We departed from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on Wednesday afternoon, transiting through London Heathrow, then an overnight Qantas flight to Dubai, where we have a 40-hour or so stopover.
Dubai is what I expected it to be, and not much more. It’s hot, humid and dusty. There is lots of traffic, and crossing the street (even with pedestrian signals) is a potentially life-threatening exercise. There are glossy shopping malls, a very good metro and a fancy airport, but it’s hardly a pleasure oasis.
The local Emirati men rule, and foreigners and women come a distant second in Dubai society. We have found pleasant, friendly and helpful guest workers in our hotel, but they are doing the job for money to support their family at home, and not for a lifestyle.
Imported labour is cheap, and there was a small army of cleaners about to enter into our Airbus A380 aircraft after it landed this morning. In the airport terminal, there were numerous young men dressed in the local flowing white robes, looking busy and important, but doing not very much.
Our flight itself just confirmed to me my own prejudices about the A380 and the decline of Qantas in recent years. The flight was only half full, but there is no such thing as a comfortable sitting/sleeping position in Economy Class. I think all airlines publicise their first and business class offerings, while the vast majority of the passengers slum it in economy class. Ever conscious of their perceived need to cut costs, Qantas have pared back the economy class service to about the very barest minimum. There are now no hot or cold moist towel anytime during a long flight, a refreshment during the night, or an edible breakfast.
I expect that the recent tie-up with Emirates and the switch to the Dubai hub will see a further decline in Qantas’ passenger numbers, as people vote with their feet for Asian airlines and Asian stopovers.
We leave on Friday night for Hong Kong, flying Cathay Pacific. I’ll let you know how that flight compares. I know already that the airport and stopover in Hong Kong and the hotel in Hong Kong leaves the Dubai offering for dead.