EK 128 VIE–DXB

Scheduled Time of Departure 15:30 (CET, UTC +1)
Actual Time of Departure 16:03 (CET, UTC +1)
Scheduled Time of Arrival 22:55 (UAE, UTC +4)
Actual Time of Arrival 22:42 (UAE, UTC +4)
Flight Time 04:55
Aircraft (Type/Registration) 777-300ER / A6–ECC*
Departure Gate A06 @ VIE
Arrival Gate B25 @ DXB

* A6-ECC was delivered to Emirates through a GECAS lease on 10.03.2009 (http://www.airfleets.net)

We checked in relatively late and headed straight to the gate for boarding. The line here looked a lot longer than I had expected from the rather empty check-in area, however, I was still convinced that this was only a relative effect based on the small size of the A1-A8 gate area at VIE. The terminal is circular in design and was clearly not built to support multiple large aircraft boarding at the same time. For non-bus gates, VIE’s security check occurs right at each gate, which results in long lines forming in front of each boarding gate that then meet in the center of the circular terminal. Once you have passed security and you enter a rather small waiting area, which is definitely no designed to house all passengers on a full 77W. Therefore, the waiting room of the adjacent gate was opened to support the large and growing crowd of people ready to board. The new Skylink terminal (if ever completed) will be able to handle multiple large aircraft much more efficiently. For now, however, VIE is lucky to have EK as the only visitor with such a large aircraft – the only other time that the A1-A8 gate area gets really busy is between about 11:00 and 12:00 when a host of transatlantic flights, including a handful of OS 767s and 777s, along with a Delta 767, depart.

More evidence of a busy day at VIE.

Long lines building up in front of gate A6 where EK 128 will be departing from.

The flight was handled by a mixture of EK-branded and OS ground staff.

All-in-all the boarding process could be described as relatively hectic and stressful. It started at around 15:00, with the announcements of the zone system completely failing as passengers were disregardingly pushing and shoving to get out of the crowded waiting area as soon as possible. It was at this point that I noticed that there was a large number of children on board today’s flight.

A very full waiting area at gate A6.

Another view of A6-ECC.

As we entered the aircraft, we were greeted by a friendly purser and senior F/A. My first impressions of the aircraft were absolute amazement by its clean and high-tech look, balanced out nicely by the soothing cabin colours. I was never a big fan of EK’s cabin colour choices in pictures, however, they seem to work extremely well once in the cabin. I especially like the occasional deep purples on the economy class headrest covers and the smooth patterns on the cabin divider walls. We got to walk through the business class cabin to get to our seats (I also took a peak at the first class suites). Here, I also conclude that the cabin looks a lot better in real life than it does in pictures. I still think that the wooden panelling is a little overdone, however, it looked a lot more bearable than on the photos.

I love the ICE Digital welcome screen which displays your seat number and allows for immediate startup of the entertainment system.

View of the raked wingtips and the VIE terminal in the background. Looking at this view, I was excited to be in a 77W again!

Things continued to be loud and hectic while on the ground, with people taking a very long time to settle down. For while, I was actually worried that the next five hours would continue in this way and that I would be doubly exhausted when we arrived in DXB. Thankfully, things started to quieten down when we started our taxi and we were able to enjoy a relaxing, smooth and quiet flight. Before taxiing, we were presented with the incredibly loud noise of the GE90-115Bs spooling up – I remember the noise being equally as loud when flying on SQ’s 77W’s last year. Does anyone know the reason for this? It seems like the slower blade rotations during engine start up pass through a number of resonant frequencies, with the sound eventually quietening as the rotation stabilizes.

We taxied for a long time to runway 34, on which I have landed multiple times but have never taken off on before. I do appreciate when pilots take the time to introduce themselves properly and, of course, to give some detailed information about the upcoming flight. In most of my recent flights, however, we have only heard from the flight-deck in a rush, about two minutes before takeoff. Today’s flight was no exception and, just before takeoff, the captain said a quick “hello” and announced that we would be departing soon. Takeoff was a exciting blend between power and smoothness, with a relatively long roll reflecting the fully loaded aircraft. On all Emirates aircraft flown on this trip, the on board cameras functioned perfectly and always looked they had been cleaned before departure; on many of my previous flights on other airlines, the cameras usually work but are often dirty or very much out of focus.

