Monday, November 28, 2011

Back in Dubai

We arrived back in Dubai after two weeks in Brunei at about 1.30 this morning on an overnight flight with Royal Brunei and I've been struggling a bit all day.

I have trouble sleeping on aircraft anyway but the bumpy ride made it even harder. Just about every time I dozed off we hit some potholes which made it bumpy enough to wake me. The announcements about getting back to your seats, fastening seatbelts, lights coming back on, seatbelt sign bleeping made sure I was awake anyway.

Something like ten aircraft all arrived at Dubai within about half an hour and that's a lotta people to process. Since we cancelled our residency we don't have the E-Gate card - an electronic way to pass Immigration in about 30 seconds - so we had to join the queues.

Twenty desks but only five operating. Immigration staff like they are all over the world, not wanting to be there, doing very little to keep things moving quickly, being grumpy at best, even surly.

Fifty minutes it took to get through. Just what you need after an eight hour overnight sleepless bumpy flight.

At least it meant not having to wait for the luggage to come up. In fact the next flight's load was going round and round and the previous flight's, ours, had been offloaded to the side of the belt. Ours bags were amongst the pile, so that was the easy part for once. With the speed of the E-Gate card it usually meant a thirty minute wait for our bags to appear.

The roads were't too busy so the taxi ride from airport to apartment at Dubai Marina was an easy one.

We got some shuteye, made it to coffee at Dome (an Aussie franchise) at Dubai Marina by about ten. Then we had lunch at one of our favourite Arabic restaurants, Al Halab at Mall of the Emirates. Fresh lemon & mint juice, hommos, tabouli, shish tawook, freshly baked Arabic bread.

I felt better after that.


Grumpy Goat said...

You do realise that it's not always necessary to have a residence visa in order to obtain an e-gate card for Dubai, don't you?

Probably no longer relevant in your case, Seabee, but I was able to get a Dubai e-gate card upon arrival, and my residence is Qatar.

I don't know what the rules are, but I'd imagine that e-gate cards are available for bearers of 'visa-on-arrival' passports.

Seabee said...

I've been meaning to check that out. I'll try to get to the DNATA place on SZR in the next few days to ask the e-gate people there.

Rootless said...

There is a very legitimate gripe that the privately held carriers (and ultimately us consumers) have with Emirates. It is not to do with subsidies or cheap fuel or any of the other chimera that keep being mentioned by semi-informed journalists and commenters. It is simply that as a government-backed entity Emirates is able to secure favourable financing terms for new aircraft to sustain their growth rate, enhanced by the export credits from Boeing and Airbus not available to airlines in their respective home markets.

Dubai does make sense as a logistics hub between Asia, Africa and Europe (though Beirut would have been even better had Lebanon gone a different way) and Emirates have developed that advantage brilliantly from the initial clarity of the their courageous vision. They have now built an unmatchable network continually enhanced by each addition (e.g. Dublin, Buenos Aires, Rio about to be added). That is the worry to me - they are now such a formidable competitor that it will be hard to match them. It has been the efficient and ruthless construction of that network with the advantages of financing (and labour costs of course) that has made Emirates the unstoppable aviation juggernaut that it has become.

As a gold card EK flier for 6 years now I know that it is definitely not service that has gained Emirates their advantage - just look at their ratings and comments on Skytrax. I fly them, usually reluctantly, because they go where I need to go more often and cheaper than most major competitors.

They have fantastic brand and image management that has created the impression that they offer service that is far better than the "legacy carriers" but that does not match reality. Sure they offer a few gimmicky things, like the luggage delivery service (not cheap), that seem to sustain that high-service image. Premium class "chauffeur-driven" cars - taxis, basically - to and from many airports is another, as are their "away" lounges (Sydney being among the best) - though definitely not their home Dubai T3 lounge which is awful. They have made a big play in advertising about the bar on board the A380 - yet Virgin Atlantic, for example, has had bars aboard A340s since the 1990s! Emirates squeeze in one extra seat across in their workhorse 777 aircraft both in Economy class and in Business compared to most other carriers (check the seat-maps on Skytrax) - two more than Qatar Airways. That really makes a difference in personal space but of course makes EK more profitable. And you are far more likely for many years to come to find yourself on a 777 than any other EK aircraft, including the over-hyped A380. EK business seats are the worst of any but the big American carriers - even the A380 seat, the best of the bewildering EK variety, is inferior to the standard of EY or CX or BA not to even mention SQ (and all of those carriers do have a standard unlike EK where you don't know what you'll get until you board).

So my concern is that Emirates is becoming so dominant while offering, at best, a mediocre product. With their network and cost advantages they are squeezing the life out of the likes of Qantas and BA. Ultimately that will definitely not be good for the consumer...

Rootless said...

Sorry, i guess that last comment should have been made on your later post..

Seabee said...

Rootless, I agree re finance and labour costs, but not about service.

Maybe luck, but I've consistantly had better service with EK than the others. Surprisingly to me, even SQ was terrible the last time I flew with them.

The best entertainment system, the 30kg baggage for economy, the "limo" for business passengers are not, IMO, gimmicky, but genuine advantages.