Review of Emirates flight Chennai Dubai in Economy

Airline Emirates
Flight EK545
Class Economy
Seat 30K
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 03:30
Take-off 13 Jun 22, 10:15
Arrival at 13 Jun 22, 12:15
EK   #2 out of 75 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 590 reviews
Proximanova
Published on 20th September 2022

Dream Destination Dubai: Introduction


Hello and welcome to my next trip report! After taking a break of two months, I will continue writing on my remaining flights in June 2022, publishing one trip report per month until December. Here’s a taste of what’s to come on this EKxciting journey!
September 2022: EK545 | MAA–DXB | 13 June 2022 | 777-300ER | A6-EPF (this report)
October 2022: EK546 | DXB–MAA | 17 June 2022 | 777-300ER | A6-ENJ
November 2022: TG338 | MAA–BKK | 27 June 2022 | 777-200ER | HS-TJW
December 2022: TG403 | BKK–SIN | 27 June 2022 | A350-900 | HS-THL

By that time (December) I will have started my next India trip, where hopefully I will include a trip to Delhi. Further details are not confirmed yet!

This is a continuation of my existing trip reports on Thai Airways and IndiGo, covering the journey to India in June.
* TG404 |  SIN–BKK | 3 June 2022 | A350-900 | HS-THF
* TG325 | BKK–BLR | 3 June 2022 | A350-900 | HS-THJ
 * 6E6825 | BLR–MAA | 4 June 2022 | A320neo | VT-IZD 


Routing

  • EK545 | Chennai to Dubai | 13 June 2022 | 777-300ER | A6-EPF You are here
  • EK546 | Dubai to Chennai | 17 June 2022 | 777-300ER | A6-ENJ Coming soon

Planning


I have had a lifelong fascination for the glamorous Middle Eastern metropolis of Dubai. With its dazzling skyscrapers — including the crowning glory of them all, the Burj Khalifa, which is the world’s tallest building — its endless shopping arcades and its numerous tourist attractions, it was unfortunate that I had so far never visited Dubai, or indeed anywhere west of Mumbai. Indeed, the only two foreign countries I had ever visited so far were Singapore and Thailand, not counting a brief transit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — which has the honour of being the first-ever foreign city that I visited, during my first Singapore trip in October 2013.

Many of my friends had visited the emirate as kids and were wowed by all the attractions: The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, the Palm Jumeirah and Atlantis, and so on, plus new ones having sprung up over the last decade like the Bollywood Parks Dubai. Not to mention, it had been preparing to host Expo 2020 for the better part of the 2010s, and after being postponed due to the pandemic, it was eventually held from October 2021 to March 2022, which was a bit too early for me to visit since I was going through my final university semester. Above all, I would be able to experience Emirates Airline and its home at DXB firsthand, which have turned the UAE into a major force in global aviation and perhaps the most prominent country for tourism in the Arab world.

By the third week of May, I was ready with a list of attractions, flights and hotels, and all that was left was asking my dad to book them. I had it all meticulously planned to the last detail, from the flights, to the transfer from airport to hotel, to the visa application, and on 21 May my dad booked the journey by making good use of a bunch of Emirates Skywards miles that were expiring in June. Emirates was running a promotion at the time offering one night free at the Hilton Garden Inn Al Muraqabat for Economy Class passengers originating in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (or two nights free at the JW Marriott Marquis for Business/First Class passengers), but since this trip was purchased using Skywards miles, it did not qualify for the offer. Which is just as well, since the hotel I ended up choosing (Courtyard by Marriott World Trade Centre) gave the perfect blend of excellent location and opulent rooms at a pocket-friendly price.

It is also wonderful that Emirates has daytime flights to Indian cities — instead of the usual nighttime departures, as is the norm from India to most international destinations — allowing me four proper nights and days to tour Dubai without having to suffer from sleep deprivation. The chosen flights were as follows:
• EK545 | Monday, 13 June 2022 | depart MAA 09:50 IST (08:00 UTC +4) | arrive DXB 12:25 UTC +4 (13:55 IST)
• EK546 | Friday, 17 June 2022 | depart DXB 14:50 UTC +4 (16:20 IST) | arrive MAA 20:30 IST (19:00 UTC +4) 


Departure: Chennai Airport


Route expansion at Chennai


I have written much about the decrepitude of my home airport, Chennai Airport (MAA), which has been perpetually mismanaged by the Airports Authority of India and the Tamil Nadu state government, who as a result have severely hamstrung its growth opportunities. Most airlines prefer Bengaluru as their South Indian gateway, as seen with KLM, JAL and more recently Qantas Airways, which launched service to BLR from Sydney this month. Nevertheless, Chennai has still managed to bag a handful of new international airlines like Air France and Ethiopian Airlines, which operate to MAA a few times a week in addition to their flights to Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi.

