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Into the Night Sky: Emirates A380 Perth — Dubai

A planned flight in an old trimotor and visits to Lufthansa Technik and Airbus saw me travelling to Hamburg once more. The most convenient way to get there is one-stop with Emirates. This flight review covers the first sector: Perth to Dubai on the Airbus A380 on the upper deck.

Booking the flights on the prefered dates was easy enough. However, when trying to allocate seats I found that on one of the sectors the entire cabin was blocked. I was able to choose seats for three out of the four sectors but not the Hamburg to Dubai sector. Oh well, I got on the phone to Emirates where Brian was very helpful. In no time he had me sitting in 01A and I was able to print out the revised tickets.

When online check-in was open I received an SMS notification, so went to the Emirates web site to print the boarding passes. Unfortunately, the system insisted on my providing a visa number when entering my passport details, despite one not being needed. As I have dual nationality, I tried using an EU passport instead and it would let me check-in for the first sector but did not confirm the second, nor would it allow me to print any boarding passes. No big deal, as I would be able to go to the check-in desk at the airport.

There wasn't a queue when I arrived at the Emirates check-in counter. The agent was able to re-input my passport details without problems and printed the boarding passes for me. She asked whether I wished to check a suitcase (which I didn't) and attached a label to my carry-on bag. Having given me directions to the Emirates Lounge, she wished me a pleasant journey.

Along the way, landside there are a number of retail outlets, including duty-free, Australiana and travel goods. I'm not the world's greatest shopper so I give them nothing more than a casual glance before moving on.

Passport control and security were a breeze but before going through I went up to the Observation Deck to see what aircraft were on the ground. At the A380-capable gate stood this evening's flight, being cleaned and stocked ready for departure. Echo Tango would be operating the flight. First flown with the registration F-WWAH on 06 November, 2013 and delivered 27 March, 2014, between March and June 2016 the aircraft sported an AC Milan livery and this year wore that of Paris Saint-Germain.

Also on the apron was a Jetstar Airbus A320. The QF275 code-share flight should have left at 17:50 but as can be seen was only now ready for being finalised for departure to Ngurah Rai (DPS). Alongside was A7-BAL, a Boeing 777-300ER with Qatar Airways, operating the 21:55 departure to Doha.

At the far end of the International Terminal stood an Air New Zealand Dreamliner, ZK-NZL . This registration has previously been used by two very different types: a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 and a British Aerospace 146-300A. Meanwhile, at a remote stand, an Airbus A340-300 waited before being towed to a gate for departure to Oliver Tambo, Johannesburg as SA281.

Sir Norman Brearley was overlooking the scene. The former World War One pilot established Western Australian Airways, which operated Australia's first scheduled air service. It was time to go down to the departures level. Through security there is the usual collection of duty-free and eateries. But to reach the Emirates Lounge one needs to go down another level.

Of course, just in case you missed an opportunity, on this lower level is another duty-free outlet and a Hudson's Coffee bar. The entrance to the Emirates Lounge is to the left at the bottom of the escalator.

A friendly welcome from the receptionist who had a cheerful manner and a cheeky smile.
"With that smile, I bet you got away with murder as a child," I said.
"I still do," he replied.

The lounge is pleasantly furnished and divided into distinct areas for sitting, catching up with business and for dining. An attractive feature is a mosaic mural depicting old Dubai Creek.

There is plenty of greenery (some of which is unusual - who would think of cabbage as a decorative plant?) and a water fall and pool made of stone. I like the stonework which continues throughout the lounge, appearing in planter boxes and the walls behind the bar areas.

In the dining area, I learnt from Chai that Michael Canton is no longer the Manager. He has been promoted within the company and there is a new manager. I asked Chai whether she had been considered for the position but she told me that she preferrred to stay in her present role. Meanwhile, the caterers had put on a reasonable spread. There was a selection of cooked meals:

A separate bar displayed a selection of salads, appetisers, cheeses and desserts:

Also available was a range of breads, crackers and nuts, as well as wines, spirits and soft drinks to choose from.

Some passengers like to eat well before boarding the aircraft. Others content themselves with a beer or wine and pass away the time on their tablets or other handheld devices. As I like to have something to eat in flight, I chose something light: a Madras chicken with curried vegetables and some rice. To accompany it, a perfectly quaffable Howard Park Riesling from Margaret River. Later I discovered a Cape Mentell Chardonnay.

Boarding was called and passengers could access the aircraft directly from the lounge. The cheerful receptionist still had his cheeky smile as he scanned the boarding pass and wished me a pleasant flight. At the door of the A380, after a friendly "Welcome back, Mr Smith," I was shown through to my suite for the night and was offered a "welcome drink". Through the window, I could see that rain had set in.

