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Pilgrimage trip to Varanasi, India (Emirates A380, Boeing 777-300ER)

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  • Pilgrimage trip to Varanasi, India (Emirates A380, Boeing 777-300ER)

    Hey guys,

    As I have mentioned maybe a couple of months back, we had a friend based in the Bay Area who has a father in Chennai (head of an ashram organization) that decided to organize a major religious function along the Ganges River. However, right now it's definitely Summer and the weather is hot (not exactly humid) but guess everything was based on the water temperature & star alignment.

    We had a couple of options - Book Emirates (with Skywards miles) or take Air India directly to Delhi and onward to Varanasi. A few things. Air India is still a work in progress, some of their planes based out of SFO are good (Delta product). Others aren't so good because of a non-functioning entertainment system. Timing is good. However, we decided to book Emirates and take the quick route to Delhi.

    My father left a couple of days ago on March 24, and my mom & I left together on March 29, returning April 6 (Saturday), and my dad on April 9.

    To go to Varanasi, you must go thru Delhi airport, clear customs and catch a local flight. More to come on the TR once all my pictures are synced to iCloud & downloaded.

  • #2
    Flight: Emirates flight EK226
    Route: San Francisco - Dubai
    Aircraft: Airbus A380-800 (A6-EVC), 6 years at the time of departure
    Livery: Normal
    Date of Departure: March 28 (4:45PM), Arrival March 29 (7:25PM)
    Seat: 82A (Economy Class)
    Configuration: 4-class (Suites, Business, Premium Economy, Economy)

    It was Holy Thursday, the day before Good Friday & Easter weekend. Many folks were starting their week-long Spring break from school. Hence, the airports got crowded as people kick-started their break. Of course, not much of an exception with international travel, especially to Europe (Where the weather is in a transitional period) and UAE.

    My mom & I left home a little after 2:15PM, 15 minutes later than anticipated and got to the airport around 2:45PM. The upside was the lines were far shorter and the downside was a little less time. Similar case happened with my dad on March 24th but a little earlier when we dropped him and we had coffee and a snack with him and I got to see the SFO aviation museum on the day he departed. I'll try to put up some photos of that later if comfortable.

    Normally as Emirates operates the Airbus A380 with a high capacity, it's expected the check-in lines would be super long. One thing they lack in San Francisco that they do not lack in other airports is an Online Check-in counter as well.

    Either way it did not take us more than 10-15 minutes to complete our check-in and get our boarding passes. Same with my dad from the Sunday he left.

    As we are TSA Pre, security took a little longer but not more than 15 minutes to get through. We were at the A concourse which our flight like previous Emirates trips has always been gate A6.

    And there it is. A6-EVC, the same plane that picked my dad up on March 24th (Sunday) and took me and my mom on March 28th (Thursday) to Dubai.

    Fun fact: A6-EVC also took me and my mom back to San Francisco on EK225 on Saturday, April 6th. Rarely would I expect to get the same registration while traveling back again (the same happened with me when I got A6-EVH in November).

    Last edited by SQfanatic; 8 April 2024, 02:59 AM.


    • #3
      A few planes spotted on this side of the terminal as we had some extra time:

      Air France in SkyTeam livery (F-GZNE) that would depart to Paris Charles De Gaulle past 4PM.

      Better view of A6-EVC.

      British Airways Airbus A380, that's also usually parked next to the Emirates Airbus A380 going to London Heathrow after we depart. Its departure at 5:30PM that day while our's was at 4:45PM.

      An AlItalia Airbus A330-900neo plane that would depart for Rome around 4:20PM. EI-HJN. At the back was a Fiji AIrways Airbus A350-900 (DQ-FAM) that arrived after 1PM but stayed on the tarmac until its 11:30PM departure to Nadi, Fiji.

      Qatar Airways Airbus A350-100 XWB (A7-ANR) that would depart to Doha an hour before we would (3:50PM)


      • #4
        Shortly past 4PM, we proceeded to our gate A6 for our boarding of the A380 to Dubai:

        Sometimes boarding can be disorganized despite the queue.

