There are a few firsts taking place with this journey: 1. This is my first visit to Dubai (or any Arabic country for that matter), 2. This is my first time flying with Emirates - and in Business Class too! - and 3. This is my first time flying aboard an A380!
Of course, the excitement leading up to my trip was palpable and I didn't get much sleep in the days prior to departure.
I took advantage of Emirates' chauffeur drive service and it didn't disappoint. The driver arrived at my house on-time (in a beautiful Cadillac XTS sedan no less). Within 30 minutes, I arrived at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX and I then proceeded to the Emirates counter. It would have been nice for TBIT to have a drive-up valet area for premium passengers. Having to corral baggage while searching for a credit card to spend $5 for one of those SmarteCartes gets old quick, and it certainly takes away from the premium experience.
Once I arrived at Emirates' Business Class line to check my bags and receive my boarding pass, I was a little surprised that I had a 15 minute wait before being beckoned over to the counter by a representative - even though no one was ahead of me. I arrived at 1pm and I was shocked that Emirates didn't have the check-in counters staffed with more representatives - especially for an A380 flight that was over 90% full! I eventually concluded that they are used to having passengers arrive during the check-in rush (90 minutes before the flight). Anyway, once I reached the counter, the representative was friendly and expedited the process.
I only travel with high-end Travelpro luggage. Anything less puts my belongings at high risk for damage….
After I received my boarding pass, I proceeded to TBIT's new TSA security zone - which is massive (this is in the upper level area which originally housed a pre-security food court). Navigating the Premium security lanes was a breeze - although, based on what I noticed, if you are traveling in Economy, be aware that the line queues are VERY deep and VERY wide and can appear imposing (and discouraging) when they are full. My advice to those who are flying Economy is that you arrive at LAX no less than 2-1/2 hours prior to your flight just to avoid any anxiety.
Look above. There's the new TSA security zone at TBIT.
Emirates recently opened a dedicated lounge at TBIT and it is VERY impressive. Even though it's not as expansive as the Star Alliance Lounge at TBIT, Emirates' lounge doesn't need to be that big - especially when there's only a maximum of 76 Business Class seats and 14 First Class seats on their A380s. In fact, the lounge effectively holds more than 150 guests at any given time. The lounge evokes a contemporary club-like atmosphere with warm colors and sumptuous surroundings. the furnishings were of the highest quality and the entire lounge was spotless. Now to be perfectly honest, before entering, I was expecting the lounge to have a traditional, yet ornate feel about it. Thankfully, this was not the case. The restroom and private shower lounges were equally inviting and there was also an Ablution area (in keeping with the Muslim traditions). Regarding the food: Emirates' LAX lounge has one of the most impressive lounge catering services that I have ever experienced at LAX thus far. The variety of available cuisines span the globe - whether it's Thai Noodles, to Chicken Masala Tikka as well as Arabic Mezze, you can feast like royalty before stepping aboard Emirates' A380. And the desserts…… my gosh. Each were plentiful and very decadent. My favorite was the Opera cake which tasted like a very rich Snickers candy bar. Additionally, the fruit juices were fresh (nothing from the carton folks!) and the still bottled water of choice for the lounge (and aboard Emirates flights for that matter) is VOSS - which the staff generously and graciously replenished at my seat without me asking.
This delicious Opera cake….
A birds-eye view of TBIT from Emirates' lounge. You can see Star Alliance's lounge in the distance.
A birds-eye view of TBIT from Emirates' lounge - overlooking a departing BA flight.
After enjoying the meal, I decided to get comfortable for my flight by changing into my long haul flight wear (sweatpants, t-shirt, Thor-lo socks and hooded fleece jacket). About 30 minutes prior to boarding I made my way to Gate 156.
Walking through TBIT is a wonderful experience. I recall visiting here about 2 years ago before the new terminal was open to the public - but to see how it has progressed to this bustling & well-managed facility speaks volumes about the L.A.'s dedication to give travelers the right impression & experience as they depart the city. However, I only have one gripe about this terminal……the number of seats allocated at the gates for A380 aircraft appears to be spartan. Maybe this is all a part of Westfield's shopping center experience for the terminal (to keep people spending money) - and if that's the case, I'll just say this: Well played LAX & Westfield!
Once it was time to board, the process seemed slightly chaotic: Passengers were lined up from the gate doors to well into the terminal concourse area (this flight was over 93% full, so standing room at the gate came at a premium. Fortunately, gate reps were available to corral passengers to their appropriate line (Business/First, Disabled and Economy).
At Gate 156…..Heaven help us.
My ride to Dubai.
Once I presented my boarding pass, I headed to the upper level Jetway for Business/First passengers (unfortunately, the escalators weren't working, so I had to schlep up a flight of stairs - some might call this punishment for over-indulging in the lounge :-/ ).
Once aboard, I made a right turn to the cavernous Business Class section and I then headed to my seat for the next 16 hours - seat 14A. Even though I changed into my long haul flight wear, it would have been nice if the flight attendant assigned to my area would've asked to take my coat (I'm guessing an assumption was made by the flight attendants that I would wear my fleece jacket throughout the flight - but that's an assumption they really shouldn't make). About 45 minutes after I boarded, the doors were closed and we were on our way. I was provided wine & meal menus for the flight, my Bvlgari amenity kit, as well as a Fast Track card to fly through immigration upon my arrival in Dubai.
Surprisingly, our flight took an unusual taxi path and we used an odd runway choice to depart LAX. Check out the following video to see what I mean:
About 15 minutes after takeoff Emirates' inflight service began. As you will notice in the images below, there was a slight issue with the entree's overall presentation. Nevertheless, even though it took about 3-1/2 hours for the dinner service to be completed, everything was delicious and well worth the wait.
