THE FLIGHT Flight Number: EK007 Aircraft type: Airbus A380-800 Aircraft registration: A6-EER (originally supposed to be on A6-EDR) Seat: 51G
Upon arriving at A-Gates by train, I was greeted by crowds of people at the departure level. Shops are everywhere. It was akin to an atmosphere at a high-end shopping centre. This was my first time ever to step my foot on Arabian Peninsula (well, in airport to say the least), but as much as I was astonished by the sheer magnitude of Terminal 3 – with its duty free shops, amazing array of restaurants, transit hotels and even shower rooms, I found that the people factor can be a bit misleading. Perhaps, I wanted to see the local culture and the local people. Yet, Dubai airport (and the city) has become a magnet for people from all over to come here to earn a living. In DXB, men and women in green uniforms are mostly foreign workers mainly from the Philippines and Indian sub-continent. There is nothing wrong with that, but I guess Dubai can’t survive to where it is today without the hard work of foreign workers who form the majority of the city’s population. Perhaps, next time if I get the opportunity I will step outside the airport and visit the real and authentic Dubai.
I was supposed to transit at DXB for 4.5 hours before my next flight. On the advice of my parents, I didn’t buy any food at the airport because the cost of having a meal there is very expensive. I wasn’t really hungry either and I also want to ensure that I do not want to upset my stomach with so much food before my next flight. Fast forward to 2.30AM, I proceeded to gate A11. While on the way to the waiting lounge which is located a level below departure hall, I came across some sort of a security check manned by three security personnel. I thought it was going to be another security screening. As I approached one of the officers, he politely directed me straight to the waiting lounge without ever having to screen me. Yet, some passengers behind me were asked to pause and had their passports and boarding passes checked. I find it strange.
Anyway, judging by the number of passengers at the waiting lounge, I don’t think it was going to be a full flight either. Boarding was announced. My group was one of the earliest to be called for boarding since I was seated at zone F – the most front section of economy class cabin in EK’s A380. I was very excited as this was my first ever trip onboard Airbus A380. After almost a decade in service, I finally step inside the largest commercial airliner in the world.
Cabin crews greeted us onboard. Once inside, I could feel the spaciousness of the cabin. Zone F is smaller (in regards to number of seats) than other zones in the aircraft, but I feel this zone exudes a greater sense of privacy. I think Zone F is the closest that you can get to a First Class (being located at the most front of the plane)! I chose seat 51G. Based on seatguru.com (http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Emirates_Airlines/Emirates_Airlines_Airbus_A380_B.php, 51G has limited recline and it is very near to the galley. I do agree though on the issue being it is close to the galley, but I think I can recline comfortably. Besides, there is no person behind me that I should be concerned of! Two seats next to me were empty - hence I can put my stuffs there too.
All passengers were now seated. I can’t wait to get off the ground. So, we just have to wait for the door to close and push-back:
30 minutes of waiting… And the front left door was still wide open. One of the cabin crews was standing near the door while his colleague walked pass by me back and forth to the galley and to the next economy zone as if there was an urgent matter. The ground staff was still standing outside near the aerobridge as if he gotten an instruction to do something. Mind you that the temperature outside was 14 degrees Celsius by around 3.00AM. By that time, we were still stuck in the warm and cozy cabin hoping to fly as soon as possible. The pilot soon came on air to inform us that there was a problem that needed to be sorted out. He didn’t mention the kind of problem affecting the delay to us. He said the departure would be delayed by another hour or so. I was getting worried because I had a National Express bus to catch at Heathrow to meet the rest of my family. Any further delay could cause me to miss my bus.
60 minutes and still waiting for whatever problem to be sorted out… I made most of the time by listening to music on ICE. I managed to ask one of the cabin crews on what was really happening. She said it had something to do with emergency. I couldn’t really decipher on what she said. For sure, I started to assume that something wasn’t really right and we would be on a prolong delay. And, things started to gone awry…>>>
A passenger asked the cabin crew on the cause of delay. The crew said she didn’t know the cause either and then politely asked the passenger to go back to his seat. Suddenly, the passenger raised his voice and released his fume of impatience directly at her. Immediately, another passenger seated at 50H turned around and countered back at the impatient passenger. If I remember correctly he said something like, “Didn’t you listen to what the lady just said, she said just go back to your seat!” A war of mouth quickly ensued, and it was all happening just behind me. But, it quickly receded after another passenger seated at 51D asked everyone to calm down. I looked behind to the cabin crew who was standing very near to me; I could see her eyes petrified. She went back to the galley and I turned around once again and saw she tried to hold back her tears. But she couldn’t hold back her tears because the whole but brief incident was too much for her. Her colleagues quickly came to her to offer words of comfort.
