Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Emirates Business A380-800: review

An A380 Airbus is nothing like a bumblebee. I had thought it was: after all, 580 tonnes, 500 passengers, two levels, it sounds physically incapable of flight; but, just like the bumblebee, it defies common sense and does exactly that. The bumblebee makes it look hard work, though, dipping and blundering along while, I was told, I wouldn’t even notice the Emirates A380-800 taking off. Generally speaking, I find it reassuring to note the moment that an aeroplane becomes airborne — it’s so much more preferable to continuing to trundle along the tarmac until it runs out — so this wasn’t as comforting a comment as it was intended to be. But it was true: the plane lifts off with very little fuss, too heavy to rattle and vibrate like the small fry, and lands the same way, more gently and undramatically than most smaller planes I've flown on.

And what's it like on board? I can't *cough* speak for Economy as I was flying Business, upstairs (not that I actually noticed I was upstairs, the first time, thanks to entering over a different airbridge. I realise that sort of lack of observation immediately discredits this review but, nevertheless, I'll proceed). My first impression was that Emirates has nobly sacrificed passenger numbers for comfort and space, because the individual seating areas are staggered so that at the side, for example, there's only one seat for each row (and two across the middle). The downside of that is that only every odd seat is next to the window, while the evens are on the aisle with the odd seat's legroom between it and the window. Also, because you're so high up and on the upper level, the curve of the fuselage means you can't see down that well. These things are important to people like me who enjoy looking out of the window.
So I was on the aisle and felt a bit exposed - though at least I had my own space. The alternate centre seats are placed so they're right next to each other, for couples travelling together who might want to talk to each other (I KNOW! Who are these people?) I liked that there was lots of space to put my stuff and even a little minibar (of juice and cute little cans of soft drinks). My feet fitted into a cubby hole with a locker for my shoes, and the headphone socket was accessible so I could use my own earphones (though they did supply noise-cancelling ones). I could also have charged up my phone or plugged in my laptop, though why would I want to with 1200 channels of entertainment available?
I found the controller less easy to use than on other airlines (and in fact, despite much wrestling, never in a total of 28 hours discovered how to remove the little control screen from its stand. Yes, too much in touch with my masculine side to ask for assistance there) but there was an excellent range of very recent, even current, movies and TV programmes, and though the screen was smaller than on Cathay Pacific, it was conveniently positioned (I had a back-of-seat screen once that was too far away for me to read the subtitles - shocking!). The table didn't slide back far enough - must be because I'm so very slim (!) but they did their best to fix that with some great meals, starting with hot nuts including macadamias, which won me over instantly.
There weren't that many loos, considering, but since they were positioned right next to the bar, it wasn't a penance waiting for one. Hmm, the bar. (Officially, the 'lounge' - the UAE has an uneasy relationship with alcohol - though there's plenty of it on the aeroplanes). It's a bit of a novelty and not really that useful: looks great in the photos with elegant people decorating it, but these days no-one feels obliged to dress up for business class and so, with only rumpled, comfortably-dressed passengers standing there, it had none of that class. They had nice snacks available, and the barman was very chatty and obliging, but the seating was narrow and slippery and who wants to pay all that money for a fancy seat and then not sit in it?
Come bedtime, the seat didn't go completely flat, no matter what they claim, so it was less comfortable than, again, Cathay - but the pillow was lovely, and it was all good enough. The staff were pleasant and helpful without being obsequious, and they were the smart ones: the Emirates uniform is one of the best.
As for punctuality, Emirates takes that so seriously that they're positively hard-line about check-in times: I've just read that they're now going to shut the check-in desk an hour before take-off, so that's something to look out for - especially at their shiny, spacious new airport in Dubai, where you have to hike for miles to some gates. They don't tell you that the special Business and First Class check-in terminal necessitates a route march to the shops and the gates.

But I would happily fly Emirates again. The plane is comfortable and has lots of little touches to keep me happy; and my complaints above are just quibbles. They have an extensive network of routes and deserve their reputation as one of the best and most popular airlines to fly with. And I'm not just saying that because they were hosting me, by the way.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

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Cindy
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