by Penny M
It is April 2016. I have completed another long haul from the spreads of tourist magnet, Durban city, South Africa, to the peace of a quaint village in Somerset, United Kingdom where my parents live.
I made a pre-travel exploration of the Emirates website and was delighted. I noted down the channel numbers for four movies I wanted to watch, chose my main courses for both flights and determined the maximum weight and dimensions for hand luggage.
I flew via Dubai from King Shaka Airport. Note to author – take Plan A when you can. Notices that facilities are available at the boarding gate don’t include small-print warnings that patrons are desperate and cleaners, if they exist at all, are suspected of taking tea breaks or holidays during queue times. There is nothing like a smelly, wet toilet seat to force restraint until you’re in the air.
My Emirates experience commenced with humour when a young lady at the check in counter asked me to confirm that my name was correctly recorded on my boarding pass. It was reflected as MITCHELL PENNYMS. Being a stickler for this sort of thing and suffering from my usual pre-flight panic, I responded with, “Uh no. It’s Penny without the MS. What’s the MS?” Alerted by a spark in her eyes, I forced myself to concentrate.
“Yes,” she said with control worthy of an Oscar, “MS stands for Mizzz.” We met again at the boarding gate, “Welcome on board, Mizzz Mitchell.”
If Emirates airlines were responsible for the condition of airport rest rooms, I am certain such areas would have been delightful havens for the bare necessities. Their service is customer-centric; staff are charming and efficient from check in to check out.
Flying with this airline is a pleasure, even for an Economy class passenger like me. There seems to be extra knee and shin space. Overhead lockers are spacious and are easily accessible during transit without the risk of injury to unsuspecting passengers below.
Meals are part of the on board entertainment. Arranging the food covers on my meal tray was not child’s play; far more amusing though. Each piece of foil, plastic or cardboard was a different size or shape and ranged from flat to tunnel-like with domes. Stainless cutlery (oh how I love it) came in a long envelope with a napkin, all encased in a tight paper ring. The packaging designer must have been an engineer or a stand-up comedian (not sit-down) with a wicked sense of humour, or perhaps had never been an Economy class customer. There’s a big difference in size between a lunch table and a kiddy-sized tray. The food was delicious when I finally got to it minus my fork which disappeared beneath my neighbour’s seat.
For the Durban – Dubai stretch, I fixed my hair in a loose, high bun to avoid crooking my neck on the back rest and settled to watch movies. Mitchell’s law, I had carefully recorded my selection on my mobile phone. This was switched off and in my bag above me; so much for preparation. It took a while for me to realise that a screen change was still going to happen. In addition to the usual demonstration on safety, perhaps a lesson on cabin technology would be useful, especially as this often differs with the aircraft.
I was distracted momentarily by a fellow passenger a couple of rows in front who leapt up to one of the personal reading lights above and proceeded to try and screw it off. ‘Whatever is he trying to do?’ I thought with considerable amusement as I watched the pallor of his face change in the beam. I suppose I should have told him that the button for that was on somebody’s control panel, but I didn’t want him to feel silly. On his third jack-in-a-box attempt, a lady in front of me leaned forward gesticulating. At the same time, his partner must have found the solution as he flashed out of sight like a magician’s rabbit.
No free socks or toothpaste on this flight – do some airlines still offer this? There was a page of coloured stickers in the bag with my headphones. Each bore a request – wake me for meals; do not disturb; wake me for duty free. How useful, I thought, and stuck the one for ‘wake me for meals’ where indicated on the top of my head rest. I didn’t realise until after I was by-passed for breakfast that mine had stuck to my bun. It seems I wasn’t the only one. A passenger with longer, thicker hair than mine stationed herself outside one of the toilets. She too was wearing a courtesy adornment. Perhaps not such a good idea after all.
After landing gently at Dubai, a bus collected us for a scenic tour of the vast airport. This caused several passengers some consternation when they thought we were heading for the motorway and the city beyond. It took ten to fifteen minutes to reach our destination. We went through security checks into the main hub for some much needed exercise. Warning – the airport is vast and can cost many blisters in boots.
I had been given a voucher for a free meal and drink from one of several food outlets. Assuming erroneously that my selection would be on a value basis, I was looking forward to a MacDonald’s milkshake. Take a tip from one who knows – if this happens to you at Dubai airport, walk to the nearest ‘You are here’ map under glass at waist level and figure out which is your nearest preference. “Five minutes’ walk, madam,” becomes fifteen minutes in real time. My milkshake became cardboard chicken nuggets, eight out of forty fries, a cup of apple juice and a packaged, unripe banana. Oh well, it was free. Next time I’ll try one of the restaurants closer to the Boarding Gate and take my chances.
I assessed how many episodes of Downton Abbey, series 6, I could get through on the second leg of my journey to Heathrow, finished in good time and nodded off in front of another movie.
By the time I landed, got through Customs and created several more blisters in Baggage Arrivals, London rush hour was imminent and I was extremely grateful to find my board-less Chauffeur (Mom’s treat) amongst the sign touting men at the exit. Twenty eight hours after leaving home, I was woofing down a cheese omelette and looking forward to a soothing bath.
Emirates had made my night and day, but how I wished I hadn’t missed the British Airways special offer in November. Sorry Emirates but, when you travel as far as I do, it’s all in the timing. I could have arrived in Wiveliscombe in time for lunch instead of dinner.