Archive for the ‘Emirates’ Category

Emirates A380 being prepared at Manchester

I mentioned in the previous post that I flew with Emirates again, and the main reason I gave was that I preferred to break the journey. That’s not the only reason, to be honest. Over the four trips I’ve made to Asia I’ve found the Emirates experience to be good, and value for money. I know from various YouTube videos I’ve watched that there are other Middle East and Asian airlines that match them – Singapore Airlines would certainly be in that list, as probably would Thai, Qatar and Oman airlines. (I’ve heard it suggested that Etihad, who fly to Abu Dhabi, aren’t quite as good these days, following their multi-billion dollar losses in the last few years.) I’ve been happy to stick with Emirates: since I know it’s good, and it gives me the routing I prefer, why change?

But it’s probably worth outlining the reasons why Emirates appeals to me:

  • first, it offers excellent value for money. Although I booked this last flight through a travel agent (Trailfinders) I could equally easily have done so online, and examining options as I write, I see that, as expected, I could get a return economy ticket from Manchester to Singapore for just over £500 for dates in March next year. That would include 25kgs of hold baggage plus 7kgs of cabin baggage, plus all the onboard facilities. For an extra £200 (i.e. £700+ in total) I could buy an economy ticket with more options: this would include complimentary seat selection (standard seats only, not extra legroom) which would be worth £80, more points for the loyalty club, and cheaper options to change the flight arrangements or get a refund. This compares with over £1000 for a shorter economy return flight from Manchester to Memphis in the USA, on much older and smaller aircraft;
  • secondly, the onboard services are excellent. Each flight I’ve done has included two free meals (one full, hot meal, and one snack) with metal cutlery!, free drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and one of the best in-flight entertainment system in the air that gives a selection of hundreds of films and TV programmes. I’ve included images of a meal tray from 2017, and a menu card from my most recent flight, below;
  • the aircraft they use are modern and well-equipped. The flights between Manchester and Dubai are in an Airbus A380, and Emirates have equipped them with comfortable seats and pretty good legroom. OK, I’m not tall so maybe it’s easy for me, but they’re a huge step up from Ryanair or Easyjet. Above all the A380s are very quiet. (The Boeing 777s that they use between Dubai and Asia aren’t quite as quiet, but the seats and entertainment options are every bit as good.)

Any 7 or 8 hour flight is going to be a bit of a trial at times. I’m sure that travelling in First or even Business class would make it so much more bearable, but Emirates do a pretty good job even in economy. I’m a happy customer.

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Parked Thomas Cook jets at Manchester on 23 September 2019

it’s a very long journey to Singapore. I have a choice of flights from Manchester: I can fly direct with Singapore Airlines, or I can go via Dubai with Emirates. My preference is the latter – although this makes the total journey time longer (two flights of just over seven hours each plus three hours at Dubai International airport) I’m not sure I could manage an 11 or 12 hour flight in an economy seat, no matter how good the aircraft or airline. So I made my usual choice, and was due to fly out of Manchester on 23 September at about half-past two on an Emirates A380. That would arrive at Dubai at just after midnight, the onward flight would leave at 3am, arriving at Singapore Changi airport around mid-afternoon on the 24th. I’m pleased to say that everything was pretty much on time, and the flights, while long, were up to Emirates’ usual high standard.

As an aside, the 23rd was the day Thomas Cook collapsed. It was sad to see their jets parked up and not moving. A few were still arriving, but most were stuck at the remote airport. I also heard from an airport worker that I got chatting to that an Air Malaysia A380 had already arrived at Manchester to participate in the repatriation exercise.

On previous trips I’d had Trailfinders arrange a private car to take me into the city to my hotel, but this time I decided that as I knew my way around I would make do it myself. I’d researched and found that there was a shuttle bus system that would drop arriving passengers at various hotels for just 9 Singapore Dollars (S$9) per person, and I decided to use that. I had cash –  I’d already bought S$300 back in the UK because I knew there would be some early purchases that I would need to make. I also picked up a local sim for my phone while I was at the airport. A 7-day sim with M1, which would give me 100Gb of data plus 20 minutes of international phone calls, cost me S$12. Given that the exchange rate is about S$1.6 to £1, these prices were about £6 for the shuttle bus and £8.50 for the sim. A final purchase, made after I got to my hotel, was a Tourist Pass for the Singapore MRT, the underground system. That was S$30 for unlimited travel for 3 days, but S$10 of that was for the actual piece of plastic, which I could reclaim by handing it in when it expired.

I was staying at the ‘ParkRoyal on Beach’ hotel. ParkRoyal Hotels (part of the Pan Pacific group) have three hotels in Singapore. I’d previously stayed at the ParkRoyal on Kitchener, which is in the Little India district and is a solid 4* hotel; this one (… on Beach) is rated at 4+*, while their final hotel, ParkRoyal on Pickering, is rated 5* (and has prices to match). The hotel was fine – very comfortable room, very effective air-conditioning, and good breakfasts. I didn’t take any other meals in the hotel as it turned out that the ‘+’ in their rating element perhaps referred to their fancy restaurant. Nothing on their menu really appealed, and the prices definitely didn’t.

So by about half-past four local time I was there and all set. Raring to go? – not after those flights; in fact I worked out that if I included the journey from Sheffield to the airport (which Val very kindly drove me), I had been travelling for about 24 hours, with not a lot of sleep. But I find that on the journey out I can keep going – probably it’s just the adrenalin. (The journey home is a lot less energising, of course.) So I went out and exercised my MRT pass, found my way down to Marina Bay, walked around, had a quick burger in a food court, and eventually made my way back to the hotel and my bed later in the evening. I woke up once in the early hours but to my surprise was able to get back to sleep, and finally woke up at about 8 o’clock the following morning for my first full day.

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I arrived home on Thursday 1 March in the early morning – I disembarked from the airplane at about 7:20, at Manchester airport. Readers, that was a shock. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Manchester airport look welcoming but that morning it was especially not so. The previous day I had been in Kuala Lumpur in temperatures a bit above 32°C, and in Manchester it was somewhere below 32°F; and unfortunately I was mainly dressed for Kuala Lumpur. But I had a plan – a heavier pair of trousers was at the top of my case, along with a jacket and a waterproof, so I repaired to the gents loo and (with a bit of a struggle) changed. Then I had time for a cup of tea in the Arrivals hall before heading off to the airport station for my train home.

I was just about to go down to the platform when I got a call from Val, who told me that Customer Information at the airport had called her to say that my passport had been found – I had obviously dropped it at some time in the previous half-hour. So I rushed back to customer information, identified myself, and was reunited with my passport. One lesson to draw from that experience is that it is a very good idea to fill in the ‘Emergencies’ page at the back of your passport – that way, if your mislaid passport is found, the finder has someone to call…. Then I charged back to the station just in time to get on my train. (more…)

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