Loving the Emirates experience. They have the best entertainment! On the flight to Dubai, I watched two episodes of Frasier and one of Inspector Morse, listened to Poker Face, played Freecell and Hangman, and watched our progress in a beautiful 3D rendered model. Like Air Canada, the first international airline I flew, half of everything is in another language (this time Arabic), which is far less comprehensible to me than French, and a reminder that even if Worlds is conducted mostly in English, I’ll be quite out of my depth with the language barrier once I land in Istanbul.

The first impression of quality comes from Emirates’ gifts on the seat, for before I discovered the expansive entertainment options (called “ICE,” for Information, Communication, Entertainment), there was a blanket and pillow on my seat, besides large headphones and a remote control. Meals came with steel cutlery, even knives (funny, as I wouldn’t want to take one through security). The cabin crew are apparently fluent in nearly a dozen languages, from Arabic to Swahili.

I sat in an emergency row, so had extra leg room. The man next to me was grumpy from the moment our Chinese flight attendant asked him to put his shoes back on for takeoff, and to get off his iPhone. He did eventually, but grumbled to me about what danger was posed by his shoeless feet. By the end of the flight, after we’d begun the descent to Dubai, he wanted to use the lavatory and the flight attendant said no, so he went anyway, and when he got back, started a smug yelling match with her about not smiling enough, and promised to speak to the captain. “You didn’t smile once.” People who start these ludicrous fights should consider the awkwardness that follows when seated in an emergency row, directly facing the strapped-in flight attendant for the next ten minutes until the plane lands. Afterwards I was tempted to ask the flight attendant for a photo as everlasting proof that she did smile on the flight, but I didn’t.

Dubai International Airport was wonderful for the brief time I was there. My taxi driver from Wahroonga had told me Dubai was like another America, and he was right. The duty-free shops were all recognisable Western brands, and no line of Arabic was left uncaptioned in English.

The Emirates lounge offered free newspapers, one or two of which were in English, plus an Economist which I took. They also had free wireless, so I checked my e-mails and found Macquarie had deposited my travel grant straight into my bank account.

On the flight to Istanbul, I ate ravioli, listened to UK number ones from ’52 to ’09, and lost chess to the Emirates computer. Virgin and Emirates both market their entertainment as award-winning, but I doubt they’ve been in the same contests.

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