AF has upgraded its frequencies — from the single weekly flight in January, as seen with my Singapore Airlines flight at the time, to a more respectable 3x weekly — and its equipment, from the 777-200ER to the 787-9, as a result of strong demand. Meanwhile ET launched its 3x-weekly Chennai flights in July, after being postponed due to the pandemic, having been planned since 2019. Furthermore, Japan’s All Nippon Airways plans to resume Chennai service in October, after seeing barely any service at all during the pandemic months and ‘air bubble’ period — though it is a different matter that Japan remains closed to tourists, so this will likely target business travellers. ANA is one of the very few global airlines to be serving Chennai but not Bengaluru.

But there have been a few constant presences, among them being Emirates, which has persisted with 3x daily Chennai flights, given that it is one of the biggest Indian cities in terms of demand to the UAE. EK flights from Chennai always leave from Gate 17, in the new international departures section, in contrast to most other airlines which use Gates 11–16 in the old international terminal. Combined with the better-than-usual check-in experience, this was one of the only times where I did not resent flying out of Chennai as opposed to much nicer airports like Bengaluru and Mumbai.


Pre-departure


I got up quite early and found out that the incoming flight, EK544, was operated by A6-EPF, a six-year-old 777-300ER that Flightradar24 mistakenly showed as still being painted in the Expo 2020 Sustainability livery, which would have been special. This bird, then, was my first-ever 777 and first-ever A6-registered aircraft.

Astonishingly enough, it turns out that my first two Emirates aircraft registrations ended with F and J (A6-EPF and A6-ENJ) — which was exactly the case with my first-ever A350s and Thai Airways aircraft (HS-THF and HS-THJ) earlier that month. Indeed, in each case the first flight (on the registrations ending with F) was a truly first-class experience, and the second one (on the registrations ending with J) was a J-class (business-class) experience, with a few minor quibbles which did not cause much negative impact. This despite sitting in EKonomy!


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Interestingly, one of the international arrivals at MAA was an A330 freighter operated by Chengdu-based Sichuan Airlines. Chinese cargo airlines like SF Airlines, YTO Cargo Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines Cargo have consistently operated to Chennai throughout the pandemic, as it is one of the biggest cargo hubs and manufacturing destinations in India, and therefore a crucial entryway for India–China trade and business.


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A few shots before and while leaving home.


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By 7:50am I reached the international departure terminal, and lined up at the first set of departure gates with my ticket and passport. Security forces checking each passenger’s passport and ticket is a standard practice at all Indian airports, unlike foreign airports where you simply waltz into the terminal.


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The first few counters were all for Emirates, given the large number of passengers. There was a self-check-in kiosk, which was only for Lufthansa and British Airways passengers.


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At long last, I would be ‘flying better’ — a reference to Emirates’ slogan nowadays, which sounds a bit more generic than ‘Fly Emirates. Keep Discovering.’ and ’Hello Tomorrow’ that were used in the previous two decades.


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My parents and grandmother waved goodbye from outside the departure terminal, as they always do.


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In a few moments I was through check-in, and proceeded to security with my boarding pass. At the bottom you can see the violet carry bag that I had bought at Suvarnabhumi Airport ten days earlier. This was hands down one of my best departures experiences at MAA. Little did I know the horrors that lay in store two weeks later for my Thai Airways flight to Bangkok…


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Aside from Café Coffee Day and Sri Krishna Sweets, there are barely any food shops in Chennai Airport’s international terminal, certainly not from any reputed international brands. The domestic departures terminal is marginally better with a few restaurant chains — though I haven’t been there in years — but it is still very much short of expectations. Chennai remains the only large Indian airport not to have a WHSmith or Relay bookshop, a staple at pretty much every other big Indian airport, not only the private-run ones but also government-operated ones like Kolkata and Pune which I visited in 2018–19.


