May 222011

You may have noticed the title of this post, yes, the plan was to fly Lufthansa. Up early and to the airport for the final segment of our trip. We were flying LH first from DXB-MUC-LHR and then on another ticket I had to unexpectedly continue on LHR-IAD on United with a 2 hour or so connection in LHR. Piece of cake.

Check-in at DXB at the LH F counter was horridly slow. They had called some passengers over from another line, and it was an elderly couple with lots of issues to sort out. Nearly 15 minutes later a supervisor finally realized what was happening, and called us to the business queue to check-in. Not the best, but also not totally their fault.

We didn’t have a lot of time, so opted to skip the lounge in favour of caffienation at Starbucks, and then off to the gate for boarding. I didn’t spot it but when when we hadn’t started boarding 45 minutes before departure the other Mr Ironmanjt realised one of the engines on the A340 was open…and they were tinkering around with something. Not a great sign. Even worse when it was announce that there has been a “mechanical issue with the aircraft” and more information would be available in 2.5 hours. Um, say what? There goes my connection…. Continue reading »

May 222011

The goal of this day was simple: rent a car, and visit the remaining Emirates of the United Arab Emirates. In a large part, this was driven by the list put out by the Travelers Century Club of what they continue to be a “country.” I personally don’t agree with this list, but we figured while we were in the neighbourhood we should get to collecting.

There are seven emirates in the UAE, and we had visited Dubai years ago. Flew out of Sharjah to Afghanistan on this trip, and had taken a trip south to Abu Dhabi before Iran (the other five emirates are all north of Dubai, so it made sense to swing south to Abu Dhabi on its own) so that left four more to visit.

As you can see on this map:

There were two other interesting places we wanted to visit in the east of the UAE: the Omani Exclave of Madha which is entirely surrounded by the UAE, and the UAE Enclave of Nahwa which is entirely surrounded by the exclave of Madha! Confused yet? Continue reading »

May 212011

Up early the next morning to take part in what was a pretty extensive breakfast buffet at the Sheraton Khalidiya in Abu Dhabi. I know this place doesn’t get the best reviews on FT, but between the Platinum Suite upgrade, a great buffet breakfast for two, I really can’t fault it at all. On top of it, the staff were fantastic and helpful. Two thumbs up from me!

Got a cab, and 90 minutes later we were pulling into the Le Meridien Al Sondos (chosen for being near DXB and the subway) to drop our bags before the daytrip to Kish Island. Checked in pretty quickly, bags dropped, and it was off to the Chaos of DXB T2 to begin the adventure to Kish.

Flight was at 11:15 and we were in line and waiting to check in by 9:00, but there wasn’t an agent in site to help us. At 9:45 the finally showed up, only to send us away because our Kish Air tickets hadn’t included the tax. We weren’t the only ones, it seemed most of the line was getting sent away. Ok, wander through T2’s back rooms, find the Kish Air office, pay 15 Dirhams each, back to the check in, get boarding passes and off to security.

Security was a complete non-event, and soon we were in the rather unimpressive T2. Quick brunch at Cafe Nero (not knowing when we might find somewhere to eat in Kish) and off to the gate. To wait. And wait. 11:15 comes and goes. No agent, no plane. Wait, wait. Wait. Around 11:45 an agent finally shows up, and a mad dash to the bus gate ensues…we had no idea what type of plane or anything awaited…

Kish Air 7143
Dubai, UAE (DXB) to Kish Island, Iran (KIH)
11:15 am, flight time 45 minutes
Aircraft Registration: EP-LCC Fokker F50
Seats 7E and 7F Continue reading »

May 202011

So we made it to the airport, and first thing inside was a baggage scan – all bags went through, and soon we were in the check-in area which was absolutely mobbed. Took probably 30 minutes to get to the front of the queue, and check-in was taking place from a list of names that had been printed out…and they were checking them off! Based on the list, we were the only ones with prepaid and pre-assigned seats, so we were in 1A and 1C again.

