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May 26, 2010

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    Emirates Airlines

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Greetings! This is the last story from my Europe and Middle East trip. To give you a quick recap, I began by flying Los Angeles to Zurich on SWISS, transferred to an Edelweiss flight to Berlin, spent a couple nights at the Ritz-Carlton, and then drove at 135 mph up the Autobahn to Wolfsburg, Germany. Took the train to Brussels (via Cologne) for a behind-the-scenes chocolate tour (video), then hopped on a six-hour Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. Spent three amazing nights at Qasr Al Sarab (Dune bashing video | resort video), then went to Dubai and went skiing in a mall (video). Drove two hours to Oman to check out Six Senses' jaw-dropping Zighy Bay resort (video), then went back to Dubai and spent a couple nights at the Address Palace Hotel before heading to DXB airport to get on an Emirates flight to New York. That's right! This week we are flying one of the world's most awarded airlines, so if you want to see what makes this airline so great, pack your bag and passport-we're off to JFK in style.

Emirates Airlines was founded in 1985, but it didn't start to show up on Americans' radar until 2005, when they began service to New York's JFK. They are the fastest-growing airline in the world, and today Emirates has a fleet of 138 aircraft and serves over 100 destinations in 61 countries across six continents. Their North American gateways are: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and Toronto. Their hub is Dubai (DXB), which is now the 15th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic (40.9 million passengers in 2009).

One reason Emirates might be so successful is their sponsorship of so many major international sporting events like the America's Cup, Breeders' Cup, Melbourne Cup, and the FIFA World Cup just to name a few.

This was my second time flying Emirates. My first was on a 90-minute joy ride to experience Emirates' A380 when it first launched in 2008. Here's that story and video.

I had an 8:30 a.m. flight. I left my downtown Dubai (Address Palace) hotel at 6 a.m. The traffic-free ride took 15–20 minutes.

Emirates has its very own terminal (T3) at DXB (Dubai International Airport), and there's also a dedicated area for passengers traveling in business/first class on Emirates. I was fortunate to have one of those “golden tickets.” As soon as the taxi pulled up, two of the army of porters with carts came to the car and offered to help with my bags. I didn't have much luggage nor any more small bills so I kindly declined. Surprisingly, they were nice about it-and even handed me one of their luggage carts. Related Links: DXB virtual tour | DXB Current Departures and Arrivals.

Terminal 3 (T3) has over 250 check-in desks in all and 25 gates. Check-in would've been quick, but like a fool I tried to check-in online, which is a big no-no for USA-bound travelers-I guess it poses a security threat-so it took about 10 minutes to get my ticket re-sorted.

The security check took 30 seconds. There was no line and passengers don't have to take shoes or jackets off or computers out.

What's really nice, especially for connecting passengers, is that T3 has 25 restaurants and free showers for travelers to use. I didn't take one but I did go in to take a peek; they were clean and had liquid-soap dispensers on the wall. You don't have to worry about bringing soap on a rope.

Dubai Airport is famous for its duty-free shopping. DDF (Dubai Duty Free) is a tax-free shopping haven that is celebrating its 26th year. It's open 24 hours a day, and even in a down economy, sales for 2009 (US$1.14 billion) were up 3.76 percent over 2008. The most popular item sold is perfume. Liquor and gold are number two and number three; tobacco and confectionary sales are four and five. I tried to contribute to those numbers, but the lines in each store were so long that I put back all my gifts. Here's a PDF map of T3's shopping and walking times.

Since I was a guest of Emirates, they had an escort take me into the first-class lounge to check it out. Everyone was very friendly and it wasn't crowded at all like the madhouse the duty-free area was. I could do a whole story on the first-class lounge but I don't have time. Some of the highlights: They have multiple bars, including a wine cellar. There are tons of free magazines and newspapers, plus a prayer room, a children's play room, mother & child care room and a spa with free massages, haircuts (up to 15 minutes), and manicures. They even have numerous buffets and an upscale restaurant with incredible service. The big difference is there are no prices on the menu, as everything is free. When I sat down they instantly brought me a basket of fresh baked bread and a dish of France's finest butter. I then ordered a glass of mango juice and tried the juice of day, orange with blue curacao juice, which made it turn green. Unfortunately, I didn't leave enough time, so I had to eat from the buffet and run. Next time I have access to the first-class lounge, I will show up four hours in advance.

I was under the impression that I wouldn't be able to take pictures in the airport or on the plane, but everyone I asked said it was no problem. I ended up taking hundreds of pictures in both. Not only that, the crew came around with a Polaroid and took pictures of any passengers who wanted one (in all classes) and gave it to them as a souvenir. How cool!

They boarded the 777-300ER with two jetways, one for economy and the other for first and business-class customers. I and everyone else was greeted with a warm smile and welcome by the purser.

Walking through the first-class suites, my jaw dropped. Not just because of the beautiful flight attendants working the cabin, but the seats. Each of the eight private compartments had its own minibar and a flat-screen TV bigger than most hotel rooms. They were serving coffee/tea in silver Arabian coffee pots and had chocolates in shiny mahogany boxes.