It was already around 5.00AM. Very soon after that, it was announced that the problem was unresolved and we were asked to disembark and went back to the terminal. In the terminal, each of us was given a meal voucher. The ground staff told us to be back here by 7.00AM for latest updates. From that moment, I knew I was going to miss my bus. So, I quickly went online via the free 30 minutes Wi-Fi available at the terminal to change my bus ticket schedule. The whole process already cost me more than £20. I looked at the flight information screen and was informed that the flight would depart at 8.00AM. Boarding gate was changed to A13.
My meal voucher.
I used my meal voucher for a breakfast of sushi. Honestly, I didn’t have the mood for breakfast. My thoughts were just trying to reach London as soon as possible.
My breakfast… without the voucher it could have cost me more than Dh60 (or around RM60)! That is ridiculously expensive for me.
Morning sunrise in Dubai. Can you spot the Burj Khalifa?
At 7.00AM, boarding was announced. I hope this time around there won’t be any delays. As we waited at the holding lounge, I noticed that at the far end of the lounge everyone on that corner seemed perturbed by something. Then, ground staffs rushed to the scene. Apparently, a male passenger suddenly lay unconscious on the floor with his face facing down. I am not sure whether he passed out or otherwise. I hope nothing serious. But, seriously the delay affecting us can be emotionally stressful (as I told you just now) and also harmful to your health (which I suspect happening to the man). The ground staffs tried to wake him up as we passed by him to board the plane. I don’t remember seeing any medical officers, perhaps they were on their way to the scene judging by one of the ground staffs instructing the other person via walkie-talkie to ‘speed-up’.
Once inside our replacement aircraft (and a set of replacement crews), I noticed that this plane (reg.: A6-EER) is fitted with the latest generation of ICE. I cheered up because the original aircraft (reg.:A6-EDR) was still fitted with previous generation ICE. So, this time I expect the on-screen touch functionality would be receptive and fluid. After all the passengers were seated, all the doors were closed and we slowly pushed back. While the plane taxied to runway for take-off, I briefly dozed-off. But, as soon as the aircraft reached the runway’s end, I woke-up just to hear the sound of A380 on take-off.
The aircraft began to gain speed, yet it seemed that I only hear the engines thrusting up a bit. I mean the sound of engines thrusting was there, but it was not as powerful as in Boeing 777. For a moment, I was in doubt whether this aircraft can even get off the ground – all because the engine sound was noticeably quieter. However, the airplane did get off the ground. But, when I heard from the cabin, it was as if the engines weren’t thrusting at full speed at all.
I soon dozed-off again as I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Passengers who have been inside A380 during flights say the cabin noise is noticeably quieter than other aircrafts. I can verify that the cabin really is quiet. That makes my previous Boeing 777 flights rather noisy. After about one hour into the flight, brunch was served. This time around, I didn’t pre-order my meal.
1) Appetiser – steamed chicken slices garnished with corn (and some red salad) 2) Main meal – Chicken Biryani Rice with roasted cashew nuts. 3) Dessert – some sort of tiramisu cake topped with white cream of vanilla and caramel. 4) Light bites – 2 types of salt crackers accompanied with a cheese block, a chilli spread and a small bar of chocolate. And also butter spread that came along with the bun.
The main meal tasted rather mild for a Nasi Biryani (we have plenty of this menu back in Malaysia, since Indian food is a norm in our country), not as spicy as I expected. The dessert was something I rather like. The sweetness was a good counter balance to the saltiness of Biryani rice. As for the Light Bites, though I appreciate the packaging and contents, I do think it is best for me to just pack it up and open it later after flight next time I have the opportunity to be onboard EK again. I find that the cracker crumbs can make a meal experience rather messy. Overall, when it comes to portion, a dish that comes along with rice was smaller than what I usually have back in Malaysia. But, on a positive note, this is actually good because too much rice usually not doing any benefits to your health! For a 7+ hour flight, a meal like this is OK for me.
After sitting for 5 hours, I felt the need to standup to stretch my legs. I went to the second right door and took a photo of the engines through a small, magnified window fitted to the door. See photo below:
Cruising over Turkey, near the city of Samsun.
