Wednesday, 30 September 2009

On the Road to Australia...sort of

You know, it makes me tired just thinking about re-living this trip. I do so hate long haul flights. Never mind, it's done and as my Uncle Pat once said, you shall see the world from the comfort of your computer chair.

I only noticed as the date grew nearer that Bill had booked us to fly on 11 September. I searched my mind and couldn't think of anything Biblical or apocryphal about 8 years; I don't know enough about the Muslim religion to say whether that number has any significance for them. Bill pointed out that we were flying with Emirates who were an Arab airline. With those two ideas, and it being rather late to change, I decided to just go with the flow.

Bill chose Emirates as they fly straight from Newcastle. We avoid Heathrow whenever possible. Also, there was an option to grab almost a night's sleep at a hotel in Dubai, roughly half way, which would make the journey a bit easier. After our friend Bob's experience there, I was a bit leery, but it all went fine.

I would recommend Emirates airline to anyone. Bill booked our seats towards the rear of the plane where it narrows, aiming to get the two seats at one side. This is a great idea as I like the aisle (to get to the loo), Bill likes the window (to see outside) and there are no strangers involved in close quarters. He managed this on 4 of our 5 flights and it helped a lot. Emirates starts out your journey by handing out hot towels, a service that is apparently disappearing from other airlines on this route. I was puzzled as to why one began with a wash instead of having it in the morning, but was pleased with the sentiment nevertheless.

You get a menu card showing what foods will be offered. All beverages are still free, except for champagne (sorry, Jane). The dress and manner of the stewarding staff reminded me of the early days of my flying experience when my mother made me get dressed up to travel and everyone on the plane showed a bit of class.

I have seen airline staff look like they just rolled out of bed, put their hair in a rubber band and pulled on yesterday's clothing. I've had staff bark at me like I was endangering lives; I was waiting for the loo and Bill came up and spoke to me. We were obviously plotting to blow up the plane. I've seen staff whose face would crack if they had to smile.

Nope, Emirates' staff beats them all hands down: very neatly dressed (though I don't care for the scarf thing), polished hair and make-up, pleasant and courteous as well as authoritative, agile and elegant of movement (navigating that aisle is a skill in itself) and extremely multi-lingual. Perhaps not individually but collectively. The announcement listed a stream of different languages that were available if needed. I lost count after 10-12. Considering the part of the map we flew over and the multi-ethnic make up of Britain and Australia, I could imagine a fair few might be useful. I think we were pretty well covered.

End of Emirates (unpaid) endorsement.

The only other thing I have to say here is about Dubai airport. We'd been there for a stop over before, on our first trip over 10 years ago. We were turfed out of the plane at 2am and sent to wander around a vast and empty shopping mall for an hour or so while they refuelled. I mainly remembered that everything was chrome and glass when I wanted a soft surface on which to recline.

It was very different this time. Though still not many soft surfaces, there are shops and people -- all sorts of interesting people -- and it's bigger than I can even imagine. We figured this out on the way back when we walked for quite a while through even more shops before finding the part we recognised. Dubai airport is an impressive place. It screams money.

I wasn't sure about taking photos in an airport -- they get pretty twitched about that some places. I sneaked a few here and there because it reminded me so much of Las Vegas. All the lights and water fountains, I guess.

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