In this report, we’ll take a look at the initial segment of a two-stage journey that brought me from Manila to Amman via Dubai – my very first trip with the largest airline in the United Arab Emirates, and one of the largest in the Middle East.
Welcome aboard Emirates flight EK 335.
Note: Schedule/route information, equipment type, pricing, and other details are accurate only for the specific flight reviewed here. This information might not necessarily apply to previous or future flights, even by the same airline under the same route and flight number.
This report covers the first half (EK 335 / MNL-DXB) of a MNL-AMM journey (DXB layover), which in turn is the outbound half of a round-trip MNL-AMM-MNL itinerary. Separate reviews of the remaining legs will be published in due course.
For the sake of brevity, I’ve used the airline’s IATA code (EK) throughout this report, instead of the full name “Emirates”.
Note: All times are local. Please note that Dubai, United Arab Emirates (GMT+4) is four hours behind Manila, Philippines (GMT+8).
Outbound : Start MNL – EK 335 – Transit DXB – EK 901 – AMM End
Return : Start AMM – EK 904 – Transit DXB – EK 332 – MNL End
Airline and flight number : Emirates (EK) 335
Route : Manila, Philippines (IATA code: MNL) to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (IATA code: DXB)
Final destination : Amman, Jordan (IATA code: AMM)
Date : Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Scheduled departure time : 2310 MNL
Scheduled arrival time : 04:25+1 DXB
EQUIPMENT AND CABIN
Aircraft : Boeing 777-300ER
Manufacturer : Boeing
Registration number : A6-ENY
Passenger capacity : 42 Business Class, 386 Economy Class = 428 Total
Cabin configuration (seat maps) : Official Site
Travel class flown : Economy
I didn’t take any exterior pictures of A6-ENY, but it would have looked similar to the Boeing 777-300ER – registration number A6-EPQ – that I spotted outside my window after we landed at DXB.
A6-ENY was a little over 4 years old on the day of our flight. All of the four B777 aircraft I boarded across this itinerary were of different ages (ranging from about 3 years to nearly 12), and each of them had different seat equipment to match. A6-ENY was the second-youngest plane of the lot, with its cabin fittings – which we’ll have a closer look at later – just one step back from the most up-to-date I saw on our journey.
Depending on the route, either a weight system or piece system will apply to checked baggage. Further details are available on the official website.
My ticket came with a complimentary checked baggage allowance of 30 kg under the weight system, applicable to all four segments of the itinerary. Note that the different Economy fare tiers offer varying allowances, ranging from 15 kg for Special fares up to 35 kg for Flex Plus (different limits are imposed if the piece system applies).
Carry-on/cabin bags for Economy are limited to one piece weighing 7 kg. Refer to the official website for more information on restrictions, exemptions, permitted dimensions, etc. Note that enforcement of carry-on limits may vary from nonexistent to strict, even between flights boarded from the same airport. Taking our DXB departures as an example, I don’t remember any checks for our AMM-bound flight, but large carry-ons were individually weighed at the gate for the MNL-bound segment.
Further details about MNL T3 – including information on available facilities and an extensive gallery of pictures – are available in a separate report.
CHECK-IN AND BOARDING
At MNL T3, different passenger classes used separate lanes. Dedicated counters were also opened for passengers who had already checked in online.
Boarding passes were issued at MNL for both segments of our outbound trip – MNL-DXB on EK 335, plus DXB-AMM on EK 901 – and our luggage was checked through all the way to AMM. The counter agent also offered to sign us up for EK’s Skywards frequent flyer programme free of charge, and membership numbers were issued on the spot after we accepted. (This was just a provisional sign-up; we activated our accounts through the EK website later and the miles earned from the MNL-AMM-MNL itinerary were appropriately reflected.)
There was a fair bit of queuing at immigration…
…but MNL’s grinding and inefficient bureaucracy soon spat us out into the airside zone.
T3 isn’t exactly on par with the world’s leading airports in terms of facilities – read my terminal report to learn more – so we exercised our credit card benefits and holed up in the Skyview Lounge until boarding time drew closer. Incidentally, EK’s Business Class passengers also make use of this lounge (since the airline has no facility of its own in MNL), although their section is separate from the one for credit card or lounge membership guests.
The seats near our assigned gate were arranged to create separate holding areas for different passenger classes. Business Class near the door, Economy Class further away.
