Global Traveler: The starlit ceilings in the first-class cabins of Emirates’ A340-500s caused quite a buzz when they debuted earlier this year. What’s the back story for that innovative idea? How did it come about? And how does it work? What are some of the highlights of passenger feedback to date?
Nigel Page: The concept was developed internally in Emirates. We wanted to relate the interior lighting of the cabin with the local time of the aircraft in-flight in order to reduce jet lag for international travel. The lighting is controlled by the cabin crew and replicates dawn, daylight, dusk and night time. So far, feedback has been very positive.
GT: Emirates offers complimentary chauffeur service to/from the airport to its first- and business-class passengers. The service is currently available in select cities in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. Which cities? Any plans to expand the roster? How much advance notice does the airline need to arrange the transfers? What’s involved in making the arrangements?
NP: We currently offer complimentary “Chauffeur Drive” to our first- and business-class passengers at 26 destinations…Auckland, Abu Dhabi, Birmingham (England!) Brisbane, Christchurch, Doha, Dubai, Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, London, Manchester, Melbourne, Milan, Munich, Nice, New york, Paris, Perth, Rome, Singapore, Sydney, Vienna and Zurich.
Yes, we will expand the service as and when we add new online points. We need 48 hours notice to book chauffeur drive and this is easily done by contacting our reservations department.
GT: Emirates has earned more than 250 international awards for excellence since its launch in 1985. Highlight a few of the key awards over the years. What new innovations are planned to ensure Emirates remains at the forefront of the industry?
NP: We have received awards from most of the major travel and airline industry publications in the World. Airline of the Year, Best Airline to the Middle East, Best First Class, Best Economy Class are just some of the awards. Emirates was recently recognized by the readers of Travel & Leisure in the 2004 World’s Best Awards Issue as one of the “World’s Best Top 10 International Airlines” as well as by the editors of Robb Report who named Emirates as one of the best airlines in their 16th Annual “Best of The Best” issue.
Our new A340-500 has 500 channels of audio and video on demand, personal 19-inch screens in first-class, individual cabin doors in first-class for privacy, WiFi, massage systems on first- and business- seats, and the list goes on. The Emirates first-class dining is a gourmet experience, prepared by international chefs, each meal carefully paired with a fine wine. What’s more, the “dine-on-demand” service allows passengers to order what they want, when they want it. We have always tried to be a technological leader in the airline industry, and were the first airline to have inflight entertainment in all three cabins of the aircraft, the first airline with fax machines, etc.
GT: The Emirates first-class lounge in Dubai offers private single-occupancy bedrooms with shower facilities — an amenity that greatly appeals to passengers facing extended layovers. Are there plans to expand that amenity to other airports? The lounge in Dubai is also chock-full of other appealing amenities. Review some of them for our readers who may not yet have had the opportunity to visit the lounge.
NP: We are building a new 9000 square foot lounge at Terminal 4 at JFK. This facility is in preparation for A380 Super Jumbo operations in the future.
Both the first- and business-class lounges in Dubai offer execptional amenities including 42-inch plasma televisions, 24 hour food service, free Internet access and massage seats. In first-class the lounge has double guest bedrooms with private shower facilities; In business-class, there are single bedrooms with bathroom and shower facilities.
The Dubai I nternational Airport also features G-Force Health Club, a fully-equipped state-of-the-art health club facility open 24-hours a day. First- and business-class passengers receive three hours of complimentary use of the club as well as a free 30-minute massage.
GT: Some of our readers with business in Dubai may want to extend their stay to explore the area. What are some of the sights, attractions, places — in the city and within a two-hour drive of the city — you’d recommend as not-to-be-missed destinations for first-time visitors? Any recommendations for readers who may already be familiar with the region, but may want to explore some more off-the-beaten-path destinations within a couple of hours’ drive of the city?
NP: A trip on an abra water taxi across the Dubai Creek is a unique experience. The shopping malls in Dubai are breathtaking and most goods have nil tax. The Gold Souk is another must. All gold is minimum 18 carat and is some of the cheapest gold in the world. A four-wheel desert drive is another unforgettable experience. It is really the only way to see the true beauty of the country.
So many of the hotels in Dubai are fabulous, from the Burj Al Arab to the new Al Qasr Madinat Jumeirah. If there is some time, I recommend experiencing Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa — a unique resort set on a conservation reserve in the desert, about 45 minutes driving time from Dubai.
GT: Heading into 2005, Emirates is about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its founding. Any specials plans, events, promotions on the horizon to coincide with the anniversary?
NP: We are still awaiting to hear what is planned.
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