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There were a bunch of international flights throughout the day, especially on SriLankan Airlines to CMB, but this paled in contrast to the flurry of nighttime departures. Of these, I have taken the AI346 flight to Singapore several times, which was occasionally operated using the 787-8 — especially during the ‘air bubble’ period until March 2022 — but now has gone back to the inferior A320neo, which I’d say is worse than even IndiGo’s A320neos due to the lack of IFE that a full-service carrier is supposed to have.

One airline that is unfamiliar to most readers is US-Bangla Airlines, the largest private airline in Bangladesh, for which Chennai is an important destination since thousands of people from Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal (whose capital, Kolkata, I was born in) flock to Chennai for high-quality, affordable medical treatment. It is currently the only operator on the Dhaka–Chennai route, as Maldivian (which flew from Malé to Chennai, continuing on to Dhaka) has not operated this route since the pandemic — flying directly from Malé to Dhaka instead — and indeed Chennai does not currently have any direct flights to the Maldives, unlike Bengaluru and other Indian cities like Kochi.


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And yet there were ticketing counters for Maldivian as well as ANA, which were closed, of course. ANA has scheduled its Chennai return to be at the start of the winter schedule on 30 October, but with Maldivian this is far from a sure thing. That airline has only one A320 and one A321 for all its medium-haul flights, flying the former (8Q-IAN, built 2004) from Malé to Dhaka, and the latter (8Q-IAI, built 2005) to Dhaka as well the cities of Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram in the southwestern state of Kerala, aside from occasional flights to Gan Island within the atoll country. It sure would be nice if Maldivian inducted a couple of new A320s, as other airlines from tiny countries like Bhutan’s Drukair and the Faroe Islands’ Atlantic Airways have done.


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The immigration counters were hardly occupied, a stark contrast to the throngs of crowds at night, because of which I nearly missed my Thai Airways flight two weeks later, thanks to the snafus by the check-in staff. You can see that the notice for prohibited items on the screen at the centre of the picture has the logo of Bengaluru Kempegowda Airport and its green-yellow-red colours. Trust the Airports Authority of India to copy-paste from successful private airports. The notice on the right-hand screen, similarly, was pinched from Qatar Airways and uses its Jotia font.


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In a few minutes I was through immigration and security, and proceeded to Gate 17, the standard gate for all Emirates flights at MAA, which was a very short walk away.


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I bought a canned drink from a Coca-Cola vending machine. ₹100 (around US$1.25) is expensive by Indian standards but the norm at Indian airports, which are known for overpriced food.


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Meanwhile A6-EPF had arrived and was sunning her wings as the passengers from the inbound flight disembarked.


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To the left was 9K-AKM, a Kuwait Airways A320 that was ready to depart as KU342.


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To the right was A4O-BK, a 737-900ER that had just arrived from Muscat as WY251.


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Further right was 9M-AGA, which would fly to Kuala Lumpur as AK10. This is the Malaysian AirAsia’s lowest flight number. Nine years ago, in 2013, when I had flown AirAsia to Kuala Lumpur — my first-ever international flight — this flight number was AK1254. (For the record, that plane was 9M-AHY. I still have all the details of that 2013 trip written on a paper and stored safely in my Chennai home.)


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These were some of the planes on the ground at the time, including the aforementioned Sichuan Airlines A330 (B-308P), which was not visible from the terminal.


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My hunger not having been satiated, I went to one of the very few airside food shops and bought some sandwich or the other, which was decent, plus a fruit juice. Though it was expensive, that was a good thing, as I had to use up my Indian Rupee change.


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Save for a classical Indian painting above the shops, the terminal had nothing much to it.


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The shops at MAA are invariably for small knick-knacks and gadgets, and none of them are run by any famous company. You can see just how unprofessional this looks when compared to Bengaluru, which has all sorts of major brands in the domestic terminal itself, not to mention the international one — as seen in my previous flight report.


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This is the apology of a bookstore that MAA’s international terminal has instead of a proper Relay or WHSmith.


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A comedy sequence from a Tamil movie was playing on TV. This channel, Adithya TV — run by the Sun network, the biggest broadcaster from South India — shows only such comedy sequences throughout the day.


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Prepare for EKxhilaration


Soon enough, at 8:30am, the flight attendants started to board.