That wasn't the only shiny mahogany I would see. Get this: The tray tables and the window frames also had the classy look. On top of that the window shades were automatic, with two options: one a sheer white curtain to block out the glare but let natural light in, and the other a blackout curtain. Both settings could be controlled by both the passengers and flight attendants, so they could avoid awkwardly leaning over sleeping passengers to make the cabin dark-one press of the button, and voila.

FYI: Peach roses dangled from silver vases at every cabin entry point.

The business cabin was configured 2-3-2. I was in seat 6J, an aisle bulkhead seat next to the right window. Each seat came with a blanket wrapped in plastic, a good-size pillow, and all kinds of features that I will get into in a minute. In the seat-back pockets were a bottle of water, safety card, headphones, and swine flu safety tips.

Needless to say, Emirates service was top-notch. The flight crew were from all over the world (Serbia, India, Australia...), and they made an announcement stating that our crew spoke over 20 languages, from English to Swahili. Every announcement was first in English, then in Arabic. Everything presented or served to business-class passengers was on a silver platter.

Before the flight even took off, pre-flight drinks in crystal glasses were served, followed by hot towels and a variety of magazines and newspapers.

The flat-screen TV was mounted on the wall in front of me since I was in a bulkhead seat; normally they are on the seat back. The seats are in pods and slide down instead of reclining, so passengers don't encroach on the space of the passenger behind. The TV was 17 inches, and the wireless remote controls alone were the size of most airlines' economy seat-back entertainment systems. Emirates has 1,200 channels of on-demand entertainment-literally hundreds of movies and music options.

For movies they had Hollywood's newest releases, Bollywood favorites, classics, Disney classics, comedies, family films, world cinema, drama, action/thrillers, Oscar winners, and even Westerns.

On-demand music choices included classical, recent release, comedy, classical romantic, health & relaxation, classical modern era, operas, musicals, and soundtracks. They even had all the UK's number 1 hits from 1952 to 2009. The best feature was that you could make your own playlist, which was quick and easy to do. I had my girl Lady Gaga cranking.

There was more than just movies and music. They had TV shows, games (Astroids, casino, arcade, board, card, kids, puzzles, trivia...), world radio and podcasts, a live news ticker, and my favorite, multiple maps with live tracking and two cameras-one facing down and the other straight ahead. Passengers can also plug their cameras in and view their photos or PDF files. There's an international electrical outlet that doesn't require an adapter, and a phone to make calls or send SMS messages (for a charge).

The seats were controlled by buttons on the side (takeoff/landing, dining, and sleeping settings) and by the handheld device. Some of the unusual features included seat-position memory and massagers with about 10 different settings: normal, wave, pulse, zig-zag, etc., and you could choose which of the 10 to focus on. My back, butt, and legs were having a party. NOTE: It can be a little annoying when your seatmate has their massage on and you don't, as you can feel the vibrations.

There were two pilots and two senior officers taking turns flying the plane. The pilot on the PA was definitely Canadian and looked about my age. He sounded cool even when he was saying that under U.S. regulations they had to institute the crazy landing rules that were in effect the first few days after the Christmas Day bomber: All passengers must be seated during the last hour of the flight, with seat belts on and nothing on their laps. What a joke! But fortunately, they didn't enforce it.

We took off an hour late because we were waiting for connecting passengers. Flight time for the 6,830-mile jaunt was 13 hours and 22 minutes. We flew over Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, and Canada and then down the U.S. eastern seaboard.

The seat-belt sign went on only twice (besides takeoff and landing): when we were just south of Iceland for about 15 minutes, and then again over Canada, but there weren't any bad chops. The FAs do come around to make sure everyone is wearing a seat belt.

Here are my notes from the flight.

We took off at 9:42 a.m.
At 9:49 a.m. the seat-belt sign went off.
At 10 a.m. the FAs came around and offered a mattress like pad for a more comfy seat.

At 10:04 a.m., FAs came around with socks and eye masks. I thought that was a little chintzy, but three minutes later plush his and hers amenity kits arrived. Mine had shave cream, a razor, tissues, Old Spice deodorant, and a toothbrush and paste.

About an hour after takeoff, breakfast was served on fine china and with real silverware. The tray came with fresh fruit (grapes, kiwi, pineapple, watermelon, and cantaloupe) and peach yogurt. Then came a selection of pastries, bread, muffins, and bagels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice was poured. I passed on the chocolate chip pancakes and the scrambled eggs and instead went with a masala omelet.

The menu had the option of getting any of a selection of sandwiches, beef pie, seafood biryani, or stir-fried egg noodles any time. I was so full that I passed, but I did find room to raid the snack bar.

In the galley, the snack bar was set up with Toblerone bars, Kit Kats, nuts, sandwiches, fruit (unfortunately nothing exotic), and bottled water.

About four hours into the flight, the FAs pressed a button to put the blackout shades down and then out popped stars on the ceiling. It was surreal.