After enjoying dinner, I decided log onto the the flights' Wi-Fi system ($1 for 500MB!)….. In fact, most of the images in this post were uploaded during the flight (FYI: The service speed varies on the number of people using the service during the flight, as well as the satellite positioning & transmission speed).
Since I planned on getting sleep starting at 2/3rd's of the flight, I headed towards the back of the aircraft to experience the bar area which is for the exclusive use of passengers seated in Emirates' premium classes. This is truly the centerpiece of this aircraft and it was QUITE the lively place to be during the the flight. Just a word of caution: Avoid selecting seats in the rows near the lounge - unless you are a very sound sleeper. I noticed boisterous talking and such emanating from the bar area which bled beyond the curtains separating the cabin from the bar (at least 4 rows before you reach the curtain) - understandably so since the drinks served back there are strong. So be sure to avoid rows 23-26 if you plan to get rest.
The inflight entertainment system, aptly named: ICE (Information, Communication, Entertainment) is pretty impressive - and not just because it has a vast array of offerings. You have 3 ways to control the system as well as view the airshow and on-board cameras: The main 18 screen (which is a touchscreen), the wireless iPad-like tablet and the PSP-like wired handheld device. I would've liked to have seen (and utilize) a mid-flight snack & beverage ordering feature included with ICE (as per the norm with Virgin America and other airlines), so that flight attendants don't have to make double trips to your seat in order to address your nosh request (thus, keeping the cabin movement noise to a minimum). Additionally, if you find yourself needing to hydrate, you can conveniently enjoy waters, juices and sodas directly from your personal in-seat bar.
Unlike some people, I totally get Emirates' approach to the wood accents in the premium cabins (which a lot of reviewers have panned as gaudy in the past): I've concluded that Emirates' wants passengers to experience surroundings which are common on a private jet. However, I would've liked that the wood paneled doors for the side compartments (which house blankets and personal items) be easier to open: The latches would hook too aggressively and I easily spent up to a minute or so - each time - fussing with the compartment doors to open.
The seating is comfortable - however, if you have broad shoulders like me, the fully-flat recline might be a bit tight on the (due to the closed spaces created by the seating unit). Surprisingly enough, I had to create my on turndown service for this flight as one wasn't offered from this particular flight crew (?!). Nevertheless, I was able to enjoy 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep once I got myself situated and then put on Emirates' noise-canceling headphones and selected the sleep-inducing, natural sounds offering available on Emirates' ICE system.
If you want sound sleep during the flight, this audio program on ICE will do it for you…..
I think I did a fairly decent turndown service for myself…. What do you think?
After waking up from my restful slumber, I ordered a snack……which quickly put me back to sleep for another 90 minutes - LOL!
Smoked Salmon Focaccia
About 2 hours before landing, breakfast was served (yes, breakfast….even though my flight was landing around 7:30pm)
Scrambled Eggs with Chives
Somewhere over Iran……approaching Dubai
Once we landed, I proceeded through Dubai's ginormous and glistening airport to arrive at customs. During the flight, I was told that using the airport's new Smart Gates would be the fastest option to clear immigration (supposedly faster than the Emirates' Fast Track immigration service for Premium customers). However, the Smart Gates started to malfunction around the time I got in the queue, so the whole lot of travelers using the Smart Gates had to go through manual processing - with only 2 agents to assist. Truly, this day, the traditional way of clearing immigration everyone else was using was much faster. Once I cleared immigration, I grabbed my bags (which were just making their way down the carousel as I arrived) and then I breezed through customs and then I made a quick right turn to enter Emirates' Chauffeur Drive lounge. Once I arrived here, I was immediately assisted by a representative who provided me with the documentation I needed in order to secure my car. From there, I exited the lounge (and was nearly overwhelmed by the high heat outdoors), presented another Emirates' representative with my information and within moments, I was in the car (and back in an air conditioned environment), and on my way to the 5-Star resort, Fairmont, The Palm for my multiple night stay in Dubai.
View from my room at the luxurious Fairmont, The Palm resort
To experience my journey throughout Dubai, please review my video here:
Special thanks to Dirk Grothe for his permission for me to use his photo for my cover page - as this is the actual aircraft which I flew and featured in this report (on that note, this aircraft was a very new addition to Emirates' A380 fleet when I flew it: A6-EOG was delivered to Emirates March 2, 2015!). Please view Dirk's Planespotter page here:http://www.planespotters.net/Member/webdelfin/photo.search
Los Angeles - LAX
Dubai - DXB
Emirates is impressive and certainly tops ALL U.S. carriers flying internationally. Beyond the slight delay at the check-in counter, the airline is on-point for L.A. departures, and their lounge is certainly the most desirable place to be at TBIT. On-board, the seats were comfortable (no massage feature though) and the in-seat amenities were nice and well thought out. Although, for the price paid, I would have expected that the flight attendants would be friendlier and more personable - a few of them seemed a rather blase' and complacent during the flight (however, the flight attendant who greeted passengers upon boarding - and who ended up having bartending duties during the flight - was great!) .
For my first time on the A380, I was very impressed with how the aircraft performed! The taxi (especially) and takeoff were EXTREMELY quiet, even though I could feel the sheer power coming from the A380's Rolls Royce engines once the Captain throttled-up. Plus, sitting on the top level of this aircraft (which is dedicated to premium class passengers) gave the illusion that there was no one below us and that this aircraft was truly a single-level, premium class flight (very similar to SQ's old EWR / LAX - SIN nonstop flights, which were ALL Business Class.
Looking forward to sharing my return flight experience soon! :-)
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