Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Community > Trip Reports
Reload this Page >

EK Impressions: JFK-DXB in F

EK Impressions: JFK-DXB in F

Old Feb 26, 07, 3:20 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: in transit
Programs: Delta DM, *A Plat
Posts: 322
EK Impressions: JFK-DXB in F

Iíve flown back and forth to the UAE for years now on AA/BA. Freed now of corporate travel policy, I decided to try EK for the latest trip. I booked the nonstop EK 202 out of JFK rather than the flight connecting in Gatwick out of IAH. This saved me quite a bit of $ and also allowed me to fly on the A340-500, which I was quite intrigued by.

I booked business, assuming that the business class on the A340-500 would have the best business class. But the more I read the more I realized that business class on the A340-500 might not be the best choice for a longhaul like JFK-DXB. On EK, there seems to be better, lie flat business seats on the 777-300ER. I briefly thought about switching to BA J. After a few days of soul-searching, I picked up the phone and called the NYC EK desk. Those suites were just too tempting ! So I took the plunge and decided to make it a bit of an adventure. I also realized that a single roundtrip flight in F on the JFK-DXB route would give me enough tier miles to qualify for Skywards Silver due to the 100% tier point bonus (though to be fair Iím not sure quite what use this is).

I have to admit I was curious about what I would experience with customer service given the really negative feedback on the U.S. service centers. A woman answered and I told her what I wanted to do. She was fairly friendly, though not crisp like a seasoned phone operator. After staying on hold for a few minutes, I was told that she could not give me the fare I wanted (the one on the website) because it was an internet-only fare. So to change my ticket I had to cancel my existing business class reservation (online) and re-book a new reservation online, with the warning that my credit card might not get funded for 14-30 days. I went ahead and changed everything on the computer while the EK rep stayed on the phone. Everything seemed to go ok, so I thanked her. She called me back right away; she had forgotten to ask if I needed the free car service that EK provides to first/business class passengers. I did, and cars were set up to transfer me from LGA/JFK and from DXB to my hotel. All in all, a little tedious but the woman was fairly friendly. Iím glad I didnít have an actual problem.

That done, I only had to wait impatiently for the day to arrive.

On the day of departure, I checked my connecting flight out of IAH (on CO) and all seemed fine. When I arrived my flight was delayed by several hours due to some cleaning up of air traffic left over from a snow storm the previous day in the Northeast. I panicked, because this meant I would miss my EK flight. I had left a nice margin between the flights, but this went well over the margin. I immediately went to the gate of the early morning flight that was delayed to now leave at the time of my originally scheduled flight and was able to get a stand-by seat. Lucky! We boarded soon after and were off to NYC.

Since I had caught an earlier flight than scheduled my EK driver wasnít at LGA, so I took a quick cab ride to JFK terminal 4. I was actually fairly early now, and there werenít a lot of EK people at the check-in area, though there was a long line at the ďtickets/reservationsĒ desk to the side. The desk attendant was nice enough and switched me to 3F from 1F, which I remembered to ask for after reading in the Emirates forum that the galley curtain could sometimes be an annoyance. I then remembered my poor driver and asked if he could call the service center to cancel my car, to which he responded by pointing me to the 10 person + line at the previously mentioned ďtickets/reservationsĒ desk. I thought, no thank you, and should have called the EK desk at that point but did not.

I wandered a bit through Terminal 4, which was new to me as I have flown almost exclusively AA out of the airport (with one JetBlue infidelity, quickly repented and forgiven). I already felt a bit like I had left the U.S. due to the wider mix of people and the multitude of languages Ė what a nice experience on these shores. After a quick double espresso at the coffee shop in the shopping area and an exchange of miscellaneous currency into UAE dirhams, I headed toward the highly anticipated EK lounge.

At the lounge desk ahead of me was a man with Skywards Gold tags talking to the desk attendant, whose every sentence was some sort of solicitation for acknowledgement as a regular and/or important person. Fairly typical and harmless as the breed goes, but I had to suffer through the dialogue for a minute of more until the desk attendant reached past the VIP to take my boarding pass and lounge invite. I was in.

And very much surprised. A wonderful aroma of spices and in plain view a nice bottle of champers waiting for me. I found a table and had some picks from the buffet, including a very tasty lamb biryani that required a second helping. After my snack I ventured around for a look, then settled into the lounge area near a TV and zoned out.

