Friday, January 22, 2010

Not just another flight

We were originally going to fly with Jetstar for this trip, as they were having same sales at the time we were looking to book. However we were given an offer we couldn't refuse to 'upgrade' to the more expensive Emirates flights - total about A$17xx for 2 (economy class). Despite the odd departure (2:45am) and arrival times (~1am), it would be more convenient for us to fly direct and save on travelling time. Jetstar transits in Darwin - and we'll get to experience what this is like later this year. Another potentially cheaper option was AirAsia which we flew about 12 months ago - this would have required us to depart from Coolangatta instead of Brisbane, as well as transit in Kuala Lumpur. And so began my first experience flying with Emirates.
I should not have been concerned about whether they had video on demand, because their in flight entertainment system called ICE (information, communications, entertainment) digital widescreen blows everything else I have experienced out of the water! Among other things, it features:

  • a widescreen format for improved viewing, not the puny screens you might get in some other airlines (that is, if you get a personal screen at all...). The 10.6" screen is bigger than the one on my netbook!
  • touchscreen control - this was a bit hit and miss because I had some trouble touching the smaller buttons/icons, and I couldn't find anyway to calibrate the touch alignment (not that I looked very hard). Of course you can still use the more traditional control pad, which features a little joystick type thing to move the cursor.
  • over 1200 channels of movies, tv, music and games. There would have been a good 100+ new and recent release movies.
  • the ability to be used pretty much at all times during the flight, including take off and landing. My previous experiences with other airlines saw them turn their system on after take off, and turn it off before landing. Of course, during announcements and safety briefings etc the system is paused.
  • you can also do stuff like plug in your USB device to view photos, PDFs, play music(?) etc, though I didn't try any of these out myself.
  • oh and there are two cameras on the plane that show the downwards view and the forward view, which I found quite novel. At least that way you can feel more connected to your surroundings.

I ended up watching 3 movies:

  1. District 9 which I thought had a decent plot, with an ending that leaves the story wide open for a sequel which I fully expect to be called District 10 (for more reasons than one).
  2. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen which was a bit of a waste of time. I started to fall asleep during this movie (by which time I was at least 6+ hours past my typical bedtime). So I paused it, took a nap, and continued watching when I woke up.
  3. Michael Jackson's This is It I'm not a huge fan of MJ - I like some of his music and fully acknowledge that he was one skilled and talented individual - and missed most of the media storm that accompanied his passing because I was in China on an IT support short term missions trip at the time (maybe one day I'll get around to blogging my half finished offline entries from that trip), so felt kinda distant from it all. While I'm generally happy to hear his songs, I'm glad I didn't pay to watch this at the cinemas during its limited release.

Anyways, back to the flight itself. Some other miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The cabin crew speak a LOT of languages... I didn't keep count, but I think the announcement listed close to 10, if not more.
  • I'm not sure if the plane we were on had just been turned around from another flight, but the seatback pockets weren't thoroughly cleaned/restocked. Minor quibble, but the pedantic me notices these little details.
  • There is good foot room in the seats to stretch out. The space taken up by the equipment for the entertainment units is not as bulky as other airlines I've flown with.
  • Speaking of the seats, they recline better than other airlines I've been on too. Both the upright and the seat pan (not sure if that's the correct term... the horizontal bit you actually sit on) move when you recline, instead of just the seat back. Looks like the plane I was on had their new generation of ergonomically designed Economy Class seating. Yay me :)
  • Even the fold down trays were a better design - these planes had a double fold, so it takes up less vertical room when folded up. Not sure if it's related, but I guess this means more space for the screen :)
  • Along with the headphones, you get a set of stickers that you can place on your seat to indicate one of the following if you want to sleep:
    1. wake me for meals
    2. wake me for duty free shopping (though I just realised I didn't see any of this at all... maybe it was while I slept, but that would have been an odd time to have it)
    3. do not disturb
  • Having said that, they did not hand out any comfort/amenity packs, eg with stuff like eye shade, ear plugs, socks, toothbrush etc, which I would have expected given my previous overnight travel experiences. I can only assume this would have been available on request...
  • Otherwise the service was fairly good - wifey said before the flight that I should ask the cabin crew to hang my suit bag, but as we got to our seats, a stewardess offered to hang my suit, so I didn't even need to ask.
  • Food wise I thought the meals were reasonable without being fantastic. The snacks we were served after takeoff included a choice of chicken or lamb pie, which turned out to be tiny - I probably could have done with another 1 or 2. They also served a choice of whole fruits, which I don't think I've had on any other flight. Having said that, I think my banana was a tad underdone.

Overall I think it was a definitely value for money flight - compared with the likes of Singapore Airlines or Qantas (both of which I've flown for this route), you are getting more bang for less buck, and that's a win in my books! I'll definitely consider flying Emirates again, assuming the travel budget doesn't consign me to only the budget airlines.

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