2. Emirates Lounge at SFO
3. Emirates First Class San Francisco to Dubai
4. Conrad Dubai
5. Old Dubai, Ski Dubai, and At the Top
6. Emirates Terminal B First Class Lounge at DXB
7. Emirates First Class Dubai to Mahe, Seychelles
8. Four Seasons Seychelles
9. Air Seychelles Economy Class Mahe to Praslin
10. Raffles Praslin Seychelles
11. Island Hopping – La Digue
12. Island Hopping – Praslin, Cousine, Curieuse, St. Pierre
13. Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa
14. Emirates Business Class Mahe, Seychelles to Dubai
15. 7-Star Luxury at the Burj Al Arab
16. British Airways Lounge at DXB
17. Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai to Los Angeles via Hong Kong
18. 2014 BAcon Conference in Las Vegas + Mandalay Bay Hotel
19. American Express Centurion Lounge at LAS
_______________________________It’s crazy how quickly technology improves every year. I was recently doing some spring cleaning and came across the Dell laptop that I had during college about a decade ago. It weighed over 15 pounds, had a battery life of an hour, and a processor that moved at the speed of molasses. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my refrigerator had more computing power than this thing.
You’re probably wondering how this has anything to do with my flight. Before we get there, let’s start from the beginning.
After our 2-day layover in Dubai, the continuation of our Alaska Airlines First Class award ticket would take us from Dubai to Mahe, Seychelles. The incremental cost of this flight segment was only 10,000 Alaska Airlines miles which is an absolute steal. This primarily leisure route is stunningly expensive, with an Economy ticket for the 4-hour flight normally costing well over $1,000.
After eating far too much at the lounge, we lumbered over to our gate just as boarding was starting. The gate agent scanned our boarding passes, and pointed to the First Class bus waiting outside. As I mentioned before, one thing that Emirates does really well is the First Class experience, and this was no exception. There were 3 separate buses for First, Business, and Economy class passengers.
And this was no ordinary shuttle bus. It was completely blinged out to the nines in typical Emirates fashion. We shared the bus with just one other passenger, and drove around for over 20 minutes around the entire airport before reaching our remote stand.
So, back to my original story. We headed up the stairs, and the flight attendants led us to the front of the plane. It felt like we were stepping back in time.
Our A340-500 featured the 1st generation of the First Class Suites which were installed back in 2003. Compared to the new generation of Suites on the 777-300ER and A380, this version looked ancient. While the color scheme and gold trims are very similar, that’s about where the similarities end. The seats are starting to show their age, and the flight attendant almost seemed apologetic when mentioning that the plan was to retire these seats in the near future.
The layout of these suites is actually pretty similar, if not identical, to the new generation. And the seat actually feels pretty much the same, so perhaps this is one area that hasn’t been improved in years and would potentially explain why it hasn’t grown wider over time. Other than the seat, everything else is just a bit older and a lot more low-tech.
There was a really light load on today’s flight with just 4/12 seats taken, so we were able to spread out and take up an entire row.
The in-flight entertainment system felt like it was pulled out of a museum. I had assumed that Emirates’ ICE system featured consistent programming across all planes, but the version of ICE on this flight had less than half the number of movies compared to our prior flight.
Not that it would have mattered, since the system was literally impossible to use. The handheld console which controls the seat and IFE had a really old touch screen which wouldn’t register unless you smashed your finger against it. And to make things even more interesting, the system used a virtual direction pad to control the cursor on the IFE screen. As you can imagine, it was like pulling teeth just to get that little mouse pointer to move anywhere.
We were comfortably full from our meal at the First Class lounge and decided to skip the breakfast meal service. We did snack on some chips and nuts along the way, and for once I found the mini-bar useful as it was easier to grab drinks from here than from the flight attendants.
In total, we probably had just a couple interactions with the flight attendants over the course of the flight. Not because they were slacking, but we just didn’t need much. As low-tech as the seat may have seemed compared to the new generation, it was really nice to have the closing doors which we kept closed most of the way.
Overall, while the cabin wasn’t overly impressive, to put things in perspective this was just a 4-hour flight, which is the equivalent of a flight from Chicago to San Francisco. The fact that Emirates even offers a First Class cabin is already impressive enough, as most carriers would just have 2-cabin regional service on a route like this.
Time flew by as I wrapped up a few more episodes of Sons of Anarchy, and before I knew it we were already on final approach to Mahe. The airstrip is literally within walking distance to the beach, and as we touched down I was really starting to get excited and ready to jump into the water.
The plane came to a stop after landing, and the captain came on the PA system.
“Sorry folks, we blew a tire on landing and have to wait for inspection.”
Well that’s a new one for me. In the end, our blown tire only held us up for about 15 minutes before we were back on our way. Since we had carried-on our luggage, we were through immigration and customs in just a few minutes.
I went over to the Hertz kiosk just outside the arrivals area and picked up our ride for the next 3 days, a bright yellow Diahatsu Terios. We gassed up across the street, and headed off for the 45 minute drive to the Four Seasons. Unexpectedly, those next 45 minutes would turn out to be the most adventurous of the entire trip.