Seven Business Class Seats on Emirates (Part 2)

CabinMy second Boeing experience was on June 10, 2017. A couple of days before my flight, Emirates offered me a business class seat from Manila to Dubai for about 19,000 points – which is more than a steal. Usually, a business class seat upgrade will cost you almost 40,000 points. A round trip business class trip will cost you about 70,000 points. I had enough points so I took it.

As a Silver Skywards member, I have access to a dedicated check-in counter and have priority boarding privileges. Yet, the experience of turning right, instead of left to the Economy section, upon entering the plane still made me giddy. I was on a newer Boeing, so my screen and portable control console worked perfectly and had an updated interface. I was offered welcome drinks and I again opted for champagne over juices and sparkling water.

I chose a window seat, although I prefer aisle seats, just to experience it. The criticism of Emirates’s business class configuration on their Boeing aircraft is that they have a 2x3x2 layout. People in window seats and in the middle seats have to step over the legs of other passengers to get to the aisle. But, window seats do have more privacy.

Rob Roy
EnRob Roy(whiskey and Martini Rosso shaken over ice, served with a maraschino cherry)ter a caption

A young flight attendant asked me what I’d like for pre-dinner drinks. “Rob Roy” I said. “Excuse me?”. “Rob Roy”. “I beg your pardon? I’m not familiar with the drinks menu”. I pulled out the menu from the seat pocket in front of me and showed it to her. “Oh, I’m so sorry” she looked embarrassed. “It’s alright” I said while waving my hand dismissively. She must have been pulled out from the economy section to temporarily assist in handling business class passengers. I’ve noticed that most of the business class crew were considerably senior than the ones in economy. While I was in the midst of of watching the live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast”, I was served my cocktail with warm macadamia nuts.

 

An hour later, dinner service began. By then I already knew from where to pull out my tray table so there was no longer a few seconds of awkward waiting. I ordered Salmon Roulade served with mango salad, for appetizer, and paired it with a glass of Chateau de Santenay, Saint Aubin “En Vesvau” 2014. Emirates has a separate menu for wines, which usually feature two white wines and two red wines. While dinner service was going on, the sommelier went around with a basket of bottles of wine. The sommelier was quite quick to spot who needed refilling.

Business Class 8
ESalmon Roulade served with mango saladnter a caption

For my main course, I asked for pan-fried parrot fish with lemon velouté, served with buttered potatoes and grilled vegetables. I was going for a fish-themed dinner so that everything would go well with the white wine. The fish was very delicate and lightly seasoned but I found the potatoes to have had too much butter on them. For dessert, I asked for a cheese platter, which I was barely able to finish. After dinner, I asked for fresh orange juice. The thing about business class orange juice is that it’s freshly squeezed while the ones in economy are poured out of a box. And it’s served in a nice glass, too. I was later given a box of Belgian chocolates.

 

Business Class 9
Pan-fried parrot fish with lemon velouté, served with buttered potatoes and grilled vegetablesEnter a caption

The large coffee that I had before the flight kept me awake despite having drunk a considerable amount of white wine. I set the seat to fully-flat setting and it was only then I noticed the stars on the cabin roof. People around me began to softly snore and I closed my eyes. The caffeine in my body and the warmth of my part of the plane kept me awake. I tossed and turned for a while before falling into a short nap.

 

When I woke up and sat up, a flight attendant asked me if I wanted breakfast. I was still full so I declined. Apparently most of the passengers preferred to sleep and only a few availed of the breakfast service. An hour later, we started our descent.

On July 3, 2017, I was once again upgraded to Business Class for my Dubai to Manila flight. I had purposely spent eight hours in Dubai airport after my flight from Budapest to relish the amenities, food, and beverages of the business class lounge. I was quite tipsy from all the Moet champagne that I drank that I was quite jolted when I was handed a business class boarding pass at the gate.

Business class 10
Rusty Nail(Drambuie and whiskey tumbled over ice with a slice of lemon)

I was on an older Boeing. The screen hardly responded to my touch so I had to use the portable console to navigate the menu. At least the seat functioned properly, and for the first time, I used the massage feature. The seat basically vibrated at different points – leg area, lower back, and head. I got to relax a little. Despite having drunk all that champagne in the business class lounge, I still asked for champagne for my welcome drink.

