Flight Report:  DXB-MNL on Emirates Flight EK 332 (04 April 2019)

Let’s close off my first round-trip experience on Emirates by looking at their performance on the last leg: the long flight from our transit point at Dubai to our final destination, Manila.

Welcome aboard Emirates flight EK 332.

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 second half (EK 332 / DXB-MNL) of an AMM-MNL journey (DXB layover), which in turn is the homebound half of a round-trip MNL-AMM-MNL itinerary. Separate reviews covering the 3 other legs are also available – please use the links embedded in the itinerary outline below.

For the sake of brevity, I’ve used the airline’s IATA code (EK) throughout this report, instead of the full name “Emirates”.

ROUTE MAP

OVERVIEW

Note: All times are local. Please note that Dubai, United Arab Emirates (GMT+4) is four hours behind Manila, Philippines (GMT+8).

ITINERARY OUTLINE
Outbound : Start MNL – EK 335 – Transit DXB – EK 901 – AMM End
Return : Start AMM – EK 904 – Transit DXB – EK 332 – MNL End

FLIGHT DETAILS
Airline and flight number : Emirates (EK) 332
Route : Dubai, United Arab Emirates (IATA code: DXB) to Manila, Philippines (IATA code: MNL)
Ultimate origin : Amman, Jordan (IATA code: AMM)
Date : Thursday, 04 April 2019
Scheduled departure time : 03:35 DXB
Actual departure time : 04:07 DXB
Scheduled arrival time : 16:15 MNL
Actual arrival time : 15:57 MNL

EQUIPMENT AND CABIN
Aircraft : Boeing 777-300ER
Manufacturer : Boeing
Registration number : A6-ECB
Passenger capacity : 42 Business Class, 386 Economy Class = 428 Total
Cabin configuration (seat maps) : Official Site
Travel class flown : Economy

At nearly 12 years of age, A6-ECB was the oldest of the four EK B777s I boarded across this four-leg itinerary. Although not exactly ancient, this particular aeroplane did seem out of date in many ways, especially where its IFE equipment is concerned. We’ll have more to say on this later when we take a look at the interiors.

BAGGAGE

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.

AT THE AIRPORT (BEFORE DEPARTURE)

EK’s hub and key transit point is Dubai International Airport (IATA code: DXB), the main gateway of the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates.

After disembarking from our initial AMM-DXB flight, we made our way to the transit security checkpoint. There was a service counter near the queuing area, presumably meant for passengers who still need to get their onward boarding passes issued.

We already had the boarding passes for our connecting flight (issued at AMM), so there was no need to get them printed here. Straight through security, then up into the general departures area to wait for the next leg.

I’ve written – one might even say ranted – at length about our previous disappointing experience of transiting through DXB; check out this flight report if you’re prepared to wade through the painful details. We were assigned to a different area of the terminal on this occasion, but there really wasn’t much in terms of improvement … certainly not in the ghastly architecture of this building’s poorly designed interiors.

I can’t be bothered to complain about this awful place all over again. That previous flight report should suffice as a critique. Briefly: DXB will take good care of high-end shoppers with deep pockets, limitless credit cards and premium lounge entitlements, but non-shopping travellers seeking affordable dining options and decent, free-of-payment places to relax between flights will be left out in the cold.

CHECK-IN AND BOARDING

As mentioned earlier, we already had our onward boarding passes in hand so there was no need to check in again at DXB. Off to the gate with us, then.

This was something of an improvement on our previous DXB connection, in that the present gate was fitted with proper boarding bridges. That said, it was uncomfortably short on space and facilities. The gate staff were also extraordinarily strict where hand luggage was concerned, with roller cases individually weighed.

CABIN INTERIOR AND SEATING

The cabin was in decent shape, with carpets and panelling free of large stains or scuff marks. Mood lighting was employed, with a simulated night sky for nap time and an orange-gold artificial morning sky later in the flight.

Now for the seats. EK’s 777 Economy Class cabin is fitted with 10 seats to a row, configured 3-4-3.

