I started writing this piece some years ago but did not get around to posting it. It is still relevant, though. In the intervening years, I have flown many more times in the Emirates A380 Business Class section, and twice in First Class (a 16-hour haul to Toronto and a 9-hour leg from Seoul). The experience of flying on this aircraft continues to be awesome.
I just had to share this.
Having flown business class several times in the past, one has seen what it is like to enjoy premium class travel.
The experience of flying business class in an Emirates A380 was, however, quite something else. In the past, I have flown in the economy class cabin of A380, which was very comfortable even by current day wide-body long haul aircraft standards. But I had heard a lot about the business class on the A380, and looked forward with eager anticipation to this 13-hour intercontinental flight.
The sheer size of this aircraft awes you as you board, and it is a different feeling when you walk directly in from a door in the upper level, unlike in a Boeing 747.
The interior is awesome, and as I settled into my seat, I couldn’t help wonder about how much thought had gone into making each seat a personal comfort zone – amenities conveniently to hand, a place to stow one’s shoes, soft drinks and bottled water in a shelf next to the seat, and a personal cubicle kind of layout that ensured substantial privacy.
I watched the take-off on the large TV screen using the tail-fin camera view – something that is unique to this aircraft, and mentally willed this giant to rotate and lift off as it lumbered down the runway.
When the seat belt signs were switched off, I walked towards the rear of the business class section and came across a large lounge with a bar (that reminds you of a classy 5-star hotel), where one can hang around, have a drink and canapés, and pass the time.
After a reasonably good dinner, I decided to sleep. The seat reclined to full-flat position, a mattress was provided, and having covered myself with a blanket, I drifted off into deep sleep. I do sleep on long flights, but never for more than two hours at a time. This time, though, I slept for seven hours at a stretch, and woke up surprised that we were a mere two hours or so from our destination.
The A380 is an amazing aircraft, a marvel of engineering, and it was a pleasure discovering all those little details that go towards making long journeys comfortable – this applies to economy and business class. I have heard and read about the first class section – private suites, etc – designed to pamper the high net worth traveler.
I alighted with a trace of regret that the flight had ended so soon – it had been a wonderful experience.
As a relatively infrequent visitor to the country, I have not had an opportunity to travel on board, and experience, some of the newer domestic Indian carriers. Some of them are budget outfits, but, from what I have heard, seem to have built up a good reputation for punctuality and service. About time, too, considering the exasperating trips I have done in the past on Indian Airlines.
Wanting to travel from Chennai to Coimbatore for a day, with some exacting time factors to deal with, the only choice that emerged from an online search was Paramount Airways, a carrier that I had never heard about. The fare seemed reasonable enough, especially considering that Paramount touted itself as an all-business-class airline.
The online booking procedure through their website was straightforward, the e-ticket was delivered through email rapidly, and I was all set to go.
Having arrived far too early at Chennai airport for my flight, I was mentally prepared for a long wait, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the check-in counter was manned. The smiling check-in staffer was efficient, an assistant helped screen my suitcase, and the procedure took no more than four minutes – that was refreshing.
My spirits sank when the scheduled departure time arrived and there was no sign of the aircraft on the tarmac. It was then that I discovered that the time shown on the website was off by 25 minutes. They could have mailed me about the change, I thought, especially if it was the business class they claimed.
On board the Embraer 170 aircraft, which was clean, and smelt nice, I was disappointed to find that the seats were not exactly business class in terms of dimensions – they were leather, though.
The on-board service came as a surprise. Starting with a choice of fresh tender coconut water (have not seen that being served by any carrier, leave alone a domestic one) or lime juice, to the moist packaged towelette and candy, it was apparent that they meant business.
It was a short flight lasting 50 minutes, but the cabin crew found time to efficiently and swiftly serve a snack box that comprised of a sandwich, a slice of fruit cake, a fruit juice, and a cup of coffee, if you so wished. There was an announcement through the PA system that said that the airline apologized for not being able to serve a more substantial, hot meal. Inconsequential, but a nice touch.
I was particularly impressed with how the cabin crew handled the passenger next to me. He mentioned to the stewardess that the coffee was not hot enough, and she offered a replacement. When none was forthcoming, I assumed that nothing more would be said/heard about this. Consequently, I was pleasantly surprised when the stewardess showed up, immediately after landing, with a cup of piping hot coffee, offered it to my co-passenger, and told him that there was sufficient time for him to drink it before the aircraft came to a halt.
The inflight magazine was reasonably well done, and passengers were encouraged to carry away a copy, should they wish to.
Paramount offers an inflight boutique though a tie-up with a marketing company, where passengers can purchase goods, at a discount, on arrival at a specially erected stand in the arrivals area. I thought the advertised prices were rather high, and did not see anyone on this particular flight purchase anything, but it was an interesting add-on.
It was certainly an good experience flying Paramount, and the return leg the following day was similar. I discount the business class claim, but would give the carrier credit for customer service.
Paramount’s website could do with improvement. It is sketchy on detail, and would have done well if it had described why a prospective traveller should choose to fly onboard one of their aircraft. Word of mouth is great, but being more overt is no bad thing.
No disrespect intended to Indian Airlines that has flown me on hundreds of flights in the past, but when I saw an A320 belonging to the national carrier taxi past as I emerged, I was glad I chose an alternative for this trip.