 

I put on “Jackie” and watched Natalie Portman do her take of Jackie Kennedy. The flight attendant in charge of me was a middle-aged Indian woman. She was very motherly and occasionally patted my shoulder to see if I’m alright. As I noted before, the crew in business class were considerably senior than those in economy. Their experience definitely showed in their flawless and efficient service. They also had this no-nonsense air, which meant a snooty business class or even first class passenger cannot easily intimidate them. Throughout the flight, the bursar was engaged in a conversation with a passenger a couple of seats in front of me. I later discovered that said passenger was a Platinum Skywards member – very rare.

Business Class 14
Grilled chicken with sun-dried tomato tapenade on mushroom salad with peppers and fennel

I asked for a Rusty Nail for my pre-lunch drink. As usual, my drink came with warm macadamia nuts. For appetizer, I again asked for grilled chicken with sun-dried tomato tapenade on mushroom salad with peppers and fennel. I paired this with Australian white wine that had a hint of mineral taste in it.

 

 

Main course was wok-fried chili prawns served with steamed jasmine rice and glazed vegetables. I opted for a light main course so I could still stuff in some dessert. The jasmine rice and vegetables were well-cooked, but the prawns, fresh and juicy, were swimming in a sauce that hardly had any flavor in it. It was not even spicy. For dessert, I had a very delightful chocolate truffle cake with cherry compote which I paired with tea.

I was drowsy after my meal so I set my seat to fully-flat position. My motherly flight attendant asked if I wanted a duvet. “Sure!”, I said and stood up so that she could lay it out on top of my seat. I never availed of a duvet before and I wanted to see if it made a difference. And it did. My seat became more comfortable and I dozed off in no time.

Business class 11
Wok-fried chili prawns served with steamed jasmine rice and glazed vegetables

Four hours later, I woke up to answer nature’s call. I never went into the business class toilets before so I figured it was the perfect time to explore them. The toilet was slightly roomier than in economy but had the same layout. Although, it had a wood-themed finish, some fresh cotton towels, disposable toothbrushes, and most importantly, two large bottles of Bulgari eau de toilette. I helped myself to some Bulgari.

 

 

Snack service began a little while later. I had a Selection of Savouries: Hoisin Chicken Drummettes, prawn dumplings, and lemon grass chicken parcels. In an attempt to be sober, I asked for orange juice. All the while, Colin Firth was stammering in “The King’s Speech”. To finish everything, I had coffee.

Service on that flight was excellent, which compensated for the fact that the facilities were dated. I finally understood what reviewers meant when they said that the Emirates experience can be inconsistent by reason of the aircraft being used. Well, I can’t really complain because I flew in business class for free.

Business class 13
Selection of Savouries: Hoisin Chicken Drummettes, prawn dumplings, and lemon grass chicken parcels

 

 

 

Seven Business Class Seats on Emirates (Part 1)

Business Class 1In my transcontinental travels, I’ve flown on three major Middle-Eastern airlines. When my travels became more frequent, I opted to be loyal to Emirates because of their entertainment system, ICE. It has always been on Emirates that I’m able to catch up on my movie-watching. I always look forward to my flights, even though I always book economy tickets, because the seats are comfortable enough, the food is very good, and the flight attendants always obliged my requests for more than one glass of wine. Since I’ve been flying a lot, I decided to rack up points: I am now on my second year as a Silver Skywards member. Sipping unlimited Moet champagne in the Emirates Business Class Lounges in Dubai has been my transit pastime for some time.

Currently, the only monogamous relationship that I have is with Emirates. Yes, I have a relationship with a multi-national corporation. And it is not one-sided because, as in any healthy relationship, there has been a give-and-take. I’ve been given seven business class seats so far, six on a Boeing 777-333R and one on an Airbus 380, plus a chauffeured car.

On March 31, 2016, I was dazed from lack of sleep on my Hamburg to Dubai flight. As I shuffled through the check-in gate of my Manila flight, a staff member took my boarding pass and casually said in a low voice “Sir, you have been upgraded to Business Class”. I made a small gasp and demurely said “Thank you” – there was no need to make such a scandal about it. The lines were long and the flight was fully booked.

