I’m not a billionaire. Heck, I’m not even a hundred thousandaire. I live modestly, and don’t expect much but a sensible life with the occasional vice.
But I was invited to Dubai to experience the vast expanse of the skies aboard Emirates Airline’s A380 double-decker plane, and it was well beyond what I’m used to. On sheer girth alone, I thought, “wow, that’s big.” Like sex, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw before me, but I was also a little unsure of the logistics. “How does it stay up?” I wondered. As you can tell, I’m not a pilot.
To be fair, most airplanes are big to me – until this trip, I had only travelled so far as San Francisco, so I had no real-life scenario to compare this to. But what became very clear to me in no time at all was that I was aboard what is essentially a jet-propelled, all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet, and within the first hour, I was drunk.
As soon as you sit down and get comfortable, a flight attendant, put together so impeccably you instantly feel like garbage (not her fault), offers you a glass of champagne. It’s not bargain Prosecco, nor sparkling wine – it’s Veuve. And this isn’t a “the first one’s free” kind of situation, you can literally drink your weight in champagne or whatever you so desire. Think of it this way: a standard glass of champagne is 150 ml, while a bottle of Veuve ($68) is 750 ml. So, by just sitting down, I had already drank $10. Given that I had no plans on sleeping too much (the flight is ~14 hours and we’d arrive by 8 P.M. Dubai time), I figured it made sense to watch movies, drink and eat all the way there.
The Lay of the Land
I’m in a business class seat, which is essentially a semi-private pod with a TV screen, seemingly unlimited movie and TV choices and a chair that reclines into a fairly comfortable bed. It’s ridiculous, and costs ~$7,000. But just call me the Lady Grantham of the skies. I’ve only ever flown first-class once, and it was because of a mess Air Canada had made – and, really, the flight was only about an hour between New York and Toronto. So, having leg room felt glamourous, and having no one nudging my elbow or being in nose distance of my ever-increasing dewiness felt really wonderful.
But I was not prepared for what came next.
The most incredible and vaguely retro aspect of this plane is the bar. There is a bar, in which you can stand around, as if in some kind of philosopher’s cafe, eating miniature bowl after miniature bowl of warmed nuts. There’s glossy, wood grain details throughout the space, and it’s here that I switch from my second glass of champagne (+$10) to a sensible Negroni (+$10). We’re then told by a friendly staffer that we can feel free to stay for the duration of the trip, and if we experience turbulence, we can just sit on the bench seating in the bar and buckle up. I can’t help but wonder if I will soon see a mother smoking, holding her baby with her other free arm. I shake the feeling that I must have transported to the ’70s – It’s been just over an hour and a half, and I’ve had three drinks. My tummy begins to rumble, so I return to my seat to look over the menu.
The food selection rotates depending on the route, but what doesn’t change is the volume. You can eat a lot, and to be honest there were times where I stuffed my face so I could feel tired and bloated enough to nap. We began with dinner, a choice of lamb, stuffed chicken breast or prawn biryani. Everything is served like you’re at a restaurant where people understand what tannins are. There are white linens, china plates, cutlery and a choice of sparkling or still water. I choose still water and my flight attendant offers me more champagne. I oblige (+$10), because I’m determined to see if drinking this much Veuve will turn me into a globetrotting European model. It does not – I begin to feel more drunk. As you might expect, the breakfast and lunch menus are equally extensive, and gut-bustingly rich.
I become enamoured with a Serbian flight attendant. He’s adorable, in that clean-shaven, cropped short hair kind of way. Because I’ve already watched Big Hero 6 and a variety of children’s movies, I’ve become bored. I’m not ungrateful at all, but when you have a long-haul flight, you need to become resourceful. If I could issue any tip, it’s that you should use this opportunity to brush up on your flirting skills. First, I take a surreptitious photo of the man in question as he gets a mattress pad for another flyer. It’s too blurry, and I told my boyfriend I would take photographs of the handsome flight attendants on board. “Oh well, I’ll try again later,” I think to myself. Each time he passes me, he looks at me and smiles. I know this is par for the course, but this playful and harmless leering became the plot to my internalized staged drama. As I sit, lost in my own thoughts, he asks me if he can lay down my mattress pad. “Excuse me?” I say. “Your mattress, can I lay it down,” he replies.
And then, he lay me down to sleep. See, the beauty of having an imagination is that you can transform this world, this very elevated and decadent world, into your own. He asks me if he can refill my glass and I must decline, in fear of embarrassing myself. I ask for water (+$0).
Okay, so you’re probably thinking, “um, this is so out of my reach, are you kidding me with this nonsense?!” And, to be honest, I totally feel you. But you can travel to Dubai on the cheap. There are currently hotel + flight packages from Toronto to Dubai for less than $1,500 (taxes included), and if you want more than a 3-star hotel, the prices aren’t much higher.
On Being Ruined
Everything about this flight was superb. I mean, it’s hard to hate all of the food you could want, coupled with all of the drinks you most certainly do not need (I estimate I drank ~$150 in various drink choices, which includes half-drunk glasses that were whisked away while I was asleep). But for a first international flight, I feel a bit ruined. Nothing will ever compare to the feeling of slinking into the airplane seat equivalent of a silk negligee, or having the power (and freedom) to strut around the plane like you own the place. Like, what’s next? Being told incessantly, “excuse me sir, can you please sit down?” I can just picture it – on my next flight, I’ll look around like a lost child, teddy in hand, wondering where my mommy is. But my mommy will be a bar, and she will have stepped out for cigarettes and she’ll never come back. That is, until the next time I head to Dubai, at least.