Even the bathrooms are plush on Emirates. First of all, they are clean as can be-the flight attendants make sure of it. Secondly, there's a window in there, so it's bright and airy. There's also expensive French perfume, Eau de Rochas, and the paper towels are high quality.

About 90 minutes prior to landing, lunch was served (what's nice is that Emirates kept with local times of both departure and arrival city). For starters, I passed on the grilled prawns and went with the Arabic mezze (muhammara with walnut, artichoke and broad bean salad, eggplant salad with pine seeds, stuffed vine leaves, and chickpea kibbeh with an assortment of pickles and garnishes). For my main course I had black pepper chicken (Indian style, served with cumin-flavored rice and kadhai vegetables). Other choices were blackened beef, steamed sea bream fillet, and grilled salmon.

Then came the dessert tray, filled with brownie cheesecake, toffee apple, peach charlotte, fresh fruit, and an international cheese selection. We certainly didn't need more, but sure enough they came around with Godiva chocolates.

I spent a good deal of time chatting with the flight crew, and they were all super cool. They and all of Emirates' amenities really made the long flight seem short. No wonder Emirates has to organize all of their awards by year on individual pages of their website.

While I was chatting up the FAs, a woman walked by to use the restroom. She looked awful familiar, so I asked the crew for her name and sure enough, she was a colleague of mine from SATW who was coming back from a conference in Thailand. Talk about a small world.

NYC AIRPORT LIMO TIP: We landed just 30 minutes late and I cruised through customs. I discovered a great tip to score an inexpensive car service: Go upstairs to departures and wait for a limo service to drop off a departing passenger. Be sure no cops are around, and then ask the driver how much to the city. They most likely will do it for cheap since they are going that way anyway. I thought I got a bargain, as I paid $40, but my driver said I overpaid. Gotta love New York (and Emirates!).

For more information visit

Next week we fly back over the pond to try out a relatively new airline.

*PLEASE tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Note: This trip was sponsored in part by Emirates.

Copyright 2010 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


DXB Airport






Duty Free


Free Showers


Clean Showers


First Class Lounge






Own Kitchen


Love To Dream




Lounge Breakfast




On The Cart






Welcome Aboard


Emirates FA


My Seat




First Class


First Class Suite


Pre-Flight Drinks






Hot Towels


Entertainment Choices


2 Onboard Cameras


Remote Controls


Seat Massager


Extra Seat Cushion


His & Hers Amenity Kits


Inside Mine




Breakfast Tray


Masala Omelete


Camera Crew


Free Pics


Emirates Flight Crew




Lunch Tray




Next Week


  • I <3 the middle east and all the yumminess you can get. Parisa G -

  • Can I PLEASE be you when I grow up? Benet W -

  • HEAVEN!!! Andi P –

  • Oman! My favorite country and some of the nicest people on the planet! Six senses is beautiful...hope you are flying to their capital, Muscat..its truly an unbelievable place...have fun! Lisa L

  • I agree with Lisa . . . Oman is amazing! I love the Omani's sense of humour. Virginia G – Dubai

  • Livin' the dream!!! Kyle C - Connecticut

  • I love Oman too! We were there 2 years ago and it was my favorite Gulf country. Nancy S

  • What a fabulous story! I loved your bits about the slow fly and “by the grace of God” it was too windy to paraglide (chicken!). The fresh fruit/juices and breakfast buffet have left me salivating (those waffles!), and I wish I were relaxing in an infinity pool gazing up at the stars right now! In fact, one of the most memorable meals of my life was at Dining on the Sand with the large moon overhead and all the stars… This makes me want to go back to Zighy Bay so badly… it really is a special place, so remote and peaceful! Meredith S – Los Angeles, CA

  • My family and I are flying business on Swiss in 10 days to Italy, (via Zurich) from LAX, and really enjoyed your in depth description of all things flight related. I hope our flight is as close to your experience. While not usually excited about the flights, I am now looking forward to our flight on Swiss! Thanks for the commentary!! Greg B - Arizona

  • THE best video to date! Nick is a great cameraman. I hope he doesn't get stuck in a room facing a wall and can enjoy the property as well. There are over 30 world class museums in the UAE but Johnny is so busy at the buffet how does he keep his slim self? I would like for him to visit New Caledonia the one place I have not been. It’s very unique in flora and fauna and Somerset Maugham wrote "rain" or "Sadie Thompson" thee. Keep up the great job the site improves every week. Sudsy - Florida

  • Wow, on the Oman report. I've been twice but never staying at over a 1000 USD a night. Johnny Jet you are flying really high. How about Oman or Italy or France on 100 euros a day? Just back from a month in Italy - by car - and we did 100 euros per person per day: lunch, dinner, B&B, drinks, museums, petrol/gas. And it was spectacular!!! Would love to have your travel budget, but it isn't in the cards. When will you do a travel story for the 100 euros a day folks? Love your stories! Linda Thalman - Paris

  • I always check where you are first when I login [to Facebook]. I'm enjoying your posts and photographs, especially You and Miss Swiss! I think it's the best profile picture of all. Y.S. -

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