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Trip Summary LHR-PER via DXB; PER-MEL; MEL-LHR via DXB (Emirates and Qantas)

TheLocalYokel

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Australia-bound

Since 2010 my wife and I have been flying to Australia to visit family. We’ve always used Emirates and last month was our seventh trip in the past eight years. Previously we have used Gatwick Airport, and Birmingham Airport on one occasion. This year our departure point was Heathrow.

I’ve submitted trip reports regarding our journeys to Oz in the past and as the flights have been with Emirates a further detailed trip report might be repetitious so I’ve submitted a slightly reduced summary of the trip this time. All times shown are local to the airport in question.

We usually fly to Melbourne and base ourselves near Geelong, and during our month-long stay in Oz we visit another part of the country for 5-7 days. This time we had decided on Western Australia so rather than fly back from Melbourne during our stay we opted to call in at Perth en route from the UK via Dubai.

Our flights were Heathrow-Dubai and Dubai-Perth with Emirates; Perth-Melbourne with Qantas; Melbourne-Dubai and Dubai-Heathrow with Emirates. The Emirates flights were all 3-class Airbus A 380s and the Qantas was a 2-class Boeing 787-9.

We departed Heathrow from terminal 3 on the early afternoon EK2 to Dubai. During the past eight years we have flown 16 sectors on Emirates 380s and 12 on Emirates Boeing 777-300ERs. Unlike (I suspect) many people we prefer the 777.

We hadn’t used Heathrow for many years but were pleasantly surprised. We departed on a Sunday having been driven from Bristol in one hour 40 minutes. The location of our home means we have to drive through or around the city from the southern edge to reach the M4 so 100 minutes was a very acceptable journey time.

We reached Heathrow at 1010 and were in the Emirates lounge by 1045. Although terminal 3 is somewhat dated, and it’s scruffy in places, we found it a comfortable terminal to transit.

The aircraft pushed back on time at 1340 and we would have reached Dubai at the scheduled 0040 early the next day, but a busy landing queue dictated that we had to circle for 25 minutes before touching down after a flight lasting seven hours and 12 minutes. This led to us parking on stand around 30 minutes late. There were some spectacular storms with lightning flashes below us as we flew down the Gulf.

I can't remember a time when we've landed at the same part of terminal 3 at Dubai as the ongoing connecting aircraft. We either land at the A Concourse (the newish EK 380 concourse although not all EK 380s use it) and leave from the older B Concourse, or vice versa. The two are connected by a railway system. And so it was again both Australia-bound and UK-bound. Compared with the somewhat dowdy terminal 3 at Heathrow, terminal 3 at Dubai is all space-age and bling, but it can be a pig to negotiate. Despite landing late we still had plenty of time to change aircraft and snatch a quick cuppa in the Emirates lounge into the bargain.

Our connecting flight, EK420, left Dubai 45 minutes after its scheduled 0245 departure time. The fight was uneventful and we landed at Perth at 1713 after a flight of nine hours 43 minutes. We came onto stand a few minutes before our scheduled 1735 arrival time. Although Perth is not a huge airport passenger-wise (about 14 mppa) it has four terminals, two on the eastern side of the airfield and two on the western side. We landed at terminal 1, the international terminal, and after a lengthy walk breezed through the e-gates to find our suitcases waiting for us. We were in our hotel in Perth’s central business district within an hour of landing.

Within Australia

A pleasant five days were spent in and around Perth before we left for Melbourne. Our taxi dropped us outside Perth’s terminal 4 in ample time to catch the 1415 service to Melbourne. Check-in was straightforward with the help of an agent who occupied a desk away from the main check-in area. Qantas uses terminal 4 because our Boeing 787-9 was QF10 that had come non-stop from London. It flies on to Melbourne with a mixture of international travellers from London and domestic passengers who had boarded at Perth. Our boarding cards were annotated with a label showing we were domestic travellers for presentation on arrival at Melbourne Tullamarine's international terminal 2.

