Greetings Flight-Report Community. Thanks for stopping by and having a look at this report.
For this report series I will be sharing a delightful and frivolous RTW journey that is highlighted by my first trips on Emirates and Japan Airlines. Spoiler alert: I was positively floored by both experiences.
I'll start with an image of the planned route courtesy of Great Circle Mapper (gcmap.com)
As you can see there is a lot of ground covered in this journey. I'll also add that it was paid for in entirely by miles and points. The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan covered the EK LAX-DXB-SIN portion (100K miles), British Airways Avios paid for SIN-KUL (4K ?), and American Airlines Advantage program covered KUL-HKG-HND/NRT-ORD-DFW-LAX portion (67.5K miles).
The purpose of the journey was nothing more than to experience some of the best airlines in the world. I am of the belief that this time in commercial aviation, with the rise of the ME3 and all of the opulence of the cabins and lounges, will someday be looked back on as one of the most grand periods. I suppose we can only look back fondly if the current trends of luxury and excess are not sustainable and correct at some point. This remains to be seen but let's enjoy it while it's here!
Nice to meet you Emirates Airline
It took about a year of accumulating Alaska Airlines miles and then obsessively searching for my desired Emirates award routing so when the day finally arrived suffice it to say I was super jazzed. I arrived at LAX at about 11:00 for a 15:35 departure. This travel day for me is very likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I was going to savor every detail.
I had a nice chat with the Ethiopian parking shuttle driver on the way to the Tom Bradley International terminal. He was quite knowledgeable about the EK operation as he has used the flight on several occasions to return home. The new ET LAX-DUB-ADD flight might change that in the future.
The Emirates desk was just opening upon my arrival and there was no wait to see an agent at the first class podium. I was given boarding passes for both legs of my journey on Emirates and sent on my way. It was surprisingly busy (to me) at this hour and even though I opted for the First/Business class security line it was still a 15 minute process.
My first aircraft sighting on the walk to the security line. Some great liveries but the (almost) winter sun is to the south and washed out the image.
I walked directly to the Emirates lounge excited to enjoy my first meal of the day. I was so excited that I arrived at the lounge before it was open.
I had a five minute wait for the lounge opening so I was able to snap a few photos of the terminal from this, the 6th floor. I added the arrows to illustrate the Emirates Lounge (red) and the Korean Airlines/Skyteam Lounge (black). As an aside I used my Priority Pass card to visit the KAL lounge on this day…and quickly retreated. Oh my, what an unpleasant and poorly appointed lounge when compared to the Oneworld, Star, and EK LAX offerings.
I know I sound like a broken record but the LAX TBIT truly is a world class facility now.
I returned to the Emirates Lounge promptly at 11:35 and I was the first guest admitted for the day. There was a seemingly friendly and smiling female agent at the desk as well as a decidedly unfriendly, almost nervous and jittery, male attendant. I was welcomed in but not offered a tour which seems to be the standard in the premium First Class Lounges I've visited of late. Worry not, I gave myself a tour and with no other guests pictures were more easily accomplished.
The entry hallway with prayer room and restrooms to the left and pleasant paintings of Los Angeles and Dubai on the right.
At the end of the hall and to your right the lounge opens into a dining area.
The left side of the hall has some decorative clocks. Future EK destinations from LAX? ;)
Just beyond the dining area is the main seating area. It's huge, well appointed, and pleasing to the eye. Mind you, at the time of this flight and writing EK has exactly one flight a day from LAX.
Tasteful ( I know, not the word many associate with EK) details like these fresh flowers abound throughout the lounge.
The far end of the lounge offers views down to the gate areas. SQ11 is preparing to head off to NRT.
Work area in the northwest corner of the lounge.
I will also add that during my picture taking spree I was warmly greeted by numerous staff and offered beverages on more than one occasion.
Looking back south across the main seating area and dining area.
Finally a look at the balcony seating area overlooking the central terminal. This is where I decide to setup camp and enjoy some of the food and beverage offerings.
