My 20-hour journey from the UAE to Seattle starts in Abu Dhabi at 9.45pm, when I board Emirates airline’s free scheduled coach service to Dubai International Airport.
The non-stop bus is for Emirates economy passengers only and has to be booked in advance. It leaves from the Emirates office on the Corniche, which is about five minutes from my apartment.
Once on board the coach, I settle into a comfortable front seat and start making use of the free Wi-Fi. We depart five minutes late at 10.05pm because of a late arriving passenger in a taxi, whose friend is on the bus and expects us to wait. But then we're on our way and the smooth transit makes it surprisingly easy to read on board. Although there are only about 10 other passengers on this full-size coach, I use my noise-cancelling headphones as one passenger sitting opposite is constantly on the phone.
We arrive at the airport at midnight and at check-in I’m relieved to be told that my ticket is being upgraded to business class. Because the flight leaves from the A gates, after immigration I board the airport train to another building, which looks confusingly like the first one. There is a large shopping concourse downstairs and a huge, long business-class lounge upstairs, with direct access to the gates.
I have a pleasant buffet dinner of tandoori chicken and vegetable curry before boarding starts at 2.45am for a 3.15am departure. Because of the US ban on laptops in cabins flying from the UAE to the US, these are taken from passengers at the gate, wrapped and placed in a storage compartment in the hold, to be given back on landing. Because I am only away for a few days, I’ve left my laptop at home for the first time in years.
I have a window seat in the second cabin of a split 42-seat business-class section. Although a common aircraft, the Boeing 777-300 used is a favourite of mine thanks to its safe, smooth operation. After take-off, I quickly use the 10MB free internet on my iPhone and then sleep for about five hours. Departing at this hour, the appeal of an almost-flat bed on a 14-hour flight is obvious.
By the time I wake up we are over the North Pole and I watch an entire series of Portlandia before breakfast is served. The Indian aada bhurji, fresh orange juice and coffee is good and we land early, at 6am. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, known as Sea-Tac, is pleasantly quiet and I am ready to hit the ground running. It is only 20km and a 20-minute drive to downtown. Passengers heading to Vancouver, just over the border in Canada, can avail of another free coach service from Emirates, which must be booked 48 hours in advance. This service makes several stops and allows five hours for the trip.
Although it is now headquartered in Chicago, Seattle is known the home of Boeing, as it was founded here and its Everett factory in Snohomish County, just north of the city, is the world's largest manufacturing building by volume. Emirates is the world's largest buyer of Boeing 777s, with 161 of the aircraft currently in its fleet. Emirates' US$76 billion Boeing 777X order in 2013 for a further 265 aircraft, to be delivered from 2020 onwards, was the largest aircraft order in US history, according to the US secretary of commerce. Based on the US department of commerce multiplier, that equates to the creation of 5,359 jobs per billion dollars of export goods, the deal will support over 400,000 US jobs.
Other Washington state suppliers contribute to the airline's unprecedented aircraft order book; the Smart Landing and Smart Runway technology fitted in Emirates' fleet is designed in Honeywell Aerospace's Redmond facility, while Zodiac Aerospace manufactures Emirates' aircraft stowage compartments at its Washington plant. According to Emirates, in terms of exports, Washington state is ranked No 1 out of all US states for exports to the UAE and non-stop flights support this trade relationship through a 15-tonne freight capacity in the Boeing 777 belly-hold. Emirates has helped to grow Seattle's export trade with goods including software, technology and telecommunications equipment heading to markets across the Middle and Far East. Seattle is also the headquarters of tech companies including Amazon and Microsoft.
The base price for a return ticket from Dubai to Seattle is Dh5,550 in economy and Dh21,530 return in business class, including taxes.