        We boarded the A380 around 4:15PM and eventually got settled into our seat.

        Wing view from seat 82A:

        Had a few minutes to explore the entertainment system & some maps before the safety video & pilot announcement came.

        Pilot came with an announcement that the flight time to Dubai would be 14 hours and 55 minutes with some turbulence along the way.

        The flight was generally full and initially my mom & I up to the day of departure had a middle seat next to us for sleeping. It did not turn that way at the end until the passenger wanted to sit next to a guy she met and the crew were able to successfully move her making it for a comfortable flight.

        We pushed back on-time for Dubai around 4:40PM and started our engines and proceeded to the runway.

        There was a brief hold on the runway and we took off around 5:15PM

        More views of San Francisco as we started heading towards the Northeast and later North Pole.


        • #5
          The crew initially said they would start meal service immediately, but not exactly the case. It only started (as expected) after 6:30PM (just like they do 5:30PM in the Winter after sunset).

          First meal is dinner. Instead of the aloo gobi, we got butter paneer with rice & some other bean curry (I can't remember the name). Along with that was some cheese/crackers, an Easter bunny chocolate & to finish off a strawberry & redcurrant crumble. Overall, it was very filling and delicious.

          This part of the cabin had some continuous noises, sometimes coming from the galley.

          The sunset as we continued over Canada (Vancouver) and later the North Pole.

          A shot of the A380 cabin after meal service and before dozing off.

          I decided to also use the Wifi and track my plane going through Canada.


          • #6
            After my mom & I took turns sleeping stretching the legs on the middle seat (it was a little tough since our sleep patterns are different at home), we eventually woke up to the second meal which was a snack (margharita pizza)

            Sunrise over the North Pole

            Flying into daybreak in North Greenland.

            The pizza was piping hot and delicious. Finished off with some diet pepsi.

            At some point in the North Pole for a couple of hours, internet won't work. That means we were able to sleep more until the next meal service came (lunch) around 4PM Dubai time.

            What was given for lunch was vegetable upma with utthappam followed by a honey graham breakfast bowl (yoghurt/mousse) and some fruits and crackers/cheese and bread.

            The second meal course was average at best. I've had their seviya upma which was far better than this.

            Of course with the time remaining, I decided to explore the maps in detail

            Handset controller showing the aircraft info and flight time:


            • #7
              Maps and other information

              Getting closer to Dubai;

              Decided to show the lavatory on the Airbus A380:

              Very reasonably large and clean.

              Last, but not least before landing the crew came around and gave everyone a piping hot towel:


              • #8
                Just 1 hour before landing around 6:15PM Dubai local time, the captain came with an announcement that we would start our descent into Dubai around 7:15PM and get to the gate after that. The sun is now setting much later this time of the year than in the Winter flights.

                View of Dubai upon landing:

                A very smooth landing by Emirates as is on every flight I've taken. It was not more than a 5-10 minute taxi to the gate in Dubai and we disembarked around 7:20PM


                • #9
                  Thoughts on the first sector?

                  Overall, very friendly crew on the flight. They always came around to ensure people were hydrated and generally keeping well throughout the flight. Food was overall excellent except the second meal.

                  Last month, when my parents flew from San Francisco to Dubai, they also had comfortable seats, but their planes had no touchscreen controller (Later models A6-EVN to A6-EVS fall under that). But didn't bother me either way.

                  One thing that's a little bit of a gripe is that to an extent, it's very distracting they play vocal music during boarding and landing. Something like with jazz music or something soft like what Singapore Airlines is generally more pleasing and soothing and relaxing to the travelers on board.

                  Examples of what EK plays - Grace Carter, Billy Paul (Your Song), Johnny Nash, etc. In between they'll play their signature boarding music, which is good.

                  Next up Dubai Airport and flight to Delhi.


                  • #10
                    We had 2.5 hours to spare in Dubai Airport for our connecting flight to Delhi. To go from Concourse B to Concourse A, one would have to take escalators (or elevators) and a train to get there. That's about 5-10 minutes. Security check in Dubai won't take more than a few seconds. Something other airports, especially India can learn from.


