emirates staff member was handing out luggage tags in front of the turnstile. Check-in was quick, to the point, and you could choose your own seat.
After turning in my luggage and receiving my boarding pass, I made my way through security and to the gate. Hong Kong airport's drinking fountains deserve a mention here. Or, rather, the signs pointing out where they are (usually next to the restrooms). I've never seen anything of the sort before.
Airbus A380-861. Tail number: A6-EDF. © Steffi K.
The plane we got this time around was an A380, which I knew from booking the ticket. You can see this beauty in the photos above. I'll tell you off the bat that flying on the lower deck of the A380 means that you won't really get to experience the plane to the fullest. It's like being on a regular Boeing 777 or A330. However, you're not going to be allowed onto the upper deck if you're flying economy class. I managed to reason and lie my way into getting permission to go up the business-class ramp from the second floor, accompanied by a flight attendant (sort of like a guided tour). Details below.
Economy class was pretty standard, almost no different from that of a Boeing 777. On the photos below I compiled several photos of the features and equipment found on a seat: the ICE entertainment system and its controls, an outlet, a USB port, headphone jacks, a hanger, flight magazines, plus a blanket and earphones. The ceiling is standard for an Airbus, but the windows are double-layered, so you can't get much of a view through them.
From time to time, the lighting of the cabin changed color, from red-orange to blue-green. During the flight the lighting was turned off altogether.
Takeoff was long and ponderous; getting this hulking jet airborne isn't as easy as a pocket-sized A320. For all that, however, it was very smooth. Immediately after takeoff we received menus. There were two meals: a snack and breakfast. The snack was served almost immediately and was freezing cold – literally. I understand that food has to be kept refrigerated, but my water came with a thin layer of ice across the top of the glass. In the menu below, you can see what was served. The food was superb. Emirates' kitchen is really above all praise! And the service is great.
The selection of flight magazines included a regular flight journal, a duty free catalog, an ICE magazine, and a booklet with an envelop to make a donation for a children's fund. Sometime later I took a walk around the lower deck and took a few photos. But, as already mentioned, there wasn't too much of interest in the economy cabin. To really appreciate this plane you have to fly first class (a luxury which costs $4600). The restrooms, emergency exit and stairs are about it for the first floor.
The flight passed quite smoothly. Towards the end, flight attendants began serving breakfast. Everything was according to the menu, and tasted very good. If you needed water, you could simply take your cup up to the tap with drinking water next to the restrooms, without having to wait for somebody to get it for you. After the meal, they distributed hot drinks. Emirates also offered a lot of alcoholic beverages, including wine and champagne, and of course there was a ton of duty free merchandise available throughout the flight. I took a nap and watched a movie.
I managed to get a guided tour after talking to one of the flight attendants. The man wholeheartedly agreed that flying on the lower deck of an A380 was missing out on the full experience, and gave me permission to go up to the second floor after we landed. That's all I needed to hear. Luckily, the flight was running on schedule. After waiting for most of the passengers to disembark, I made my way up to the upper deck through the rear stairwell. The flight attendant asked me not to take any pictures, as the company forbids photography on the upper deck. On the other hand, I was allowed to take flight magazines, so I got two booklets describing the first class cabin and the sauna. Yes, they had a sauna!
Then, I disembarked via the business-class ramp, went through a small Emirates transfer zone at the Dubai airport and finally got to the terminal itself. It was 5 A.M. but the place was already packed, and all the shops were open. I stocked up at a duty free, took a trolley and made my way to the transfer gate. The wifi refused to work for me and simply wouldn't let me load anything after connecting, evidently it was overburdened with users. Thus I simply had to sit and wait for my flight, while my plane was prepared for the return flight.
Flight 4. Dubai, UAE (DXB) - Moscow, Russia (DME)
Finally, boarding was announced. This was done 20 minutes earlier than the time indicated on the boarding pass. As it turned out, this was to allow for time to check the boarding passes, tear off the stubs and allow people to file down the stairs. Passengers were being seated in groups, which United Airlines passengers will find familiar. First they seated the business class, then mothers with children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the rest according to the group indicated on their boarding pass. Predictably, a large number of passengers lined up by the gate to try and sneak on the plane ahead of everyone, but none of them were let through. Boarding was done strictly by groups without any exceptions (probably not a very common occurrence on UAE flights bound for Russia). This time around, the plane was another Boeing 777.
Boeing 777-31H/ER. Tail number: A6-EBK. © Thomas Posch - VAP / www.airliners.net
You can see the cabins for business and economy class on the photos above. My seat turned out to be at the very back of the plane, which let me take plenty of photos on my way down, before the main wave of passengers arrived. I was impressed by the size of the galley, it was room-sized! The cabin was clean, without signs of wear, and everything seemed to be in working order. The ICE entertainment system on this plane was an older version and rather inconvenient to use. In the flight magazines I found an article on the air fleet of Emirates, which is soon to become the largest user of Airbus A380s. Right now the fleet has 22 of these planes. The freight subdivision SkyCargo uses Boeing 747s and Boeing 777Fs (freighter variant of the plane).
Soon after takeoff we started having turbulence, which continued through the entire five-hour flight. Because of this hot drinks weren't served, and the seatbelt line was on the entire time. Meals were all according to options in the menu, and I went with chicken and fries. This came with a side of tuna salad and a cream cake. Yes, Emirates' kitchen is definitely above praise.
Because of all the turbulence, the flight seemed to last longer than it actually did. What the cause was, I'm not sure. The cabin crew came on the PA before takeoff and assured us that the weather was great. Landing at Domodedovo was swift. Everyone disembarked via a ramp and breezed through passport control; the luggage arrived in a timely fashion. I took the Aeroexpress back to Moscow. That's pretty much it. What other useful information can I offer you? Oh, 1 dirham is about 0.11 USD. Till next time! smile;)
Vote for review: