As far as the videos are concerned, the video trip report is the only video in this report:
Onwards and forwards!
It was a pretty disturbed sleep after which I woke up. Interruptions in between included a shocked aunt, a shocked uncle, a shocked cousin brother and a shocked maid. All wondering WTF was going on. I woke up and called my granny, uncle and aunt and explained what was going - they found it unsurprisingly surprising that Kolkata - San Francisco turned out to be the cheapest!
Slight drama occurred when I saw that ALL of my parents and my seats got deselected, and it was preventing me from selecting them again. This was very worrying! However, apparently all was alright. The menu for my Kolkata - Dubai flight was prawn biriyani. Most of the India - Dubai - India flights have a standard menu, except for Kolkata - Dubai - Kolkata, which is different because of us Bengali's very specific cravings. I think :P I selected a non veg Hindu meal for EK573 only, but it showed that EK225 had it selected as well - NOOOO! I though, had a lot more to worry about, for example, lack of sleep!
Going on the wrecked roads of Kolkata, I was reminded of the signs I saw ten years ago - Today's pain, tomorrow's gain: nope, still a pain! 1650 hours, I was at the Kolkata Airport terminal again.. Just thirteen days after my previous visit! Except that this was the international wing. There were quite a few passengers entering the terminal, the hurdle being the passenger ID check. Just one gate open. There were many many passengers. Most of them on the very delayed Regent Airways flight to Dhaka, many of them on the Air India flight to Dhaka. And many of them on the Emirates flight to Dubai! Most passengers headed straight for the check in, before being diverted away to the baggage screening - new terminal, old antics. How nice!
Unsurprisingly, it was Air India's x-ray machines, but just Emirates' arrow every where. While the line was long, it did go pretty quickly. The baggage wrap/protect from rain/other stuff plastic saran wrap people convinced the passengers to get their suitcases wrapped, and they made good money! I added to their incomes, as I had one suitcase full of pretty sentimental stuff..the suitcase from Colombo. And before I knew it, it was time to get my 38kgs (84lbs) worth of suitcases onto the conveyor, and got it screened. Cleared.
The check in line was not really long because most of the passengers were done with check in, or at the baggage screening, or stuck outside the terminal. It was very well organized, props to the Air India ground staff for organizing this rather well. A very experienced gentleman took care of my check in proceedings, and he sure knew what he was doing. First he weighed the suitcases, while I quickly glanced at the neighbor's tags: GRU. São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport. A true testament to Emirates' success right here at Kolkata Airport: here I was going to San Francisco, and two others heading to Brazil! While I thought about that, the gentleman asked me for my passport and I20 form (document required for university students heading to the USA). Documents checked, he handed me my ticket, the baggage receipt, boarding pass, and the two hotel vouchers. He wished me a great flight after directing me to the gates. Again, full points to the Air India ground staff.
Immigration was up next, and perhaps the worst experiences I have ever had. hile the line was short so the wait wasn't too long, the guy I had got had way too many questions. First, he wondered why my handwriting was so bad on the departure card, something that I rarely pay attention to! Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Mumbai, Chennai, Colombo. I didn't bother with a neat and clean handwriting, and here we had someone wondering how I got into university in the USA, because according to him I didn't even get basic education! Second, he thought my visa was a fake and took a good three or four minutes to see if it was a counterfeit. I offered him to show my I20 form, he had a blank face on. I didn't bother explaining what that was. Last, he asked me why I was in Kolkata if my visa was processed in Colombo (Sri Lanka)! I told him I wanted to visit family before I went to university for further education (emphasized on the further). He had a pretty dissatisfied look on his face before the manager walked in to the scene, and quickly cleared me through. Jeez, that was awful!
Security took a bit longer. because there was a line, but nothing really to complain. Helped an old lady with her bags, no harm done. She had a bottle of water which I helped empty out nearby, so that the bottle can be used again later on. The gate areas were absolutely full. An Air India flight to Dhaka, the delayed Regent Airways flight to Dhaka, and of course, an Emirates A330 to Dubai. VT-JGV had its aerobridge removed from the international terminal, and passengers boarding via stairs. VT-JGV came in from Dhaka as 9W273 and later headed to New Delhi as 9W904. The Air India Airbus departed a bit late for its flight to Dhaka.
Domestic departures cordoned off..