Those of us in cattle class were summoned to the gate according to a predetermined sequence, from the back of the plane moving towards the front.
Two aerobridges were deployed, one for Business Class and the other for Economy. A retractable belt barrier was set up in the fixed part of the passageway to keep a clear path for those entering through the forward door.
CABIN INTERIOR AND SEATING
The cabin was in good shape, with amenities and seat belts neatly arranged. Carpets and panelling were free of large stains or scuff marks. I also rather liked the mood lighting employed during the flight, which ranged from a night-themed ceiling speckled with tiny LED stars to a simulated sunrise.
Now for the seats. EK’s 777 Economy Class cabin is fitted with 10 seats to a row, configured 3-4-3.
Reasonably comfortable, with adjustable head pillows and sufficient recline. Legroom and width were adequate for my needs, though I should point out that I’m not a particularly tall or wide fellow. If memory serves, the armrests could be fully raised, which might be relevant for those sitting in otherwise empty rows who’d like to spread out a bit. (That said, I’m not certain if the cabin crew would permit passengers to stretch themselves across multiple seats, especially with the occasional risk of turbulence.)
A generously sized PTV screen was fitted into the seat back, with a pop-out controller mounted underneath (tethered to its berth by a retractable cord). USB port and headphone socket on the left, power point and coat hook on the right. The tray table was of a bifold design, which freed up more real estate on the seat back for the in-flight conveniences above it. There’s also a foldaway cup holder mounted on the table’s exterior, with a tilting inner ring that’s probably designed to help keep containers level even when the person in front reclines their seat (though I can’t say how effective it is in practice).
I noticed that aisle seats – at least, those I looked at closely – weren’t equipped with charging ports on the panel in front of them. Just my tuppence worth: this was likely done to keep the aisles clear of dangling cords that might ensnare passing people or service trolleys.
There were two seat pockets (instead of the usual single compartment): a smaller space for the safety briefing card, and a larger one behind it for everything else. This set-up proved extraordinarily useful, as the separate storage areas made it easier to segregate the various bits and bobs that I needed to stow during the flight. For example, I kept my mobile phone in the front pocket where it was easily accessible, and also more noticeable (thanks to the pocket’s shallower depth) which made me less likely to leave it behind on disembarkation.
My position in row 19 put me above the wing, but close enough to the edge for me to have a peek at the landscape beyond. There wasn’t much to see at that unholy hour, but here’s a sampling of shots taken after landing at DXB to illustrate the available view from this position.
That’s the terminal out there, with a couple of EK’s Airbus A380 jets berthed. The specially designed double-deck boarding bridges are quite a sight to behold, highlighting one of the major logistical challenges involved when hosting these massive aeroplanes.
Of course, there’s no view to be had at all if your seat is next to a blank wall – like 18A on our aircraft.
There’s the window close to the seat ahead, sure … but leaning forwards every time one wishes to have a look outside is hardly convenient. And if the person ahead reclines their seat – well, so much for that.
Since we’re still on the matter of seats, here’s a picture of the bulkhead row in our section to give some idea of what conditions are like hereabouts. (Apologies for the fuzzy shot; this was snapped in haste as we were exiting.)
Let’s take a peek at the Business Class seats. (Sorry again, fuzzy shot, picture taken hurriedly on my way out and all that.) For an airline with a fairly good reputation, the Business Class cabin on EK’s 777 has a rather disappointing layout: 2-3-2, with no direct aisle access for window or middle seats.
And now, for one of the great pleasures of long-haul air travel: the food.
Bilingual menu cards were distributed before take-off.
The first service was a light meal, served about one and a half hours into the flight. According to the menu, passengers would be offered a choice of sandwich (cheese or chicken), but the flight attendant mentioned only one option (chicken). I have no idea whether this was because they were out of cheese sandwiches or merely assumed we’d want the chicken … not that it matters since I preferred the chicken anyway.
And here we are.
Smoked chicken pesto panini, served in a nice little bronze-coloured plastic tray with cupped water and a moist towelette. A choice of beverage was also offered, but I simply asked for more water.
Good stuff. Simple, yet packed with flavour.