A half hour before the flight I asked at the desk if the flight would be boarding soon and was told not yet but soon, so I walked back down to the gate and the masses. The gate area was already fairly chaotic: people were strewn everywhere and it was not clear where the gate line-up would be due to the proximity of security. Finally after some wait the GA announced boarding for first, business and the special needs. No one seemed to mind the distinction in the announcement and the masses thronged toward the gate. Luckily I had positioned myself and slipped by quickly, handed over my BP and walked onto the plane.

Finally! The suites! In most ways better than I was expecting on first glance. I would have obviously preferred a window seat but the interior was good enough. My first encounter with an FA was slightly odd, in that she pressured me into changing into my PJs right away, citing some former customer complaints if one waited too long. I think she meant people had decided to change in the suite itself rather than a restroom, but my initial impression was of a pushy lady offering a vague threat. Being confused and a little cloudy from the champers, I changed.

When I came back the FA told me that I needed to do her a favor Ė at which point I stopped her and said maybe before she could keep going on what was clearly a run-on sentence. She looked nonplussed. I knew what she was asking, anyways, which was whether I could switch with the woman in front of me so that she could sit next to her daughter. Of course, so we did.

The (same, bossy) FA began to go over how to use the seat controls and ICE system, but the system crashed in the middle and she went away then, and I only saw her once later during the flight. I panicked that maybe I got a seat with a non-functional ICE (and the thought of having to actually read all those reports in my briefcase!), but the system got back up and running in a few minutes and I figured the basics out pretty quickly. I made sure to tune into the frontview camera ahead of take-off.

At this point the purser and another FA had gotten involved with me, and they were extremely pleasant. We were delayed a bit on take-off but I didnít mind.

The ICE system is amazing, which should not surprise anyone. I wonít go into too many details here since itís well-documented.

Full from the buffet at the lounge, I only had a few light snacks but plenty of the Dom on offer. A mixed assortment of warm snacks came on two separate plates, while the caviar came with traditional accompaniments and a bread basket. That was plenty of food that late at night. But I was still working on the Dom.

At which point the bossy FA from the beginning walked by, reached into my suite and took a nearly half-full glass of the Dom. If I were generous I would have thought she were just filling it up, but it was clear that this FA was in a hurry to clean up everything as quickly as possible and then take a break. After nearly ten minutes I rang the call button and said in a surprised tone that my champagne seemed to have disappeared, and it reappeared quite quickly. Top ups, after that point, did not come. Luckily I fell asleep for a solid 6 hours shortly afterward after closing my suite doors. I didnít think that the suite doors would be that big of a deal, but they were. I think they made my sleep less subconsciously tense, and the sleep was certainly the best sleep I have ever had on an airplane before.

I thought the stars on the ceiling were a nice touch, too.

Daylight came and went. At some point I had an omelet and some coffee. I did read through some reports, and had a load of fun with the variety of movies on ICE. I did not spend much time on the music or audio portion.

We arrived at DXB over an hour late. The forward camera gave a good shot of our approach to the airport and of parts of the city and surrounds.

Customs was very easy, though it seemed like a fairly long walk from the gate. I found the EK car service counter quickly and easily, and the car whisked me off to my hotel (the Jumeirah Emirates Towers). Funnily, the same Skywards Gold man from the JFK lounge was throwing some DYKWIA fit about his car not being on the list.

Iíve flown BA F, and that seems like the appropriate comparison to the EK experience. The hard product on EK is terrific (well, at least F on the A340-500), but it all feels a little light somehow. Thereís a feeling on EK that itís not backed up by much, and Iím happy that I didnít have any major problems along the way that required customer service intervention. The in flight service was attentive, but not as crisp and professional as a BA FA would present. I have the feeling that EK is growing so fast its training program is probably struggling to keep up. It's hard to put my finger on what the "lightness" consists of that I'm perceiving in the EK system, but it's there -- though I still had a terrific flight.

So ... the EK price point was actually fairly attractive, and several thousand dollars cheaper than the equivalent BA fare from JFK. Given the choice to fly F JFK-DXB, I think the non-stop factor plus the cheaper price plus the suite hard product gives the edge to EK.

I usually fly J, so at some point Iíll have to try EKís J service before making any broad based loyalty proclamations.

Anyway, Iíll post a shorter account of my travels back to the U.S. soon.

Cheers.
HedgeFundFlyer is offline  
Old Feb 26, 07, 6:01 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Programs: NW Gold, '06. Good times.
Posts: 7,243
I'm very interested in knowing your trip back to JFK was much different. Sounds like a mix of EK seats and SQ service would be the ideal combo.