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By now 9M-AGA had departed…


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…and 9K-AKM was taxiing…


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…when 4R-ALQ, an A330-300 from Colombo, pulled into the gate.


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I glanced around and noticed that someone was reading about a young fashion designer who had taken her own life. Distressing times!


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Enough with that. At around 9:10am, after 9K-AKM had lifted off for Kuwait, boarding started to be called for business class passengers, Emirates Skywards elite members, etc. I decided to have a look at the menu for today’s flight.


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Soon enough we were called to board. Such crowds are the norm for any Emirates flight to India. No wonder it accounts for a huge chunk of of international Indian passengers to many countries.


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I was absolutely pumped to be boarding a 777 for the first time, and every second on this flight would take me further west than I’d ever been before! That too on Emirates, the global grandmaster of the 777 and A380 — though business-class passengers on the 777, with its ridiculous seven-abreast seating, may not have such a happy experience compared to the groundbreaking revolution that is the multi-award-winning Qatar Airways Qsuite. It’s a shame Papa Foxtrot no longer sported the Expo 2020 livery, though, and that would have been a special treat.


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A view of the Omani 737 and SriLankan A330 on the apron. In a couple of years they will be alliance partners, as Oman Air is joining Oneworld, spearheaded by its close ally and global giant Qatar Airways.


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Papa Foxtrot, here we come. It’s showtime!


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The flight


Flight: Emirates Airline EK545/UAE545
Date: Monday, 13 June 2022
Route: Chennai (VOMM/MAA) to Dubai International (OMDB/DXB)
Aircraft: A6-EPF, Boeing 777-300ER
Age: 6.7 years (first flight: 29 October 2015, delivered: 20 November 2015)
Seat: 30K (window)
Boarding: 9:25am IST, UTC +5:30 (7:55am UTC +4)
Departure: 10:05am IST (8:35am UTC +4)
Arrival: 12:20pm UTC +4 (1:50pm IST)
Duration: 3 hours 45 minutes

Notes:
First flight on Emirates Airline (or any A6-registered aircraft)
First flight on any Boeing 777
First flight to Dubai
First flight flying west of India 


Settling into the EKxperience


An Indian flight attendant, Maneesha Mohanan — I had some five seconds to speed-read the name from her lapel badge — welcomed me on board. A little girl was led in ahead of me.


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Here’s a quick snap of some cabin-crew service screen; I had to be discreet so could not get it to be clearer.


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I walked through the infamous seven-abreast business class. Outdated, no doubt, but still not a bad way to fly to Dubai. That’s not even counting the first class on this aircraft.


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Economy had a cool purple mood-lighting effect.


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The screen on the bulkhead displayed the local time and other flight details.


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I settled into my window seat, 30K. Immediately I was floored by the high-resolution monitor and touchscreen remote control, plus the USB port and headphone jacks — I wouldn’t expect anything less from EK. Not for nothing is Emirates’ ice the world’s most highly regarded inflight entertainment system. Airlines with a proper seatback IFE are so much nicer than those who have joined the screen-cutting brigade and moved to streaming IFE. (I didn’t end up visiting the Burj Al Arab, though!)


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I started up the inflight map.


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The resolution on both monitor and handset was crisp and clear, which unfortunately wasn’t the case on my second EK flight, despite that aircraft (November Juliet) not being particularly old — indeed, only two years older than Papa Foxtrot.


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This is when the autoplay was turned on, on the ground, and not the actual position during the flight.


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Soon enough the introduction to the ice IFE system started.


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In addition to the safety card there was a shopping catalogue. Too bad that Emirates has discontinued its inflight magazine, Open Skies, as with so many other airlines around the world. I similarly missed SQ’s SilverKris and TG’s Sawasdee on my flights with them earlier this year. They all could at least have kept a digital version, but no…


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At least the shopping catalogue had a section on the Emirates experience — or, as I’ve called it above, the ‘EKxperience’.


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At 9:50am we started to taxi, and the safety video played. EK’s version is pretty standard, without any of the fancy locales and little touches that TG, SQ, etc. have. This is an area where I think it sure could show off its Emirati heritage, global reach, sports and event sponsorships or any of the million and one things that EK is known for.


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In front of us was VT-TDT, the sole aircraft of TajAir, the Tata Group’s private-jet subsidiary.


