After I booked my wonderful safari to Africa, I needed to figure out how to get there. I chose Emirates. Bottom line – I made an excellent choice.
You can see my 7 part African Safari series featuring big cats and much more starting here: African Safari – Part 1 Overview.
This multi part series shares what it is like to fly Emirates business class long-haul on both their A380 product and their Boeing 777-300 product plus a look at 3 airport lounges.
Part 1 – Emirates Business Class – Emirates Overview and Chauffeur-drive
This series is based on flights taken in Fall 2016. Since then I have two observations about the US airline market. The US Government has put some unusual security restrictions on select airlines in select markets including Emirates. There has been plenty of “noise” about if this is real security or if this is market manipulation to favor the big 3 US airlines. Because of these restrictions Emirates ticket sales have apparently declined, which is too bad. Hopefully they continue their A380 (and all service) in the United States.
My second observation is around the big 3 US airlines and how often they are in the news lately for unacceptable treatment of passengers. It seems, and I have directly observed, that their excuse for repeated horrible customer service is too often “security.” In this series of posts, you will see what the best customer service looks like – and there are zero good reasons why the big 3 US airlines can not uphold these same standards.
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I generally reserve my frequent flier miles for international upper class because these tickets are something I could not (or would not) pay cash for. Called AA repeatedly and got nothing. So plan B – buy a ticket. I started searching and reflecting on how to make the flight an experience and arrive somewhat refreshed.
I noticed that Emirates had recently started A380 service out of the Washington DC market (Dulles International Airport). Emirates was on my list of airlines to try. I had only flown on an A380 once (Qantas premium economy) and loved everything about that airplane. On a whim I checked business class prices and lo and behold a big sale from Dulles to Johannesburg. Yes more than I budgeted but within range. Another whim, how about first class? Oh hell no not going pay that. Had to skip the caviar, Dom Perignon and Hennessy Paradis, and skip the shower at 30,000 feet with Jennifer Aniston. Business class it was!
Dulles to Johannesburg via Dubai – Logistics
Emirates’ itinerary from Dulles is atypical for an east-bound transatlantic flight. Unlike most airlines which leave in the evening and fly through the night, Emirates departs in the morning and flies through the day. Note that all times are local.
Dulles to Dubai
- Departure/arrival: 10:55 AM to 8:05 AM (about midnight to my body)
- Flight time: 13 hr 10 min
- Equipment: A380 (3 classes)
Stopover in Dubai – 2 hrs 10 min
Dubai to Johannesburg
- Departure/arrival: 10:15 AM to 4:25 PM (although this is a daytime flight, my body said otherwise)
- Flight time: 8 hours 10 min
- Equipment Boeing 777-300 ER: (two classes – no first class)
Emirates Preflight -The Weeks Leading Up to the Adventure
Was I excited leading up to this flight? Maybe a little bit, ha ha. OK actually a lot bit. Emirates posts their menus and wine list online a few days before the flight along with their extensive monthly entertainment guide.
I recall Qantas advising passengers to have a plan for ultra long-haul flights – like how many hours and when you plan to sleep, eat, walk around. It might sound silly, but it really works. Seeing the expansive entertainment guide helped me make a list of a few movies I wanted see on the airplane, plan my trip, anticipate the food, and honestly just to get excited (as if I needed that).
One of the benefits of Emirates upper class is their complimentary limousine service to and from the airport. I was staying the night before at my parents’ house as they were cat-sitting Billysky while I was away (new to this blog? Meet Billysky by clicking here).
My 80 year old father asked what time my flight was. (Keep in mind this is the same guy that harvests his own Black Walnuts). I said it was in the morning from Dulles. He got agitated and said in his best curmudgeon voice, “I’m not driving you to Dulles on a weekday morning in rush hour.”
I said, “I didn’t ask you to. The airline sends a limousine to pick me up.” He said something about that being a bunch of BS, and I was going to make him drive me.
My mother piped in, “It’s true. And there is a shower on the airplane. I saw it on TV.” Thank goodness old people still have televisions (no offense meant for any old people with TVs reading this).
To Dulles Airport
Sometimes I worry too much. I really wanted to be on the A380. I know that aircraft equipment gets swapped every now and then. I also know that Emirates only has one flight a day from Dulles, so whatever equipment was coming in is what was going out. Before bed on Sunday night I confirmed (gotta love flightaware) that the equipment heading to Dulles was in fact the A380.
With this knowledge, plus a glass of my dad’s good bourbon and Billysky sleeping next to me, I rested well that night.
Limousine Service. As my father pointed out, getting to Dulles from my parent’s house in Maryland meant Monday morning rush hour traffic through Washington DC, so I wanted an early limo pickup. The limo company called Sunday afternoon to confirm details for my Monday morning flight. The call alleviated worry of a no show (more for my father than for me; worry runs in the family).
My alarm went off Monday morning about an hour before my limo pickup. I showered, ate a small breakfast, checked for my passport, documents, and credit cards, said my goodbyes, and was ready for a few weeks of wonderful new experiences.
The driver arrived Monday morning at 6 am on the nose. It was still mostly dark outside and we successfully avoided most rush-hour traffic. The vehicle was clean and had those soft peppermint balls and bottled water in the console.
Anyone who knows me realizes that I trust very few drivers (translate this to I am a pain in the ass being Mr Caution when in the passenger seat). I trusted this driver very early on – he did not speed, he used signals, came to full stops, no cell phone. Interestingly, all three of the Limo Drivers for Emirates got my full passenger-trust.
Experience so far – very nice.