Emirates doesn’t believe in doing things by halves. For their inaugural flight to Mexico City on December 9 last year, the Middle Eastern airline pulled out all the stops, proving beyond doubt that, from its first flight in 1985 (which was just across the pond to Karachi), the airline founded by the royal family of Dubai has come a long way.
Over the past year, I’ve become a bit of an inaugural-flight junkie. They’re loads of fun. Passengers are plied with edible treats and goodie bags. The aircraft receives a welcome shower with water cannons. There’s a party of important types waiting to greet the plane. There are insta-worthy photo-ops. And then there’s Emirates, where it gets a whole lot better.
The aircraft deployed for the inaugural Dubai-Mexico City (via Barcelona) flight belonged to Emirates’ Boeing 777-200LR fleet, which the airline reconfigured recently, replacing the three-class plan with a two-class one. With first class gone, business class seating is more spacious, and enjoys a 2-2-2 configuration. The ceiling has been raised to enhance the sense of space, with no baggage hold looming in the middle. A key attraction you cannot miss is the LED-spattered ceiling, the diodes twinkling away through the flight. It’s a nice touch, especially on long-haul flights. The food was superlative, of course, and the wine list intuitive. The washrooms are no longer in their usual place though, and it took me a second to locate them.
One of the innovations is the inclusion of a small social area in business class. That’s where I chatted up Salem Obaidalla, Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations-Americas, Emirates. I was curious to know why the flight to Mexico City had to swing by Barcelona. When I had flown Emirates to Rio de Janeiro a couple of years ago, it had been direct. The reason, it seems, is technical, something to do with the altitude, as Obaidalla explained. There must be commercial considerations as well, since Barcelona-Mexico City is an underserved sector. Obaidalla sees huge potential in the Mexico market, a latent demand aching for supply.
From Dubai, it’s 7.5hr to Barcelona, and then another 13hr to Mexico City. Including the transit time in Barcelona, where all passengers have to disembark and then reboard as a requirement, this is a pretty long journey. In fact, tot up the hours and it’s longer than the longest flight in the world. So, hats off to Emirates that we travelled in comfort and reached Mexico City well rested, where water cannons and mariachis awaited us.
There was a press conference at the Four Seasons the next day, where the local ministry of tourism weighed in as well. Seems it’s a win-win all round. The gala launch party, like no other, was held in the evening at a beautiful heritage building in Centro, the historic heart of town. Gourmet food. Mescal and bubbly flowing freely. And a mariachi performance, because, well, Mexico…
Then came the best part. Los Ángeles Azules, Mexico’s most popular band, took the stage. Because, well, Emirates… Specialising in cumbia sonidera, which depends heavily on accordion and synth for its lilting, madly sensual rhythm, they had the Mexicans tapping away in no time.
Emirates has introduced a sophisticated product to a new market. Not only will the flight bring visitors from Dubai and beyond to Mexico, Mexicans will be able to visit Dubai more conveniently. And it will bring the world a bit closer.