Nice report.
hoyateach is offline  
Old Feb 28, 07, 1:33 pm
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: in transit
Programs: Delta DM, *A Plat
Posts: 322
Back to the U.S.

After a busy few days in Dubai (sadly no time to travel around on this trip), it was time to head back to the U.S. My flight, EK 201, left DXB at 8:30 a.m., so I had the EK-mobile pick me up at the Emirates Tower at 6:00 a.m. The car was on time, and with little traffic we got to the airport in 15 minutes or so.

There was a dedicated First / Business check-in area, which worked pretty well, although one of the agents exhibited the ďlack-of-trainingĒ aura that some EK employees exude. Luckily I was able to jump to another line where a very helpful young lady checked me in quickly, and I headed to security.

On the way to security I passed through a whole room of EK check-in counters, full of people, so I was glad to have avoided the area. Security itself was quick, maybe 5 minutes.

I took the long walk down the long hallway to arrive at the highly-branded Dubai Duty Free area. In case you didn't notice, DUBAI DUTY FREE. Having about an hour to waste, I walked around and was reminded of a New York subway platform during rush hour. Although at least in New York people are somewhat used to walking amongst crowds. People were everywhere here at DXB, blocking foot traffic, pushing, and making for a generally unpleasant experience. Most of the offerings for sale were cr*p. I thought briefly of getting a tiny sheesha for my wife, to commemorate a romantic date a long time ago at Sahara East in NYC, but decided against it. I did find a book for my son in Arabic, that was an exact copy of a book he has in English. He tends to flip books and read them backwards (from the U.S. perspective) anyway, so maybe he'll learn something this way (and maybe I will, too).

At which point I walked over to the First lounge, expecting quite a bit from the flagship lounge at the flagship terminal. I was slightly disappointed, though I didnít have time to explore the upstairs and have no idea whatís there. I had some small breakfast, then decided to head to the gate as the lounge (downstairs, at least) was getting packed.

At the gate there was another security checkpoint and a very long line, with no first or business lines. I waited at least ten minutes, not too bad but annoying just the same. Once through, there was a short wait, then the boarding announcement. The expected thronging of the masses ensued, though again I managed to slip by quickly in the front. There was a separate side passage that connected to the front of the plane for the first and business passengers once on the ramp.

I had seat 1K this time, which excited me as it was a daytime flight and I would be able to see the whole scenery going by. I was hoping that we would go over North Africa again, but as it turned out we flew far north instead.

I had my pre-flight champagne and got settled. The purser came by to introduce himself. I decided not to change into PJs this time because my suit was cut a little loose and was almost as comfortable. Plus, I didnít think Iíd be sleeping very much.

We got going pretty quickly once the plane was boarded, and again I had the forward camera on. The map feature showed that we were heading north over the Gulf toward Iran, though I couldnít see much due to thick, but smooth, cloud cover.

I spent some time trying to explore more of the ICE system. Lots of interesting music, including ďBest ofĒ compilations for a wide variety of musicians. I listened to some Bob Marley for a while, then happened upon some stand-up comedy listings and listened to old Woody Allen for a bit. But with no view out the window I got a little hungry for eye candy so turned back to the movies. I had surprisingly seen quite a number of the movies but found a few, including Scorseseís The Departed, to watch.

In the meantime I had gotten the Dom flowing into the glass and came to an understanding with the FA that I liked the glass filled on a constant basis, and filled to the top at that. This as I generally refrain from drinking in public in Dubai, even though I know itís not at all expected from the nearly all foreign current residents. Then there *was* that night at the bar when I fell in with the Irish lads and the Russian women in towÖ

I had fairly well settled into the routine, with occasional glimpses out the window by opening my window shade. I had closed the shades to reduce glare on my 19Ē screen. On one peep, I noticed some wonderful mountains Ė truly spectacular Ė that I think were somewhere in Iran.

I only had a few bites on the way, including the sandwiches, cold arab mezzeh, warm appetizer assortment, and caviar.

At some point an alarm clock began to go off, and kept going off for 10 minutes. I finally opened my suite doors and found the purser and asked that he ask the passenger to turn the alarm off. He apologized and said that the offending passenger had his door closed and was sound asleep. Now several passengers in the front were peeping out of their suites, and reluctantly the purser used the special access panel to open the suite doors and shake the passenger to ask that the alarm be turned off. A sleepy response and the issue was solved.

