Having a bad back after a new year’s gym resolution went badly wrong proved reason enough to upgrade from economy to business class for my six-hour day flight from Dubai to Phuket last week.
The tempting offer came in an email just at the right moment, and helped to make this journey a breeze rather than a potentially painful experience.
I’m always in two minds about business class and have pondered this dilemma many times when trying it out. Of course the superior product is undeniable, the question is really whether it offers value for money.
On this occasion it was impressive and there have been a few improvements that those who have not flown this way for a while will notice when leaving Dubai.
It is nice to be picked up by a chauffeur in the morning and delivered straight to the dedicated business and first class concourse at terminal three in Dubai International Airport. No problems with lifting heavy luggage, there was plenty of help at hand.
The 12:45pm flight meant that I needed to arrive at what was a quiet time of the morning, with no queues, indeed almost no other passengers in sight. The check-in took about two minutes, with my bags tagged for priority on arrival.
Then a flash of the passport and a glance in the right direction at the Smart Gate’s green light, and a very efficient baggage screening that did not require the removal of my laptop from my cabin bag.
A short walk and I was into the business class lounge, a huge facility on the upper level of the concourse, with every convenience from a shoeshine to mobile charging facilities.
Since my last visit the reception has been upgraded with a quicker system of multiple desks, and the lounge now features a series of sleeping cubicles for those on long transits from different time zones.
Recently departed from home on the Palm Jumeirah, I hardly needed to put my head down. Indeed, the S-shaped beds would have been uncomfortable for my still-delicate back.
Instead I walked around the food stations – Indian, Arabic and European – took an early lunch and logged on to the complimentary Wi-Fi for a final check of my emails.
There are no departure announcements, and I when I remembered to look at the board it said “last call”, so I rushed to gate B18.
Actually they were just finishing boarding women and children first, so I was in time to get the priority boarding that comes with business class.
On board, my window seat 10K on the Boeing 777-300 ER immediately beckoned with a full range of seating positions to accommodate my troublesome back.
Only those fellow executive travellers with this common complaint will fully understand the sense of relief.
The warm towel and welcome drink is really nothing by comparison to this great seat in such circumstances. But I also found the TV at precisely the right distance for a long-sighted person, as well as being huge for watching the latest films.
Naturally you can plug in your laptop or mobile charger, if you have not used the charging facility in the business class lounge before getting on the plane.
Full service really means just that on Emirates. And at the front of the aircraft you get cabin staff on a second three-year contract, so they really know what they are doing. Any request for assistance was quickly executed with a smile.
This flight included a substantial lunch that was actually more of a dinner given the three-hour time difference between Thailand and the UAE.
I chose a chicken roll from the three appetisers, a slightly soggy, overcooked steak for the main course and three very tasty cheeses for dessert.
Arriving in Phuket it was pouring with tropical rain and we circled the airport several times until the storm calmed down, so just as well the plane docked neatly with the one-year-old airport and we did not have to go outside.
It’s only a few minutes’ walk to passport control and baggage pick-up, and the priority baggage came off the aircraft first so I beat the crowds, although the 42-seat business class was half-empty on this flight.
Fortunately my back did not give out on the final heave of the baggage off the carousel and the hotel arrival’s staff grabbed me and my bags moments later.