Flight: Emirates EK421 PER‑DXB
Aircraft Type: Airbus A380 | Seat: 03K
Aircraft ID: A6-EET
STD: 22:20 | ATD: 22:10
STA: 05:20 | ATA: 04:56

First impressions were that the cabin was in good shape, although the aircraft hasn't been without incident. On 20 May, 2015 this Emirates Airbus A380-800, performing flight EK222 (departed 19 May) from Dallas Ft. Worth,TX (USA) to Dubai (United Arab Emirates), was enroute at FL350 about 130nm northnortheast of Warsaw (Poland) when a male passenger (aged 55) suffered a stroke, prompting the crew to divert to Warsaw where the aircraft landed safely on runway 33 about 30 minutes later. Due to construction work the aircraft could not vacate on the next taxiway but needed to turn around on the runway and backtrack to taxi to the apron. While turning around to backtrack the nose gear struck runway edge lights causing damage to one of the nose wheels.

The ill passenger was taken to a hospital, the aircraft was unable to continue the flight. The passengers disembarked and were taken to Dubai on a replacement aircraft after a Boeing 777-300, registration A6-EGU, was dispatched to Warsaw. It continued the flight as EK222D and reached Dubai with a delay of 11.5 hours. Putting a positive spin on things, it was the first visit of an Emirates A380 to Warsaw, 😀

On the counter in the front of the suite were the usual writing set, refreshing balms and basket of Australian produced snacks. The latter is removed for take-off but returned once the seat belt sign is extinguished.

To the right of the seat was the housing for the minibar and dining table. The bar was stocked with some Mango Juice, Pepsi, 7Up and both still and sparkling water. Though cold when placed into the bar, the drinks will only stay cool if you close the lid: something which needs to be done for take-off anyway. There was a wireless remote control for the ICE system too.

Behind the seat were a mattress and duvet while in the seat arm were the one-touch controls for setting the seat to the take-off, dining and sleeping positions. Though the doors are locked in the open position before take-off and for landing, if the bed is in the down position and the doors are closed, pressing the landing/take-off button will open the doors at the same time as reverting the seat to the fully upright position. Above the seat is an adjustable light (both position and intensity can be altered) and an air vent.

Also in the arm rest is stowage for small items like pens or a pair of reading glasses. And, as always, I checked to ensure that the life vest was were it was meant to be.

Looking after passengers in the First Class cabin were Purser Nahid and Stewards Natalie and James. While the Captain and his fellow officers on the flight deck carried out their checks, James hung my jacket in the wardrobe and Natalie brought a bag containing pyjamas, slippers, an eye mask and an amenity kit. Between these interactions I rummaged in the suite pockets. In a sturdy zipped box was a pair of earphones.

Also in the pocket were the safety card and information about Wi-Fi and mobile phone use. While I read these, the Captain introduced himself as Jack Scott and the FO as Simon Lee. He told us that we would reach an altitude of 40,000ft and would arrive in Dubai to hazy conditions and a temperature of 36°.

Natalie and James came through the cabin offering newspapers and magazines. Then came my favourite part of the boarding experience: the offer of dates and arabic coffee. A little later a second cup was offered.

While I drank the coffee and leafed through the Open Skies magazine, there were a number of crew announcements:
"All ground personnel, please leave the aircraft."
"Cabin crew, prepare all doors and cross check."

As Natalie was asking me when I would like to use the shower spa, an announcement was made that the safety video would be shown and requesting everyone's attention to it.

The video has been updated to advise passengers not to try to retieve a phone should it fall between the seats and that baggage should be left behind in the event of an evacuation. I also noted that there is no mention of a "light coming on in water" when describing the use of life vests. Be assured that the vests still have lights and that they do still come on automatically. The full safety video can be viewed below.

The Airbus A380 was pushed back, final checks were carried out and clear to go given. The engines powered up and the aircraft began to taxi out along Charlie, for a take-off to the north. Coming to Charlie 11, an instruction from the flight deck: "Cabin crew, please be seated."

The aircraft entered the runway and commenced its forward roll, lifted through the rain and disappeared into the clouds. No chance of any photos of the "City of Lights" tonight.

The absence of views led me to explore the remote control instead. ICE stands for Information, Communications and Entertainment. The remote groups together various options under each heading. For example, under Information we find Today's Flight, News Headlines and information about Emirates and Dubai.

