The photos in the slide show below are screen shots on the in-seat television of an Emirates Boeing 777 which display the scene from the out-board camera on the aircraft. This is, basically, the view the pilot has of what's in front of him. The slide show demonstrates the approach and landing at Frankfurt. The weather is not great, so the shots are not as clear as they could be.
The first photo is from about twenty miles out on the glide path to runway 2r left. The airport is the light patch in the centre of the photo. This will become more apparent at the aircraft gets closer.
The light line curving through the middle photos is the A3 autobahn, one of the busiest highways in Europe. The parallel runway, 25 right, is--where else?--on the right.
The terminal is on the right side of the runway. On the left side is the site of the former Rhine Main Airbase, which will soon become Terminal 3 of Frankfurt airport. The space is currently being used for freight operations, private jets, and maintenance hangars.
The last photo is just before the aircraft veers to the right, following the yellow line to a taxi way.
I wrote sometime back about the lack of advance in airplane toilet design. For decades, they have remained small and cramped, even on new models of the 747 and new planes like the 777.
I was wrong. I forgot about the A380.
So, I have test this aircraft, again so you do not have to. You can enjoy the experience vicariously through my description. You can imagine the pleasure of entering a large space, about five of six times the size of a traditional airplane toilet. There is a shower. There is a bench on which to sit, perhaps to tie your shoes after a shower. No contortions are required to dress. If bored, one can pace the floor. I am sure that there are smaller prison cells.
Emirates even provides a bath (spa!) attendant, who explains how to use the shower and then cleans up after each use. This gentle person flew from Dubai to Mauritius (or any other 380 route) and back, staying overnight in a hotel. Imagine the cost, which no US carrier would bear, to pamper your customers.
As someone once wrote, How can you keep them down on the farm, once they’ve been away? The same might be said for once you're flown Emirates A380 first class...
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)..
Emirates Airline does an excellent job at aspects of a trip that they control. Sadly, they must rely on others for services at airports outside Dubai. They offer an excellent chauffeur service, check-in, and lounge for first and business classes, but these privileged passengers must fight the crowds at boarding pass check, passport control, and security screening. Even priority lanes, if at all provided, do not always ease the way.
We spent over twenty minutes in a sea of humanity (many representing the unwashed masses according to doors reaching my nose) struggling to get through the single open gate for boarding pass control. All automatic gates were closed and a single harried clerk attempted to cross-check boarding pass and passport, which would allow an individual to stand in line once again at immigration control. I glanced at the departure board and noticed that I was surrounded by people heading to such lovely spots as Ulan Bator, Kiev, Moscow (three airports), Vietnam, China, and so on. I even spotted thuggish Slavic-looking characters in Russian-style camouflage suits, but could not discern if they were headed to Moscow or Kiev. Fortunately, no scuffles occurred.
Once again, I was reminded that the main virtue/benefit of first or business class is space, either in or on the way to the aircraft. Catering is secondary.
In case anyone is interested, we are on our way to Mauritius. Flight routing has been changed, so I do not expect to be shot down over Iraq on the way to Dubai. We need about six hours to reach Dubai, where we will change planes for another six hour flight. The second leg is in an A380, so there will be plenty of space to spread out. I was surprised the Emirates flies such a large-capactiy aircraft to the distant island each day.
We are fleeing August weather (similar to March) in hopes of finding sunshine and warmth. We'll see, because it is "winter" in the southern hemisphere. Historical weather charts suggest favourable conditions for vacation.
For anyone that flies or has flown on commercial airlines, below is an interesting and entertaining piece from the Guardian.
I have known this for years, which is why I avoid US carriers and most European ones.There was a saying, I believe used by cruise ships a long time ago, that said “Getting there is half the fun”. Of course, that ended long ago, but current travel in first class of the best airlines is not bad and a begin to any vacation. And, first class of the top carriers bears no resemblance to first class on a US carrier, except that both get you from point A to point B.
Don’t take my word. You can read an article from Vanity Fair on Emirates and the Dubai Airport. Notice the photo of the baggage claim area and compare it to ones you know in the United States…or Heathrow.
How can you keep them down on the farm--or on the ground--once they’ve flown first class...
During the flight from Dubai to Frankfurt, I recalled some of my previous flights. My experiences could be a metaphor for my life: things kept getting better as I grew older.
My first flight was from Norfolk, Virginia, to Boston on an Eastern Airlines (which no longer exists) propeller airplane. The ticket cost $18, which was a large sum. One could drive the same distance for a few dollars worth of gas. Both the price of gas and airline tickets provide a lesson in inflation, for anyone interested in such trivia. Anyways, I had escaped from a school trip to perform a play at Black colleges (I was in the stage crew) to visit my uncle and cousins and needed to get home. My father was angry at the school chaperone for letting me leave, but scraped together the money for the airfare. Boarding was different in those days: I showed my ticket at the door and was pointed to a plane parked on the ramp. No jetways. No body searches. Fortunately, there was no rain. And, I have no photos from that time.
My next airplane experiences were in the back of a 707 crossing the Atlantic to Germany to visit my brother, who was defending the “free” world against the threat of communist invasion through the Fulda Gap. All I recall is that I was stuck for eight hours in a middle seat between two heavy smokers and food arrived on an aluminum tray, not unlike a TV dinner. For some reason, chicken comes to mind.
On my second flight I across the Atlantic, I had a camera and must have had a window seat. I was fascinated by views of Greenland, which I had learned in geography is not green
Various flights within the United States are memorable only in comparing them to flying now. Everything was easy. I do not recall any longing to sit in first class; I merely wanted to get from point A to point B. Fares were cheap.