Takeoff video

Right after takeoff a fairly lengthy “Services On Board” video was shown. I am usually busy with filming or staring out of my window in excitement at this point and I remember thinking after quite a long while that the intro video was ridiculously long. It took me about another five seconds to realize that it was still the arabic version running and that the whole thing would be repeated in English shortly! I appreciate that Emirates still does its announcements and videos in Arabic first, as this adds a touch of authenticity to an otherwise very international airline (not that this at all a bad thing).

It took me a long time to settle down in-flight as I was simply so excited with everything going on. I was quick to succumb to the temptation of the 10.6” crystal clear widescreen in front of me and started to explore all that ICE had to offer. Cutting right the point: the choice of options was simply overwhelming, especially for a five hour flight. I wished that I was on a 17-hour to Houston so that I could spend some more quality time with this glorious inflight entertainment system! The menu structure was clear, easy-to-use and relatively stable/fluid for an IFE. Picture quality was crystal clear, however, the sound was a little on the quiet side (even though I was using my own Sony MDR-XD100 headphones). I was especially impressed with some of the advanced controls and features of the system, including the set up page, where you could determine how to handle stretching/zooming of 4:3 content on the widescreen by default, for example. In addition, there was an option to save your ICE settings as a “profile” on a USB memory stick, which could then be uploaded on a future flight. This must be an especially useful feature for frequent travelers, however, I am not sure how much information is stored in the profile. I also really liked the dual control mode for the ICE system, allowing you to use the remote’s number pad (or the on-screen number pad) to enter a channel number directly that corresponds to a particular selection that have found when browsing through the beautiful ICE Digital guide. The Airshow was also fantastically detailed, with the ICE “Flight Information” page showing information like the aircraft type and registration – especially great for commercial aviation enthusiasts like us who couldn’t get a glimpse of the aircraft registration on the ground. Unfortunately, the remaining time indicator did not work on the flight information page and, therefore, I had to wait for the time to scroll through on the airshow, which was a little inconvenient. Interestingly enough, the remaining flight time indicator also did not work on the ICE digital system on the return flight to Vienna. Along with this, I only came across one other glitch, which was that my film would not resume from where I left it off to check something on the “Information” section of the system. Still, I am not complaining as the IFE was truly amazing and unlike anything I have experienced before (although I did very much enjoy the next-gen KrisWorld on my SQ 77W flight).

This was right after the seatbelt sign was turned off and people were settling in.

Another great view of the beautiful 77W wing.

The comfortable, modern and clean cabin of A6-ECC.

The mini flight information page on ICE Digital.

I ended up watching Slumdog Millionaire, which is a film I have wanted to see for ages, along with a number of TV shows and documentaries. I was pleasantly surprised how long the five hours on board seemed, as I was able to explore quite a few of the different entertainment options.

 

Inflight Video

The dinner service started about one hour into the flight. We received menus right after takeoff, however, I unfortunately forgot them at home (I am back at university now). I will upload them seperately when I next get the chance. The dinner choices were lamb, chicken or pasta.

I noticed that the menu quality had decreased slightly since our last flight with Emirates two years ago. Not that this menu was not of high quality, quite on the contrary, however, the previous menu was embossed with gold lettering on the cover. I didn’t mind this slight “downgrade” at all. The dinner service started with some savory biscuits and a round of drinks (with Austrian juices on offer, which was exciting as I am a huge fan of Austrian apple juice!) Shortly after, the main meal came around and I opted for the “Pasta rustico”, which was absolutely excellent. I appreciated the fact that there were also two salads served (in the appetizer and as the main salad) – both were fantastic. I also got confirmation from my other family members that both the chicken and the lamb were excellent meals. The quality of the food was really exceptional and was on-par with Austrian (OS) catering, which some of you have heard me rave about before.

The dinner service started about one hour into the flight with a full selection of drinks and savory biscuits.

Meals being served – there were three choices on today's flight.

