A Week in the Gulf: QR J, EK J, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE
- Introduction, Planning, and Booking
- Qatar Airways JFK Check-in and British Airways Galleries Lounge Review
- Qatar Airways A350 Business Class JFK-DOH
- 24 Hours in Doha
- DOH oneworld Business Class Lounge and Qatar Airways Economy Class DOH-MCT
- Grand Hyatt Muscat Review
- MCT Plaza Premium Lounge and Emirates Business Class MCT-DXB
- Aloft Abu Dhabi
- Observation Deck at 300, Jumeirah Hotel and Cyacle Bikeshare
- Le Méridien Fairway Dubai
To get from Muscat to Dubai, I flew Emirates business class, on one of their three-class B777-300ERs. The short flight was the first segment of my Alaska Airlines award to get back to the US. While Alaska significantly slashed the value of Emirates redemptions last March, one-way awards to/from the Middle East are still a solid value at 82,500 miles. The ability to include a stopover at no extra cost, even on one-ways, is a generous feature that far surpasses the stopover policy of any other major frequent flier program.
Although MCT can be pretty hectic, the chaos is still somehow much more civilized than what domestic fliers in the US encounter on a regular basis. Of note, there is a separate terminal entrance for premium cabin passengers. The premium cabin area is connected to and accessible from other parts of the terminal, but it’s an easy place to get dropped off if arriving by car. The premium check-in area is just a short walk from the entrance. Rather than checking in at a particular airline’s check-in desk, all non-Oman Air premium passengers check in at a designated premium check-in area (Oman Air operates its own premium cabin check-in space in the terminal). The workers staffing the premium check-in desk are, as a result, not employees of any particular airline and thus may not be able to handle complicated itinerary issues or requests.
After check-in, I proceeded to immigration and security, for which there are dedicated premium lanes. I was through in a breeze and made my way to the Plaza Premium lounge, which is both a Priority Pass lounge as well as the lounge that Emirates business class passengers have access to. There are several other lounges at MCT, and it should be noted that the Plaza Premium lounge is located on the lower floor of the terminal, whereas the other lounges are all upstairs.
The lounge was one large room of a fairly decent size, with plenty of seating and a buffet area in the corner right past the entrance. Overall, the lounge remained pretty empty while I was there, and I found it to be fine for a quick stop before my flight. Other than having some cool model airplanes at the entrance, there’s nothing particularly novel or exciting about this lounge. It was a bit dimly light for my tastes, but otherwise I had no complaints. I didn’t get a chance to sample any of the food, as they were transitioning between breakfast and lunch while I was there. That said, the selection looked decent-to-good for a Priority Pass lounge.
I headed down to my gate about 30 minutes before boarding, expecting it to be a bit of a zoo. Because the flight boarded from a remote gate, the gate area was one large room where we waited for the buses that took us to the plane. The gate area this flight used was clearly not designed for widebodies, as there were nowhere near enough seats, and crowding in the terminal just to get inside the waiting area was pretty insane. Think 35X at DCA but much, much worse.
No announcements were made inside the boarding area, and many people started getting antsy after our scheduled boarding time passed and there were neither buses nor EK staff around. About 10 minutes before the printed departure time on my boarding pass, the first bus showed up at the door. As far as I could tell, there was no announcement about a separate bus for premium passengers, so I crowded into the second or third bus that left. Only after we got to the plane did I see another bus that bypassed the rear door that coach passengers were boarding from, to stop right outside the front door of the plane. I’m not sure if I missed something or if there really was no announcement, but only about half of the F/J passengers were on that separate bus, while the rest of us waited for coach passengers to exit before being driven in our buses to the front door of the plane.
- Emirates EK 863 MCT-DXB
- June 4, 2017
- Boeing 777-300ER
- Dep: 11:03 AM Gulf Standard Time
- Arr: 12:06 PM Gulf Standard Time
- Duration: 1 hr, 3min
- Seat: 7A (switched to 6A)
We boarded via stairs, which is always a treat with widebodies.
The seats onboard were the standard EK 77W lie-flat business class seat, in a 2x3x2 configuration. The cabin was fairly empty, and I quickly settled in to my seat while a flight attendant came by to welcome me onboard and ask if I would be dining during the flight.
Seat 7A on this particular configuration of EK’s three-cabin 77W configurations has a misaligned window. On top of this, the armrest in my seat wasn’t in the best shape, so I moved up to 6A right as the cabin doors closed.
Once we were up in the air, the flight attendants quickly sprang into action.
I was tempted to have a glass of Glenfiddich, but knowing that I’d soon be driving, opted instead for a jasmine tea. The meal was fine and the rest of the flight was uneventful. As always, I was impressed by the overall service and the fact that Emirates is able to serve a meal on a flight with ~30 minutes of airtime, while domestic carriers in the US simply toss a bag of chips and a Cliff bar at their premium passengers on 2-3 hour long flights.
We were quickly on the ground at DXB, where my eyes were glued to the window. The futuristic-looking terminal 3, EK’s army of A380s, and the desert in the background is easily one of my favorite sights.
Once off the plane, I quickly made my way through immigration and went to grab my rental car for the drive down to Abu Dhabi. Outside of the chaos of boarding, the flight was a pleasant and enjoyable experience.