Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 271,099
2013: 330,818

Ultimate Airport Dubai Goes Behind The Scenes at DXB

Emirate Airline's Network Control at DXB. Image: Jason Rabinowitz.

Emirate Airline’s Network Control at DXB. Image: Jason Rabinowitz.

Dubai International Airport (DXB) is a hugely complex, massive, 24-hour machine. Airplanes land, passengers are exchanged, and airplanes takeoff. What goes on behind the scenes to make this seemingly simple task work, however, is anything but simple. Earlier this year, National Geographic UK took their cameras into the depths of Dubai’s airport, giving the public a rare look at operations at the home airport of Emirates.

BONUS: Photo Tour of Emirates Airline Crew Training in Dubai

The show aired several months ago in various regions, but never made it to the Americas. What the channel guide hides from us, YouTube reveals – all ten episodes are now streaming in HD for anyone to watch. The first episode of the show starts off quite nicely, focusing on the difficulty of getting passengers with short connections across the gigantic terminal, routine mechanical difficulties, and a scramble to finish up construction of a new wing of the terminal.

Click here to learn more and to view the Ultimate Airport Dubai Video

Emirates Shows Off Lounges in New Airbus A380 Concourse

An Emirates Airbus A380 at the new concourse in Dubai.

An Emirates Airbus A380 at the new concourse in Dubai.

An excerpt from David Parker Brown’s story on APEX Editor’s Blog

DUBAI: How does one go about making the world’s largest airliner, the Airbus A380, look small? Park it at the new Concourse A at Dubai International Airport, which was designed to handle the giant aircraft and all the high-end passengers who will fly in its premium cabins.

Earlier this year Emirates and Dubai International Airport opened the new concourse. David Parker Brown, a contributor to the APEX editor’s blog was invited for a tour of the Emirates Airline first and business class lounges.

Concourse A opened on 2 January 2013 and is the world’s only dedicated and purpose built concourse for the Airbus A380. The rest of the airport is able to handle the aircraft, but the new concourse was purpose-built with the A380 in mind. A formidable undertaking for the airport and airline, US$3.3 billion terminal required 159,572,880 man-hours to build.

Continue reading Emirates Shows Off Lounges in New Airbus A380 Concourse on APEX

See more photos of the Concourse A in Dubai

We Aren’t In Kansas Anymore: Emirates First Class Lounge Review in Dubai

One of the many attractive views in-side Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai.

One of the many attractive views inside Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai

Dubai is known for having impressive and large things. It makes sense then that Emirates Airlines would have a huge, and impressive, First Class Lounge at their main hub in Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport (DXB).

Getting access to any lounge is a nice benefit — but not all lounges are created equal. Most of the time, those paying $20,000 for their First Class international ticket do not want to mingle with those who paid a mere $7,000, and they do not have to. We aren’t in Kansas anymore folks.

The First Class Lounge seems to go on forever in Dubai.

The First Class Lounge seems to go on forever in Dubai

First of all, the lounge is frek’n huge. It took a good ten minutes for me to do a lap around the place and I am convinced I still did not see everything. There are some things you would hope to find in any lounge; comfortable seating, easy access to quick food and drink, high-end service, and even showers. But there was more at this lounge that you do not find often.

I almost wish there was a play are like this for adults.

I almost wish there was a play are like this for adults

If you have kids and want to have some time away from them before hopping on a plane for 14 hours, the lounge has its own kids play area. Not only does this allow you the chance to enjoy the rest of the lounge’s amenities with some peace, but it also allows your children to tire themselves out a bit before the flight.

There might not be a real play area for adults, but there is a free spa — called the Timeless Spa. Get a quick massage or facial and it is all complimentary. You just have to add you name to the list, wait your turn, and relax. I wanted to test these services for myself (you know, for the story), but I unfortunately ran out of time.

Take a seat at a table or one of the booths inside the restaurant, in the lounge, in the airport, in Dubai.

Take a seat at a table or one of the booths inside the restaurant, in the lounge, in the airport, in Dubai.

There are quite a few food options in the lounge — the most impressive being a sit-down restaurant. From snacks to full meals, you surely shouldn’t be leaving the lounge hungry. No matter what you order or get, leave your wallet in place, because there is no additional charge.