As I watched the view outside, a cabin crew approached me. It looked like she was interested to have some small talk with me. Earlier in the flight when I was seated, the same cabin crew asked me whether I am a Singaporean or Malaysian to which I replied the latter. So, this time around I thought she had more confident to chat with me since she revealed that she is an Indonesian that has been living in Singapore for almost all her life (In my bad Manglish/Singlish accent - Well, same-same area mah!). Our conversation started off with me asking her job background. It was interesting though to hear stories of cabin crews and their real experience with the job that many outside thought a job that exudes glamour.
Well, she said being a cabin crew with Emirates is not as rosy as people outside might think. She has been working there for 9 month already. Yet, she told me a colleague who was made cabin crew with the airline resigned after only 2 months on the job. It must have been stressful for people like her. She said a company like Emirates is all about making money, money comes first. She claimed that every time the company hires new cabin crews, many more will resign. And just as I thought cabin crews get to see the world, she said after long haul flights, they are just so tired that they just want to have a sleep in the hotel because in the next 24 hours, they will have to get back to Dubai. She also told me how she was assigned crew member to our flight at the last minute due to the delay. And knowing that temperature in London was then hovering around 0 degree Celsius, she didn’t have the time to pack enough warm clothing. So the crews would most probably stay in the hotel only. She was surprised to see that despite the delay, everyone seemed to be calm. Well, I told her about the incident that happened in the original flight.
I also told her about my honest experience flying Emirates for the first time back in April 2014. That prompted her to cite an airline company like Singapore Airlines that has a quality that Emirates lacking in some aspect. We have many more topics to discuss, though the most interesting ones I write it up just now. She seemed to be a very nice lady, and she must be courageous enough to work in a company that some critics say has wrongly exploited its employees. But, I personally think cabin crews like her know the challenges and it seemed that she take it with strides.
We chatted for about half an hour. At the end, she gave me this.
Half an hour from Heathrow, we began our descent over Belgium. The descent continued until we were on a brief holding pattern over eastern London – probably due to heavy traffic at Heathrow. The weather was cloudy as we approached the runway. At around 1.00PM local time, the plane safely touched down at LHR. The touch-down was not as smooth as I might expect in a Boeing 777. Some of the passengers were clapping as the plane slides down the runway soon after touch down – probably thinking the pilot had done a good job landing this aircraft smoothly. We immediately vacated the runway and taxied towards the gate at Terminal 3.
We disembarked from the gate. As I step outside, the cold weather started to creep in. I was yet to wear my winter jacket. I only had my jumper on. So I can still maintain my body temperature as warm as possible. I went straight to the immigration clearance thinking that there would be long lines of people. Surprisingly, there were only dozen or so passengers – and I reckon these people might be from our flight queuing up for passport check that afternoon. As my turned came, I was greeted by a friendly UK Border officer. I handed my passport to him. He then asked me my purpose of coming to the UK, duration of my stay, my hotel name and the cities that I would be visiting. I answered his questions confidently. In a matter of minutes, he stamped my passport and let me go.
Yay! Now I finally reached the UK. I claimed my luggage and then went straight to the Heathrow Central Bus Station to wait for my bus.
Dubai - DXB
London - LHR
This was to be the most exhausting part of my journey to UK. It was very frustrating to have my flight being delayed by some problem unbeknownst to us. Let me start with the airports. I find that connecting through DXB is easy, quick and seamless. Shops and restaurants are abundant in the airport and these establishments never close even after midnight. Regarding LHR, previously I have heard countless of people who tell stories of how long the queues are at immigration clearance and they have to wait for their turn for 1-2 hours. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the case after my flight - probably because afternoon is not a peak hour for flights? In terms of Terminal 3 arrival hall, I didn’t find navigating around Terminal 3 was difficult. All I need to do was just read the signs and I won’t get lost.
Despite the delay, once again Emirates has done a good job in their meals. Additionally, the opportunity to chat with one of the cabin crews, or just about anyone onboard can actually be just as socially entertaining, apart from watching movies or sleep. I forget to mention about the Wi-Fi connectivity onboard. I had the opportunity to try out the onboard internet connection. It is free for the first 10MB and another 600MB for just $1. But, you have to register an OnAir account to get the connection. I find the internet connection very convenient and fast. I actually sent a photo of my meal attached in a Whatsapp message to my family who already arrived at UK – while I was onboard! Overall, my experience onboard A380 is nothing but amazing – quiet cabin and spacious legroom.
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