My first flight across the Pacific was in a civilian 707 (company offering chartered flights to the military) from McChord Airbase in Washington to Cam Rahn Bay Airbase in Vietnam. I was fortunate enough to be sent to Vietnam late in the war, when the military was flying replacement troops and not sending them by ship.
The only privilege afforded officers was to seat in the front, but we had the same three across seating. Once again, I ended up in the middle seat. I recall the flight being very quiet, because no one seemed to be celebrating arrival at the destination. Every passenger wondered, I am certain, if they would be making a return flight.
We stopped in Anchorage and Tokyo for fuel, which provided a chance to stretch our legs. My strongest memory of the flight is the emotional speech made by one stewardess, after we landed at Cam Rahn Bay, wishing us all luck. It worked for me. I do not recall the flight home, other than that we landed at some air force base near San Francisco and I caught a flight to Denver to visit friends.
The following years saw several flights back and forth across the Atlantic on charters and various airlines.
In the late 70s, the exchange rate for dollars fell precipitously and prices took some time to level off. Anyone traveling to the United States from Germany benefited, so flying first class was downright cheap. Of course, flying economy was even cheaper, but I was young and foolish and on vacation. Those were the final days of luxury first class in the United States, where caesar's salad was mixed at your seat, chateaubriand was sliced on a cutting board at your seat, and ice cream was served by the scoop, not in a plastic container...or at all. That beats even the best first class service of late. Seats have improved, but food has not. Business class had yet to be invented.
Prices caught up with exchange rates, which even swung back the other way every few years. The best I could afford--or was offered by my employer--was business class. Plus, I had the burden of filling more seats. And, spoiling my kids, so that they did not have to suffer on a charter flight.
I became addicted to first class travel during my years as an executive for a global company and learned the subtle differences between airlines. Since then, I strive to avoid US carriers, all of which are far inferior to international brands. First class of some US airlines is inferior to business class on the best “foreign” carriers. And, even on the best of airlines, first class seats do not protect you from a hard landing any better than the ones in the back...and perhaps less, because they have individual speakers.
My wife and I have decided that, if we have to fly economy, we will not fly. That sounds arrogant, but it is merely a question of comfort and traveling only for pleasure. We prefer to stay home than to ride in the back of an airplane. Of course, this often limits destinations, because one can reach islands only on regional carriers
. Therefore, we will no longer visits places we enjoyed in the past, such as Abacco in the Bahamas or Ko Samui in Thailand. That is not a problem, because the choice of destinations reached by real planes is great. Some carriers offer very favorable rates on business and first class fares...which explains why I travel to and through Dubai so often. I have learned that the only thing better in airline travel than first class is an empty first class.
What is not good is a standby first class ticket, which one can buy if related to a Lufthansa employee. We learned that this is not such a good deal, when we were downgraded to economy, despite having a first class ticket. Paying customers and employees with a higher priority get the seats. Lufthansa economy is better than most, if not all, other airlines' economy, but it's still economy.
Somerset Maugham is supposed to have said that the best trips take place in the imagination. There is some truth in that, but one must get out and see places to feed the imagination. And, the guy never experienced first class travel in a modern jetliner. An old ad for ocean liners once claimed that getting there is half the fun, which was written in a time when trips took days. In the age of jet flight, getting there needs to be comfortable, not fun.
For example, Emirates business class is excellent and even good enough (here is a comparison photo, showing those suffering in the back).
But a first class cabin is the way to go (unless your ego--and net worth--is so large that you demand flying by private jet).
Most people sit in a airplane and have no idea what’s happening outside the aircraft--especially in front. Few passengers with window seats check out the view for long, if at all. I try to book a window seat and spend much time looking out the window, even at the vast emptiness of open sky. Either the landscape or clouds are fascinating and usually better than the movies on offer.
On my recent Emirates flight from Dubai to Frankfurt, the entertainment system offered an Airshow to document flight route and progress and two cameras: one to the front and one looking downwards. On the ground, you get an excellent view of concrete or can see what’s happening in front of the plane as it taxis and takes off.
On the way to the active runway, I noticed the above scene on the screen, something that no pilot ever wants to see in the air. Fortunately, the plane turned off to head for the runway, taking off before us.
I do not travel as much as I used to, and my itinerary tends to always include Dubai. That said, I cannot imagine better first or business class lounges than those of Emirates Airline in the new terminal of Dubai Airport. Besides the scale, service, quality, and food provided, the best feature is that you can go from the lounge by elevator to the jetway.
You avoid the lines and crowds of the terminal and the gate area. The lounges fun the length of the building--first class on the floor above the departure level and business class on the floor above, so there are many elevators--one for each gate. One does not see one’s fellow passengers before, during, or after the flight. I imagine that this is what travel by ship was like during the Golden Age of the ocean liner: classes of passenger never came in contact with one another, having separate gangways, separate decks, and separate lives. I am pleased that fate has permitted to have experience all the decks and to end up on the upper one..
Besides pricing policy and operating under very different labor laws/tax structure, I have noticed one big difference between Lufthansa and Emirates.
Emirates pilots switch on the seatbelt sign at the first hint of atmospheric stirrings and leave it on longer than necessary, seeming until the memory of “turbulence” has subsided. Lufthansa pilots, seemingly, start to think about the seatbelt sign whenever the first flight attendant is heading towards the ceiling.
Another aspect of turbulence, that I have often noticed, is that it always shows up at meal time. I have spent many minutes holding my wine glass to prevent the red wine from sloshing out. Eating is not a problem during rough weather, but one would hate to spilling wine and stain the table cloth or one’s clothes. Of course, one does not have that problem on most US carriers, especially in economy where spilling peanuts is not a problem.
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.