When an airline combines the First Class and Business Class lounges, as most do at outstations, I find the offerings to be decidedly more Business Class than First. This conundrum is handled quite well by Emirates and the I found the food and beverage to be more than adequate as a First Class passenger. Let's take a look at some.
The offerings on the signature Emirates circular buffet.
A variety of hot items on the long buffet.
I retired tot he balcony to snack with the champagne and Voss sparkling water. Offers of refills on beverages were frequent and clearing of plates was also prompt. The wifi worked well and I whiled the time snacking, sipping, and tending to email. I had an eye on the inbound aircraft via the Flightaware app and decided to go down to the gate to watch it arrive.
Some other movements I spotted while waiting for my white whale.
My chariot to Dubai. Fitting that I would be on OC as a resident of the California county often referred to by the same initials.
Some shots of the terminal walking back up to the lounge.
The excitement of the flight was reaching almost unbearable proportions and thankfully it was time to board. The gate area was crowded so I didn't snap any pictures but there was a dedicated First Class boarding lane so I was through instantly.
For this leg I selected seat 4K. I cannot recall if the Moet is the ground champagne or if they go directly to the Dom.
My initial impressions of the cabin were quite positive. I had obsessed over reading trip reports and studying which seat to select. The photos online just can't do justice to the actual feel and ambiance of the cabin. Yes, it's gaudy, but it seemed less so in person. It just seemed right.
It was about this time that I met Melinda (Philippines) and Ping (Thailand), two of the flight attendants that would make this a most memorable flight. They were utterly fantastic in every way. Their professional instincts were impeccable and when we got to chatting about this being my first time on the airline and all of the anticipation and excitement they matched my enthusiasm with their own. It is a true measure of service skill when you can interpret what type of experience each customer desires and then tailor the experience to match, and they did so beautifully.
Other (nonsensical?) features of the seat like the vanity with mood scents.
Warm beverage rack?
The seat itself with the bedding stored in a not-so-elegant manner.
Water and snack basket.
Of course a writing kit. I won't fly without one.
Peeking in at 4K.
The ubiquitous Arabic coffee and dates.
During boarding I had a chance to chat with Melinda and she gave me great information on what I could do during my approx. 8 hour layover in Dubai. Also, Ping procured a Polaroid-type camera and offered me pictures at various spots around the airplane. I was truly moved by their personal outreach. Also during this time I was introduced to the two (2!) shower/spa attendants and offered the first choice of appointment. I opted for 60 or 90 minutes prior to landing (whatever was the latest they would offer).
The other shower on Emirates, as in the shower of amenities.
Another view of the cabin, which I would estimate was 10/14. The seats are so private it's difficult to tell which are occupied.
Eventually it was time to depart and seat belts were buckled and the mighty Airbus lurched backwards.
Neighbors from the EU. Sorry, many of the passengers that would have traditionally been on board with you are now sitting here with me.
I'm such a sucker for the camera/maps/instrument displays.
After a long roll on 25R we are airborne.
Completing the loop around the bay and heading north over Malibu.
Of course I am diligently monitoring the instruments ;)
Menus are distributed when the crew is released to start service. My apologies but I think I recall being overwhelmed by choice so I did not photograph the phone book sized menu.
Melinda appeared quickly to begin yet another Emirates shower, that of the 2005 Dom.
I took a look around ICE and all of the various configurations of the video and input devices. It is an amazing system. Highest marks.
Views of the Southern Sierras distracted me.
I started the culinary voyage with canapes and the beautiful 2005 Dom. Nothing here was particularly good (except the wine!) but I tasted each item and I sure like the way they look.
The table was deployed and set for the more serious dining that was to commence.
If caviar is on the menu I will request it. Emirates does a perfect presentation. I will note that the caviar is plated from individual tins and I noticed distinct differences in the taste and quality of the 3 (three!) portions I was served over the course of the 16 hour flight.
Round 1. Complete with chilled Russian Standard Imperia vodka. They also have the smooth and lovely Grey Goose vodka but the Russian variety seemed right.
After the caviar I requested the Consomme. It was rich yet light, if that's possible. There was also a choice of the creamy soup but opted against.