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Now I turned on the external cameras. While no match for the tail camera on the Thai Airways A350, the nose and belly cameras on the 777 are still pretty damn good, and high-resolution as well. (Oddly, the top headlines in Reuters were almost always in German for the initial part of the flight!)


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The sheer customisability was simply unbelievable, and it goes to show how detailed and involved EK’s IFE system is. Only Qatar and SQ have been able to come close. In the typography department, however, I think EK could have done a little more and used its own signature font instead of the system standard font, which QR has done with its Oryx One system, as well as a handful of other airlines around the world — especially in Europe and Oceania.


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We continued to turn towards the runway.


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The Omani 737 with her beautiful blue tail and sharp, pointy nose had started to follow us.


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Ahead was an IndiGo A321neo, VT-IMJ, which had just landed as 6E971 from Chandigarh (IXC) in the north of the country.


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Soon the terminal of MAA — which I love to hate, but is my home at the end of the day — was far behind.


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The mood lighting had switched from the TG-esque purple to a more flydubai-esque blue and orange. I plugged in my phone to my neighbour’s AC power outlet, since my seat — being the rightmost of three — didn’t have one.


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Here were today’s flight details. Including the registration (A6-EPF) in the IFE is such a lovely detail for an avgeek like me, and something that hardly any other airline does. Sometimes, the Reuters headlines were in Arabic instead of German. There were English headlines only when we reached cruising altitude.


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And these details were even on the handset! Emirates has truly put in immense effort into its inflight entertainment system, even on a tiny mobile-sized remote controller.


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Now I delved a bit more into EK’s fleet and other airline information.


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It’s funny how EK is contradicting itself with its statement that its A380 is the closest you can get to a private jet, when the new 777 first class is currently the only commercial product in the world with floor-to-ceiling privacy. Sadly, only nine 777s (A6-EQH to A6-EQP) have it, and so it will remain until the first 777X arrives around 2026, as EK has refused to refit any existing aircraft with it — or, at least, refused to comment on the matter.


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TaEK-off!


The mighty GE90 engines roared at 10:13am and we hurtled towards the runway.


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Ahead of us, 4R-ALQ was ready to start her much shorter journey to Colombo.


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The wheels were finally up at 10:15am, and I was dumbstruck with wonder at looking at the plane’s shadow through the belly camera. My dad has flown EK countless times in the past on business trips, and today, it was my turn: I was the one soaring through to the sands of Arabia on the majestic 777-300ER, the grandest single-decker aircraft flying today.


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EKxploring the world’s best inflight entertainment


A mask and sanitiser bottle were distributed to each passenger before takeoff.


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Shortly after takeoff I headed to the Information section of the IFE.


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Brochure-like descriptions of some of the major attractions of Dubai were present. This is reminiscent of the destination descriptions on my previous flights with Thai Airways, though EK’s focus is on its home city and it doesn’t have the ‘Travelport’ app present on TG, which covers a number of cities across the world.


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Region-by-region breakdowns of Emirates’ destinations were presented in the form of animated maps which grew to include new destinations.


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While I was reading about the Emirates Airline Foundation, three reminders were presented at the top of the screen asking passengers to wear their masks, dispose of used items and look up the menu online.


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However, even though the Wi-Fi portal was active on this flight, I could not connect to it for some reason, though it did work on the return flight from Dubai. This may have something to do with the fact that India has not permitted inflight Wi-Fi coverage for many years, though legislation has slowly been changing, and on the return I could use the Wi-Fi up until the wheels touched down in Chennai.


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These were the Communications and Entertainment menus, for reference, plus the latter’s Recommended section.


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I moved to my favourite section, Indian movies. There was a massive selection of Bollywood movies, and movies in a dozen Indian regional languages, which is astoundinlgy vast for even a streaming platform, let alone an airline. It shows just how mind-bogglingly massive EK’s entertainment selection is for passengers from all corners of the globe. All other airlines (including SQ) will struggle to have one or two dozen Hindi movies, but EK has hundreds of movies, shows and songs not only in Hindi but also in other Indian languages!


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I settled on Good Newwz (2019), a comedy on in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) that was one of the last big box-office successes before the pandemic hit.


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As the film played, I enjoyed the moving map on the handheld controller below. 