                    • #11
                      Flight: Emirates flight EK512
                      Route: Dubai - Delhi
                      Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (A6-EPJ), 8.2 years at the time of departure
                      Livery: Normal
                      Date of Departure: March 29 (10:00PM), Arrival March 30 (2:30AM)
                      Seat: 43A (Economy Class)
                      Configuration: 3-class (Suites, Business, Economy)

                      Initially, FR24 showed us we would have gotten A6-ENT. However, the inbound flight of that got delayed from Addis Ababa and instead of getting a slightly older generation bird (reference A6-END I took on EK543 from Chennai), we got one of the newer A6-EP* birds, A6-EPJ, which sports the identical seats as the A380 we arrived on.

                      Once we first located the gate, there was no plane to be found, and once I got to the gate and the plane was waiting while having coffee, I found it was indeed one of the newer birds.

                      We proceeded to gate A23 and boarding commenced a little after 9:30PM


                      Boarding the aircraft

                      Emirates' hugely disliked 2-3-2 Business Class that's eventually getting phased out

                      One thing you can tell is that while the seats are pretty much similar to the ones on the A380, one thing different is that it feels a little tigher, but nowhere near as cramped as the A350 and 787 I flew on Singapore Airlines

                      View from seat 43A. We were next to another EP* bird, A6-EPL, which according to FR24 got sent to Dhaka later after arrival when we boarded this plane

                      The A6-EP* birds share a similar entertainment system to the ultra long haul A380's (such as the ones that fly to SFO, LAX, IAH, JFK, GRU, etc). The difference is it is a little smaller and feels a little tighter

                      The A6-EP* birds also sport the Voyager 3D maps, which are interactive compared to some of the older 777 that only have the non-interactive maps (i.e. A6-EGP, A6-END)

                      The pilot came along with an announcement mentioning the flight time to Delhi is only 2.5 hours, what a short flight. As you decide to travel further north to India than Dubai, flight times are much shorter hence why the later departure than flights going to South India such as Chennai, Bangalore, Kochi, Hyderabad and Trivandrum.

                      The old 777 safety video played:

                      We pushed back exactly around 10PM & started our GE90 engines. Before that we heard many GE90 engines from other EK 777 before we departed.
                      Last edited by SQfanatic; 7 April 2024, 06:35 PM.


                      • #12

                        Pushback & the engines surprisingly sounded more quieter, even at startup than what I'm used to in the past even sitting at the back of the plane.

                        Taking off around 10:20PM from Dubai

                        Beautiful view of Dubai:


                        • #13
                          Shortly the meal service started. They gave us dinner just 30 minutes after take off given that the flight was a short 2.5 hours as opposed to the 3.5 hour flights to Southern India.

                          Aachari paneer with rice. Also some raitha and kheer, not too sweet. The paneer on this leg was so fresh that it reminded me of the paneer I had in manchurian and fried rice in Kamat Restaurant in Dubai. Overall, not too heavy and excellent quality.

                          Cabin mood lighting during meal service:

                          Since the flight time was shorter, I took more pictures of the 777 Voyager 3D maps since I would think that while coming back I may not get a 777 like this from DEL so here are some pics

                          Qibla compass (I think only on newer 777's and A380 that have the Voyager 3D map):

                          Boeing 777 lavatory pics:

                          Very clean and maintained for one of the newer birds built the same year as SQ's


                          • #14
                            Around 45 minutes to landing the pilot came back with an announcement that we would start our descent into Delhi airport around 2:15AM with warm temperatures at the ground.

                            The whole flight it was completely dark, so even landing was dark at that hour but here are pics nonetheless

                            The taxi was quite long to the gate

                            Disembarking and eventually embarking for our flight to Varanasi


                            • #15
                              Thoughts on this sector of Emirates?

                              Crew were very friendly and helpful on this flight. Despite the very short flight time and meal service, they still ensured that everyone was well fed and looked after.

                              Next up is the Varanasi local flight on Indigo and generally pics of Varanasi.