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Auckland - Sydney - Dubai - Glasgow : Business Class

11th February 2006 - by Eric Simpson

Online check-in provided me with my choice of seat for the short trans- Tasman hop. The remaining check-in formalities at Auckland airport were conducted quickly and efficiently. I was able to pay the International Departure Fee at check-in and was also pre-cleared through New Zealand Customs. This provided what was in effect a “fast track” route for pre- cleared passengers which lead directly to passport control and security clearance.

The dedicated Emirates lounge was large, comfortable and well equipped with plasma screen television sets, internet access and a wide range of snacks and beverages.

A new departure deck has been introduced at Auckland Airport which involves departing passengers following a raised walkway for part of the journey along the pier. Stairs, escalators and a lift are provided at both ends of the elevated walkway.

As the flight was full the departure gate was crowded, although there was priority boarding for Business passengers a single entrance to the aircraft was is in use and boarding was a slow process.

While the cabin on the 777-300 ER was neat and tidy, the short turn- round time may have been responsible for the lack of a copy of the ICE (in-flight entertainment) guide at a number of seats. While there is an on screen guide for the ICE system I found it quicker and easier to use the printed version. My ICE system froze shortly after take off but it was quickly rebooted by a flight attendant and after about 10 minutes was once again fully functional. There was no Airshow information available on this sector and I was advised by a fellow passenger that this appears to be normal practice on Emirates flights on the trans- Tasman route.

During the meal service flight attendants advised passengers that they had run out of one of the starters. Fortunately for me this was not before I had received my meal tray containing the New Zealand Seafood Delight which was a delight. The Coconut Prawns which I chose as the main course was quite outstanding as was the dessert, a Rich Dark Chocolate Mousse.

The meal was slightly spoiled by a failure to serve wine until after the main course had been finished by most passengers. It also seemed strange to provide the cheese selection with the main meal tray and to clear this before the dessert was served. A number of passengers, who, like me presumably preferred to have cheese and biscuits after dessert had to grab their plate in order to retain their cheese plate when the main tray was collected.

There was the usual round of pre take off drinks and hot towels before take off, after the meal and again before landing. Bottles of water were placed at each seat before boarding, Menu cards and wine lists were distributed after take off.

Throughout the flight the cabin crew were polite and efficient. I left the flight at Sydney for an overnight stay, fortunately the arrivals side of the airport was quiet, progress through the formalities was swift, and I was soon on my way to my hotel in the limousine provided by Emirates.

The following morning online check-in provided me with seats for the remaining two sectors of my journey. I had previously requested a change from a window to an aisle seat on the A340 from Sydney to Dubai and was pleased to note that this request had been implemented.

There were two check-in positions open for Business passengers and one for First Class, with no First Class passengers waiting all three desks were used to process Business passengers. My check-in was completed without delay and boarding passes and invitations were issued for the new Emirates Lounge at Sydney and also for the Business Lounge at Dubai.

The new dedicated Emirates Sydney lounge had been opened 5 days earlier. The lounge was very pleasant with facilities similar to those in their Auckland lounge but this lounge had the advantage of external windows. The lounge was difficult to find but only because it had not yet been clearly signposted by the Airport.

This was another full flight and with a single airbridge entrance in use boarding was slow.

On boarding my previous impression of the A340 Business cabin feeling somewhat claustrophobic was reinforced. Drinks, hot towels, and the issue of eye shades and socks took place prior to take off. Bottle of water had already been placed at each seat.

The issue of Menu cards, wine lists and amenities kits were distributed after take off. An Irish flight attendant was in charge of the Business cabin and she set a very warm, friendly while thoroughly professional tone which enhanced the service considerably. Other crew members were friendly and efficient and responded quickly to requests from passengers throughout this overnight flight. On checking the information pack in my seat back I found that there were again items missing. The aircraft had already operated a sector from Christchurch to Sydney.

Dinner was served about two hours into the flight. The appetizer, Rock Lobster Medallions was tasty and well presented. As my main course choice I selected Australian Prime Beef Tenderloin accompanied with roasted shallots and garlic, fresh garden vegetables and roasted new potatoes, what a disappointment! The meat was tough and the vegetables and potatoes undercooked. This was offset by a wonderful Chocolate Raspberry Gateau.

I found it difficult to adjust my seat to a comfortable position for sleeping, but did make full use of the outstanding in-flight entertainment system.

About two and half hours out of Dubai the cabin lights were switched on or rather dawn broke, courtesy of the lighting system, and the breakfast service began. The assorted fruits were refreshing. I chose not to have the Mixed Grill as the main ingredient was a grilled beef tenderloin. Instead I chose the Creamy Herb Omelette which was accompanied with grilled chicken sausage. roma tomatoes and lyonnaise potatoes. This provided a perfect start to the day. The bread basket was offered on three occasions but preserves were not offered and had to be specifically requested.

About 45 minutes out of Dubai the Purser announced that all toilets on the aircraft were out of commission because of a technical fault with the toilet system on board. The aircraft landed on time and parked at a remote stand. The bus journey to the terminal was much shorter than on my outbound leg.

The transfer area was very busy with a large number of arriving flights and so there were long queues to pass through the security checks. These involved men in having to remove trouser belts and in some cases shoes. The terminal building was also very busy with seating in the public areas at a premium and many passengers sitting or sleeping on the floor.

Fortunately the Business class lounge was not unduly busy and it was soon time to board the flight for Glasgow. A singe door was in use and no priority was give to Business passengers although the dedicated Business entrance was in use on the air bridge and so I was quickly on board.

The Dubai Glasgow service is now provided by a 2 class 777-300 ER aircraft (The previous service was provided by an A330 and not an A320 as I erroneously stated in the report of my outbound flight).

In comparison to the 3 class 777-300 ER aircraft in which Business was split over two cabins the single Business cabin on this aircraft felt very large. It was however bright and welcoming as were the cabin crew. Although Economy was full, the Business section was only about half full which led to very attentive and personal service throughout the flight.

Pre take of drinks and hot towels were offered and after an on-time take off eye shades, socks, menu cards and the wine list were distributed.

Leg room was excellent although when the passenger in front of me fully reclined her seat it was clear that extricating oneself from the window seat across a sleeping passenger in the aisle seat might be problematic.

Lunch was served about two hours out of Glasgow. Soon after the meal service ended the aircraft started its descent into Glasgow where we landed on time.

Unfortunately there was no limousine waiting to take me on the final part of my journey. Ground staff arranged for a car to collect me but this delayed me by about 45 minutes.

I embarked on this journey hoping that Emirates would turn out to be a world class airline. I was not impressed by the seating on the A340 aircraft and on any future journey with Emirates I would choose the longer routing from Dubai to Australia/New Zealand via Singapore or Bangkok in order to travel on their 777-300 ER aircraft.

The lack of a flat bed on the long overnight sectors is a distinct disadvantage and the seating on the A340 and the sleeperette seats on the 777 are in no way a substitute for a flat bed.

Overall I felt the Emirates product to be inconsistent, at its best it was outstanding but at other times was mediocre and there were too many instances of small things which were not quite right. Airline loyalty is not a significant factor for me so would I fly with Emirates again? Possibly - if the price is right and I can lower my expectations.

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