Upstairs, into the security check, and some how these folks I think managed to be more efficient, more aware, and shockingly more respectful than the average TSA agent. Go figure! Then we were dumped in a giant holding room from where four flights were boarding. One was a domestic flight, another was a flight to Delhi on Ariana, and a fourth was headed to Karachi. Sharjah here we come. Continue reading »

May 192011

So, we made it to Kabul, we had found our driver, and it was time for the adventure to begin. First impression heading out of the airport was how relatively “normal” things seemed. No large-scale obvious military presence, and things in the city seemed more typical developing-world-run-down than war-scarred. This part if the report is going to get a bit long, but I figured there’s not much out there about Afghanistan so I wanted to share more details than normal

First stop was at the offices of the tour company we had arranged things with. Afghanistan being more than a little bit of the tourist track these days we’d decided to leave the arrangements to Afghan Logistics. Only thing I’ll say here is that I have nothing but good things to say about their services. If anyone wants more details, feel free to message. So, off to their office not far from the airport where our driver passed us off to the guy who would be our driver and guide for the duration of our time in Afghanistan. A quick swap of cars, and we were off to our first stop: lunch. Continue reading »

May 182011

So let’s see….Sharjah Airport. After the manic taxi ride from Dubai we somehow made it there right around 70 minutes before departure…and Air Arabia’s website dictated a 60 minute cutoff for check-in. Oh, and it was 90 minutes with checked luggage…time to pray that the rollerboards wouldn’t be looked upon harshly.

So, if Dubai (and thus DXB) are Las Vegas in the desert, then Sharjah (and SHJ) is, hmm…well I could pretend to compare it to small airports in the southern U.S., but honestly even Memphis Airport looks like a cultural mecca. See, it’s important to know that Sharjah is one of (or maybe the only?) dry Emirate in the UAE…and also by far the most conservative. It’s also where many expats working in Dubai live since the cost of living is much much cheaper.

Anyways…the airport. Get inside, and run frantically over to the Air Arabia counters. Agents are surprised to see us, but when they hear “Kabul” they get surprised…and very friendly. “Are you SURE you are on flight to Kabul?” Yes yes, baggage carry-on no problem, go go, you are fine.

So, with that we’re off through UAE emmigration, no problems at all. Have to give a HUGE ^^^ to the Air Arabia staff. Friendly, efficient, and smiling. U.S. airlines could learn from these guys…and this is a low cost carrier! Continue reading »

May 182011

Ok, so where were we…ah yes, I remember…the dark, dank and crowded mess known as the non-premium terminal of the Doha airport about to get on Fly Dubai…a no-frills low-cost airline from a definite no-frills terminal.

Check-in itself actually wasn’t bad. We had prepaid something like 10 Dirhams (around $3 US) each for reserved seating to make sure we at least ended up on the same row. 2A and 2C had no extra legroom promised, but it was a small price to pay to be in the front of the plane. Plus, if the flight didn’t get too full who would want 2B?

Check-in was quite efficient, and no complaint at all about having rather largish rolling bags. Passport control was a mob scene, but still probably no more than 10 minute queue. This was also the first place I noticed a “women’s only” lane where they could go to lift up their niqab to match their passport pictures without being seen by strange men. Continue reading »

May 172011

Part I of the trip was a positioning trip, and being it was booked with miles I needed to find a route with two seats up front to the Middle East from London. Easier said than done just about six weeks before the holidays. After much digging (and many thanks to United’s new one way awards) I scored a route that I thought would be perfect: LHR-FRA on LH followed by FRA-RUH-DOH in business. Unfortunately, I found out later there’s no way to get off the plane in RUH, so well technically in Saudi Arabia, some people would debate counting it….it wasn’t to matter in the end.Made it to Heathrow around 8am thanks to the rare trip without a hitch on the Piccadilly Line, and checked in with Lufthansa. No problems at all, everything looks good, off to the Star Alliance lounge to wait. Unfortunately, that’s when we noticed the inbound was still at the gate in FRA thanks to a combination of LH’s website and arrivals monitors. When it became obvious we weren’t going to make it….we hit up the Lufthansa transfer desk. Took the agent a bit to figure things out, but very soon we had something I’ve never seen before: confirmed tickets on the nonstop flight on Qatar leaving at noon, and actually arriving in Doha at the same time! I was quite shocked LH would do this on a UA-issued award ticket….no way United would have booked offline to protect award passengers!

Soon we were FIM-ed and off to make the bus trek over to terminal four at Heathrow. Qatar uses the Skyteam lounge, which was actually quite nice except for the barely functional internet connection. Now, onto the flight!

QR 12
London Heathrow (LHR) to (DOH)
777-300 registration A7-BAQ
delivered just 4 days before this flight! Continue reading »