In 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.