In late October, I was invited to be part of a famil to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates as a guest of the Emirates and Dubai Tourism. My journey began on a Friday night at Perth International Airport. The direct flight from Perth to Dubai is approximately 11 hours. Departure from Perth was 10.30pm Friday, with arrival in Dubai at 5.30am Saturday.
Although flying out on an economy class ticket (to experience Emirates’ economy class service), Emirates arranged for me to receive a complimentary pass to the Emirates Lounge, which is open to First Class and Business Class passengers or Skywards Gold members. I gladly made use of my lounge pass – it’s far more pleasant to relax and grab a bite to eat in the luxury and comfort of an airline lounge than join the general bustle of the terminal while you wait at the gate.
There’s a ‘seating area’ and a business centre with work stations and internet access. Tonight, it appeared that most loungers were solo travellers, reading magazines or working on laptop computers.
Whenever I fly, I find that the flight time, excitement and anxiety combine to throw my eating out of whack on the day of the flight. I hadn’t eaten yet although it was way past my usual dinner time. Now that I’d checked in my baggage, gone through immigration and airport security, I was ready to check out the buffet at the Lounge’s ‘food and beverage court’.
There were several hot dishes to choose from and the glutton in me wanted a taste of everything – but I always try not to eat too much before flying. I put together a small plate of chicken pizzaiola (chicken pieces in a tasty tomato and mushroom sauce), fried rice (I’m Chinese – I need my rice), green beans and roasted zucchini and resisted the urge to go back for seconds. I’d be eating again soon enough on the plane.
I stalked the desserts, powered by restless energy and indecision. In the end, I settled for a heart-shaped pink petit four, several crackers, a smear of soft cheese, a chunk of cheddar and a suitably socky slice of crumbly blue cheese.
Eventually, it was time to (reluctantly) leave the nirvana of the lounge and get ready for boarding. But once I was settled in my seat on the plane, I began to feel excited about travelling again.
On Emirates planes, every seat in economy has its own seatback monitor and touchscreen remote with a wide range of movies and TV shows to watch, something you really appreciate on long flights. If you have a USB-powered mobile device that you plan to use on the plane e.g. iPod, iPad etc, remember to pack your USB charger cable in your carry-on bag so you can access it easily during the flight. You can send SMS and emails too during the flight (credit card fee applies – I didn’t try it).
Dinner was soon served. The appetiser was a three-bean salad, with slices of barbecue chicken and crisp iceberg lettuce. We made our meal choices from a hard copy menu that was tucked in the seatback pocket. I appreciated having a more detailed description of the meal choices to what you usually get verbally as cabin crew make their way down the aisles with the food cart. Instead of just “salmon” or “lamb”, our choices were delectably described: grilled salmon with roasted potato wedges, buttered green beans, grilled red pepper batons and a parsley and lemon sauce, or traditional slow braised lamb stew with Moroccan spices and dried fruits, served with cous cous and cumin flavoured carrots.
I chose the salmon dish and was impressed by the surprisingly thick slab of well seasoned salmon smothered in creamy sauce. The bread roll was typical of the kind you get in airline economy meals – on the dry side, nothing to get excited about. Dessert was a date and walnut cake sitting in a rich caramel sauce – I must say a spoon is an ineffective implement for scooping sauce out of the pointed corners of a plectrum-shaped dish. To end the meal, crackers and cheese, a square of milk chocolate and a cup of coffee.
After the first meal trays were cleared, the lights were turned down in the cabin as most passengers got settled for a sleep. I looked up to see stars twinkling on the cabin ceiling. Emirates’ advanced cabin mood lighting system is specially designed to help encourage sleep and alleviate the effects of jetlag. Personally, I never sleep well when I’m flying (even in Business Class, even with a lie-flat seat). I just find it hard to get comfortable – either my bum or back aches, and even though I stretch and move around a bit during the flight, I always feel cramped and confined. Do you find it hard to rest/sleep on a plane?
I’ve mentioned before – being cursed with short legs, I never have issues with leg room on planes, but I hate how close the seats are width-wise. It’s like parking spaces in car parks – if the lines were drawn further apart it would be so much easier to open the car doors when there are cars parked on either side of you. On my previous flight before this one, I sat next to a man who insisted on reading every inch of a broadsheet newspaper, obliviously flicked crumbs on me and splashed me with his red wine – I felt his presence the entire flight. Luckily, on this flight to Dubai I had the aisle, a woman in the same row had the window, and we enjoyed having an empty seat between us – no awkward elbow bumping, noisy newspaper folding, food projectiles or beverage sploshing.
Half-way between sleep time and breakfast, I thought I was imagining the aroma of warm pastry – the food cart made another appearance in the aisle. The menu revealed this course to be called “As you like it”. There was a choice of beef and onion pie, vegetable and cheese pie, or fresh seasonal fruit. The crackle of pie wrappers in seats around me combined enticingly with the golden smells of pie but I opted for a lighter snack – a banana. Pies are a great savoury light meal, convenient for heating and serving, but I find eating pie on a plane similar to eating a choc top at the cinema – I enjoy it immensely at the time, but when I stand up after the movie/flight, I always discover a surprising amount of chocolate/pastry caught up in my clothes.
The lights were kept dimmed as we tucked into our second meal, breakfast. We had the choice of omelette with sauteed button mushrooms, hash browns and baked beans, or chive scrambled eggs with seared chicken sausages, sauteed spinach and grilled tomato. I chose the omelette. Also on the tray were a croissant, butter and jam, a round bread roll (for me, made redundant by the croissant, and once again the typical dry-textured economy bread), fruit salad of melon cubes and the usual airplane edition sealed plastic cup of Berri orange juice.
It was a good start to my trip. Upon arrival in Dubai I met the rest of the famil group from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, with whom I’d be spending the next 6 days with. Despite being well fed on the flight, I was ready to eat again…
TFP travelled to Dubai as a guest of Emirates and Dubai Tourism. There are more posts to come in this series.
Australian readers, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win one of two Cuisinart 1.5L ice cream makers. Closes 9pm WST (Perth time) on Wednesday, 12 December 2012.