Reasonably comfortable seat, 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 you’ve booked a window seat, note that you may find a small metal enclosure on the floor projecting into your foot space.

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.)

The cabin as a whole seemed well maintained, but the aircraft’s (comparatively) advanced age became patently obvious as soon as I looked at the seat back. A tiny, ancient-looking PTV with an equally antiquated control handset mounted underneath. One charging point on the left, a coat hook on the right; bifold tray table with built-in cup holder.

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.

For comparison, here’s one of the bulkhead rows.

And a quick peek into the Business Class cabin. EK’s 2-3-2 layout – better suited to Premium Economy than Business – was disappointing in itself, even without factoring in the aeroplane’s not-quite-cutting-edge fittings.

I was seated in 17A, above the forward edge of the wing and right next to one of the B777’s massive engines. Although the view was partly obstructed, there was enough of a clear field to allow decent views to the outside.

This was about an hour after take-off, with us hurtling east towards the rapidly advancing dawn.

Now for a welcome glimpse of home soil, approximately a quarter of an hour before landing at MNL.

The following picture was taken just after touchdown, as our plane was slowing down and preparing to exit the main runway. That, if I’m not mistaken, is the wreck of Xiamen Airlines Boeing 737-800 B-5498, which was involved in a (thankfully) non-fatal crash-landing at MNL in August 2018.

Strange that they still haven’t removed B-5498’s damaged carcass from the airport grounds. Might be due to ongoing investigative work or insurance assessments or whatever else, but let’s move on…

…to this shot of an Airbus A330-300 belonging to Cebu Pacific, berthed right next to our own flight’s arrival gate at MNL’s Terminal 3.

So much for the seating arrangements. Let’s unfold those tray tables and prepare to receive the in-flight meals.

CATERING

Now for a peek at what’s on offer. There were two meal services during the flight: a light repast after take-off, and a somewhat heavier breakfast doled out roughly 3 hours before arrival.

For the first service, the menu offered a choice of sandwich: mozzarella and cucumber, or smoked turkey. I went with the latter.

It was okay, but wasn’t quite as good as the smoked chicken sandwich we were served on the very first flight of this itinerary.

As for breakfast, we were asked to choose between a cheese omelette and chicken congee. I settled on the congee, with some apple juice to wash it down (and my usual dose of morning coffee at the end).

The side dishes consisted of fresh fruit, yoghurt, and a small croissant. 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 butter, strawberry preserve, coffee creamer, and a moist towelette.

Here’s the congee with the lid peeled away.

It might look somewhat bland and unappealing, but I’ll admit that this savoury Asian-style rice porridge tasted rather good. If you’ve tried the Filipino dish arroz caldo then you’ve practically tasted my EK breakfast already – similar ingredients, consistency, and flavour profile, with perhaps slightly less oil in the onboard version than you’d typically encounter in a bowl on the ground.

As for in-between snacks, 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.

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 the soft side of cabin service, given that I’ve effectively insulated myself from both good and bad aspects of the crew’s 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.

Donation envelope for EK’s in-house charity, sealable rubbish bag, safety briefing card, printed guide for the in-flight entertainment system, duty free catalogue.

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.

There was no magazine in the seat pocket, 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.

IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

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. Unfortunately, our aeroplane was fitted with small and rather outdated PTVs, making it difficult to take full advantage of the IFE system.

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 on a previous EK flight and didn’t even try to sign on.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

EK 332 was the closing leg of our four-segment itinerary from MNL to AMM and back, transiting at DXB in both directions. It was, to be quite honest, a far from spectacular finish. The aeroplane was the oldest of the lot (i.e., of the four B777s we used across this round trip), with outdated IFE hardware and fewer onboard conveniences. And EK’s sub-standard hub at DXB certainly didn’t help improve the overall experience.

That said, the other 3 flights were better than average, and the on-board experience even on EK 332 was just about satisfactory. EK remains an option in my book for long-haul journeys, but absent improvements in their passenger cabin (at least for older aircraft) – and unless there are SUBSTANTIAL improvements to their home airport – I might give my business to one of its competitors the next time I fly to Europe or the Middle East.

Cheerio.

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