If you are more in the mood for some alcohol, no worries, you have lots to choose from. Want to take some wine home with you? No problem —  there is a shop in the lounge, where a wine connoisseur will help you pick out that perfect bottle.

One could easily visit the lounge and have a different seating experience each time. From comfy, large seats to a faux living room to working areas, whatever you are looking to do, there is a seat for you.

If you are hoping to plane spot from the lounge, or even from Terminal 3, you might be disapointed.

If you are hoping to plane spot from the lounge, or even from Terminal 3, you might be disappointed.

Overall, the lounge was outstanding. However, there were two things that I did not find appealing; one which most people will share in my pain and the other only AvGeeks will.

The biggest disappointment was the Wi-Fi — which was slow. When I say slow… I mean S L O W.  It was borderline useless to get any work done. Reading online, I found this was not an isolated experience and seems to be a constant problem.

The second issue I had was the view to the airplanes outside. There are large windows, but they all had markings on them to help keep the interior cool. I was told that the airport also designed the windows in this fashion so that passengers do not feel that they are in an airport. Of course, I like to feel that I am in an airport — oh well.

SEE ALL 13 PHOTOS FROM MY VISIT OF EMIRATES FIRST CLASS LOUNGE IN DUBAI

My Review: Flying Emirates Airline Business Class to Dubai

I couldn't get any good shots of my 777-200LR in Seattle or Dubai, so I am using this photo of another Emirates Boeing 777-300ER.

I couldn't get any good shots of my 777-200LR in Seattle or Dubai, so I am using this photo of another Emirates Boeing 777-300ER that I took from my aircraft.

EMIRATES AIRLINE REVIEW BASICS:
Airline: Emirates Airline
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Departed: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Arrived: Dubai International Airport (DXB)
tops: Non-stop flight Class: Business Class
Seat: 8D to DXB (center, aisle, bulkhead) and 11A to SEA (window)
Length: About 14 hours

Cheers: Great combination of service and product.
Jeers:
If you have wide shoulders, avoid the center seat — even in business class.
Overall: Emirates makes a 14 hour flight easy.

With the wood panneling, the Business Class really has a warm atmosphere. Notice the real flowers on the bulkhead.

With the wood paneling, the Business Class really has a warm atmosphere. Notice the real flowers on the bulkhead.

THE FULL EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW:

On March 1st, Emirates started flying from Seattle to Dubai non-stop. I was invited to try out Emirates Business Class product on one of their recent flights (the airline covered the costs of the flight). This review will be a mixture of both my flight to and from Dubai — although I slept most of the way home.

The benefits of sitting in a premium cabin starts well before you get to the gate, but only once you arrive to the airport. With Emirates, the benefits of flying in Business Class starts at home. If you fly in either Business or First class you have access to a free chauffeured car within 60 miles of your arriving or departing airport.  Unfortunately I did not do my homework before leaving and did not find out about that service until I was in Dubai (thanks Ben for the ride to the airport by the way).

However, I was able to make use of the service when coming home and it is always great having someone greeting you with your name on a sign that escorts you right to your front door in a Town Car. Having a Business Class ticket normally gives you access to a lounge at the airport and flying Emirates out of Seattle is no different. Passengers who have either first or business class tickets are able to use the new Club International lounge before their flight.

Emirate's Business Class seats offer quite a bit of room and one gianormous remote.

Emirate's Business Class seats offer quite a bit of room and one ginormous remote.

Since I stayed in the lounge for a while, my flight was almost fully loaded by the time I arrived at the gate and I was able to just walk on the plane. I messed up and forgot to check myself in online (I know, what kind of airline reporter am I?), so I ended up in a middle seat: 8E. Emirates has their 777-200LR configured in a 2-3-2 layout in business.

Even though the seats are larger, I was not looking forward to being in the center for 14 hours, but at least I wasn’t in economy. When I found my seat and sat down, I became a little worried — my shoulders touched both sides of the hard plastic walls — not good. Luckily for me the lovely (and smaller) Harriet Baskas, who was in my media travel group, had the aisle seat next to me and offered to swap. I gladly took her up on her offer and never had any problems with the seat width with the open aisle.

I think I would have managed just fine in the center seat, but if you have wider shoulders, I would surely advice checking in earlier to claim a non-center seat.

If you like technology and gadgets, you will love Emirates ice entertainment system. Each seat in first and business gets this large, removable remote.

