Wednesday, March 6, 2013

London by Emirates


To get here you need to take a flight. We were die hard British Airways flyers. They had a lounge in Mumbai Airport where you could relax, read the London Times [agreed it was a day old] and generally get used to the fact that you were leaving the hurly burly of India and Mumbai and going to Cool Britannia. On board you normally got a slightly older aircraft with a poor entertainment system. You could not pause, stop, rewind, and start a new movie afresh. Once the entertainment system started you waited till the cycle was over and then had a fresh stab at your movie. You had a screen about the size of an Ipad. Service on board was very efficient. The hostesses were hard as nails and you knew that if there was an emergency they would know exactly what to do to get you out. Rules were strict. No newspapers on the floor at landing time. Entertainment switched off so you are fully alert in case of an emergency and not in la la land watching Shah Rukh Khan singing and dancing. You landed in London at the superb Terminal 5, got your bags the moment you finished immigration, got into a cab and were off. That was life and life was good.

Then, last year we were to go to Dubai, which would be our base, from which we would go to the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Race. After the stay in Dubai we were going to London for a few days. We had to fly Emirates. Dubai blew me away. You must have read about it in my deeply appreciative and awestruck posts. Not only did Dubai blow us away but Emirates did too. To use an analogy, it was something like parents telling us the sea change that their child had from being in an ICSE school and changing to an IB school. From rote and discipline you were in a land of creativity and joy. Emirates had started their own lounge at Mumbai Airport. As an aside only BA and Emirates have lounges in Mumbai Airport. Yes, Air India has one too but that looks like the Cottage Industries Shop replete with Pichwai paintings, miniatures on Mughal Emperors, carved Elephants, Samovars and other horribly tacky Indian `icons’. The Emirates aircraft were great and new. You had entertainment systems that were astounding. You had a huge selection to choose from, you could start and top a selection at will, you had a very large screen and, you could watch a movie from the moment you entered till the doors were opened at your destination.

Plus, you get to fly the absolutely great Airbus A 380 to and from Dubai. This aircraft is really quite something and the way Emirates have set up the interiors, it brings the thrill and romance back into flying. The aircraft is palpably quieter, smoother and generally much better than any other aircraft. You feel that you are floating on the clouds, it’s really that quiet, noticeable, palpably quieter. You have a lounge on board with a real bar. Yes, Kingfisher and Virgin have it too but this one is large and good. So you can get up from your seat walk to the lounge and have a drink of your choice. You can eat a canapé or four and strike up a conversation with a fellow passenger. You are no more a prisoner of your seat.

In addition to all this, you can actually use the internet and your mobile phone on board. Yes folks you pay a small amount and you get an internet connection. So you can stay in touch on Facebook even for those 7 hours and stay in touch with your office. Yes you can SMS and call your friends while on board flying across Asia en route to London. Quite amazing. So all those rules of switching of your mobile as your plane will crash do not hold good.

Dubai airport is truly amazing and now Emirates have set up a dedicated terminal for all their A 380 flights. Because a single A 380 carries 76 business class passengers, each departure gate has its own lounge with top quality services. Really impressive.

So now I am at crossroads. It takes about 4 hours more to get to and from London. You have great aircraft, a superior product but the brutal efficiency of BA does not exist. We fly on Holiday so does the extra 4 hours matter? And staying in touch via computer and mobile phone? Is that really important? No but the excitement and the ability are impressive. At the moment the thrill of Emirates is very much all consuming. Let us see.

But, to conclude, a lot of Dubai is due to Indians and Pakistanis. Dubai is India with systems and infrastructure in every meaning of the word. We Indians should really stop laughing at the Gulf countries, shed our prejudices about Arabs and see what our people with good leaders can achieve. 

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