The Arab Aviation Summit took place on 14-16 March 2023 in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the 7 United Arab Emirates, approximately 100 km north of Dubai. Although this emirate has its own airport, services are scarce (some 5 flights a day to the wrong destinations for most Europeans) and it was evident that Dubai was the easiest way to get there.
Emirates suggests coming to Brussels Airport three and a half hours before departure. I came by train and due to delays and missed connections, I arrived there 40 minutes behind schedule (thank you SNCB/NMBS) at 12:25, i.e. two and a half hours before departure. This was absolutely sufficient and even gives time to relax for one hour in the Diamond lounge of Pier B after passing security (with some queues) and passport control (with the e-gates functioning efficiently, which is not always the case). However, since the Emirates flight to Dubai and the Qatar Airways flight to Doha leave at 5 minutes interval, the lounge was rather crowded, although well stocked with food and drinks.
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER registered A6-EQK
From-To: Brussels – Dubai (BRU-DXB)
Seat: 8D (an aisle seat in the middle group of 3 seats)
Scheduled/Effective Time of Departure: 14:55/14:54 (GMT+1)
Scheduled/Effective Time of Arrival: 00:25+1/00:22+1 (GMT+4)
Scheduled/Effective Duration of the flight: 6 hr 30 min/6 hr 28 min
The Emirates Boeing 777-300ER is configured in three classes:
- First: 8 closed suites with sliding doors, 2 rows in a 1-2-1 layout, with a pitch of 69″ and a width of 20.5″
- Business: 42 flatbed seats, 6 rows in a 2-3-2 configuration, with a pitch of 60″ and a width of 20.5″
- Economy: 304 seats in a 3-4-3 configuration, with a pitch of 32″ and a width of 17″. Like most airlines, Emirates changed the original Boeing 3-3-3 design to a more cramped 3-4-3 configuration.
- Premium Economy has been recently introduced by Emirates, initially on some Airbus A380 aircraft during their complete revamping, but not yet on the Boeing 777.
50 minutes before departure, boarding started at gate B31 (the only Brussels gate suitable for the A380), simultaneously through two jet bridges, one for first and business passengers, the other for economy passengers. A little problem with the second one: the economy passengers enter in the middle of the business class section, hence some business passengers have to find their way between economy passengers.
A glass of champagne (Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label), fruit juice or water was served before leaving the gate. Guess which one I chose.
On-time departure and take-off from runway 25R under clear weather.
The seat was comfortable and outfitted with all kinds of nice technologies: an individual mini-bar with Perrier sparking water, Seven-up and Pepsi Cola; a TV remote control serving as a second screen and even a third screen on a tablet; and then all the controls for the seat which can be changed into a lie-flat bed. The IFE itself has myriads of channels: films, documentaries, live news channels, flight data and cameras, all types of music, games for all ages, etc., all in a dozen of languages on a wide screen. A wall decoration of fresh orchids gave the final touch to the business cabin.
Two hours into the flight, the meal service started. It was called lunch, but it was rather a dinner. The stewardess had previously taken the orders on her tablet.
From a large selection of cocktails, (non-alcoholic) mocktails and other drinks, I chose a mojito as aperitif. It came with olives.
The first dish (appetiser) could be selected among a cream of mushroom soup with garlic and herbs, traditional Arabic mezze (houmous, muhammara, baba ghanouj, stuffed vine leaves and Kalamata olives), and seared prawns with wakame salad and beetroot and pepper chèvre with wasabi and onion seeds. I went for the Arabic mezze (when in Rome, do like the Romans). As I wanted white wine with it, I chose the German Riesling rather than the French Meursault.
For the main dish, there was again a choice between three offerings:
- beef fillet with peppercorn sauce, grilled asparagus, red peppers, mashed potatoes with chestnuts (my choice)
- roasted chicken mandi in traditional spices with aromatic rice, cashews and pine nuts
- Belgian cod waterzooi with new potatoes and buttered edamame, a nice gesture for a flight originating in Belgium
The red wine to go with my main course was to be selected between a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru or a Gevrey-Chambertin. The latter was my preference. All wines are generously served from a large bottle.
For dessert, another hard choice with four possibilities: salted caramel and custard tart, Bavarian marbled pound cake with cherry coulis, seasonal fruit, and cheese board with dried fruit and nuts. The Bavarois was my choice, and a Graham 20-year-old Tawny Port from the Douro Valley was a perfect accompaniment.