The stairway down to the gate was crowded. I heard the staff call out for any remaining Business Class passengers. My “Excuse me’s” were audible enough to rise above the babble of the impatient crowd – but not too loud out of decorum. People gave way to me as I rushed to the waiting designated bus. There were 14 seats, with gold highlights, available and there were 11 of us on it. If I were in my previous class(note how I distanced myself from them) I would have been crammed in the same-sized bus with as many passengers as the bus could carry.

Business Class 7
Kir Royale(champagne and creme de cassis)

I was given champagne upon taking my seat inside the Boeing aircraft. I had the option to take juice or water, but why would you do that? As in economy, flight attendants also handed out hot wet towels for passengers to wipe their faces and hands with. While the crew were waiting for the rest of the economy class passengers to board, I settled in and took note of the features of my seat.

There was a USB port(also available in economy) and a power outlet. A noise-cancelling headset was also provided. The pillow was bigger and the blanket was wider and thicker. There was also a bottle of water in the small shelf below the screen. All this time, I tried to act nonchalant and as if nothing was out of the ordinary, lest I’d be discovered as a freeloader.

After take off, the bursar went around to introduce herself. Later on, I was asked what I’d like for pre-lunch drink since lunch will be served an hour later. Their drinks menu was quite extensive – classic cocktails, rum, cognac, gin, vodka, liqueur, wines, and aperitifs.  I had kir royale(champagne with creme de cassis), served with warm macadamia nuts. I had just taken a class in Budapest that time and one of our discussions involved the matter regarding the alcohol content of crème de cassis resolved by the European Court of Justice.  The flight attendant also noted my choices for appetizer, main course, and dessert on her iPad.

Business Class 3
Grilled chicken with sun-dried tomato tapenade on mushroom salad with peppers and fennel

Two flight attendants parked a food cart beside my seat. I had not yet unfolded my tray table, mainly because I did not know where it should be pulled out. After a couple of seconds of waiting, one of them, reached over to a slot near my right thigh and casually pulled out the tray table. The jig was up. One thing I like about Emirates crew is that when they notice you have no idea how to go about onboard, they will subtly assist you and you won’t look like a fool. They briskly laid out a table cloth, placed a laid-out tray of my appetizer, grilled chicken with sun-dried tomato tapenade on mushroom salad with peppers and fennel, and gave me a bundle of utensils – a set for appetizers and another set for the main course.

Business Class 4
Roasted Beef Tenderloin with green pepper sauce, steamed French beans, and potato cakes with truffle

While passengers were eating, a flight attendant went around carrying a basket of assorted breads. I asked for garlic bread, and I was informed it was a good choice. After I finished with my appetizer, my tray was taken away and promptly replaced with my main course of roasted beef tenderloin. I had French red wine as well, which was occasionally refilled as the meal service progressed. Instead of offering me one choice of dessert, the flight attendant suggested I should have the fruit platter and cheese plate(Cropwell Bishop Stilton, Tomme des Pyrénées, De La Huz Iberico, and Belton’s Red Leicester). When they took away the plates, utensils, and glasses, I was asked if I wanted tea or coffee. I asked for coffee, which they served with a box containing two bite-sized Belgian chocolates.

Business Class 5
Fruit Platter and Cheese Platter(Cropwell Bishop Stilton, Tomme des Pyrénées, De La Huz Iberico, and Belton’s Red Leicester)

There were a lot of buttons to push and the seat could be customized to encase the contours of my body. The seat even had a special touchscreen console in addition to the manual controls, to further fine tune my seating preferences. It was also a good thing that I was on a newer plane, which made my experience seamless.

After re-watching “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” on a very wide and hi-definition screen, I reclined my seat and promptly fell asleep. I was woken by the sound of cutlery. I pulled out my tray table once again and the flight attendant laid out the table cloth and gave me utensils.  I was offered Bresaola served with cheese-filled bell pepper, olives and focaccia as a light snack.

