Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Postcard from 41,000 feet

A group of us were booked Business Class on Gulf Air to Bahrain/Dubai recently, but for some reason three of us didn't get put there. We were bumped up to First Class instead!

There were just eight seats/beds with all mod cons in the section, including our own chef and cabin crew, more of them than the three of us.

Service and food was great, including 'Wicklow' lamb and 'Clare' salmon, obviously a choice of menu taking into account the growing importance of the Emirates as a destination from Ireland. Indeed, they even had an Irish cabin crew member who added to the Arabic and English 'Welcome to Bahrain' spiel with her own version in Irish.

I've travelled a fair bit in Business Class, but never before in First Class. I'm not likely to do so again, without a happy accident like this last weekend. Because I know I'd blanche if somebody told me what people pay to be up there.

But it was a great experience. And because I travel a lot on business, aeroplanes are to me an extension of my office. This was the nicest office I've ever flown in. And it worked, because, rather than having to nod off a couple of times to handle the seven-hour flight, I worked all the way through, apart from time out for breakfast and lunch.

It was also interesting to cross new ground, if only watching it on the moving map on the screen at the other end of my seat 'pod'. From Dublin we flew over London, Paris, Vienna and then down through what used to be Yugoslavia over the Black Sea to Turkey, from there across Lebanon into Saudi, taking a bit of a dogleg to avoid Iraqui airspace for probably obvious reasons.

The other item of interest was also on the moving map, when every now and again it would put up a direction arrow towards Mecca in relation to the airplane. Obviously for the benefit of Muslims on board, and this was brought home to me when, wandering back towards colleagues in Business Class, I noticed a member of the cabin crew unrolling his prayer mat and kneeling to say his prayers in the appropriate direction.

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