I later tried the white Burgundy on offer, a 1991 vintage, canít remember the producer, but liked it quite well.

Our route took us over Iran, over the top of the Black Sea, through Central Europe, north of England/Scotland, across Greenland, over Labrador into Vermont and then into NYC. I was a little surprised that we went so far north.

There was almost nothing to complain about on this flight at all. The worst thing to happen was the line at the gate, which was pretty minor in the grand scheme of it. Iím not sure that the flight crew went out of their way to make sure I was happy, but frankly I donít like being overly pampered and thought the arrangement was just fine. Just in case people donít know, Emirates has an a la carte menu and a ďroom serviceĒ deal, which requires you to call the attendant via a button and request food when you want it. Part of me likes the ordered ritual of meal service on some flights in some classes, but I think I ate less and spaced it out more on the EK flights, which made me feel better afterward.

Iíll be returning to DXB in the next few weeks and still havenít decided if I will do it via Emirates or another carrier. I may do the CO / Emirates codeshare and credit it to CO to keep the status up, though Iím also thinking about just doing it with BA in J, throwing in an AUH-MCT trip in F or J and coming away with BA Silver.

Iím curious to try Etihad or Qatar, but donít want to waste too many status-building miles, especially with airlines that only are practical on trips to the Mideast for me.

Overall, a very good and very fun experience.

Cheers.
HedgeFundFlyer is offline  
Old Feb 28, 07, 2:22 pm
  #4  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: SAT
Programs: AA Platinum Pro; UA Gold MM; DL Gold; IHG Spire Ambassador; Hilton Gold; Marriott Gold
Posts: 23,872
Originally Posted by HedgeFundFlyer View Post
Our route took us over Iran, over the top of the Black Sea, through Central Europe, north of England/Scotland, across Greenland, over Labrador into Vermont and then into NYC. I was a little surprised that we went so far north.
The shortest distance between two points . . .

Thanks for the trip report. I'd personally love to experience EK first.

I, like you, came away fairly unimpressed with DXB during my visit there this past weekend. Interminably long walks from the departure/arrival building to the terminal building. And disappointing that I could not find a single decent Dubai souvenir t-shirt: everything seemed to either feature the "Fly Emirates" brand or the "Dubai Duty Free" brand, as if somebody would actually want to pay for a duty free advertisement.
SAT Lawyer is offline  
Old Feb 28, 07, 2:38 pm
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: in transit
Programs: Delta DM, *A Plat
Posts: 322
Originally Posted by SAT Lawyer View Post
I figured as much, but didn't have the info to back it up. In that case, I'm surprised on the JFK-DXB route we went straight across the Atlantic and over Africa and Saudi. But then there's probably another good answer to that one, too. I got into flying and travel through business travel so was never one of the more technically-oriented flying enthusiasts.
HedgeFundFlyer is offline  
Old Feb 28, 07, 3:01 pm
  #6  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: SAT
Programs: AA Platinum Pro; UA Gold MM; DL Gold; IHG Spire Ambassador; Hilton Gold; Marriott Gold
Posts: 23,872
Originally Posted by HedgeFundFlyer View Post
I figured as much, but didn't have the info to back it up. In that case, I'm surprised on the JFK-DXB route we went straight across the Atlantic and over Africa and Saudi. But then there's probably another good answer to that one, too.
Most likely, to take advantage of more favorable tailwinds than with a more northerly routing.
SAT Lawyer is offline  
Old Feb 28, 07, 3:35 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Home airports:SRQ,TPA,RSW
Programs: AA 0.4MM, BA G, LH SEN,TK S, HH Dia, Sixt Plat, Hertz Gold, Marriott Silver
Posts: 2,689
Originally Posted by HedgeFundFlyer View Post
I figured as much, but didn't have the info to back it up. In that case, I'm surprised on the JFK-DXB route we went straight across the Atlantic and over Africa and Saudi. But then there's probably another good answer to that one, too. I got into flying and travel through business travel so was never one of the more technically-oriented flying enthusiasts.
You said you flew across greenland, but on the circle mapper it shows a route south of greenland, so you may have flown a longer route.
MACH81 is offline  
Old Feb 28, 07, 4:57 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: BRS
Programs: BA GLD
Posts: 1,927
Excellent report. Thanks for sharing. EK seems to be a bit hit and miss on the service side, but the F class suite sounds fabulous.
sftrvlr is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: