After a small hiatus from trip report writing I now return with a detailed report on what has been one of my most exciting trips to date! As is the case with a commercial aviation enthusiast (or, less moderately, an addict of all things related to commercial aviation), I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time before our date of departure. There was particular excitement associated with this trip as I would be flying on Emirates again (after very positive previous experiences) and I would be experiencing their flagship product on a 777-300ER, featuring top inflight amenities like the ICE Digital Widescreen entertainment system. My previous flight on Emirates (also to Uganda) had been on two A330-200s – as mentioned already, my experiences on these flights were fantastic and so I was eager to see how much better the flagship product would be. This trip would also give me the chance to see Dubai International Airport’s brand new Terminal 3 – EK’s new home base. I would have no shortage of time here either – we had an eight hour layover in Dubai on the way there and about nine and a half hours on the way back!
The main purpose of this trip was to travel to Uganda (my second home) to visit my grandparents. I come from Austria and Uganda and have lived in Vienna, Austria for all my life (excluding the last two years where I have been studying and living in Boston). Our last trip to Uganda was two years ago and a lot has changed in the country since then. The number of cars on the street seems to be growing at an exponential rate, as does the number of mobile phones and innovative services being offered by the country’s mobile network operators. I was particularly excited about connecting with a number of social entrepreneurs (the line of work I plan to pursue in the future) and other inspirational figures who I have come into contact with, during this trip
The trip was booked after confirming dates with the rest of my family at the Emirates office in New York City at the end of May. I was still in the states at the time and was eager to figure out a way to purchase the tickets in dollars to take advantage of the exchange rate and the relative strength of the Euro. In my first two years of living in the states and having a U.S. bank account, it used to be very easy for me to book tickets in dollars. I would just purchase them on the U.S. regional website of the airline with my U.S. credit card. Interestingly enough, a number of airlines have recently made it increasingly inconvenient and impossible to do this. Lufthansa, for example, would only allow me to purchase expensive economy flex or business class tickets from the U.S. website for flights originating in Vienna. Emirates seemed to be following a similar trend and, therefore, I decided to pass by the ticket office in person during a short visit to New York, to see whether I would be able to purchase the tickets in dollars. After passing through a security check in the lobby of a building close to Park Avenue, I was escorted up to the eighth floor where the ticket office was located. There were three agents working at the office who were all extremely helpful and, as is usually the case with Emirates, were of mixed ethnic backgrounds. My request was handled by an older British lady who managed to get me a fare in dollars on the routing VIE-DXB-EBB, which helped us save about €70 per person (there were four of us traveling). I purchased the tickets on two credit cards and received the e-Ticket printouts placed in a nifty Emirates folder. I have to say that it was nice to receive physical card tickets again, as purchasing e-tickets over the past number of years has manifested itself in a lot of paper printouts and mobile tickets.
When booking the tickets I inquired about the availability of lounge access during the long stopover in Dubai (in previous years, Emirates would provide Economy class passengers in all booking classes with vouchers to the third party Marhaba Lounge if their stopover time exceeded eight hours). Unfortunately, the airline’s policy has changed and only passengers in higher booking classes now enjoy this privilege.
Route map showing from VIE–DXB–ADD–EBB, courtesy of Great Circle Mapper by Karl S. Schwartz (http://gc.kls2.com/)