When I made my reservations to fly back to Boston, I did lots of research on which airlines offered flights from South Africa, the schedules and of course, the pricing. I was expecting the prices to be exorbitant around the Christmas holiday and steeled myself for the disappointment of not flying home because the tickets were too expensive. I was pleasantly surprised.
There were several airlines operating on the route … South African Airlines, Emirates Air, KLM, British Airways. Some offered crazy routing with long, long layovers. Some offered high prices with long layovers. Some connected through West African cities like Dakar, Senegal (no, thanks!). In the end, I whittled it down to Emirates Air, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. I knew nothing about this airline, other than what I'd read which was mostly positive. I was willing to take a chance.
Unlike many people, though I might grouse a bit about flying when the delays are long or flights are canceled, I think of the flights and the connections as part of the adventure. I would be flying an airline I'd never flown before and connecting through Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I'd be leaving out of King Shaka International Airport in Durban and spending a few hours in the Middle East. I know, spending a few hours in an airport isn't really like visiting the place, but still … it sounded pretty unusual and a bit glamorous. How can you pass up that kind of opportunity, especially when the ticket prices were less expensive and the schedule was considerably better than the closest competitor.
I've got to tell you that from the minute I checked in, I was impressed with Emirates Air. First of all, the female flight attendants have really cool uniforms with burgundy pill box-style hats with an attached white sheer scarf that drapes to the neck. A unique, very exotic look!
More important than the fashion statement, we boarded on time and arrived on time. I was able to check two 50# bags. The seats were comfy and roomy enough considering I was traveling in Economy class. Wine and liquor were free and plentiful throughout the flights. The meals were quite good and snacks were frequent. There were hundreds of on-demand movies to choose from on personal monitors. There were USB and power outlets at each seat, so I could charge my iPad and laptop while flying. They even distributed hot, moist towels at the beginning and end of each flight! All that plus there were tiny lights on the ceiling that looked like a starry sky when the other cabin lights were dimmed. I like that kind of detail.
Dubai International Airport is something else. It's modern and glitzy … just what you'd expect from an oil-rich, opulent Middle East country. I relished seeing the signs in English and undecipherable Arabic. I liked hearing all the announcements in Arabic and was extremely thankful they followed up in English, too. Everything was shiny and new … from the trains that took me from terminal to terminal to the restrooms to the restaurants. In addition to the top-shelf Chanel and Tagheuer and Hugo Boss variety of duty-free shops, there was also a Starbucks and a McDonalds!
I looked at souvenirs with thoughts of buying something I couldn't live without, but gave up when the best options I could find were painted, wooden camels and stuffed dates.
Having traveled 10,803 miles (17,387 km) in about 24 hours after departing from King Shaka International Airport in Durban, I arrived at Boston's Logan Airport, exhausted, but excited to be back in the USA. Immigration and Customs were a breeze. I stepped out into Boston's brisk winter air and spotted Lin at the curb waiting for me. Let the sister fiesta begin.