Many people have said that I write the worst travel reviews on the Internet today. Real pieces of gutter trash. The writing is self-indulgent and there is neither rhyme nor reason to the variety of places I frequent.
All very fair comments. But if you’re all so fucking smart …explain why this reviewer was upgraded to Business Class on Emirates, only last week?
That’s right, you can’t…. and neither can I. My only guess would be that the good folks at Emirates read my exposé on the disgusting standard of service (if you can call it that) human beings are subjected to as Jetstar customers, and, not wanting to suffer the same well-scripted and brilliantly conceived literary fate, decided to show me how a real airline conducts business.
Well, hear this! I’ve flown the friendly skies and the difference is clear - when it comes to international air travel, it’s better to be rich…or a sub-standard review writer with more luck than talent.
Anyway, imagine my surprise when I found myself the proud recipient of an upgrade to Business Class (Capital B, Capital C) after asking a simple, irrelevant question to the staff at the Emirates check in desk at Christchurch International Aeropuerto.
Now, I’ve seen Business Class before on flights from NZ to Australia. They’re usually a bit shit, seats at the front, separated by a curtain, and looking very much like the rest of the plane, but with slightly more legroom, and slightly less crumbs in the seats. To say I was stoked is an understatement, I was fucking ecstatic and immediately declared myself better than at least 90% of people in the airport that day.
“Fucking A” I thought. "Finally I’m getting some god-damned respect around here. I can stretch my 6’3” frame out a little more, and smirk at everyone from behind a champagne glass as they shuffle down to the cheap seats where they keep the goats and the screaming babies and the UN relief supplies."
How wrong I was.
First of all, I didn’t even have to so much as look at one of those disgusting poor cattle class cretins – which is how it should be. We used a separate gate. I was flying in an Airbus A-380 and as such had been elevated to the top deck. I flew on one of these behemoths from London to Abu Dhabi once, economy, it was still good down there, so, as I waited to board, my mind ran wild trying to imagine the delights that awaited me.
To be honest with you, I was pretty convinced someone would soon figure out they’d made a mistake and I’d be marched downstairs amid a chorus of derisive laughter from every single dripping pearl on the plane. Either way, I’d made up my mind to point blank refuse. I was going to force them to bash several shades of shit out of me, like that dodgy doctor on United did – as I mentioned earlier, my reviews suck, I could use the settlement money.
It never happened though, and as we started taxiing out I was (between sips of Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial NV) quite literally laughing out loud.
I think it’s important to acknowledge how big the A-380 really is.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one taking off, but it resembles an obese Pelican…
“Manny, look at thees pelican fly. Come on pelican!”
Anywho - they utilise every bit of runway trying to get the lumbering bastard up, and once they do the thing seems to just hang in the air, gaining height very………very………………… slowly.
It’s all an illusion though. An A-380 cruises at around 900 kilometres an hour, that’s Mach .85, or as fast as an ME 262. I usually get tense enough watching them from the ground, so imagine how I felt inside the belly of the beast. The answer is not very tense at all - I had a hot, jasmine scented towel and a glass of champagne, life was fantabulous. I’d also made a cocktail order before we took off, an Espresso Martini. When it was delivered, with a bowl of warm nuts, I felt on top of the world (at 40,000 feet one simply must).
The pod I was seated in was very well laid out. Storage bins, electronic window shades (not advisable for man-children), a wide screen TV, iPad, interactive remote, large desk space, a selection of cold drinks in their own little neon compartment, all sorts of illuminated buttons to control the fully reclineable seat, pillows, blankets and noise cancelling headphones. I was also given a menu, a rundown of the delights in it, and a few minutes to make an informed selection.
“Fine choice sir”
“Thank you, I know”
Here’s how it went down.
Actually, before I start, I’d like to prefix this with a little note about airline food.
Generally it’s terrible and I refuse to eat it. If you’ve flown, you know this. And while you still get the distinct feeling that the food in Business Class was probably delivered on a truck from a place quite close by, the difference in quality really is noticeable. It would seem Emirates take dining very seriously and as someone who dines fine all the time, I was both surprised and impressed.
To start, I had my tray table pulled out and set with a tablecloth, metal cutlery, little salt and pepper shakers and an empty wine glass. I always get nervous when being waited on like this because I feel like my mum is going to see me being unhelpful and give me a clip round the ears. Anyway, she wasn’t in the cabin at that point, so I let them serve me in whichever way they saw fit. Quickly, efficiently and genuinely, it would seem.
