As seen on every table of the Dubai Airport first class lounge in the new terminal...
Arriving at one of the world's busiest airports at the busiest time of day (11 at night), one can expect to do a few turns of holding. Having plenty of time for our connection and sitting comfortably, one does not mind. I did mind the news of having an "outside" position at the airport. I hate to ride a bus at an airport, because it defeats the purpose of air travel (speed) and is an uncomfortable hassle, compared to first or business class travel. The purser assured me that bus transfer at Dubai is different than bus transfer at Frankfurt or other airports.
He was correct. I even enjoyed the ride to the terminal, even though the aircraft parked at the farthest parking spot on a huge airport. The handful of first class passengers were off the plane and on our way just as business class and economy class passengers were beginning to descend their stairs. The photo explains why I enjoyed the ride...
I can tell you the definition of wretched excess: flying Emirates first class to Dubai, enjoying the first class lounged at Dubai airport (there are two), and flying a second leg in first class. They offer simply too much good food and drink, more than one can consume. You are forced to say no...unless you are glutton or pig. In the lounge, there is a top-notch restaurant with no prices on the menu. It is impossible to eat and drink, after you have been pampered on the inbound flight.
We departed Dubai at 3 in the morning, and the aircraft headed almost due south. I chose this flight, because I wanted to arrive in Mauritius in the morning and not the evening. We faced an hour drive to the hotel, so I wanted to arrive in daylight and have some time to enjoy the water.
I have crossed the equator into the southern hemisphere a number of times, but not for several years. After a few hours sleep, I raised the shutter to get a glimpse of the Indian Oceans. We had passed the Seychelles. Clouds covered the water, but the new day had begun in the east.
Speeding over the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, I stare down at scattered clouds and wind-tossed water. I cannot help but to think about people who struggled under the power of sails and without the benefit of satellite weather reports, GPS, or even reliable charts. How fortunate I am to have a bed, a shower (in an A380), and flight attendants to serve me. Even the poor souls suffering in the back of the aircraft, or rather downstairs, have a far superior travel experience to anyone having traveled the Indian Ocean before the invention of powered vessels.
People still sail these waters--for pleasure or competition--but I cannot imagine the tedium. A mere glance at any map and a bit of calculation in one's head reveals how long even the shortest journey under sail might take. I have never felt the lure of the sea, even when--or, perhaps, especially when--I was offered the chance to sail across the Atlantic, a much smaller bit of water--once from the east coast to England and once from Spain to the Caribbean. I prefer a quick and comfortable trip above the clouds and over the water.
The first glimpse of Mauritius surprise me. I knew about neighbouring Reunion Island, but had not spotted the small bits of land to the north.
The view of the main island from the air promises what one expects: turquoise water, white sand, and green vegetation. This seems to be proof of the wisdom of traveling so far to avoid European weather and summer rates.
As the aircraft approached the airport, I switch the Airshow to camera mode. The A380 offers three cameras, which are interesting for views to the front during takeoff and landing.
This time, I was surprised at how short the runway looked. I am used to Dubai and Frankfurt, so this one seemed shorter. I thought about sitting in a rather large aircraft and hoped that the runways was long enough. Since Emirates flies these aircraft to Mauritius every day, I assumed that the runway length would suffice.
Obviously, we landed safely, otherwise I would not be boring you. The pilot made an excellent touchdown, considering the size and weight of an A380. Taxiing was was quicker and easier than the long way at Frankfurt Airport. The aircraft must have felt as we did, when we boarded the plane in Dubai. We walked from the lounge to the aircraft on a jet way only for first class passengers. We were the only ones, just as the A380 was the only aircraft moving on the airport (only one other was parked at a gate)..
After leaving holding north of Dubai, the route provided a good view out the starboard side of the city. We crossed the coast and passed the airport on the downwind leg. Those that know Dubai and have a sense of perspective will recognise lights on The Palm. Anyone with sharp eyes will be able to spot the Burj Khalifa. The airport is the large dark slash in the centre left of three photos.
The final photo is a shot of the forward-looking camera of the approach to the runway, clearly visible in the center. The bright lights on each side are terminal buildings.
After seeing hotels, office buildings, malls, and the airport in Dubai, one can only wonder if any marble remains in Italy's mountains.
For me, one of the great indignities in life is being forced to ride a bus to or from an airplane at a major airport. I can understand this at smaller airports, where jetways would be an unnecessary luxury. At some airports, the ride is no more than 100 meters. I do not know if airlines fear passengers straying or being unable to make the distance on foot.
I recall one flight, when the bus was almost as long as the flight. We needed 18 minutes to reach the parking spot at Frankfurt Airport, and the flight to Nuremberg lasted 22 minutes. I thought of this, when I discovered just how large Dubai Airport is and how many aircraft Emirates operates, because most had come home to roost.
Because Emirates has its own terminal, I did not expect to ride a bus. Unfortunately, we were there at peak hub traffic, with planes arriving and departing for all points of the compass. But, it was not a short bus ride. We rode from one end of the airfield to the other...and then back towards the center (because of bus routes through the myriad of parked planes).
The class in which you ultimately sit is not reflected in the bus transportation or what you experience on the ground (until you finally can seek refuge in the first class lounge, which is excellent). Boarding procedures were the most-chaotic I have ever experienced, because we were forced to wait in the crowded departure gate and board the bus last. So, by the time started on its long, long journey, I was not happy. All other airlines let first and business class passenger board first to avoid mixing with the unwashed masses. If this sounds elitist...it is.
Airlines provide flight times, to help passengers plan. No airline reveals bus transportation details or taxiing time. The bus ride from one end of Dubai Airport to the other and the taxi from that end back to the opposite end for take off added at least an hour to our journey. At least, the taxiing part was in the comfort of a decent seat. A jetway would have made the trip more pleasant.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.