As I mentioned, I was blessed to be able to travel to Dubai to teach a 3 day workshop on Electronic Health Record (EHR). Over the next week or so, I’m going to try and document the adventure for those following along at home. Plus, hopefully I can provide some advice for those who plan to travel to Dubai in the future.
Today I’m going to start off talking about my experience flying on Emirates. I was actually lucky to fly to LA on Virgin before switching to Emirates to go from LA to Dubai. I’ve always been a big fan of Virgin and they still did not disappoint. From the safety video chock full of dancers from So You Think You Can Dance (Premiere of SYTYCD is today!) to the ambiance of the plane including the live TV, it’s a great flight experience. I could see why Emirates would partner with them and Jetblue for their connecting flights.
I was super cautious and chose to fly into LAX on the early Virgin flight and so I had a 6-7 hour layover in LAX before my flight to Dubai. I should have just taken the flight that got in 3 hours early and risked missing the flight because of some delay. Turns out that LAX’s international terminal ticketing area is an awful place to wait 6 hours. The only redeeming quality was that the wifi worked well. Inside the LAX international terminal was awesome, but Emirates ticketing area didn’t open until 3 hours before the flight. That means I was stuck hanging out with hundreds of others in the ticketing area until Emirates opened up and I could get my boarding pass. Needless to say, there’s nothing fun about waiting in an airport. At least not for me.
Once I got through security I was greeted by this amazing video show on the wall of the LAX international terminal. It was the crazy vaudeville style performance projected on the wall like it was a skyscraper. I would have taken a picture or video, but I had to go and catch my flight. Plus, I needed to eat before the flight (since there was no food in the LAX international ticketing area).
While waiting for my flight to board, this massively annoying security alarm kept going off. It was so loud, I was talking to the Crash Wife on the phone and a few times I had to tell her to repeat, because I couldn’t think with the buzzer being so loud and annoying. Plus, what’s the one place you don’t want to hear an alarm go off? The airport! I saw a security guy show up and start looking around to see what set off the alarm. As you can imagine, it wasn’t comforting to hear the security alarm going off right before you board a plane.
I learned from my avgeek brother that I was flying on an Emirates Airbus A380-800. For those of us that aren’t avgeeks, it was a massive airplane with multiple floors. Thankfully I had a window seat so I could lean against the wall and sleep and had a little extra room on the side. Although, the Airbus A 380 is so massive that the wall is actually pretty far away and not ideal for leaning against so you can sleep (at least not for me). (Side Note: I still want to invent something that lets you comfortably sleep on an airplane. I think it’s probably something leaning over, but not so far that you’re uncomfortable like when you lay on the tray).
As I mentioned, I loved the cool Emirates flight attendant outfits that added to the whole experience. I’m sure they are annoying for the flight attendants, but it definitely leaves an impression. Each seat also had a pillow, blanket, and a small care package that included a mask, toothbrush and little towel. Plus, to start the flight they came around with a warm towel. I wasn’t quite sure why I’d want a warm towel at the start of the flight, but I figured I’d do like the locals were doing and wipe my face down with the warm towel. Maybe my neighbors on the flight appreciated me doing it.
A 16 hour flight can never be considered a good thing, but Emirates did it as well as you can do. Their in flight video, music, news, etc options (they call it ICE) were really quite good. I wish they had live TV, but I know they’re working on that. I think I watched at least 7-8 movies over both flights. Good thing I had a lot of movies I wanted to catch up on. I created a nice playlist of music and once or twice almost started singing and dancing along. I’m sure my fellow passengers appreciated my restraint.
I did try the in flight wifi on Emirates. It was what you’d expect on a crowded flight. They give you 10 MB of free internet and then it’s only $1 for 500 MB of internet. I splurged on the $1 internet each time. I tried my laptop and wasn’t that successful. Of course, I realized later that when you’re traveling over the North Pole there’s a satellite dead spot since the satellites orbit around the earth near the equator (thank you physics). So, I might have been trying during the dead times. Either way, my phone worked pretty well with the wifi. I could text Crash Wife (although, she was asleep for most of the flight) and get and reply to email. It makes some sense that the mobile device which uses less data would work better.
As part of Emirates in flight offering they have some cameras mounted on the plane so you can see what’s happening outside as you take off, land, or even watch below you. For much of the flight all you see is sky and clouds, but for take off and landing it’s pretty cool to see. Plus, it was cool to see outside since when I opened my window all I saw was this massive wing. I literally couldn’t see anything but wing because the wings are so big. Here’s a look at the in flight tracking and outside cameras in action including a cool picture of what it looked like landing in Dubai.
The last picture above shows our flight path to Dubai. It was a bit of a surprise to me that we didn’t fly around the world, over the US and Europe. Instead we went North over Canada, the North Pole, then Russia and then down to Dubai.
I guess I should comment on the food on the flight. Emirates still offers full meals. I guess they kind of have to feed you on a 16 hour flight. People raved about the quality of the Emirates food. I wasn’t surprised when the food was high quality airline food, but airline food nonetheless. For me as a picky eater, that meant I could force down about half of the food. Next time I’ll be bringing more snacks along with me. At least the rolls were always good. Plus, on the way back they gave us these little margherita pizzas that weren’t bad either. They did well considering they have to feed a few hundred people in a small space at 30-40k feet.
There was almost a revolt by some passengers by me when the flight attendant didn’t have vegetarian meals which they’d “specifically requested months before.” I couldn’t help but laugh at how angry they were at this awful situation. Considering it was airline food, maybe it was better that they didn’t get the food. Although, they eventually found the vegetarian meals somewhere.
I was surprised how many kids were on the flight as well. My sympathy to all those parents. Although, the kids weren’t a major issue for me. Maybe there just weren’t any around me. It was pretty nice in the Dubai Emirates terminal, they had all these kiosks with free strollers that families could use to get around the airport.
All in all, I was quite happy with the service on Emirates. It definitely is one of and possibly the best airline I’ve been on (and I’ve been on most). It’s still an airline and still a 16 hour flight, but I can only imagine how much worse the flight would have been if I was stuck on some other airline.
I’ll be heading back (with the Crash Wife I think) in August to do the same workshop again. You can be sure I’ll be booking on Emirates. This time they offered a chance to upgrade to business class for $1000. Business class has lay down seats, so I have to say that it was pretty tempting. It’s probably better that I don’t experience business class on Emirates. If I do it once, I probably won’t be able to stand going back to economy class. Better to not know what I’m missing.
Up next, the fun of Dubai.