The second meal service was breakfast, served less than two hours before landing. There was a choice of main course: grilled milkfish with rice, or an omelette with vegetables. Both options were served with fruit, yogurt, cupped water, and a bread roll, along with the usual selection of hot and cold beverages. The bundle on the right of each meal tray consisted of a disposable table napkin and a plastic bag containing real metal cutlery, a small coffee/tea stirrer, and sachets of salt and pepper. A plastic compartment above the main course held creamer, strawberry preserve, butter, and a moist towelette.
Let’s have a look at my selection: a simple omelette with roasted potatoes, mushrooms, and spinach on the side.
Not bad, but nothing special, and perhaps a little lacking in taste. Slices of sausage or some other savoury meat product – whether folded into the egg or served on the side – would have improved the flavour profile of this course significantly.
Now for a peek at what one of my travelling companions chose: milkfish served with garlic rice and a slice of tortilla española (the egg dish, not the flatbread!).
I neglected to ask for his opinion on the dish, but he’s the sort of chap who readily voices displeasure and there was nothing of the kind from him … so I suppose that means he enjoyed it. (^_^)
As for in-between snacks, the menu card stated that instant cup noodles were available on request (outside of meal services).
AMENITIES AND IN-FLIGHT SERVICE
Pillows, blankets, and headphones were laid out on each seat prior to boarding.
No amenity kits were distributed during our flight. I’ve read that Economy Class passengers are supplied with reusable packs containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, an eye shade, socks, and ear plugs “on selected flights”, so I suppose our time in the air simply wasn’t long enough to merit the perk.
As for the service … well, regular readers of this blog are probably aware that I’m something of an introvert, and that I try to minimise interactions with cabin attendants to the barest minimum. This unfortunately means that I can’t comment much on whether the crew were friendly or prompt with attending to requests or whatever else, given that I’ve effectively insulated myself from both good and bad aspects of their behaviour. Having said that, I observed nothing that would give serious cause for concern, and I was met with satisfactory levels of politeness and professionalism during those few moments when I had to exchange words with them (such as during meal service).
SEAT POCKET CONTENTS
Let’s reach into the seat pockets and sort through what’s inside.
A printed guide for the in-flight entertainment system, a duty free catalogue, a donation envelope for EK’s in-house charity, and a safety briefing card. Except for the safety card in its own little pocket, everything was inserted into a plastic sleeve before being tucked in – a nice touch as this kept the items organised even with me repeatedly shoving in or pulling out other objects that I wanted to keep in the larger pocket.
No air sickness bag, although one is normally supplied (based on my other EK flights); I assume the maintenance crew merely neglected to restock my seat. No in-flight magazine either, but I vaguely recall seeing something on the PTV about this being available on request. In any event, given the variety of content available on EK’s excellent IFE system (more on this below), I suspect there aren’t many passengers who’d rather flip through a printed publication.
EK’s IFE suite – marketed under the brand name “ice” (information + communications + entertainment) – contains a wide range of content, including new movies and even a small selection of live news broadcasts. The printed guide in the seat pocket might help with navigating the many options available, but I was content to merely browse through the dozens of menus and sub-menus until something caught my fancy.
WiFi is advertised as being available on board, free up to 20 MB (2 hours) with paid options for more data or longer periods. That said, I found it practically unusable.
But no matter; the regular IFE system was one of the best I’d seen of late, and it was more than sufficient to fill up whatever time I had left between eating or sleeping.
Having read a number of unfavourable reviews in advance of the flight – some viciously negative – I must admit to being slightly apprehensive about my first journey with Emirates. In the end, none of my pre-flight concerns ever crystallised, at least not in a big way. Awful departure airport aside (and one can’t lay all the blame on EK for terminal operations at state-run MNL T3), the airborne experience was generally positive. Comfortable seat, well-maintained aircraft interiors, filling on-board meals, a fantastic IFE suite … all this helped make our 8-9 hour red-eye flight more than tolerable.
I should point out that many of the negative comments I’d read had something to do with poor customer service, both on the ground (such as in the aftermath of delays or missed connections) and in the air. Given that we experienced no incidents requiring special attention, and that I tend to avoid interacting with cabin crew to begin with, there wasn’t much opportunity for possible behavioural/professional issues to manifest themselves. On the other hand, even a detached observer might pick up hints here and there – requests overheard, tone of voice, etc. – and I personally found very little to suggest that there was anything systemically wrong with how the airline and its people work.
All things considered, I was very pleased with EK’s performance on flight 335 and will gladly fly with them again.