Flying to Dubai on United Emirites reminds me of my first flight overseas nearly 15 years ago… Less cattle drive than the transit experience of US travel, and more comfort, with the added improvement of UAE technology. Touch screen televisions hold over 40 movies to choose from, and playback at will. Think Tivo at 35,000 feet. Its a good airline that makes British Airways and Lufthansa look average. Dinner included to my delight spicy lamb curry, with REAL silverware, not a plastic spork in sight. Of course what they spend on silverware and truly delicious food they save by not serving free alcohol. That in itself sets this flight apart from my inaugural (and fairly tipsy) one fifteen years prior.
Bloodshot eyes try to focus after sacrificing one of my contacts to 16 hours of dry cabin air and no sleep. Even without the alcohol, I’m feeling more than a little wrecked, as I enter Dubai’s airport for the first time, but awed by the no-expense-spared approach to the airport’s Terminal 3. Brightly colored lights flash across the walls, vaulted ceilings are supported by glowing columns, with lines of palm trees throughout the walk to the baggage claim. It has the feel of the Vegas strip, minus the strippers and alcohol.
Sheik-clad officials, customs, bags, and we’re ready to check our bags in for the early morning flight to Kabul in 9 hours. But where is our airline counter? Emerites counters abound, but our connecting flight is on Kam Air and there were no signs to other terminals or other airlines. After asking several seemingly helpful agents with large “ASK ME” stickers on their lapels, as well as a couple customer service reps behind counters, we had several false starts. The trick it seems is not finding someone to ask, but someone who will admit they do not, in fact, know the answer to your question. So we did a mini tour of Terminal 3 (where we arrived), took the shuttle and explored Terminal 1, and finally found two people with the SAME answer that sent us to the taxi stand to find Terminal 2, a full twenty minutes drive away from the other two. Third terminal’s a charm and we had a winner!
The unfortunate discovery came in the form of an empty hall with two televisions, a few tables and chairs, and not much else. Not the ideal place to kill 9 hours. It seems they hook you with Terminal 3’s grandeur and light, give you a free shuttle to Terminal 1 where the hustle and bustle and multi-ethnicity make up for its lack of style, and then make you pay to get schlepped to Terminal 2.
The saving grace is the intermittent wi-fi and the BBC World News on the television…it is after all election day back home and this one is a biggie! So on pins and needles, we watch the progress, knowing our friends and colleagues back home are doing the same.