If you like technology and gadgets, you will love Emirates ice entertainment system. Each seat in first and business gets this large, removable remote.

Emirates entertainment system, called ice, was amazing, but a bit overwhelming. First off, you have three options on how to control the system: touching the screen, using the removable touch screen remote or use the smaller wired remote. When sitting in a bulkhead seat, even at 6’1″, I was unable to touch the screen. When I flew back to Seattle I was not at the bulkhead and was able to touch, but it wasn’t easy and I would imagine near impossible if you measuring in at less than 5’10”.

I am normally not very slow when it comes to technology or in-flight entertainment systems, but it seemed like I could only do some things with one remote and I had to do other things with the smaller one. I am sure I just wasn’t able to figure it out, but if I had trouble, I am sure most other people did too. It is worth trying to get past the control issues, because once you do, there are many options — 1200 to be exact.

Emirates, by far, has the largest selection of movies and entertainment I have experienced. After flying a total of 27 hours to Dubai and back, I still had not explored everything it had to offer. For a frequent flier on the airline, this would be a huge perk. No matter what class you are flying in, you get access to the same ice entertainment system (just not the fancy large remote if you are in economy).

Emirates configures their Boeing 777s with a 2-3-2 layout in Business Class. Notice how the windows have buttons to move the shades.

Emirates configures their Boeing 777s with a 2-3-2 layout in Business Class. Notice how the windows have buttons to move the shades.

One on my favorite things, on systems that offer it, are the outside cameras you can access on your screen. The Emirates 777 has one facing forward and once facing straight down. Being in the center section during take off, it was handy watching the aircraft take off via the cameras. We took off to the north and just kept going — almost in a straight line over the north pole and back down to Dubai. Because of this, it never got dark outside.

Passengers also have the option to make a phone call at $5 per minute or send text messages for $1 per message. Every time I tried to access the service, it said it was unavailable, which was okay by me. I was planning on trying it out for the story, but was not motivated to ask one of the flight attendants, since I did not mind saving my money. Although Emirates does have Wi-Fi up and running on all their Airbus A380s, they do not have it on the rest of their main fleet (777, A330, A340) — yet.

When the lights go down, the stars come up. Emirates offers a special StarLight feature providing a great sleeping atmoshphere.

When the lights go down, the stars come up. Emirates offers a special StarLight feature providing a great sleeping atmosphere.

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is touted as being unique for its ambient lighting and electronic sunshades. The Emirates product in business and in first is almost as close as you can get to the 787 interior.

First, they have the ambient lighting; going from a soft white/yellow to pinks to purple for the different light cycles. Then you have the windows up front that do not have manual shades, but two buttons that make the shades go up and down. The flight attendants have the ability to to put up or down all the shades, similar to the 787.

What Emirate’s 777 has that no 787 has (yet) are the stars that come out on the ceiling. Called StarLight, this amazing feature is unique to Emirates and really sets the mood. It is hard to describe, laying flat on a bed at 35,000 feet, opening your eyes and seeing stars.

It is too bad that Emirates doesn’t have any 787’s on order; it would be amazing what they could (and probably would) do with that cabin.

Steak and redwine at 30,000 feet. Yea, I can handle that.

Steak, potatoes I cannot pronounce and red wine at 30,000 feet? Yea, I can handle that.

After settling in, it was time for meal service. My dinner started with a traditional mezze platter with hummus, smoky moutabal, muhammara, vine leaves and a spinach fatayer. Yea, I don’t know what half of that means either, but I can tell you that it was great. Then I was served roasted tomato and thyme soup and salad, followed by the main course of beef fillet with shallots and dauphionouse style potatoes. I decided to skip the dessert option and have a bit more red wine — nice call.

Economy class still provides large screens, amenities and food. Eh, I will stick to Business Class.

Economy class still provides large screens, amenities and food. Eh, I will stick to Business Class.

I feel very lucky that I get these opportunities to fly in the front of the plane on long flights, but there is no doubt that I have put my time in economy. During the ride over to Dubai, I made an effort to make a lap around the plane and check out economy. During my tour, most people were sleeping and there were so many feet, arms, shoulders, etc out in the aisle — it was a challenge to get through without bumping into people.

With the 3-4-3 layout in economy, it is a bit tight, but doable with the large screens and same ice entertainment system. That being said, I was happy to return to the business class cabin.