Business Class 6
Bresaola served with cheese-filled bell pepper, olives and focaccia

After that experience, I was no longer the same person who flew out of Dubai about 9 hours earlier. I think Jerry Seinfeld had the same epiphany after he got upgraded to business class and Elaine tried to sneak in many times from Economy. I acquired the knowledge that there is always something better at the front side of a Boeing. And the realization that I had been leading a destitute life.

 

Dinner with a Total Stranger

Exotic Filipinos
Exotic Filipinos at Fort Santiago, Intramuros on one summer eve.

One evening, a middle-aged German guy stopped me on the street and asked if I could spare 20 pesos(40 cents). I was taken aback. He was obviously embarrassed but desperate. Normally, I would have disregarded such pleas, but when a German guy asks for money, something’s up. Yes, it’s racist to judge someone by color or ethnicity. Yet in the Philippines, a middle-aged European asking a local for change is very unusual.

I chatted with him a while, gauging his character and subtly asking him questions to probe his background. He claimed to be a logistical economist. I probed a bit more and he proceeded to discuss about utilization of resources and balancing costs. He claimed to have his cards and papers stolen from him and that he was having a hard time getting people back in Germany to work on his papers. He also said the German embassy was not of much help.

I asked him if he had eaten. He said not really so I invited him to join me. He expressed his frustration with his situation. I was cautious, always keeping in mind that this could be a con. From what I’ve gathered in our conversation, he was a very intelligent man but had no grasp of the practical things in life or human nature.

I was having a hard time deciding if he was truly naive or putting up an act. He has been staying in the barangay hall(community center) since September 2017. He never really got to explain how he ended up here(although he has a Philippine resident visa and had spent more time scouting mountains for manganese or lead).

I tried to probe but he was very guarded.

Instead, our conversation focused on his son that he had with a local girl. How local girls seem to be more interested in money. How lonely he has been and thinks it would be okay if he finally got a wife. And how he likes our brown color and how exotic we are.I suggested he go for the educated or affluent girls. I pointed out that he’s been hanging out with the wrong crowd and there’s actually an industry out there where local girls latch on to gullible, rich, old white men and bleed them dry. Although, there are instances of true love.

I told him about what happened to another German guy I chatted with in 2016. He had to relinquish his condo and car to a local girl he married, whom he met on the internet. That German guy discovered that the girl he married was getting violent and threatened him every time he refused to give money. He ended up staying in a five-star hotel for a month. He looked truly terrified after he heard my story. Hopefully, he’ll be more circumspect with the girls he’ll meet.

I still don’t know what he told me were true but at least I had good conversation during dinner. Also, the people at the restaurant I usually eat at would now probably think I’m not some weird loner who eats the same thing every time. The staff smiled more widely at me than usual when we left.

He asked for my number. I gave it. Europeans have helped me many times in Europe despite the language barrier(Germans have been especially nice). But, I’ll still be wary although I could not help thinking he’s some guy who has somehow lost his way in life.

Instead of Lovers, I had Books

Whenever I feel down or am going through something rough, I turn to stories. Though I know most of them are fiction, I still believe that they contain truths about the human experience. Let’s face it, not all of them end on a happy note. Yet, in the most trying times I somehow take comfort in what I learned from them. The last novel I read was in 2015, “A Little Life”, and I never got to finish it – I enjoyed it but at the same time I felt my heart was going to be crushed as I progressed through the pages. And I recently read that it is going to be adapted into a Broadway play. I decided to give up on reading fiction for some time so that I could give room for more “practical” pursuits.

Eyes of the DragonI learned to read because of my sisters. At age four, I pestered them to read me stories from our library and from their textbooks. The first skill I ever worked hard on learning was reading, because I did not want to depend on my sisters for long. The trick was to read a book over and over until I was familiar with the material. I was particularly fond of our twenty-volume Walt Disney encyclopedia, hence, the nerdiness. I never did well in school because I did not care for the other subjects. I just wanted to read stories. I borrowed books from the library, even those meant for sixth graders, and read them for fun.

