A380 experience: Do we have to land?

As a very frequent traveler, I don’t experience much excitement about flying anymore. I have flown in business, coach, and first class on many of the international airlines, and let me tell you, a flatbed is still not a comfortable way to fly. And those so-called, first-class seats I have experienced on my flights from the US mainland back home to Hawaii do not deserve to fall into the category of being called first class.

First, the domestic airlines took away the 5-course dinner, and then the choices went down to 2 with ice cream cookies for dessert. Does anyone remember the bar that Continental Airlines had for passengers in the late 80s? All these niceties that made air travel not only tolerable but often times enjoyable are gone.

But not so with Emirates – they bring the fun back to flying. Strategically headquartered in Dubai and, therefore, a perfect gateway to Africa, India, Asia, Europe, and now North and South America, Emirates is definitely the way to fly.

When approaching the airport in Dubai, you may not detect that you are pulling up to an airport terminal. A Skycap wielding golden baggage carts, along with a team of people, opens your limousine door, which is included in your airfare if you are traveling in business or first class, and personally escorts you to a special check-in counter. There are no lines at security and no lines at immigration because of their special fast-track service, and this is just the beginning of how Emirates takes the experience of flying to a whole new realm.

You then take an elevator to the Emirates lounge – a lounge that can only be described as luxurious; no bottles of water and little bags of snack crackers here. There are several buffets offering food from every corner of the globe, showers, the opportunity to get a quick 20- or 40-minute massage, relaxation rooms, a hotel, and a business center, all in an area about as big as most airport terminals. You will not dread having to arrive hours ahead of your flight, because you surely will want to enjoy these wonderful amenities.

The business center, despite its enormous size, is so popular that it may take you awhile to find a chair to sit on. I have been there twice – once at 5:00 am and another at 11:00 am – and both times it was a hub of activity. With a fast connection to the Internet seemingly impossible, don’t even bother. Just enjoy the food and get a massage.

With an hour still left before departure, I decided it was time to experience the new Dubai airport terminal shopping mall, which rivals most city shopping malls in size. If shopping is your thing or if you forgot to pick up a gift for Aunt Betty, you are sure to find what you are looking for here.

Before you know it, it was time to head off to gate 36 where one of the new flagship Emirates airplanes was waiting – the new Airbus A380. Even though there were 500 passengers on this flight, boarding was completed in no time at all. I was flying in business class, so I was directed to the upper deck of the A380 where the business- and first-class seats are located.

When I saw my suite, I had to check my seat assignment again to make sure this was indeed a business-class seat. It looked like a premium first-class seat. I stepped into my suite, which was divided from my neighbor by a movable wall. I took stock of my personal space on the aircraft – a personal mini-bar; a 17-inch, high-resolution screen; the new ICE entertainment system to enjoy hundreds of movies on demand and thousands of sound tracks including every top 10 hit ever played in the UK; and a second smaller screen on a side table so you can play games while you are watching a movie or simply if you feel like adjusting your seat to write an email or make a phone call.

The take off was smooth, and 3 outside cameras broadcasted different views from outside the plane to your 17-inch, high-resolution screen so you could watch your take off in a way not experienced before.

The flight attendants spoke 14 different languages so communicating with them was a breeze. I enjoyed the smoothie I ordered after take off and then the 5-course dinner was about to begin. And what a dinner it was. Was I in an airplane or at an upscale restaurant?

Hours later, I went to experience the business-class bathroom. Unlike the typical airplane bathroom, this one was spacious with bright lights and even had a window in it so you could take a look outside. Every amenity you could think of, like in a 5-star hotel, was there just waiting for you to use – a toothbrush, name-brand toiletries, and the ability to adjust the water temperature. Unfortunately I did not see the showers offered in the front of the first-class cabin otherwise I would have happily taken advantage of cleansing 35,000 miles up.

The back of the upper deck is a world unto itself. There is a complete bar with every snack, sweet, and drink you can imagine. The airline staff and passengers chatted or watched the big-screen HD TV. This area was all about fun and socializing.

Unexpectedly, because it seemed so sudden, a flight attendant informed me that we were getting ready to land. But how can that be? It all seemed so quick. This flight was so enjoyable, I momentarily toyed with the idea of turning right around and flying back out again.

For a raw video of the interior of the A380, click on the link below. [youtube:drhzKZ_KC9Y]