Business Class is nice, but First Class is better. Each seat is like its own cubical, with closing doors.

Business Class is nice, but First Class is better. Each seat is like its own cubicle, with closing doors.

When I complete flight reviews, I try to stay anonymous as long as I can. Typically a flight attendant will start asking questions (not suspiciously, but out of curiosity) when I am taking photos of my remote, food, etc. One of the benefits of being known as media is getting access to the aircraft that others might not.

On the flight back to Seattle, I was given the opportunity to spend some time up in First Class. Luckily for me, there were no passengers in the front cabin, which gave me time to check it out and talk to the flight crew. There are four crew members assigned to first class, including the pursuer. They normally work in shifts of two, but when there are no passengers in first, they are able to enjoy a relaxing flight and also will help the rest of the cabin crew, if needed.

Where business felt so much better than economy, similarly first class felt so much better than business. There are only eight first class suites, where each has a large seat, own mini-bar, large tv screen, similar controls to business class and doors that can be closed to give ultimate privacy.

Taking off from Dubai I could see the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in the background.

Taking off from Dubai I could see the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in the background.

One indicator on how good a product is on an airline is how well I am able to sleep. The fact that I slept five hours to Dubai and about 10 hours back to Seattle is a positive sign for sure. Another indicator is how happy I am that I was able to sleep so much. In this case, I was upset that I slept so much and wasn’t able to enjoy my experience a bit better. Emirates has lived up to its reputation for providing a fabulous flying experience.

Next is to try and test out their newer business product on the Airbus A380 — stay tuned.

See all 52 photos from my Emirates Airline flight

MORE STORIES ON MY DUBAI TRIP:
* Photo Tour of Emirates Airline Crew Training in Dubai
* Airline Lounge Review: Club International at Sea-Tac Airport

Updated: Alaska Airlines and Emirates Announce Mileage Partnership

Emirates and Alaska Airlines are now working together with a shared mileage plan.

Emirates and Alaska Airlines are now working together with a shared mileage plan.

During an Emirates press conference today held in Seattle, WA, Alaska Airlines announced a mileage partnership with the Dubai based airline. Passengers will be able to earn and redeem miles on either airline, plus miles accumulated while flying on Emirates will count towards Alaska MVP elite level program. From March 1, 2012 to May 31st Alaska will offer double miles on any Emirates flight.

“As part of our commitment to Seattle, we are launching our service by partnering with Seattle’s hometown airline to offer customers the convenience of a frequent flier partnership as well as one-stop check-in and through checked baggage,” said Nigel Page, Emirates Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations for the Americas.

As reported previously, Emirates will start non-stop service from Seattle (SEA) to Dubai (DXB) starting on March 1, 2012. The new flight will help connect the northwest to the Middle East, Africa and India. Emirates new flight (#’s EK229 and EK230) will depart daily from Seattle and Dubai and take 14.5 to 15hrs to complete. Emirates Boeing 777-300ER will we set up in a three class layout and the price for a first class suite will cost $15,279.00, while business will cost $9479.00 and economy will be around $1448.00. With Seattle having so many large companies and a decent demand for people to visit their families in the middle east and India, the airline expects their new route to do quite well.

When asked if Emirates might be interested in upgrading their 777 service to Seattle to an Airbus A380 Nigel stated,  “As we build the business up we will certainty look at that.” However, he stated that they have not been in talks with the Port of Seattle about bringing the A380 to SEA. Previously, Perry Cooper with the Port of Seattle communications told AirlineReporter.com that, “We can handle the A380 in emergencies, however we do not have facilities for regular use, such as the multiple gate loading ramps, for the aircraft. At this time, if an A380 were to arrive and need to access a gate, safety guidelines would require all traffic to stop until the aircraft stopped at its gate, due to the width of taxiways and safety zones next to the runways.”

Currently, the Airbus A380 is not able to make it from Dubai to Seattle non-stop and Emirates stated that they are working with Airbus to increase the range to handle cities, like Los Angeles non-stop.

Emirates will also be starting service to Dallas starting February 2nd and has voiced interest in expanding to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. The fact the airline has so many aircraft currently on order (70 Airbus A350s, 70 Airbus A380s and 87 Boeing 777s), my guess is all these cities will be seeing Emirates service soon.

Images:
Emirates by Robin Bilgil
Alaska by Leezpics