Kolkata Airport isn't the most interesting of airports/terminals because there isn't much to do, not helped by the fact that the sun had set. Not too many duty free shops (just the one basic), and just one cafe (not sure if I can even call it a cafe!).
I headed for Gate 10, and lo behold, a beautiful 12.9 year old A330 registered A6-EAM had arrived from Dubai on time, engines shutting, doors opening. Passengers slowly got off the plane. I got my camera out to photograph this beauty, where another photographer saw the struggle I went through to picture the beauty at night. He gave me a few tips, but to no avail: the lighting reflections made it tricky for a good photograph.
Zone-wise started bang on time at 1930 hours. This was strictly imposed, despite monumentally long line that was formed. I joined the end of this snaking line and some Air India / Emirates ground staff came around checking boarding passes, passports, etc.
When one of them came up to me, he asked me if I was traveling alone. I replied in the affirmative, and he asked me to follow him to the counter. That's when I knew it was possibly because of a change in seat. 'Since you are traveling alone, we would like to offer you a seat in business class. It is a middle seat and standard Economy service, but it is more comfortable…', said the lady. Without evening thinking about it twice, I readily agreed to the semi-upgrade! Sleep was priority over a window seat, and this business class seat would help me no doubt! 22K struck off, it was now 10E. The flight was operating as a First Class and Economy class flight only, just a few lucky of us seated in the Business Class seats. I was now legit excited about my seventh flight with Emirates.
Walking down the ramp towards the lovely A6-EAM, I saw an IndiGo A320, before operating flight 6E77 to Bangkok. Entering A6-EAM was not quite as exciting as I got a rather muted welcome, since both crew members were occupied doing something or the other. I stepped inside, every business class seat was occupied, except 10E, predictably. I say empty - there was no human there, but two pillows, used headphones and blankets. I then realized I was going to sit in between some lovely co-passengers……..
I also noticed that menu cards, hot towels and lime juice (common on all India - Dubai flights) had been handed out. I would get none of them.
That aside, the cabin felt very spacious, something like a palace almost. The ‘outdated’ seats looked very comfortable. All windows had a light brown frame around them. The PTV screens were of a pretty sweet size as well. I was looking forward to the next few hours!
I took my seat and well, I wasn’t exactly comfortable because of the junk that piled up over me. I kept my bags in front, eating up the legroom. From what I could see, two crew members were from Africa, one from Egypt (who did the Arabic announcements), and a few more from Europe. All on a flight from Kolkata to Dubai! They came up and helped me put my bags up into the overhead bins. I instantly throw some of the junk off my hip on to the floor, just keeping my head phones (which were noise canceling!), a pillow (which was much larger than what I got on my Economy class Emirates flights), and a blanket (a super comfy one!). I was slowly starting to get comfy on 10E. An announcement was made that all passengers who ordered the Hindu Non-Vegetarian meal would be served the non-vegetarian option on menu. That sucked…no special meal name tag for me..
2030 hours. Departure time. I felt a thud. The tug was attached and at 2035 hours, EAM was pushed back. Both the Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines were beautifully brought into life as the safety demos played on the IFE systems. The extension of the slats made a beautiful sound as both engines were brought into life. A slow taxi began towards runway 1L….
….only to taxi down Runway 1R which was followed by a beautiful roar of the Rolls Royce Trent 772B-60 engines as a long take off followed into the cloudy skies over Kolkata. We banked all the way to the South. I couldn’t feel this seated right in the middle of the aircraft, however, a glimpse through one of the windows port side showed what an angle we were banking in towards the left!
EAM headed southwards for a good twenty minutes after take off before banking towards the right, heading west. Course set for Dubai. Another difference I noticed was that the IFE was actually a AVOD ICE, as opposed to the programs that play on loop in Economy. Again, business class bonuses! I settled down to watch a Disney movie, namely Wreck it! Ralph. Yes yes, I know, college bound student watching childish movies, I’m sure Mufasa’s death in Lion King still gets to most of us…..
It wasn’t until 2153 hours when I got a meal tray. The English flight attendant found it tricky to explain the contents of the meal because, quite simply, Indian food names are tricky to say! He was one of the crew members who stood out from the rest, as he was the one making jokes with most passengers, helping them out with belongings, attending to calls promptly, while the others just went about doing their jobs.