Going straight down the menu, and because of all of the great flight reports I've read, the Mezze was next. This is a silly amount of food that only leads to waste. I wish they could/would provide one quarter portions of each item for those of us that just want to experience the flavors. It is both beautiful and delicious. There's houmous, moutabel, muhammara, shanklish salad, tabouleh, seafood salad and stuffed vine leaves, with warm lamb kibbeh, spinach fatayer and cheese sambousek. Outstanding.
Up next was the last dish I managed, the poached lobster. I didn't even make it out of the appetizer section and was overwhelmed with interesting flavors and textures. It was a great journey indeed.
A towel and some chocolates were presented upon my surrender.
About this time the cabin lights were dimmed and the starts were coming out. Obviously it was time to go out on the town.
I took an opportunity to freshen up and peruse the First Class drink display.
This one caught my eye.
I was chatting with Ping and after she got her Polaroid and took my picture with the cognac she offered to show me the bar in the rear of the airplane. But of course. This feature, to me, is what really sets Emirates apart from any other carrier I have flown with. Before experiencing this amenity I was sure it was a gimmick…but no, I had a fantastic time. I was among the first to retire to the lounge and would spend the next several hours there. When I was asked what I would like to drink I requested the Hennessy Paradis and after a quick phone call it was delivered.
I can't say enough about this gathering place.I met a lovely Emirati couple traveling home from a vacation in LA and Vegas. They were great fun and open to any questions about life in the UAE and general shape of the politics of the region. I had a nice chat with a couple of Iranian expats from my neck of the woods who were returning to Iran on business. I even met a celebrity of sorts, Vitaly Zdorovetskiy. Finally I can't say enough about the various crew who stopped by to either man the bar or just have a chat.
Here are a few shots of the space. I'm sure my enjoyment of the area was a function of the interesting and diverse group of folks that were friendly and interested in sharing stories.
Snacks, both warm and cold, were constantly replenished.
So, after spending way too much time at the bar and putting a serious dent in that cognac I returned to my seat. I probably exercised poor judgement in trading sleep time for bar/lounge/chat time but that's the way it turned out and I loved every minute of it.
When I arrived back at my seat Melinda quickly came over and asked about my time at the bar. She also offered a snack. Some caviar and Dom sounded a good match and so it was.
And then, at her urging, it was repeated.
Finally I succumbed to the powers of fatigue and had the bed made for some sleep. I managed about 4 hours of rest but wanted to make sure to be awake to experience some breakfast and of course the shower.
Breakfast started with some fruit.
Nest I opted for a traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs with chives on grilled sourdough, served with veal sausages, rösti, baked beans, grilled mushrooms and roasted tomatoes. It was fairly uninspired.
After the meal I was summoned for my spa time and I will admit I was as giddy as one could be. The space is beautiful, the amenities are plentiful and the experience after a long night of abusing food and booze was just perfect.
Not one visit to the lav did I see the hand towel pyramid anything but perfect.
Towel positioned with orchid.
I opt for a moderately warm floor.
Showering over Iran approaching the gulf.
The shower stall with water meter and seat for turbulence.
Utterly refreshed and amazed that this is even possible I return to my seat to this lovely display of towel, fruit and dipping sauce, and framed Polaroids from Ping. Also the UAE fast track immigration card.
We're almost there.
After a smooth touchdown some 15 hours and 14 minutes after leaving Los Angeles we park at concourse B.
With the utmost in gratitude I bid farewell to the spectacular crew and venture off into the next unknown, the UAE.
Los Angeles - LAX
Dubai - DXB
Thank you for your patience and for making it to the summary. A 15+ hour journey can command an lengthy commentary.
I really don't have a whole lot to add in summary that I didn't say above. I researched every aspect of this flight, and others like it, before the trip. I had eliminated any surprises by reading countless reports of the hard product, catering, etc. Yet I was still delighted and surprised at every turn. Perhaps that's the best compliment I can pay.
Please do check back for the other legs in this journey. Happy flying.
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