My choice: Pasta Rustico with an assortment of salads and other goodies.

Restaurant with a view!

Some general notes about the flight: the plane got significantly louder after takeoff when we reached our cruising altitude – this wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was noticeable as we were sitting behind the massive GE90-115Bs. Emirates is one of the few airlines that I have been on which has individual air vents on wide body aircraft. I definitely appreciated having these in flight, giving me a small amount of control over the temperature. I am going to miss having these on future long hauls. Another thing I appreciated on the 77W was the curvature of the walls, which would have made sleeping extremely comfortable (notice how I said “would have made” – there is no way I would have slept on this flight!) The mood lighting was not switched on properly in our economy section (it stayed a faint orange and then purple), however, the J-class section on front of us and the Y-class section behind us both had the main cabin lights switched off with clear blue mood lighting. This was a shame as I was looking forward to experiencing proper mood lighting after I missed out on the chance on SQ’s 77W.

Also, a note on the seating configuration – this is something I was very much looking forward to experiencing on EK, as I wanted to make my own opinion on 3-4-3 arrangement. All-in-all, I didn’t find it that bad and I didn’t feel my personal comfort or comfort in the aisle was significantly compromised. I only really noticed the narrowness of the seat when it came to eating, as cutting became difficult without bothering my neighbor. Seat pitch was 32” and was perfectly comfortable but noticeably less than on SQ, which I believe has 33” seat pitch. Remarkably the cabin did not feel overly crowded or cramped as a result of the rather stingy configuration. This must have been a result of the soothing cabin colors the modern seating and the general ambience.

On criticism of Emirates, which was also noticeable in the following flights, was the lack of drink services throughout the flight. Drinks were literally only served as an aperativ and then with dinner, however, not a single other time during the remaining four hours. This was unacceptable, as the only other service we got was the rushed distribution of a small ice creams about 40 minutes before landing after the captain came on saying that we would be starting our descent shortly. Still, I wasn’t going to let this ruin an otherwise fabulous experience and, besides, the ice cream was really good!

Descent started about 25 minutes before landing, during which time a short “Welcome to Dubai” video was screened. This video was really terrible – both cheesy and materialistic, advertising Dubai as the “perfect getaway” for those pressured by the credit crunch. I really didn’t enjoy it. We landed smoothly on runway 30L at 22:42 and taxied for about 10 minutes to the sparkling new Terminal 3.

During descent, I requested to visit the flight deck once we had landed in Dubai and my offer was rejected by a rather unfriendly Korean flight attendant, who admittedly seemed like the wrong person to ask. I wasn’t going to have any of this, however, and decided to ask the purser on my way out. She quickly replied with an “Of course you can...oh, and you’re lucky ‘cause the captain today is really cool!” I spent about 10 minutes in the flight deck, talking to the American captain who had previously flown 737s for Alaskan Airlines. I also chatted with purser for a while, who had recently worked on the Entebbe flight and really enjoyed her time in Uganda. All-in-all, a great experience!

Approaching Dubai.

Unfortunately, the mood lighting was not used to its fullest potential in our section of the cabin. Also, the stary night sky was not switched on in any of the cabins.

Great controller for the ICE Digital system. I liked the dual-control option (being able to chose between using the touch screen interface or the number pad on the controller).

 

Landing Video

 

The cabin after landing in Dubai.

Interestingly enough, EK's 777 cabins do not feel uncomfortably cramped despite the 3-4-3 arrangement in economy.

Visiting the flight deck after landing in Dubai. As you can see, I was very happy to be sitting up front in one of my favorite aircraft!

 

Ratings & Impressions

Overall, this was a fantastic flight with EK. I had enjoyed my previous experiences with the airline and was very excited to try out its new flagship product. EK scored high points in everything ranging from cabin comfort, in flight entertainment and food but lost points on the lack of refreshment services and varying cabin crew.

The following rating categories are inspired by Abrelosojos, however, mine are not weighted. Ratings are, of course, subjective and are referenced according to my previous flight experiences and through education from other trip reports on the economy service of different airlines.

The overall rating for this flight was 7.62.