My teenage years were primarily Stephen King fare and “Eyes of the Dragon” will always be the best work of his for me. Incidentally, it was the first Stephen King novel I’ve ever read. Talk about losing your virginity. In a way, books – and by extension the authors – were my mentors in life. I may have been more intimate with them – the books not the authors – than I am with most people. Wait, being intimate with your mentors … that sounds kinky and a tad incestuous.

Sophie's World“Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder was introduced to me at a time when I was having teenage angst. It’s a clever novelization of all philosophical thought. Through it, I learned there is no single way of looking at things and one must always question everything. Though I was not as arrogant as Philosophy majors, I did turn into a little prick. My philosophy professors loved me for it though because I wrote angst-ridden essays on the futility of everything. We were already dying the minute we were born. But that book did give me license to explore lines of thinking, even the darker ones. Though it has been almost two decades since I read it, I am still under its influence. It may be responsible for my receptivity to radical ideas and may be the reason why I like discussing ideas for the sake of it(Yes, I really do need to get a life). “Sophie’s World” taught me promiscuity.

Catcher in the RyeA nod to my strong psychopathic tendencies, “Catcher in the Rye” came at a time when I was totally lost at what I should do with my life. I thought everyone was phony and dull. But the part that I like about it was Mr. Antolini’s advice “Something else an academic education will do for you. If you go along with it any considerable distance, it’ll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What’ll fit and, maybe, what won’t. After a while, you’ll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing. For one thing, it may save you an extraordinary amount of time trying on ideas that don’t suit you, aren’t becoming to you. You’ll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly.” And studied I did and I got to narrow down the measurements. But, I must admit I’m a crossdresser and I like going into full costume. “Catcher in the Rye” was very naughty, even nasty, but satisfying and memorable.

LOTRBecause I like drama and epic stories on a large scale “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was the theme of my life throughout my twenties. I read the books many times and watched the extended version of LOTR, maybe ten times – over and above the theater version. Until now I can still recite Galadriel’s narration at the start of the first movie “The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. For what was once was is lost, for none now live who remember it”. I felt I was Frodo, slugging it through law school, battling my personal demons, and all I felt at that time was despair. Looking back, I was going through a deep depression and it is only now that I acknowledge it. I’m quite surprised I made it through. Whenever I felt very down, I’d watch my movie collection or reread the books. “The Lord of the Rings” was a regular and reliable romp during times of loneliness.

The Once and Future KingWhen I was wondering in what direction I should take my career, copies of T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King” appeared in the local bookstores. To me, the book spoke about growing up and that whatever naivete we may have must be shed. Merlin, by transforming Arthur into a fish, hawk, ant, goose, and badger, taught him lessons on how to be a good king. At that time. I was discerning what lessons I’ve learned from all the things I’ve been through. I was forming the guiding principles of how I should live my life and what I should prioritize. “The Once and Future King” was wise and full of fun. At the end, it was bittersweet and left me with a sense of melancholia.

Of more interest to me was the discussion in the book about justice, particularly in the sphere of armed conflict. I recognized in it the rudimentary principles on the international rules of war. Serendipitously, an acquaintance asked whether I was interested in graduate studies. I eventually found myself taking classes and going abroad for special trainings and seminars.

I guess my pursuit of more “practical” knowledge – reading scholarly essays and treatises – and involvement in more “practical” things – active participation in professional organizations and shameless networking, was my way of shedding my naivete. I must say I went through different transformations throughout the six years I dedicated to advanced studies, travels, and networking. Along the way, I lost a certain degree of idealism and loosened my absolutist beliefs about people and life in general. I have somehow been preparing for something but what that exactly it is I have yet to know.

Hundred YearsFor now, I am content with watching Cartoon Network and Disney Channel while I work at home or do my laundry. Maybe, I should pick up “A Little Life” from where I left off. Somehow other obligations keep me from picking up a book. I am more interested in going through the daily motions of life. Could this mean I’m at the point of doing something repetitive as a form of solitude like the characters in “A Hundred Years of Solitude”? Doing something for the sake of routine and familiarity just to endure the passage of time until a hurricane comes to destroy all of existence? Hmmmmnnn… “One Hundred Years of Solitude” may have been that book that I’ve never really gotten to move on from because it told me an uncomfortable human truth: we will all live a life of solitude.