First to fall into my highly cultured mouth hole was a seafood duo of smoked salmon and poached prawn, served with potato salad. I consider myself to be someone who knows a little something about fresh seafood, and while the prawns may have been hours old, I’m fairly certain the salmon came aboard kicking (or flapping). It certainly danced a wee fandango across my palate and at that point I could have crashed, inverted and in flames, into a residential development quite happily.
I then moved onto the pan-fried eye fillet with thyme jus, potato gratin, roasted tomato, mushrooms and asparagus. The meat was about as tender as it gets and I hardly even had to chew. I couldn’t tell if they’d cooked it in the sky. I think that’s a good thing. It certainly didn’t taste like it’d come out of a foil wrapper. Gratin is a bit shit at the best of times but it is a safe and considerate match with steak and mushrooms. The asparagus was well cooked too. I never really considered it a fine food until recently, and thankfully I don’t seem to get the associated stink-piss syndrome from it – so I guess that’s another plus.
For desert I chose a lemon tart with mixed berry compote. It wasn’t actually that good and I left most of it. A dry base, bland, globulous filling and compote that didn’t really add anything to the overall experience. Somewhere out there is a person masquerading as a pastry chef, and in my humble opinion, they should be stopped.
All in all though, the food was great. Even better when washed down by multiple glasses of Loire Valley white. The stewardess (is that what you call them these days? One should never presume to assume) recognised immediately that she was dealing with a drunk and never once let my glass sit empty. I like that, it’s called service people. She had a strange accent so I asked her where she was from. South Africa it turned out. Fucking riveting conversation I know. I’m pretty smooth and she was receptive to my charms. As receptive as you, dear reader, are to my lies.
In some ways, Business Class food is like wedding food. Usually you don’t eat nice stuff like that on a daily basis, all paired and matched, so you get really excited about it when it comes out, yet no matter how good it is, you always feel like it has a mass produced vibe to it. I dunno. It might just be because I'm an ungrateful piece of shit.
After eating I sat back, enjoyed constantly topped up glasses of wine, some artisan chocolate, no kids kicking me, and two documentaries. One called “Gimme Danger”, about Iggy and the Stooges. I could actually review that right now, but I’m not going to. All you need to know is that Iggy really isn’t as much of a crack head, needle jabbing, trash panda as this reviewer may have first imagined. He gave it a good go, but also had the nous to realise what it was doing to his career and health. Ultimately, he found the motivation to reject it and make fantastic art. I never really realised just how much of an influence that band had on the history of rock, and music in general - Good on ya Iggy. A thoroughly decent watch. (Mini Rating: 2 Iggy’s and a Stooge.)
The second documentary was about the Gypsy Kings. Another brilliant music documentary, and one which made me long for warm Spanish nights with aguardiente, pretty music and good friends. It also brought a tear to these tired old eyes. As we descended on final approach I was watching an old gypsy woman dancing. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t look away, and the tears rolled down my cheeks. “Get a grip of yourself man” I thought, closely followed by “God damn...(long suspicious glance at liquid, as if it is to blame).. this wine is tres bon”.
(Mini Rating: One crystal ball and a Roulotte.)
Unfortunately, before I knew it, we’d touched down in Sydney and as I made my way to the un-airconditioned trains (I’d fallen hard from my high horse at this point) I mused on the experience I’d just had. There are plenty of benefits to Business Class, let me tell you. The service is second to none, everyone on board was brilliant, they look like they actually enjoy their job (which is more than I could say for the guy on Jetstar who was wearing a pie stained polo shirt and looked to be dealing with a new born litter of street dogs that had recently been found under seat 23F). If I had the cash I’d book Business every single time, even if only for the legroom (I basically lay down the whole flight). So, if you are reading this and you want to give me money, please make me an offer I cant refuse.
If I had to find one negative, it would be that the Business Class experience is a strikingly lonely one. There’s something to be said about the seat roulette of cattle class. Sure, up with the 1%ers you sit in a capsule, surrounded by luxury and excess, but you feel like the most isolated person in the world. Your only friend being the lady who stops by from time to time to refill your glass…although some would argue that you couldn’t get a better friend than that. I guess that’s what Business Class is though, at its core, a place to escape. And for a couple of hours, I’d escaped the reality of my existence. Something we could all do with from time to time.
So, to finish, here's a bit of free advice, if you can't afford to exit reality through Business Class, I know a guy, who knows a guy, who sells drugs. Either way, much like being upgraded (or priorities), you'll end up flying on a completely different plane of existence.
Thanks Emirates, that was really cool of you.