First flights with Emirates Airlines

Not many airlines fascinates aviation enthusiasts more then Emirates. It is the absolute icon of its times, being one of the most dynamic and praised airline in the world. I dreamed about flying this carrier and visiting Dubai International Airport for a very long time and finally, on 26th of December 2014, I had a chance to find out, what are my thoughts about the airline.

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I could not say much about booking process, selecting seats and online check in, because I was traveling with a Polish Travel Agency called “Rainbow Tours” and as a group member, my tickets were bought by someone else. I could not select my seat and check in was made at the airport. First contact with the carrier staff, at Warsaw Chopin Airport was pleasant and everyone seemed very professional and nice. The counters were painted in Emirates colors and we were the only people waiting for the check in. The first impression was however spoiled by the fact, that my friends, which were married couple and traveling together, were seated separately in rows 22 and 28. It was a big disappointment for them and we had the same problems on our way back when both me and my wife and our friends (again) received seats in the different rows. We argued with the staff for the couple of minutes and finally asked to see a manager. At he beginning he didn’t wan’t to help us but as we insisted he didn’t have much choice and changed our seats, so we could seat together. I am still annoyed as it was the first time I was treated this way. I suppose we were able to change bad seats also in Warsaw but we were not suspecting that they sill have some places available. Anyhow, apart from that check in went smooth and easy.

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Boarding was also efficient. In the end of jetway which leaded us to the plane stood small trolley with a variety of newspapers and magazines, which was free of charge and in large numbers. The flight attendants, who greeted us by the doors were smiling and helpful.

The plane (reg. A6-EAP) was one of the youngest A330-200s in Emirates fleet and has around 11 years. On our way back we flew in 12 years old A6-EAM, which has exactly the same interior. The planes were well maintained, which was a clear sign that Emirates Engineering division is taking good care of their fleet.

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Currently Emirates has 21 A330-200, which is a smallest member of their fleet. I respect the fact that the plane was in good shape but in my opinion the entire product was rather disappointing. I was expecting something much more attractive. In my opinion both in-flight entertainment system and seats were unacceptable.

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IFE was very basic and the screen itself was small and unclear. The movie selection was unsatisfying and it was not possible to watch film on demand as the system was very old and worked like TV, which means that you were able to switch channels but couldn’t start movie or program on your own. In such airline it is absolutely disqualifying and odd. Moreover the game selection was taken from old Atari and the controller was not responsive enough. Airshow channel was also dim and hard to follow. Additionally both external cameras were not working.

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On our way back the cameras were working fine but the picture has very low quality. All of this however left me for almost 6 hours without IFE at all. Watching it was the worst IFE experience in my life. I believe not having IFE at all would be better because it would not bring so much frustration for the user and I could prepare, downloading movies into my tablet.

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Another drawback of Emirates product was seating comfort. The seats looked rather comfortable, when we entered the plane, but seating on it was a nightmare. It was mainly because the lumbar spine support in my chair was too aggressive and I was not able to lower it. The seat was hurting my back and made my flight a couple of times longer then it was in reality. I may also like to see more modern interior in such airline but of course this was not a big problem.

I put all downsides at the beginning because as a great fan of Emirates strategy and rapid growth I was disappointed by a couple of things I discovered onboard. Emirates however showed me completely different face as well. Staff was very friendly and allow us to film and make photos. I mentioned it because we have had a problem with it just recently during internal flights in China. All the flight attendants were kind, professional and happy which made a great impression on me. During return flight the staff was slightly less open but still above industry average I would say.

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After we sat down, we immediately got hot towels to clean our hands. Straight after that we received a menu card which prepared us to make a right lunch choice. I especially liked the font they used, very clear and elegant.

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The dinner was something unique and tasty, matching my expectations.The food was very good being served along with a metal fork and knife which I haven’t seen in airlines I fly (only economy class) for some time. My wife selected seafood dish and she got it around 15 minutes before me. Looked very good and as she claims, had even better taste. I took chicken over lamb and I was also very satisfied especially that it was served with pesto sauce, which I really like.

Right now Emirates airlines is a real tycoon in air travel industry. It is a true game changer and the airline, which showed that it is possible enter the market, change the industry and threaten key players both in Europe and Asia. The unique localization of Dubai, in between the 3 continents (Europe, Asia and Africa) made this small emirate an important transfer hub and just recently DXB airport the biggest international airport in the world, which means that Heathrow airport long-lasting reign is over (at least in 2014). According to preliminary figures 71 million passengers used DXB in 2014. Emirates fleet consists solely of widebody airplanes. The smallest out of them is Airbus A330-200 and the biggest Airbus A380-800. Emirates is the largest operator of this double-decker. It has 56 such planes in operation and additional 90 on order. Emirates is also the only airline which truly praises A380 performance and capabilities. They mastered this plane in a way the others may only dream of. And it makes money for them. Apart from A380, Emirates is also the largest user of Boeing 777-300ER. It has over 100 of this planes in their fleet. It is a genuine workhorse which helped Emirates become one of the mightiest airline in the world. Emirates also owns twenty-one Boeing 777-200LR, twelve 777-300, eight 777-200 and a couple of A340-500 and A340-300. Rapidly growing fleet helped the airline to carry 44,5 million passengers in the financial year 2013/2014.

We were approaching Dubai after sunset. The lights of the city appeared suddenly as we flew from Arabian Gulf (name used in UAE). The contrast between the dark water and strongly illuminated land was hypnotizing. I was looking for Dubai landmarks like Burji Al Arab or Burji Khalifa but as I was sitting on the left side all I was able to see was Sharjah emirate and maybe some part of Deira district in Dubai.  Luckily soon we made U-turn and not long before the touch down I was able to record Dubai downtown, before it was overshadowed by airport buildings. The landing was excellent so as the pilot. He was a real showman and a funny guy who sweetened our time by his extraordinary and colorful announcements. I was so impressed that I didn’t remembered his name, which is a real shame. This man both with his flying skills and behavior was validating a common opinion that Emirates are employing the best pilot in the industry. I recall this statement once again during the landing in Warsaw on my return flight. We were fighting a very strong crosswind but the landing was soft and elegant, even though seconds before touch down the plane was dancing in the air.

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Once we were leaving the plane we had a chance to see a Business Class in the A330-200 we have flown. If I were the passenger who spent his money on it I would be more then disappointed. I would pass over design and styling which is in my opinion terrible. Combination of wood and gold should make a good impression but for me looked cheap and in bad taste. The worst however was that the seats looked worn and IFE was outdated. My opinion might me distorted by the fact that cabin was in total mess after the flight. I am sure that Business Class in A380 and Boeing 777-300ER looks much better but still, the quality of the airlines is as good as it worst plane.

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Dubai Airport is vast. We drove around 15 minutes from our plane stand to the terminal. It was the time where my travel with Emirates ended, but another exiting experience began and was called DXB – Dubai International Airport. Although I had many complaints and remarks I do believe Emirates is interesting airline and only hope next time I would fly younger airplane with modern IFE system.

Flight summary:

Date: Friday, December 26 (2014) and Friday, January 2 (2015) Airline: Emirates Airlines Flight number: EK180/EK179 (WAW-DXB and DXB-WAW) Duration: 5 hours 35 minutes (WAW-DXB) and 6 hours 15 minutes (DXB-WAW) Aircraft: Airbus A330-200 (A6-EAP and A6-EAM) Seats: 23B and 37F (both Economy Class)

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