Wednesday, September 20, 2006

JetBlue, Emirates and my return to Dubai

The good news is that I arrived safely in Dubai Monday evening. The bad news is that the place at which I am currently staying (I refuse to call it a "hotel") does not have internet access of any kind, which means that my ability to keep this blog up to date will be restricted. I really am not impressed with the place at which I am currently staying and have asked to be moved to a real hotel. Until that happens, however, my only source of internet access will be here at the office, where I obviously can't devote a lot of time to writing entries.

Anyway, my experiment in flying from Hobby to JFK on JetBlue and from JFK to DXB on Emirates seemed to work fairly well. The only real drawback is the long layover at JFK; I arrived at Terminal 6 at about 4:30 but the Emirates counter at Terminal 4 didn't open until 7, so I spent a lot of time sitting with my bags and being bored until the counter opened.

The nice thing about JFK is that you don't have to leave the airport to get the full New York City experience. You get to pay $10 for a gin and tonic, just as you would at any trendy Manhattan bar. You get to deal with pushy crowds at the security checkpoint, just as if you were among a crowd waiting for a train at Grand Central Station during rish hour. And the bored, irritable TSA agents with their Brookyln accents yelling at passengers to "hurry da hell up" or "take your fuckin' laptop out of da bag, already" was a nice touch as well.

Although I shouldn't pass judgement on any airline after only flying them once, it seems that the only thing that makes JetBlue unique is the in-flight DirecTV system. Well, okay, that and the blue potato chips. When the DirecTV's working, it makes for a nice flying experience. When it's not working, however - and on my particular flight, it mostly was not - JetBlue becomes, well, just another airline.

My flight was packed, however, which reinforces my contention that there is a huge market for direct service between Houston Hobby and New York. I think JetBlue is going to do well in Houston.

Emirates, on the other hand, lives up to its reputation as an outstanding airline. The seats are comfortable - they even have footrests! - and the in-flight entertainment is by far the best I have ever experienced, with literally hundreds of TV shows, movies and entire CDs available for watching or listening on demand. I also liked the plane camera feature that allows you to see what is directly in front of or directly below the aircraft; I've wondered why more airlines don't put cameras on the outsides of their planes so passengers - especially those not sitting near windows - can see what's outside. Okay, so the food wasn't all that wonderful, but there's only so much you can expect in economy class. It was, all in all, a good experience and the 12-hour flight went quickly.

This isn't to say I got any sleep during this trip - I'm ever going to fall asleep in an economy-class seat on any airline - but I did arrive in Dubai feeling a lot better than I've felt after my previous KLM flights via Amsterdam. The trip back, of course, might be a different story.

Bottom line: I think this journey is a little better than flying KLM out of Intercontinental, but until Emirates begins flying non-stop to Houston the trip will never exactly be easy.

Hopefully my lodging situation will be improved in the near future and I'll be able to provide more frequent updates.

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