Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
The second of my two day trips whilst on my first Asian adventure was booked in January 2013. Having wanted to try out Oman Air (mainly due to their great livery) it seemed crazy not to take a short hop across to Oman whilst in Dubai. My decision was also helped along by not only seeing PalmJets photos, but also somebody from work having recently returned from there and sharing a few pictures and stories of his own. Booking was made via the Oman Air website for the relatively cheap price of around £100. The 737 operated nearly all flights, however one departure from MCT in the evening was operated by the E175. This was the most tempting option as if I chose this, it would mean I would have logged all variants of the E-Jet in just 14 months. The main downside being that it wouldn’t leave me a huge amount of time in Muscat. But an A.netter has to do what an A.netter has to do!
But first of all, I needed to get back from Bangkok to Dubai. This was achieved via the LHR-DXB-BKK-DXB-LHR ticket I booked back in November 2012. I was also hoping that this day trip would go a lot more smoothly than the first I had booked down to Phuket! If you missed that part of the story, or indeed the first part, you can catch up via these links:
Arabia & Thailand 2013 1: LHR-DXB-BKK EK A380/77W
Arabia & Thailand 2013 2: Two TG Classic’s to Phuket
Check in for the Emirates sector was made via the EK website pretty much as soon as I arrived back from Phuket, late on Tuesday night.
According to the online check in, the originally scheduled vanilla 777-300 had now been switched for the –ER version. Annoying! Although admittedly, it wasn’t completely un expected.
My morning started much like the last – alarm off at 6AM, down for breakfast, probably the blandest cheese omelet I’ve eaten, and then onto the train to the airport.
Arrival was around 50 minutes later.
FID in Thai…
I wonder if TG205 will go to plan today?
It was through to zone T today to get my boarding pass. I asked the check in agent if the flight was busy, and she replied it wasn’t. Yet the check in seat map showed something different? So who was right?
After this, it was a brief look landside.
Before heading through security and passport control. Again, it was painless and I was through both in seconds.
After this I went for a walk air side – very big airport with plenty to look at!
I happened to look up at the FID and noticed my flight was boarding – some twenty minutes earlier than advertised, which was a first. So I made my way down to gate E1 to find A6-EGA waiting, delivered in March 2010 and in service with Emirates throughout – confirmation that the originally planned -300 had been subbed for the -300ER.
Upon entering the gate area, it was only around five minutes before boarding was called – all very early again.
8th May 2013
777-31HER / A6-EGA
Seat: 40A / Economy
Off Stand: 09:49
On Stand: 13:14
Once onboard, I made my way down the aisle, being welcomed by a very attractive blonde flight attendant along the way, and took my assigned seat of 40A.
It turned out the flight was pretty busy – so I guess the EK seat map at check in was right! Most of the rear section of economy seemed to be German. Or at least speaking German. However despite OLCI showing I had a seat mate, only the aisle seat was occupied.
This aircraft had the newer style ICE system, as found on the A380.
The hot towels were then distributed. Still not used to getting these in economy – they disappeared from the cheap seats on UK airlines a long time ago!
Slowly but surely the flow of people on to the aircraft stopped, and the middle seat of row 40 remained free.
It was still half an hour until our departure time though. During which time, the menus were handed out.
I was more than happy to sit and wait on this jet, unlike yesterday. I had some IFE to look at, more elbow room due to not having a seat mate, and these made much more comfortable:
Shortly before departure, the captain was over the PA saying that we had a flight time of six hours and ten minutes and a cruising altitude of 36,000ft. He also mentioned he would speak to us again before descent into ‘the beautiful Emirate of Dubai’.
Pushback was a good few minutes ahead of schedule, and we made our way over to the runway.
Although we were held up a little by a Shanghai Airlines 737 pulling out in front of us and then going pretty slowly.
We made it into the air at 10:10. After departure, we made a 180 degree turn, heading out over the city.
Just after departure, I watched a bit of tv.
Followed shortly after by the drinks service
Around ninety minutes after departure, lunch was served. I chose the chicken.
