August 5 was a day of great importance for both Dubai-based Emirates airlines and me. The day marked the start of Emirates flights to Chicago, marking the 9th American gateway for the carrier. For me, it was an amazing opportunity to enjoy the ‘Emirates experience’, all the way from Mumbai to Chicago, with a short three-hour transit at Dubai International Airport. My journey began with a smooth albeit short two-hour hop across the Arabian Sea from Mumbai to Dubai on the upper deck of Emirates’ signature and ultra-luxurious behmoth – the A380. This was followed by breakfast at the sprawling Business Class lounge at Dubai airport, which occupies almost the entire mezzanine of the terminal. And, before I knew it, it was time to board flight EK 235, Emirates’ inaugural flight from Dubai to Chicago O’Hare Airport.
The 14-hour long haul flight is operated by a Boeing 777-200LR configured in three classes, with 8 First Class Suites, 42 Business Class flat beds and 216 Economy Class seats.
After a string of Emirates’ signature on-ground services in Business Class (pre-takeoff champagne, personal introduction from the purser, distribution of Bvlgari amenity kits, wine lists etc) we were on our way.
A copious breakfast was served soon after take-off and a hot mid-day snack a few hours later. The galley area in Business Class was laden with chocolate bars, packets of chips, sandwiches, fruit and nuts to tide the passengers through their hunger pangs. The flight would be never-ending if it weren’t for the constant snacking and the fabulous ICE entertainment system. Between meals, I managed to factor in a little cocktail session, with some heady concoctions dished out by the AMAZING crew and chatted with my fellow passengers. That was so much fun! A full lunch was served just before landing into O’Hare.
As our aircraft touched down in Chicago, an applause — and a few trills from the harmonicas handed out to each passenger— were heard from the cabin. I could see groups of airplane spotters and their huge camera lenses huddled together, lining the runways, witnessing this historic moment. As you would expect, our aircraft was honoured with a traditional water canon salute from Chicago airport. It is not everyday that one is inside an airplane when it’s being sprayed with water. Simultaneously, the pilot opened the cockpit window and waved the blue and white flag of the city of Chicago. At this time, passengers on the plane made no effort to curb their enthusiasm. The energy inside the cabin was awesome.
Upon arrival, we attended a press conference and banquet at O’Hare Airport. Adel Al Redha, Executive Vice President of Emirates expressed his joy on this momentous occasion and said, “the USA is an extremely important market for us. We’ve always wanted to fly to Chicago, but honestly, we just didn’t have the aircraft to do so. Now that we do, we are happy to be in the Windy City. And who knows, if the response is great, someday in the future, O’Hare might just see our Boeing 777-300ER or even the A380. For now, this launch will bring about 200 million dollars annually in the form of economic activity into Chicago. This flight will allow passengers from America’s third largest city to enjoy our world-class service on the flight to Dubai and then onwards to our network of over 140 global destinations. ”
Speaking on behalf of Chicago’s Department of Aviation, Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino said, “We hope that this service will strengthen the ties between two of the world’s busiest airports in terms of commercial travel, with a combined traffic flow of approximately 133 million passengers in 2013. At O’Hare, we would like to start the trend of streamlining the dreaded long-drawn immigration procedures upon arrival into the USA. We would like to expedite people through this airport.”
I, for one am very happy to hear that. If you’re curious to know what my experience on board the inaugural flight was like, you’ll just have to stay tuned. I will be sharing insider’s pics and a detailed review of the on-board product soon. So watch this space.
For now, all I can say is “Congratulations, Emirates!” Welcome to the city of Al Capone, Oprah, Lake Michigan, Garrett’s popcorn and stuffed pizza.