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Playback controls were available on both the screen and the handset. I think that EK’s system of assigning a ‘channel number’ to each title is simply a way for it to boast its unparallelled entertainment selection with thousands of titles — given that hardly any other airline can do so — rather than a means for users to actually punch in a four-digit number that they will anyway forget long before they step off the plane.


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Service and dining on board


Some 30 minutes into the flight, at 10:40am IST, Khoutoud, a bespectacled flight attendant, came out with a Polaroid camera and took pictures of both my co-passengers, then handed the instant photo to them. Aside from her, the other cabin crew working my aisle were Najlaa and Ionela.

While I could not take home the Polaroid picture of my first flight on EK as a souvenir, since it belonged to my seatmates, this is yet another fantastic little touch that helps greatly in establishing EK’s reputation as a detail-oriented airline where the cabin crew is not only for safety and service but also for making memories.


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Lunch was served at 11:30am IST, or 10am Dubai time, by flight attendant Ionela. I had gone for the non-vegetarian option. It consisted of the following items:
(a) orzo chaat, a mix of pasta and salad vegetables served along with a savoury mix (bottom centre of the picture), which I found weird;
(b) the main course, chicken tikka masala with jeera (cumin) rice and a cashewnut, which was delectable and worth a second helping;
© gajar semiya kheer (carrot and vermicelli pudding) garnished with raisins and cashews, a sweet and delicious Indian dessert;
(d) the obligatory bread roll and Amul butter blister pack, which airlines might as well not offer given their carb-heavy meals;
(e) condiments and sides such as a mouth freshener, a mango thokku pickle, salt and pepper sachets, and tissues;
(f) a cup of Mai Dubai-branded water — this is a brand that’s now synonymous with Emirates catering;
(g) a glass of Sprite, which I always request for to go with an airline meal, as I don’t drink alcohol (yet!).

All of these items were impressive, except for the chaat, which I found to be nothing like the tangy masala mixtures found across the country, and very bland. It’s no wonder that EK hit a home run in the catering department with its Indian dishes, which is no surprise given its well-begotten reputation of offering passengers a taste of home no matter where they come from.


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Later, after the meal was over, Ionela also handed out a ‘beverage pack’ — a strange label, according to me — that consisted of a stirrer and a tissue. For some reason, this odd label reminded me of the ‘leg refreshing towel’ that I have come across in reviews of All Nippon Airways’ first class, though of course the Emiratis (thanks to their British influence and globalisation) are bound to have a far stronger command of English than the Japanese.


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I did not fail to note down the proceedings in my trusty journal, especially for a personally historic flight like this.


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Post-dining service


At some point, a list of connecting flights at Dubai was made available, including EK546, the afternoon flight to Chennai that was also operated by A6-EPF on that day.


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For much of the rest of the flight I enjoyed the movie, though not the entirety of it: soon enough I moved to the climax delivery scene.


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Then I tried my hand at a crossword game, one of the hundreds of games featured on ice. Even though it was designed in 2003, it was still perfectly optimised for the touch-operated devices of today!


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Soon, at 12:52pm IST (11:22am GMT +4), we were only an hour away from Dubai.


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Arrival at DXB, the world’s third-busiest airport prepandemic


In Dubai we land, amidst the glittering sand


We had already reached the mountains — Emirati or Omani ones, I cannot say — and were due for landing in a short while.


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Some time before landing an advertisement for the Museum of the Future, Dubai’s latest technofuturistic attraction, was played. This striking monument was located quite close to my hotel, and Emirates also has a number of A380s painted to promote it — including A6-EVK, which was involved in an incident in July where it landed with a big hole in the fuselage.


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The airshow had constant reminders to stay protected and keep everyone safe.


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By now we were flying over the deserts of Dubai, and the city suburbs were within sight.


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The plane flew over the coast and turned back inland.


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Before long we were close to kissing the ground at DXB. Plenty of airlines were present at Terminal 1, including two planes from Air India and one from Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines.


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There were a variety of rare and colourful aircraft on the tarmac, such as Uzbekistan Airways, Azerbaijan Airlines and Iran’s Mahan Air.


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At 12:15pm local time (1:45pm IST) I touched down in Arabia for the first time, marking a historic moment in my life, as this was the furthest west I had ever been.


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Welcome to the EK-park!


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The display showed a customer satisfaction survey, which of course was unheeded.


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This was followed by a thank-you message for flying Emirates.


