17 hours in the sky: Diary of world's longest flight
Find out what it's like inside the first non-stop flight from Auckland to Dubai.
My ears pricked up on hearing of Emirates' plans to run non-stop flights between Dubai and Auckland. I've taken their services to Dubai via Australia a few times and while I never had any complaints, the stopover in either Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney was a bit of a pain.
Just when you'd settled in, it'd be time to hop off and get scanned, swabbed and barked at by Australian aviation security officials before sifting around in a dreary transit lounge. Then again, the stopover on the return journey did provide some respite after 14-odd hours in the air.
When the opportunity arose to fly on Emirates' inaugural non-stop Auckland-Dubai service I put up my hand. We're familiar with being able to fly direct to destinations across Asia Pacific. But the idea of getting on a plane in Auckland and hopping off in the Middle East - after what, at just over 17 hours, is currently the world's longest duration flight - is pretty cool. So, come along with me. In-flight wi-fi dependent, I'll be making updates all the way to Dubai.
• Got any questions for Christopher? Send him a tweet at @chrisadamsNZ
8.42 am - Over the Indian Ocean nearing the Maldives - 5005 km to destination
There're dealing with a minor medical incident in the business class cabin. A woman fainted while walking down the aisle. She is currently being given oxygen in the bar area at the rear of the A380. Crew members said the woman would be fine and such incidents are commonplace on long-haul flights.
7.35 am Indian Ocean, off the Indonesian coast - 6059 km to destination
I have just spent about an hour being frustrated by the in-flight wi-fi. When it works it's pretty good but the service can be patchy. It was working great on my iPad earlier but then that fell over. Then it was working well on my iPhone, but that's crapped out now and I'm back on the iPad, which one of the crew members in the bar - that's right, there's a bar - helped me to reconnect. Still, at 10mb free of charge and then US$1 for every 500mb extra it's good value. The other passengers are starting to wake up now.
5.52 am - Over the Indian Ocean near Christmas Island - 7,598 km to destination
I woke up just after 5am, NZ time. I could have done with sleeping a lot longer as we've got a long way to go. It wasn't for lack of comfort, that's for sure. The lie-flat bed was all it's cracked up to be. I guess it should be for what these seats cost (about $7600 return to Dubai). All is quiet in the cabin, with most of my fellow passengers still sleeping. Someone is snoring quite loudly. Good for them. It looks like our route will skirt around the west coast of Sumatra, across southern India and then over the Arabian Sea into Dubai.
12.36 am - Just off the Australian coast - 12,284 km to destination
12.01 am - Still over the Tasman somewhere
Dinner time, and I'm pretty hungry after holding off indulging in the lounge knowing we'd be well fed on the flight. I've chosen spiced chicken salad, with caponata and ginger mayonnaise, as starter. The main's a peppered beef fillet steak. All nicely done.
11.37 pm - Mid-Tasman - 13,121 km to destination
I had a walk around the cabin. It's remarkably empty. We've got 36 passengers on board in business class, which seats 76 in total. A crew member tells me this is due to a load restriction on the A380 required for it to complete the marathon flight to Dubai. It could also have something to do with the fact a smaller 777-200LR was, up to the last minute, supposed to be operated on this flight. Z for Zachariah is alright.
10.46 pm - Somewhere just off the west coast over the Tasman
Checking out the films. As usual with Emirates, there's a huge range of content on offer, but I'm struggling to find anything I've been wanting to watch in the new movies section, but that probably says more about me than the selection. They've got Z for Zachariah, a story about the survivors of some kind of nuclear apocalypse. I read that book at high school. Didn't know they'd made it into a movie.
10.20 pm - Wheels up - 14,214 km to destination
Emirates' first non-stop service from Auckland to Dubai took off around 40 minutes late, apparently as a result of a crew issue. No matter, we're on our way. It's amazing how these A380s seem to just trundle down the runway and lumber into the air. Fortunately the in-flight wi-fi seems to be working, albeit slowly, so this project should be able to continue.
9.36pm - Auckland Airport tarmac
On board, and wow. I suppose this is how the 1 per cent lives. It really is the way to travel. I just have to try my best not to sound like an oik by raving loudly about how amazing everything is. I'm in seat 20b, towards the back end of the aircraft's top deck. We're flying on an Airbus A380, rather than the Boeing 777-200LR that will usually be used on this route. It's a sweet business class set-up, occupying most of the top deck. It's a full lie-flat situation with all the bells and whistles including one of those little zip up bags full of stuff I'll probably never use. You get your own little compartment to sit in. There's no fighting over the arm rests here - I can't even see any other passengers from where I'm sitting. There's trays of champagne going round. Next stop Dubai.
6.30pm - Emirates lounge, Auckland Airport
OK, disclosure time. This isn't going to be an in-flight blog written from the trenches of economy class. Sorry. Emirates has sorted me with some business class seats, and you know what that means - lounge access! Man, these places are like a parallel universe where everyone smiles at you and champagne is free (I know it's not really but you know what I mean). I reckon one of the best things about airport lounges are the showers. There's nothing better than being able to freshen up before boarding a long flight.
This evening, however, I made the rookie error of not getting a towel from the bathroom attendant on the way in. The only option for drying myself, I discovered when it was too late, was a pile of neatly rolled, white flannels. I had to use about 20 of them. Then they started paging me over the PA. I never get paged in airports, never. Now it's happening for the first time while I'm trying to dry myself with flannels. Turned out they just wanted to let me know my bags had been checked on to the flight.