Wednesday, November 15, 2017

You're the Business, Emirates

When you've spent 16 days bumping and lurching along 3,467km of roads through Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, in an un-air-conditioned truck with rattly windows, loose screws and meanly padded seats, oh! what a treat it is to return to the comforts of the 21st century. Especially when those comforts are supplied by experts in the field: ie, Emirates' Business Class.

I arrived with heaps of time to spare at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, because, I admit it, I was, feebly, Africa'd out by then. I was keen to get cracking on the journey home, but it looked as though I would have to spend a couple of hours on a bench near the check-in desks because it was too early to send my bag through. Then, though, the lovely Emirates lady took pity on me, promised to keep the bag safe behind the desk till it was time to put it on the conveyor belt, and sent me through to the lounge, airside.

The airport is a bit then-and-now, after a fire in 2013, but the lounge is in the new bit and, shared with Turkish Airlines, comfortable and well-supplied with the necessities and more. I kept myself perfectly happy and busy there for hours until my flight was called. EK722 uses a Boeing 777 in several permutations - this was the 300 with three classes - but it's being phased out in favour of the ER version. I wouldn't have liked to be in the middle section of three seats, but my window one was nicely private despite my having a neighbour. It would have been nice if the seat had reclined totally flat for this overnight flight to Dubai, but since I've also spent the last 16 days mostly sleeping in a tent, I wasn't inclined to be picky - and anyway, after eating dinner at midnight (after, etc, of same-same stews and vegetables, I wasn't going to turn down proper food on a china plate however unsociable the hour) there wasn't much sleep time left of the five-hour flight.

Arriving at Dubai, I made up for the 16 etc of solid sitting by taking the long, long hike from my C gate to the central B section of that enormous airport building, diverted by all the glitz on offer. Then I rode the train to the A section where the Business Class lounge is simply massive. It has two fine dining restaurants, does that sum it up? I took another shower, and had some breakfast (disappointed, to be honest, not to find the excellent Bircher muesli I'd had on the journey out - which I would have savoured even more had I known about the 16 days of crumbly bread and banana sandwich-based breakfasts to come).
Then came the moment I'd been looking forward to for such a long time: stepping (the first passenger off the airbridge, I was that keen) onto the A380 for the 15 hour journey back home to Auckland on EK448. Private pod, shiny walnut veneer everywhere, lockers to keep all my stuff stowed handy, a big TV, 2,500 channels to scroll through on the tablet controller (including the box set of the last season of 'Episodes', yay), a seat that reclined completely flat, a bar at the back of this upstairs cabin... Wonderful stuff.

And, finally, after sleep, entertainment, a dinner of tender meat (those 16 same-same stews were invariably on the chewy side) and flapjacks for breakfast, we touched down in Auckland. I hit the ground not exactly running, but striding briskly as usual, and not only got to the luggage carousel second, but waited only a couple of minutes before my bag appeared. I was first through customs and, final Emirates Business Class joy and glory, there was the Corporate Cabs man waiting to take me home. Touchdown to taxi in 28 minutes - that has to be a record. Further, thanks to the new Waterview tunnel, the trip into the city took only half an hour, I just scraped onto the ferry one hour after I landed, and 40 minutes after that, I was home. Class act, Emirates: you're the Business!

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