When I found out that Emirates had an ongoing sale to India, that prompted me to change my travel plans. Emirates Airways is the 2nd airline company to fly the biggest, newest aircraft in the planet, debuting the A380 on its Dubai-New York route last August 2008. Since Emirates flies twice daily to JFK using two different planes, I made sure I'll be on the flight utilizing the A380 when I made my reservations online. Besides New York, Emirates A380 currently offers services to London, Sydney and Auckland.
Check-In - There was already a long queue at the economy class counters, mostly Indian passengers apparently on their way to India and most likely also grabbing the fare sale which ends at the last day of this month. Even then, the line was moving and I got my boarding pass about two hours before the 11:00 PM scheduled departure time.
Boarding - I remember this was quite an issue raised by detractors when the A380 was just in the prototype stage. How do you let a humongous number of passengers board an aircraft without mayhem and delays? First, instead of the usual 30 minutes boarding time prior to take-off, passengers are asked to be at the boarding gate an hour ahead. Emirates (and for that matter the other two A380 customers Singapore Airlines and Qantas) uses 3 airbridges to connect to the aircraft doors - one leading directly to the upper deck and two leading to the lower section. In Emirates case, they also use the Zone System clearly marked on the boarding pass. I'm seated at the front section so I belong to Zone C while those seated at the back boards ahead. Emirates A380 can carry a maximum load of 489 passengers.
The Seat - Economy class passengers are all seated at the lower deck in a 3x4x3 seating configuration. Seat width is 18" and seat pitch is 32", made a bit roomier by the use of thinner seatbacks. I had an aisle seat and thankfully, the seat next to me is empty so I had plenty of elbow room. With a very generous AVOD system through Emirates' Ice Digital Widescreen, even Economy class passengers will find a bewildering 1000+ channels to choose from. There's even 4 Tagalog movies including Care Giver and Ploning. Another interesting feature is a USB connection to watch photos and a power port for laptops.
The Flight - Flight EK502 between New York and Dubai is almost 12 hours. We departed on time. As the plane left the ground, I noticed how quiet those enormous engines were. I could actually hear conversations 2 seats away from me. Once we reached cruising altitude, flight attendants started the service by offering menu cards and hot towels followed by drinks. Dinner was served with a choice of 3 selections. Mood lighting with star-effects on the ceiling helped lull me to sleep for several hours. Midway, snacks were served - and they were quite hefty - not like some airlines were you help yourself to whatever is in the galley. Two hours before arrival, we had breakfast.
I managed to chat with the purser, an amiable lady from Sri Lanka, who confided that Emirates' 5th A380 will be delivered later this year. She showed me a wall mounted computer monitor where she keeps an eye not just on her flight attendants (via closed-circuit TV) but also on the level of water for the onboard shower (for First Class passengers only). She says the showers are timed to run only for 5 minutes!
The Arrival - We arrived in Dubai on time. I have two hours lay-over before my onward journey to New Delhi so I went straight to departure area at the Terminal 3. This terminal is exclusively used by Emirates and the facilities are passenger-friendly. There are plenty of lounge chairs perfect for relaxing and a free WiFi available as well to spend time productively.