Airbus A380 (BKK-DBX)

During our  Vietnam-Cambodia 2017 holiday, we flew on-board the Airbus A380-800 for the Bangkok-Dubai leg. Emirates picked us up from our hotel and naturally the “nerd t-shirt” came out again … even Pension Fund had a custom shirt on.

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In order to be on this awesome aircraft, we had to take the 02:40 flight. The upside is we get a full day in Dubai, the downside is we had to pay for 2 hotel rooms for the same day. Normally check-out is around 10:00 in the morning, but given the climate of Bangkok it is near impossible for us to spend a day wandering this mesmerizing city and be energetic enough to enjoy the flight without a shower beforehand. On the Dubai side, check-in is only after 12:00 and as we will arrive early, loitering in the lobby was not an option.

At stupid hour, one would expect the Bangkok International Airport to be somewhat quiet. Fear not. It was abuzz as usual. Check-in for Business Class is however always less of a stampede.

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During check-in you get your lounge access voucher. At Bangkok International, Emirates have an additional treat: you get to go via the Priority Lane. It is less crowded and a very short queue. Yay!

The lounge is however in a different dialing code than were the plane is parked and the epic walk to the boarding gate tiring. What is the point of progressing super fast through the formalities, if the extra time gained is merely deployed in getting to the gate? So if you ever fly to Dubai from Bangkok on an Emirates A380 flight, allow yourself sufficent time to get to the gate which is clearly in a different postal code. The fork (below) restored peace and quiet again and in no time it was back to business as usual (mind the pun), or so we thought.

 We were on this same flight in 2011, at the end of our Thailand holiday – except in Economy. On both occasions the APU (auxiliary power unit) failed at the point of push-back from the airport terminal. Way back I didn’t understand the role of the APU and it was rather stressful to sit boxed in, in complete darkness, with the crew buzzing about their duties as if nothing is the matter, with eerie dim emergency lighting. As I reclined my chair before the power failure, the delay in darkness was no bother at all this time. I woke up only later when we were in the air already.

The APU (located at the back of the plane) provides power to run aircon when the plane is on the ground and more importantly to start the engines. With no APU, a plane usually gets a helping hand from an external compressor unit. If you want to learn more about the APU and its function, watch this informative video from Captain Joe.

The A380s of Emirates sports a bar at the back of the plane, for the upper deck’s passengers. Sure you can order the same drinks right from your seat, but it is such a nice novelty, that it begs a visit. We were there rather too early and the crew was still setting it up. Boredom kicked in and I decided to time lapse them.

At one point the barman leaned in to advise that although I am allowed to video them, he would prefer not to be in my video. Fair. It is his right – hence I stopped. As he continued his duties, Pension Fund mentioned in choice Afrikaans (our home language) that the guy is rather obnoxious. A few minutes later, when the bar was as “open for business”, the same barman leaned over and asked in perfect Afrikaans “what would we like to drink”. (Blush – at least not me, I didn’t say anything bad for a change). I have learned my lesson – not thinking anyone would understand our language – years ago. There is no gracious recovery from it. Pension Fund ordered one drink and retired to his seat up front.

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I saw the need to enjoy the moment a bit longer and got chatting. Over the next three cocktails I’ve learned the following:

  • If the captain’s sleeping bunker is not behind the cockpit, he changes into normal clothes before he walks through the cabin. The reasoning is two-fold: not to freak out the passengers, and also on the safety side not to signal that there is now less crew in the cockpit.
  • Emirates has 23 000 crew, all based in Dubai and most of them live in company provided accommodation, or receive “live out” allowances which free them to live where they like, at their own expense.
  • All crew starts in Economy and can only after 3 years’ service apply for Business Class. On the question which is better, he answered: Business pays more, but Economy passengers are less demanding. (allegedly of course *wink*)
  • Crew can only rest on flights exceeding 9 hours, thus on the Bangkok-Dubai route, they are on duty throughout.
  • Emirates is a prudent recruiter. The barman was 1 of 150 who applied in Cape Town and only himself and 14 other were made an offer.
  • Part of the remuneration package includes a free annual ticket for the first three years, back to your home country. From year four onward staff can choose different destinations.
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Ofcourse we have Emirates fridge magnets!

Speaking of Emirates … check out how they compare with other airlines.

Continue reading about Hanoi.