I also watched a film during lunch – Searching for Sugar Man. Well worth a watch – a true story about a musician who released two albums in the US, neither sold all that well so he went back to being a builder. Unknown to him however, he sold millions in South Africa and because he had retired from the music business, everybody assumed he was dead!
During which time, we crossed into India
As I watched the film, the stars came out almost unnoticed.
And a bit later, we passed out of India again.
I noticed on both my flights to and from Bangkok the cabin crew coming around the cabin and taking Polaroid pictures of certain passengers, putting them into cards and presenting them to the passengers. Seemed to only be certain passengers though? At first i thought it was just for kids, but then noticed adults getting the same thing. Not sure what the requirements for this? I hadn’t seen it before either.
The crew on this sector were pretty good with the Juice runs.
Following this, it was another film – Parental Guidance, a bit of iPod (listening to Rodriguez’ album after watching the film earlier) and watching the minutes tick down on the sky map. It was around this time I could have done with a toilet break and a visit to the galley for a chat, but as the guy in the aisle was fast asleep this was a no go, so settled for a bit of Family Guy instead.
Once I finally was released, we had started our descent so no way to have a chat really.
Once our descent had started it got a little bumpy, and the seatbelt sign was turned on a little earlier than expected.
Shortly afterwards the arrival video was played.
During descent, I noticed on the skymap that we appeared to be heading back to Bangkok – so figured we were probably in a hold, although it wasn’t actually announced.
On approach, the Frank Sinatra song was played – I noticed this on both approaches to DXB, but not to the foreign destinations. Although considering the lyrics, I guess it wouldn’t make all that much sense if they played it on the outward flights.
We touched down and made our way over to the new terminal, arriving a few moments later, and a few minutes behind schedule.
I disembarked a few moments later.
After this, it was out through to arrivals. It seemed that the rest of the arriving passengers were connecting, so therefore I was the only person for quite a while – a bit of a strange experience in such a big international airport!
Where is everybody?!
Eventually, some more people did turn up, at passport control. Again, it took quite a while to get through. And again, I couldn’t seem open my eyes wide enough for the automated gates to work – or indeed for the manual system to work all that well either. How wide do you have to open them exactly??
Once through to baggage claim, I headed off to the duty free shop to change my remaining Thai Baht into UAE Dirhams to return the headphone adaptor I’d brought previously. Although this wasn’t possible due to the departures and arrivals shops being different companies, despite having the same name, logo etc. Confusing.
Then heading through customs, I was stopped asked if I had any drugs, alcohol or tobacco – I responded no, but he decided to search me anyway. Well why ask if you were just going to search me anyway? Just say you want to search me! The officer found it easy enough to unpack my bag, however packing it up seemed more difficult and he just wondered off.
After this it was upstairs to the metro, and on to Al Rigga station, just a couple of stops down to where my hotel, the Flora Grand, was just a short walk away,
Upon arrival, I was welcomed, given a glass of apple juice, told all about the services the hotel offered and given the key to my room. And it turned out to be a pretty spacious room – if a little dated. But good enough.
Once at the hotel, I used the free wifi to check in for tomorrow’s flight.
Later that evening, I headed down to the mall of the Emirates to grab some dinner and a bit of a window shop.
Looks like your standard UK shopping center with those shops!
Ticket stand for the Abu Dhabi GP
Pretty decent selection of guitars in the Virgin megastore – I don’t play though, I just think they look cool.
Followed up by an easy dinner.
Despite having major chain shops from both the UK an the US, there were still a couple of more traditional shops.
On my way back to the metro, I grabbed an ice cream from Cold Stone creamery. I’d had one on my recent trip to Washington, so figured I’d try the UAE version too!
Back at the hotel – overview from outside my room.
The following morning, after a very good sleep, I left the hotel at around 09:30 and made the short journey to DXB terminal 1.
Upon arrival, it was obvious that T1 is nowhere near as impressive as T3 – at least not land side anyway. I headed over to grab my boarding pass from an empty Oman Air desk.