A final delicacy was the chocolate ice cream. A second serving of the old Port would close the dinner in beauty.
Meanwhile, we were already flying over Iran after crossing Germany, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Black Sea and Turkey (or should I say Türkiye?). In Iran, we flew close to the city of Shiraz, the place where I landed when visiting the country four years ago.
A few minutes before arrival at destination, the large television screen in front of my seat showed for the first time Ras Al Khaimah, my final destination located 100 kilometres north of Dubai.
Landing on time at Dubai Airport after an excellent flight.
After landing, you have to walk long distances in the giant airport of Dubai to retrieve your baggage, with some unexpected views.
Afterwards, I had to go to immigration for a new visa; then through passport control, baggage collection at the very end of a long, long delivery hall.
And finally a chauffeur picked me up to drive me, via the Emirates of Dubai, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain to Ras Al Khaimah, arriving at the hotel at 02:30 in the night, but that’s another story.
After three full days at Ras Al Khaimah for the Arab Aviation Summit and two interesting excursions, it was time to come back home. A chauffeur picked me up at 10:00 at the Mövenpick hotel and drove me to Dubai Airport through the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed highway, three lanes in each direction, becoming six lanes (and nevertheless with traffic jams) between Sharjah and the airport.
At the entrance of Terminal 3 (Emirates) of the airport, there is a special access road for cars to drop off First and Business class passengers. And from there, those passengers have their own check-in, baggage drop, passport control with e-gates and baggage control areas. Only after they are airside are they mixed with Economy passengers into the immense shopping hall of Terminal 3.
And then, there are the lounges. For Emirates: Marhaba (the upper tier lounge), First, and Business. The latter is almost as big as the entire Pier A of Brussels Airport, and it has multiple booths: snacks, drinks, oriental food, ice cream, etc.
Boarding was 45 minutes before departure, through two different jet bridges, one for First and Business, one for Economy, like in Brussels)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER registered A6-EQM
From-To: Dubai – Brussels (DXB-BRU)
Seat: 8D (exactly the same seat as on the outbound flight)
Scheduled/Effective Time of Departure: 14:05/14:12 (GMT+4)
Scheduled/Effective Time of Arrival: 18:25/18:14 (GMT+1)
Scheduled/Effective Duration of the flight: 7 hr 20 min/7 hr 2 min
There was a little hiccup at boarding: there were two people with a boarding pass for the seat 8E next to mine. This was quickly solved by the stewardess who assigned another seat to the passenger who arrived second.
The welcome drink was the same Veuve Clicquot champagne.
Pushback was a few minutes late, but Emirates had probably given enough time for the long taxiing before reaching the runway. Through the onboard front camera, it was possible to see the Azerbaijan Airways in front of us.
Service on board was quite similar to the one on the outbound flight, hence I will not go into the detailed description.
I rarely watch a movie when I travel by plane, but this time I could not resist “Top Gun: Maverick” with Tom Cruise. And therefore, I forgot to make a picture of the main dish of the meal which was served after two hours.
If the wines were identical to those on the outbound flight, the menu differed completely. And I selected an Aperol Spritz as aperitif, Arabic mezze again (but different ones: houmous, freekeh salad with almonds, spinach bil zeit and orange blossom labneh with pumpkins and pistachios) as appetiser, bzar prawns as the main dish (butter roasted prawns in traditional Emirati spice marinade with creamy sauce with steamed basmati rice).
To accompany these dishes, my choice was the Meursault white Burgundy.
And to conclude, the cheese board in lieu of dessert (cheddar, Camembert and Stilton with crackers and dried fruit and nuts). With a glass of the old Graham’s Tawny Port that I liked already so much on the outbound flight.
Before arrival, the stewardess made us put a final note on this excellent meal by bringing a very nice vanilla ice cream (or chocolate for those who preferred).
For the landing, it was a nice experience to use the two different cameras to see the Belgian soil underneath and the runway before us.
The flight arrived at Gate 31 of Brussels Airport 10 minutes early, after an itinerary bringing us over the Persian Gulf, Kuwait, Irak, Turkey, the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, and Germany. Passport control through the e-gates was fast and easy, baggage delivery smooth, and I was outside the airport in no time after an excellent flight.
Aviation24.be wishes to thank the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) and Emirates Airline for arranging the flights.
Nice ! Emirates is rarely disappointing! Excellent company !