EK 723 DXB-ADD-EBB

Scheduled Time of Departure 08:25 (UAE, UTC +4)
Actual Time of Departure 08:40 (UAE, UTC +4)
Scheduled Time of Arrival (ADD / EBB) 11:30 / 14:45 (EAT, UTC +3)
Actual Time of Arrival (ADD / EBB) 11:12 / 14:20 (EAT, UTC +3)
Flight Time (ADD / EBB) 03:10 / 01:32
Aircraft (Type/Registration) 777-200ER / A6–EMK*
Departure Gate 215 @ DXB T3
Arrival Gate N/A

* A6-EMK was delivered to Emirates through a GECAS lease on 15.10.1998 (http://www.airfleets.net) According to airfleets.net and the safety card in the aircraft, A6-EMK is a 777-200ER, however, the outside titles on the plane only said 777-200.

Boarding started about 40 minutes before departure. Once again, most passengers seemed to be disregarding the zone boarding system, however, overall the boarding process seemed a lot more civilized than for our Vienna flight. During the boarding process I came to appreciate one particular aspect of the design of DXB Terminal 3: the waiting areas for the boarding gates are located on a floor below the main transit/duty free area, giving them a lot of space and free seating. The waiting area was huge and didn’t seem crowded at all despite the relatively full load on our 777-200 today. I was particularly interested in experiencing this flight to Entebbe to see how good the loads would be (I knew already beforehand that my return flight would be upgraded to a 77W), what kind of people would be on board and what the load balance would be between ADD and EBB. Along with the full load this morning, I noticed that there was quite an interesting mix of passengers – business people, NGO workers on mission and charity workers. The ethnicities represented were about as diverse as the EK crew themselves, with a relatively even balance between Africans, “Mzungus” (a non-derogatory term in Luganda for “white people”) and Asians (there were a lot of Koreans and Chinese on board who were working for charity organizations in their countries).

Entering gate 215 about 40 minutes before departure.

The lower level of Gate 215 with a very large seating area.

Despite the window patterns, the lower floors in DXB T3 provide a better view of the parked aircraft as a result of the windows being wider than on the upper floors.

Beautiful shape of DXB T3.

Arabic music was playing as we boarded the aircraft, which seemed to smell quite a bit – probably from a previous flight. The cabin, although generally well maintained, was not as spotless as the 77W had been from Vienna. The seats were the new style EK economy seats with the old ICE system featuring 9-inch 4:3 screens. I was glad to be able to experience this system as well – I remember when it was launched on the EK A340-500, thinking that it was the most amazing IFE system ever. I will give it credit, as it still miles ahead of the newer IFE offerings on a lot of other carriers, however, EK’s new ICE digital still stands out as the true shining star.

Boarding the aircraft at DXB.

Exicted to experience the slightly older ICE system, which still had way too many options to chose from!

Hot towels were handed out before takeoff – I didn’t realize how much I was in need of one until it was handed to me. After long hours of travel and only three hours of sleep during the Dubai stopover, I was getting extremely tired, but was being kept awake by the excitement of flying on a new EK aircraft type. We had an Arabic captain, which is a very rare occurrence on EK, who gave us a lengthy introduction to the flight and our path.

 

Takeoff Video

I finally fell as sleep for about 30 minutes after a noticeably weaker takeoff than on the 77W. I used the supplied “Wake me for meal” sticker and was woken up by the F/A when breakfast came around. Unfortunately, I forgot the menu cards at home (I am back at university now) and, therefore, I will upload them seperately when I next get the chance. The breakfast choices consisted of a mixed grill and some form of cheese-based omlette.

I went for the mixed grill, which was good but a little too rich for my tired stomach. After breakfast, I watched a couple of TV shows and then fell asleep to the wonderful sounds of Bollywood music.

The excellent mixed grill breakfast option.

Descent started about 25 minutes before touchdown and we proceeded with a very odd approach to the high-altitude airport of ADD. For about 14 minutes we were circling and banking with the on screen airshow displaying a distance of 0km from our destination. Soon we started descending closer to the green hilly landscape, picking up quite a bit of speed in the process. This resulted in a relatively hard landing and a long roll to the end of the runway 07. We then turned on to runway 25R and taxied along it before turning off and docking at the relatively modern terminal building. This whole process looked very interesting on the forward camera, especially the long roll on runway 07, which ends rather abruptly on a slope.