Followed by a couple of pictures – although I had heard a rumor that this sort of thing could be a little troublesome, so I only managed a couple, at least in this smaller part of the terminal. This wasn’t helped by a member of the public seeing me take a pic of the check in area earlier and warning me that there was a police officer nearby.
After this it was through to a busy passport control – mainly full of people heading for the VS and BA flights it seemed. I noticed a young couple stood to the side with a VS ground staff member and a few members of immigration.
Once through, it was then the long walk underneath the apron over to the much more impressive airside area.
This was much more impressive! First port of call was to change my headphone adaptor – which was finally granted, and then off for a wander.
Stopping for some breakfast when I reached my assigned gate, C28.
After this I went to walk off breakfast, seeing the VS flight about to depart back to LHR. VS seem to use a mix of all their Airbus fleet on the DXB route. In the last year they have used the A346, the new A333 and now it seems the much unloved (at least by VS frequent fliers) A343. As I passed through the food court, I noticed the young couple having issues at immigration earlier casually sat eating a McDonalds, despite the fact the VS holding pen was now completely empty and the final call for boarding had gone out. Admittedly I don’t know any of the story, but the fact they were with VS staff (identified by the bright red uniform), and were now airside meant surely they should be on that flight? I guess some people are just always late.
The one and only VS A343 with AVOD.
And taking in the impressive terminal.
I also saw a QR Dreamliner about to head back to Doha, but getting a picture was pretty impossible.
Once reaching the end of the terminal, I headed back down to the gate. It said it was open, yet there wasn’t anybody around.
At 11:25, the gate was opened and I was the first into the holding pen – being welcomed with a “thank you Mr James”.
At 11:40 a 738 pulled on to stand, however I was unable to see the reg at this point. Boarding was then called at 12:05.
9th Mat 2013
737-86N / OK-TVU
Seat: 27F / Economy
Off Stand: 12:23
On Stand: 13:30
Once heading down the jetway, I could finally see the reg – and noticed that the flight would be operated by OK-TVU – on lease from smart wings, delivered new to them in early 2012 before heading out on lease to Oman Air in early 2013. I’m assuming it is a wet lease due to the Eastern European crew.
This aircraft also had Boeings latest sky interior – the first time I had experienced this.
Pushback came a couple of minutes ahead of schedule and we made the long taxi over to the runway.
The newly returned to service 787 heading back to DOH
Departure came at around 12:40, and we were then into some pretty murky skies and across the desert.
The entertainment was similar to what I had experienced on TAP back in February – a tv show was playing – the same one by the look of it, but nowhere to plug in any headphones – so a skymap throughout would have been better. What we got was still better than nothing though.
After this the meal service began – much better than expected actually. Improvement over the European, US and even the Thai offerings from the previous day trip.
The captain was also on briefly, stating that we were due to arrive at 13:30.
A few moments later – just as descent started actually, we passed through some pretty heavy turbulence – so much so that the captain came on and asked the crew to suspend service and to remain seated for the rest of the flight.
More clues to this jets real identity
There wasn’t too much to be seen on descent due to the haze and the fact most of the approach was over the sea.
Touchdown was at 13:25, and we made the quick taxi over to the parking position.
The new MCT taking shape
There aren’t any jetways at MCT, so it was on to a bus.
Once at arrivals, nobody seemed sure if I needed a visa. The guy selling them at the Travelex stand said no (as I had come from Dubai), but the immigration officers seemed to think that everybody needed one regardless. In the end they gave in and let everybody pass without one – which I thought was a little bit of an odd way of doing things, but It suited me. It still wasted a few minutes, that I was pretty short of as it was.
It was then to the taxi stand to buy a ticket for a brief visit to Muttrah Corniche, arriving around thirty minutes later. I was glad that at least one of my day excursions on this trip had gone to plan!
Pretty unimpressive really…
And that’s pretty much where I’ll leave things for now – my return to Dubai, again with Oman Air, will be covered in part 4!