On my way back to Cape Town, SA from Boston I had an 8 hour layover at Dubai International Airport. The timing was a bit out of sorts. I would land at 7pm but not leave until 3:50am. You might have guessed that I flew Emirates again, this time on the 777-200LR and 300LR variants. On Emirates I prefer the 777’s over the A330’s or 40’s. Even though the 777’s hold more people in econ, the cabin feels much less cramped, the seats are more comfortable and have better pitch. A plus with booking on Emirates is their “Dubai Connect” which offers passengers with a layover of 8 hours or more, a free hotel room and food voucher. You sign up after booking and collect your vouchers at the airport. I signed up for the voucher but didn’t use it due to the timing of my flights. I was afraid of not making it back to the airport and I wanted to do some work during the layover.
Tickets and Flight
I chose to fly Emirates again based on price and timing. I wanted to get into CPT during the day and with the 31 hour total travel time, Emirates price was significantly better than that of Turkish, KLM, BA or Virgin. I would take Emirates on board product over all them with the exception of Turkish. The only issue with Emirates is flying to Dubai can add significant time to your trip as opposed to connecting in London or Amsterdam. The flights themselves were uneventful but with great service and plenty to eat and drink. On the flight from BOS-DXB I took some Dramamine and slept like a baby for 5 hours. I thought I would be well rested but instead I remained in a state of fog for the duration of my layover.
Dubai international airport is massive. I don’t think I fully understood until this trip. Before landing the captain informed us that we would be parking at a remote stand and buses would shuttle us in. He also informed us that it was a balmy 30 degrees Celsius, making wearing a sports coat a poor decision. As we disembarked I felt the heat and humidity and instantly began sweating. I entered the packed bus and realized the AC wasn’t working. We drove around for at least 15 minutes. The driver was making sharp turns and even slammed on the brakes at one point to avoid crashing into the back of a catering truck which sent the passengers flying forward. It was an adventure to say the least. When we were let off at the flight connection security checkpoint, we were met with a massive line. This is very common in Dubai. Whether it be at the security or passport control be prepared to wait in long lines. I counted two lines open for a our flight and another large flight. I was in no real rush and waited about 30 minutes to get through security.
Once you clear security, you are funneled into the center of Terminal 3 in which the Emirates flights are located. This terminal is long, walking from end to end can take 15 minutes or more. The center of the terminal where all the shops are is incredibly bright which added to my already groggy demeanor, creating a dream like mega mall out-of-body experience. This time around I really wanted to focus on the plethora of shopping. Dubai Duty Free shops rule this terminal. Many airports you will find a duty-free shop contains food, booze, cosmetics and souvenirs all in one shop. Following Dubai’s passion for opulence, they dedicate large stores for each of these categories. The amount of wine, liquor and tobacco in duty-free is comparable to any large-scale liquor store in the states. The rows and rows of chocolate from all over the world would make anyone’s mouth water. The cosmetics store emitted so many strong scents, I had trouble entering without getting a headache. True to my character I could not pull the trigger and buy anything, simply because there was so much to choose from. I couldn’t narrow down what it is a wanted. Also note, Dubai is not cheap even at the Duty Free, so if you are traveling on to a cheaper destination you might want to hold off. But if the product isn’t offered where you are going, then have at it!
Kick Back, Eat and Relax
There is no shortage of food options in Terminal 3 or DBX in general. You can get quick fast food at MCDs or BK, a coffee from Nero’s and Costa or a enjoy a nice sit down meal at Caviar House. You can also enjoy a cold beer at the Heineken lounge and use their WiFi. As I was feeling very tired I decided to grab a seat in one of the lounge chairs that lines the outside of the terminal. These are greet when you need an hour or two of shuteye but don’t have access to the private lounges. If you have access, I have heard the Emirates lounge is quite nice. There is also the O2 salon and spa if you need to freshen up. For those who enjoy smoking, there are two smokers lounges at both ends of B concourse. A GIANT side note, the WiFi at DBX is now only free for 30 minutes and you must register with Boingo by providing a credit card. Previously I was able to connect to the WiFi with no registration or time limit. For an airport of this size it’s unacceptable to not have free, reliable WiFi.
History of Dubai Aviation
Through my wandering I found a cool gallery of photos and videos promoting aviation in Dubai connecting concourse B and C. The gallery chronicles the rise of aviation in Dubai from the 1920’s to present day. It was cool to see the progression from a small airport in the vast desert to the massive hub airport it is today. It is definitely worth checking out if you have a few minutes to spare.
Airports 2.0 Experience
The size of the shops and amount of products offered demonstrate Dubai International Airport commitment to consumerism and the promotion of the Airports 2.0 vision. The Duty Free and other stores become a destination for travelers. A great example of this is with Indian travelers. Dubai is a large hub for pax traveling to and from India and I was amazed at the amount of Duty Free products bought by people flying to India. You would see people carrying two or three red duty-free bags. Through a bit of observation and research, I gathered many were purchasing imported liquor that is difficult and expensive to obtain in India. A stop at the Duty Free liquor shop had become a very important stop on their itinerary. Dubai International is becoming more than just an airport, its branding itself as landmark, a place to come and enjoy oneself. They want you to feel the upscale swanky attitude that permeates Dubai and convert that feeling into spending your money. Just don’t expect good WiFi.