Anyway, the meal. While prawn biriyani did sound a unappetizing at first, Emirates proved me wrong with a superb meal. It started off with a salad consisting of cucumber, tomato, labneh ball and a mint paste to go along with it. The main course consisted of some tasty biriyani rice with pieces of prawn in it, along with a delectable dal bukhara that went with the biriyani very well. Dessert was some heavenly gulab jamun. The meal cart was followed by a drinks card, I just stuck to a Pepsi along with the trademark Emirates savory snack.
(I didn't take a picture of the main course. I just forgot. Sorry! I did however, take a video, and you can find it in the video trip report, here.)
No table cloth for this Business Class passenger! :P
Finished my meal and I headed for the washroom, walking through the Economy class. Seats looked exactly the same as those on SriLankan Airlines’ oldest A330-200, 4R-ALC. The weird box type seats, is what I call them. I saw the ways in which people were asleep, and was sure glad that I got a business class seat for the flight! The washroom was very well stocked, as usual, and nothing had changed since 2012 (my last flight with Emirates prior to these), in terms of the lotion and Eau de Toilette! It was awesome to see these once again!
I took a quick look at seats 22H and 22K: a mother and her young child were fast asleep. I felt good to have given up 22K since they would be in trouble had I not budged. With that happy thought in my mind, I returned to my seat 10E. We were just about flying over the west coast of India, leaving behind the Indian landmass. Goodbye, home! I'd be back soon… With that, I tucked myself into a very comfortable sleep over the Arabian Sea. Uninterrupted sleep, just what I wanted!
It was the turning on of lights that actually woke me up, as we had begun descent towards Dubai International. I quickly got up and got my camera bag down so that I could hold on to it. Slowly but surely we headed towards Runway 31L, I put the nose wheel camera on, it always intrigues me!
A smooth touchdown was made at 2347 hours GST, and we exited quickly towards an aerobridge gate in the humongous Terminal 3 at Dubai International. There were a couple of planes I saw, and also a certain 4R-ALJ of SriLankan Airlines (an A330-200)! 4R-ALG wasn’t going to be the last SriLankan bird I saw, neither was it 4R-ALD in Mumbai, here it was! Engines cut out, first class passengers were allowed to disembark first followed by us Economy Business passengers.
Contrary to my expectations, Dubai’s Terminal 3 was EMPTY! I expected a huge huge crowd, but nothing of that sort! A quick sail through, that’s all. In fact, immigration was unbelievably quick as well, and to my surprise, no lines there either! Getting the paid for visa was no issue. The immigration person was also a very very nice guy who had a friendly conversation with me. I reached the massive arrivals section and in one far end was Emirates’ Dubai Connect counter. Many people were here…and some who had just come in on EK573!
0033 hours, just 28 minutes after STA, I was waiting for my shuttle bus. For Dubai, that is bloody quick! In the midst of all this, after yet another amazing flight with Emirates, it was time to message people: Mum and Dad. They were in fact in Colombo airport, sitting right in front of A6-EGK that had arrived from Singapore, and would get them to Dubai.
The shuttle bus to the hotel arrived. I checked in to the hotel, and while there were long walks to get to the room itself, the 4 hours of sleep that followed was simply amazing!
As I dozed off, it was now counting down to the Emirates A380. To my first ultra-long haul flight. It was now countdown to me finally arriving in the United States of America, and the beginning of a new chapter……
Kolkata - CCU
Dubai - DXB
It was a gap of just under three years between my last two Emirates. The flight on the A330 was lovely. Check in was done very well. The crew were decent for the most part, of course the one standing out, but I felt it was quite robotic. Despite not getting my Hindu non veg meal (since the prawn biriyani was really Hindi non veg!), I enjoyed the filling meal throughly. Props to Emirates for the very local foods. The cabin was in a crisp condition, despite the A330s being on their way out. The upgrade was a huge bonus, and I absolutely loved the business class seat (true, these seats for some airlines are just Premium Economy, but Emirates have a much better Business class product on the A380 anyway). As it happened, A6-EAM was withdrawn from the Emirates fleet just a week after this flight, and their Kolkata operations have been upscaled to a Boeing 777-300ER!
Kolkata's international airport was quite crappy, unfortunately. Fueled by the rude immigration officer anyway. Nothing to do, just a solitary restaurant and duty free collection.
I expected a crowded Dubai International T3, but nothing of that sort! Immigration was quick and very pleasant, while the hotel room was very comfortable, too.
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