Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Airlines We Love: Emirates

Aaah, the wonderful A380.  Is it just me, or do flights on this aeronautical masterpiece really feel smoother, quieter and somehow more comfortable?

Or maybe it's just Emirates.  I do love flying with them.

We've just returned from a Kuala Lumpur - Dubai - London - Dubai - Kuala Lumpur route and I have to say, it was pretty pleasant all round.  I was 13 weeks pregnant and hideously sick on the first two legs and 16 weeks and achy on the return legs and still enjoyed it.

Emirates gets big bonus points as a friendly family carrier for a few vital things:

- Service.  Service comes with a smile.  This is not one of those surly airlines.  I genuinely think the staff are there to please.

- Comfort.  Okay, so not all their carriers are swanky new A380s but I still find Emirates seats to be comfortable, leg room pretty good and the blankets and pillows provided of the soft and cosy variety (as opposed to the crinkly thin ones some airlines prefer).

- Catering to children.  It's standard procedure for the little ones to receive a freebie or two on board most longer flights, but the Emirates ones are actually quite good.  Mister Three was bestowed with a little magazine, colouring pencils, a backpack, a diary and pen (okay, not quite age-appropriate but he loved scribbling on it) and a magnetic drawing board.  And the master stroke: on the overnighters he was given his own colourful blanket tied up with a cuddly toy.  I am convinced this little gift was created by someone who has tried many times to convince a small person that it would be a good idea to snuggle up and go to sleep now that it's 3 am and the man across the aisle is getting huffy.  Worked like a charm both times.  And for those occasions when you need it, the children's entertainment on the newer ICE system is great.  The little man was beside himself with glee to discover numerous episodes of Fireman Sam readily available.  Kids' meals are good too: they even have a vegetarian children's option, something I haven't come across before.

Snuggly blankets wrapped up by cuddly toys: a genius idea, Emirates!

Chances are you'll be spending some time in Dubai International Airport if you use this airline.  My feelings about it as a family-friendly transit point are mixed.  It's brand-spanking new and in true Dubai style it practically glitters.  There are multi-storied waterfalls and big fancy cars on display.  It is a tribute to decadence and modernity.  The trouble is, I didn't find it particularly comfortable.  I would have happily traded the shiny marble floors for a patch of cosy carpet the little man could sit down on, or a few of the glamorous shops for a little playground or bit of greenery.

The real low point for us was a four hour transit at 2 am.  We had heard that the Dubai International Hotel based inside the airport did hourly rates.  Sleep-deprived and suffering from dreadful hyperemesis (more on that in another blog) I had pinned my hopes on a little power nap.  We were flabbergasted to discover that a double room for the three of us would cost $US60/hour - $US180 for the three hours of sleep we wanted!!  We were instead shown to the 'loungers' outside many of the gates.  We spent a miserable three hours lying on these uncomfy things under the bright lights that are everywhere in this airport.  Not ideal.

Don't let that taint your airline experience though: fly direct or get a quick transfer.  Or better yet, transit for a day or more and check into a nearby hotel.  You can enjoy Dubai's bright lights after you've caught up on sleep.

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