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.
The scene on the other side of security and passport control was, well. Chaotic. Imagine a mall food court in the middle of a Wal Mart. Now stuff it with 5x as many people as belong in that space, and you had the gate area complete with mall-style fast food court and departmentalized duty free store. Oh, and about a dozen gates or so. There are no jetways at Doha, so the “gates” are just a collection of holding pens.
Thanks to Priority Pass we managed to decamp to the relative peace and quiet of the Oryx Lounge on the second level. A decent buffet of middle eastern and western tapas and small dishes was there, along with a decent selection of food and yes…even wine! Certainly made the wait much more tolerable than the main terminal.
Flight FZ 4 (Fly Dubai)
Doha, Qatar (DOH) to Dubai, UAE (DXB)
737-800 registration A6-FDB
Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to say about this short 1 hour / 238 mile flight. Every seat was taken, but understandably 2B was more than happy to take 2C and we ended up in 2A and 2B. Legroom was quite tight for my 6’3 self, but not awful for such a short flight.
All food and drink was for purchase, and I think I shelled out 5 AED for a Diet Coke to keep awake and help adjusting to the jetlag. Plane took off, plane landed, and that was that. All in all an unremarkable flight, which is all I expect for $117 one way. Qatar and Emirates wanted nearly double this for the same route, and hey, for 45 minutes in the air economy is pretty much economy.
Finally in Dubai, mission number one was to try and purchase tickets for a few days later to Kish Island, Iran. I had been trying for nearly a month to do this with several agencies in Dubai, and none of them seemed to be able to arrange it. The ones that could would take cash only over the phone for these tickets. Only option remaining was to try again upon arrival.
Now, I need to explain why this was stressful. Probably 3 years ago, we’d tried this. Arrive at DXB, head over to terminal two, and try and get on that day’s flight. Back then, during the height of the Dubai boom, there were 12+ flights a day from DXB-KIH, so how hard could it be? Well, we spent 8 hours on standby lists elbowing Filipina maids, arguing with Bangladeshi construction workers, and generally being as assertive as possible to hold our places on the standby list…but to no avail. There were simply no no-shows, and thus no hope of a last minute standby ticket. Plans were killed for the time-being…so now, try two.
Over to the travel agency in T2 who handles Kish Air. Are there any tickets in four days? Yes of course, you can go on 11am flight and return on 12:30pm flight. This works for people just needing to leave the UAE to validate a visa, but not so great to actually SEE anything. Finally after 6-7 calls to Kish Air (disconnects, hang-ups, etc) the agent got through, and we had a full 8 hours scheduled in Kish. Woo hoo!
Tickets to Kish in hand, we headed off to the Sheraton Dubai Creek, where I think we ended up with the best Platinum Suite Upgrade I’ve ever seen. it was somewhere in the area of 1,500 square feet I would guess, and with three external doors it looked like two suites plus a standard room had been combined. Two full showers complete with kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, as well as an in-room sauna.
When they found out we were leaving early the next morning before the lounge opened, the offered to send up complimentary breakfast to the room – which arrived as a full american-style breakfast with eggs, pastries, fruit, coffee – the works. This hotel seems to get mixed reviews on FT, but for the price it couldn’t be beat….until checkout in the morning.
We had confirmed the night before that the “complimentary airport transfer” which was included was also valid to Sharjah Airport. Yes, of course Sir. Until we were in the car….and the driver refused to go that far. Leaving us dreadfully close to the check-in cutoff with no transport, and not enough cash on-hand for a taxi to Sharjah. Managed to locate a driver who would accept a combination of Dollars and Dirhams at 4am, and we were good, making it just minutes before the check-in cutoff.
Next up: Air Arabia to Kabul!