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At 12:20pm A6-EPF taxied to the gate, giving an interesting view through the nose camera.


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This warning was quite apt for the typical Indian passengers who always rush for the baggage racks and towards the exit whenever their plane touches down.


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Only now did I notice the provided headphones, and in any case airline headphones in economy class are not exactly worth using, in my opinion — it’s always much better (not to mention safer) to carry your own.


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Two older 777s landed beside me in quick succession: A6-EBY (EK820 from Riyadh) and A6-ECR (EK657 from Malé). My razor-sharp eyes could pick out the registrations from the window, but it was only afterwards, when I connected to the Internet, that I could find out where they came from.


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Soon it was time to set foot in DXB for the first time, and I thanked the cabin crew and proceeded to leave Papa Foxtrot.


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Sister-ship A6-EPI was parked next to us.


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One last look at Papa Foxtrot before entering the terminal. I will always be thankful to this bird for taking me on my first journey West.


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The famed DXB Terminal 3, hub of the world


The passengers proceeded to the arrivals area, which was located a floor down.


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 There were tourism ads for Jordan and the nearby Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.


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I knew beforehand of the ongoing promotion where arriving passengers are given a free tourist SIM card, in conjunction with local telecom company du, and I personally think it is an outstanding touch by the UAE government which greatly relieves the tension of getting connected in a foreign land. Buying tourist SIM cards is not a particularly enjoyable process otherwise.


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Downstairs, I proceeded to immigration, where there was an ad for El Salvador’s kiosk at the recently-concluded Expo 2020.


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A number of passengers had taken advantage of ground handling company Marhaba’s arrival and immigration services.


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Now I was at the immigration gates, where I showed my passport and received a free 5G SIM card from du.


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Within twenty minutes my luggage arrived at Belt 3A, which was being shared with EK958 from Basra, Iraq.


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Among the many arrivals at DXB that afternoon was A6-ENJ, the very same aircraft that would take me back to Chennai four days later. Today she was arriving from Kolkata, the city of my birth, as EK571. I love the way she is landing on the snow in this photo!


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Then I headed out towards the taxi stand, where I was already being awaited by a Pakistani agent from CarTrawler, the travel company with which Emirates had partnered for airport transfer services.


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At last I was face-to-face with the iconic red tubular ad that has welcomed hundreds of millions of travellers from all over the world. It was so exhilarating and satisfying.


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I was led to the Toyota Highlander SUV which was waiting for me. The agent briefly conversed with the driver, also a Pakistani, and we were good to go. This was the first time I had sat in a left-hand-drive car in my life, or indeed visited a left-hand-drive country, and it is with this note of significance that I end this chapter of my journey.


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As a result I have also hit the 150-picture limit for writing reports on this website; though I have come close on previous occasions, this is the first time I have actually reached the limit!

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Verdict

Emirates

9.3/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi10.0
Meal/catering9.0

Chennai - MAA

7.3/10
Efficiency8.5
Access6.0
Services6.5
Cleanliness8.0

Dubai - DXB

9.3/10
Efficiency9.5
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.5

Conclusion

It was a foregone conclusion that this flight was going to knock it out of the park in terms of my onboard experience. Flying Emirates is not just ‘flying better’ but ‘flying so much better that it’s hard to look at the competition’, and that’s particularly true with its globally unmatched entertainment selection, which is so exhaustive that one may have to spend close to a lifetime to watch it all! From the cuisine, to the connectivity and power facilities, and even the Polaroid camera, the airline differentiates its onboard experience so much for people at the back of the bus that I feel tempted to call it the EKonomy EKxperience (as if I haven’t been EK-ifying words enough already in this report!).

For once, Chennai Airport was not a letdown, but was relatively decent, aside from the lack of eating options, and the speedy boarding was by all means a big positive, not to mention using the new part of the international departures section for once. DXB, however, is in a completely different league, and while not quite Changi-level outstanding, it is still a very worthy title-holder as one of the foremost global aviation hubs in the world. The fact that tourists get a free SIM card does not hurt in any way, and indeed it shows how much Dubai and the UAE take tourism (especially from the Indian Subcontinent) seriously. Definitely worth a visit for everyone at least one in their lifetime, Dubai is the global ‘Mecca’ for tourism.

Stay tuned for the return instalment!

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