Communications offers access to Wi-Fi, SMS and Email, Satellite Telephony, USB Media Player, In-seat Power and the option to complete a feedback survey.

As might be expected, Entertainment opens up a world of movies, TV shows, radio and podcasts, music and games. The remote also provides a way to adjust your seat (part by part or one touch) and to control the lights within the suite. On the remote's housing are controls for the three windows, allowing the blinds to be raised or lowered individually. There are translucent inner and opaque outer blinds with each being able to be set separately.

Once we were in the air and the crew were able to walk about the cabin, Nahid brought the menu and wine list, asking whether he could bring me something to drink. In addition to the usual Dom Perignon, there were four whites, five reds, a Sauternes and a port from which to choose. I decided on a Two Hands Lily's Garden Shiraz from McLaren Vale in South Australia. The bottle was brought and a sample poured for tasting, before the glass was filled. Warm nuts were provided and James offered to bring a carafe of the wine to leave in the suite.

Emirates offers a fairly comprehensive range of drinks in addition to the wines. There are the usual generic beers from Budweiser and Heineken; a selection of cocktails; whisky from Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker and Glenfiddich; a bourbon; two vodkas; two gins; two rums; and, my favourite, Hennessy Paradis Cognac. I had one of them later as a nightcap.

Having eaten in the lounge, I decided to just have an appetiser rather than a main. Once again there was plenty to choose from. Five main courses and optional side dishes were available, in addition to Caviar, soup and mezze.

The Japanese seven-spiced beef with cucumber and ponzu sauce sounded appealing and would go well with the Shiraz. The table was laid with white linen and Royal Doulton china. The meal proved to be quite tasty, the meat was tender and not at all chewy.

Sated, I went to freshen up and Natalie offered to make the seat up into a bed. When I returned the bed was ready and the requested cognac was standing on the counter, along with a glass of water. It is pleasant to be able to lie flat and close one's eyes but I rarely sleep on a flight. For one, there is the noise of the ventilation (the insulated walls block most of the sound of the engines). It can get a bit bumpy at times, particularly to the south west of India and the sideways and up and down movement is not conducive to proper sleep.

At the agreed time one of the two shower spa attendants came to let me know that all was ready. Many will think that a shower is a bit extravagant. Some may even use the word that is almost de rigueur when describing Emirates: bling. But neither is true. It is one of the most welcome features of long haul travel. It's almost like having a massage and enables passengers to arrive at their destinations feeling refreshed and less weary.

On returning to the suite, I found a glass of water and a platter of fresh fruit with some orange dressing waiting. Natalie came to ask whether she could bring some breakfast. I decided on some yummy gingerbread french toast with raspberry compote and lemon butter. To drink I selected the apple, orange, pineapple and kiwi juice.

By now the flight was crossing the Omani coast. On screen information about arrival in Dubai appeared, giving the expected arrival gate and details of connection times. Unfortunately, this new version of the flight information did not include departure gate information, so passengers still needed to check the departure boards in the terminal.

As the Airbus continued towards Dubai and commenced descent it got a bit choppy once more. Below, the lights of towns and villages punctuated the night sky. These became more frequent the nearer we got to Dubai but trying to take photos was difficult due to the combination of the bumpiness, the angle of the windows and the distance between the two panes. That's one area where the Boeing 777 has the advantage over the A380 from a passenger perspective.

As we neared our destination, I was able to follow the progress on the cameras. This is another innovation that I like, though the picture can sometimes be a bit grainy. Still, it is interesting to watch as first the city appears, then the approaching runway lights getting nearer and nearer.

All of a sudden we were over the threshold, a bump and we were on the ground. "Welcome to Dubai, where the time is just after five in the morning and the temperature is 33°." We followed the green and found our way to the stand at Concourse C.

Through the window I could see the familiar tails with a stylised Emirati national flag lined up on stands. A queue of busses and other vehicles waited for the A380 to cross the road, as aircraft have priority over ground transport.

The aircraft came to a complete stop. Passengers were now able to use their mobiles, were warned about falling baggage when they open the overhead lockers, and were thanked for choosing to fly Emirates. There are no overhead lockers in this cabin so bags falling wasn't a worry. Natalie came to offer a fast lane card and handed me my jacket. On leaving the aircraft I was able to thank her and her colleagues for a pleasant flight.

At the first security point I came to there were huge queues. I didn't hang around but followed signs to another security area. Here the queues were shorter but I couldn't see a fast lane open. No worries as I had over three hours to find the connecting departure gate. All in all it was a pleasant experience. In the next report I shall describe the onward journey to Hamburg.