For aviation aficionados it doesn’t get much better than flying on the Emirates A380, a magnificent gleaming, giant white bird of the skies.
It’s not just the majesty of the aircraft I adore. It’s also what’s onboard. I’m writing this Blog from 37,004 feet, half an hour out of Dubai en route to Hong Kong and on to Thailand for a brief holiday with some Kiwi pals.
And I’m writing it live, thanks to Emirates’ fantastic OnAir wi-fi service. Thoughts of snoozing all the way to Hong Kong have just evaporated. Instead I’ll just settle in with a glass of rather moorish Suckfizzle (a great name that sounds like a cross between a breakfast cereal and a soft drink but sure as heck isn’t) Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2008 from Margaret River, Australia (the source of so many good and sometimes great wines).
It’s amazing being able to log into my own website, send e-mails and catch up with headquarters while flying over somewhere called Gwadar, west of Karachi. I think I’ve got the whole office back home spooked that I’m sending them missives from up here. I can even download pictures, crop them online and if necessary send out a VIP breaking news alert (though ‘Travel retail Publisher rejects Suckfizzle, opts for Saint Aubin instead’ is currently the best I can manage).
I can also shop duty free from the seat-back screen (below). The entire, impressively diverse, 113-page Emirates Duty Free Collection is available via a dedicated icon (as well as being regularly promoted on other channels). Even the cabin announcement at the start of the flight contained a reference to the duty free shopping opportunity. No wonder this is one of the world’s most successful inflight duty free operations.
And what about Concourse A at Dubai International (above)? Take a bow Dubai Airports, take a bow Dubai Duty Free, take a bow Emirates Leisure Retail, take a bow Emirates.What a stunning, state-of-the-art facility.
I’ll let the pictures below tell the story but clearly the Concourse represents a step change in quality for Dubai Duty Free (particularly in perfumes & cosmetics, a much-improved and enlarged Gifts from Dubai section, confectionery and liquor, including surely the travel retail world’s biggest and best-displayed range of vodkas – simply stunning) and (driven partly by some great specialist outlets run by Emirates Leisure Retail) the airport’s food & beverage offer. I particularly liked the Moët & Chandon bar and the Giraffe restaurant & bar (the brand’s first airport outlet outside the UK).
And how about the Penfolds boutique (pictured below) run by Dubai Duty Free? There was so much Penfolds Grange I was salivating. There’s even a bottle of Penfolds Ampoule on display under a glass case, at US$176,111.11 (though you’ll probably be able to bargain them down on the 11 cents) the world’s most expensive wine, and one of only 12 available anywhere.
I’m on a mission to champion top-class wine retailing in duty free and I must say I’m yet to see anything to match this. Move over Chanel and Burberry, there’s a new luxury goods brand in town, for that’s exactly how Penfolds’ finest is displayed here. It’s something that Dubai Duty Free Vice President – Operations Sean Staunton (pictured below with me and supervisor Irene Ritco from the Philippines) says he’s very pleased with. And rightly so. I noticed, incidentally, that one of the two staff members manning the shop was Chinese, suggesting they are good buyers of Penfolds and other premium wines at Dubai Duty Free.
[An Al Nassma camel milk chocolate display takes centre stage in the confectionery area]
[Above: Celebrating Ramadan in the much-improved Gifts from Dubai area below]
[Gucci is one of the anchors of the luxury offer from Dubai Duty Free]
[This stunning advertising display from Pernod Ricard single malt The Glenlivet underlines the power of airport media]
[Dubai Duty Free sold 515 tonnes of nuts in the first six months and it's not hard to see why with displays like this]
[Upscale watches are selling strongly this year with three brands - Rolex, Omega and Longines - featuring in the top 30 brands by value]
[Entering the superb Emirates Business Class Lounge]
I’ve left Pakistan well behind, flying on the way past Mount Everest about 7,000 feet below – where a fellow Kiwi, Sir Edmund Hillary, could have been spotted just over 60 years ago, making the first-ever successful ascent with sherpa Tenzing Norgay] as we near Delhi.
Just to prove technology is imperfect, the wi-fi signal has been lost. So I wandered down to the onboard bar to fill in the time until it returned. There I met Emirates cabin crew member Hyun (pictured) from Busan, South Korea, a charming young lady who even snapped a picture of me doing a little self service, and Mikey, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who was in charge of duty free sales that day.
When I asked him what the top-selling items were, he said the answer was very route-specific as Emirates has such a diverse network and passenger profile. On the Asian routes, cosmetics flourish he said, while watches (which take up an impressive 20 pages of the brochure) and Montblanc pens are other perennial favourites.
Interrupted signals aside, wherever I post this blog, whenever I post it, it’s still a testament to the amazing advance of technology and of a superb airline called Emirates.