After a relaxing hour or so in the Qantas lounge we were ready to board the Dreamliner that had arrived early from London. This was our first experience of Qantas ‘mainline’. Previously our domestic flights in Australia have been with Jetstar (Qantas’s low-cost airline) and Virgin Australia.

After a reasonably lengthy taxi we took off at 1437 (advertised departure time was 1415). The flight was pleasant - this was our first experience of a Boeing 787 - and the crew friendly and generally efficient, albeit my meal main course was not recorded with the result that when the mistake was discovered my first choice was no longer available. I was quite happy with the substitute and thought no more of it. However, the purser was extremely apologetic and insisted that I take two bottles of wine with me when leaving the aircraft with Qantas’s compliments. I thought that was a good touch although certainly not looked for or expected by me.

The Dreamliner was comfortable and a good experience. It had shoulder seat belts similar to a car.

We landed at Tullamarine at 2041, a few minutes ahead of schedule, after spending three hours and four minutes in the air. Our domestic status arriving on an international flight presented no problems as the immigration authorities immediately recognised the boarding card annotations and we were allowed out through a side gate without having to undergo arrival formalities.

UK-bound

After the usual extremely enjoyable stay we departed from Melbourne’s terminal 2 on EK407 that has a scheduled departure time of 2230 and is the service we have always used when returning home. An Etihad Boeing 787-9 to Abu Dhabi and a Qatar Airbus A380 to Doha were also scheduled to leave at the same time.

We pushed back ten minutes late. The flight was uneventful and the turbulence that can be annoying, especially crossing the Indian Ocean, was fairly gentle this time and not too long lasting. On a previous trip it was almost continuous for nine hours and was bad enough for the cabin staff to be belted in at times.

We landed at Dubai slightly ahead of schedule at 0528 after a flight of 13 hours 48 minutes, undertaken entirely in the dark. This was an aid to sleep and I managed a few hours despite being a poor sleeper anywhere.

After enduring the cross-terminal journey we still had plenty of time in hand before our Heathrow-bound EK1 was scheduled to leave at 0745.

When changing aircraft at Dubai passengers don't go landside but still have to negotiate a full security procedure upon landing before being admitted to the main part of the terminal. At the gates they have a further cursory check of hand luggage by security personnel. Sometimes the checks are so brief as to be laughable and nearly useless.

This time though my wife was singled out for special attention. The young woman security agent whose English was good asked her where her mobile phone was. My wife has never had one but the security agent seemed unable to believe it: "You don't have a mobile phone?" delivered in a manner that indicated such a device was as essential to life itself as a heart. She rooted through my wife's hand luggage in a determined search for the mobile phone she obviously believed was lurking somewhere within, all the time repeating, "You don't have a mobile phone?" Eventually the search proved fruitless and the young woman had to give in but her facial expression towards Mrs Yokel was one of incredulity tinged with pity. How can someone exist without a mobile phone? I bet she's still muttering to herself, "You don't have a mobile phone?" She's probably dining out on it because a phoneless individual at DXB is clearly a very rare species. Incidentally, I was waved though the same check with barely a glance at my hand luggage. I keep telling Mrs Y that she has a criminal face.

EK1 was in the air at 0811. When we first did these trips we routed over Iraq en route to Turkey but a few years ago the track was switched to overhead Iran. This time we were back over Iraq. I have no idea whether there are political implications or whether these were the best tracks for the day. On one trip we flew near Baku in Azerbaijan and as far north as Volgograd in southern Russia before heading west via Belarus and northern Poland. The captain said it was obviously further but the winds were lighter and the flight time would be shorter than the usual route after Turkey via Bulgaria/Romania.

We arrived to a misty, drizzly Heathrow touching down at 1131 with the taxi to the stand coming to a halt two or three minutes ahead of the scheduled 1140 arrival time. Again terminal 3 was an easy transit although there was a lot of walking and only partly aided by travelators. We were out of the airport 35 minutes after arrival on stand and home one hour 45 minutes after that, which included a very long stretch along the M4 with a 50mph speed limit in connection with work to turn a 32-mile section of this motorway into a ‘smart’ motorway.

In conclusion, we were happy again with Emirates and with Qantas.
 

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