 

Landing at ADD.

 

Taxiing towards the gate at ADD. This 707 has seen better days.

The modern terminal building at ADD.

ADD is a great airport and is often quoted/awarded as one of the best in Africa. During our last trip to Uganda we had to disembark at ADD for three hours due to a technical problem with our A330-200 – inside, the terminal is also comfortable and equipped with modern amenities.

Very few passengers disembarked at ADD (there could have only been about 30 from the economy) and the rest of the relatively full plane was continuing to Entebbe. This was surprising for me to see, as I would have guessed Ethiopia would have been the larger market for passenger traffic. I wonder whether this route pays off for EK in terms of cargo.

We had ground time of about one and a half hours, during which the ICE system was kept running (headphones were not collected by the crew before landing). This was a nice change from our last flight were the system was switched off on the ground causing passengers to get very unrestful, probably as a result of boredom. Does anyone know whether this has anything to do with the difference between the A330-200 and the 777s? On all EK flights during this trip the IFE was one and fully functional before takeoff, which was never the case on my trips with the EK A330-220. Has EK simply changed their policy, or is it maybe dependent on the crew?

On the ground at ADD waiting for a rather insignificant number of passengers to board for the onward leg to EBB.

During our stopover in ADD, a cleaning crew boarded and fixed up the bathrooms and the empty seats in the cabin. The cabin crew also came around and performed a carry-on baggage check, where each passenger had to identify the bags that they had carried on board. We were free to use the toilets during our stop. Only a few people boarded at ADD (less than had gotten out). I watched a couple of episodes of Friends before new welcome announcements were made and the safety video was shown again.
Pushback was smooth and, once again, hot towels were handed out. The meal service, which consisted of a rather tasty Chicken Tikka sandwich, started immediately after takeoff. Once again, EK did not perform well on drinks during this flight. There was only one round from ADD to EBB (OS manages about three during a flight of similar length) and not even water was offered. I can’t fully speak for the situation on the DXB to ADD sector as I was asleep for most of the flight and only experienced the pre-breakfast drink service.

In the air again with the beautiful scenery surrounding ADD below.

A rather tasty Chicken Tikka sandwich served on the ADD-EBB flight.

Approaching EBB after almost 24 hours of travel!

Descent was smooth and we flew directly over EBB before making a scenic turn over Lake Victoria and landing on runway 35. The large welcoming “ENTEBBE” sign can be seen in the landing video. The EBB terminal had recently been renovated for the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) that took place two years ago. I remember the construction going on last time I was at the airport, which caused the arrivals to be moved to a temporary shed alongside the main terminal building. I almost didn’t recognize the airport this time around. The building was adorned with welcoming signs from a number of large companies (advertising is really a growing industry in Uganda) – Barclays had a huge “Welcome to the Pearl of Africa” banner up and the mobile network Orange, which only started service a few months ago, put up signs welcoming passengers in a number of different languages, including Luganda with “Oli Otya!”

 

Landing at EBB.

The famous "Entebbe" sign.

 

As we entered the terminal, we were immediately asked to fill out a form from the Department of Health regarding Swine flu – it is good to see that the Uganda government is taking strong action on the subject as the spreading of the flu throughout Africa would be devastating. We waited quite a while for our bags to arrive but were able to roll them on nifty and new looking luggage carts, which were probably also purchased for the CHOGM event. The conference was a big deal and lead to a number of renovation and construction projects throughout Uganda’s capital, Kampala. One further airport renovation was the addition of two jetways to the main terminal, which, interestingly enough were not used by EK on both the inbound and outbound flights. My mom said that she boarded through these new bridges when flying with KLM last year.

Entering the newly rennovated terminal building.

Passengers filling out swine flu questionaires before immigration.

The immigration area. Barclays went wild on the advertising here!

Baggage claim.

Ratings and Impressions

Another great flight with EK! Overall, it was less eventful than the Vienna flight, however, this was probably largely due to my accumulated tiredness. There is a noticeable difference between EK’s regular and flagship products (aboard the new generation 777sWs, 77Ls and A380s). However, once again, points were scored on the catering, general aircraft ambience and the IFE (old, but respectable).

The overall rating for this flight was 7.15