Dubai: The Mess Starts at the Airport

Dubai has been in the Western media for many reasons of late (the Dubai ports scandal, the recent Nasdaq deal, the burst of construction etc.). None of these reports ever talks about the challenges of everyday living in Dubai. Nothing prepares you for the big mess in the Dubai airport until you actually experience it.

A grand sprawling airport equipped with all the so-called latest features fails to do a decent job of handling the crowds.

  • The flight boarding area (gates) for each flight is behind a check-in counter (similar to London Heathrow but unlike the airports in the US). As expected the check-in counter opens less than an hour before the flights. This means that the large passenger waiting area behind the counter remain inaccessible until just before the flight. The result is that you have an assembly line of gates with empty seats and a long corridor with just a single row of seats which invariably gets filled up in no time. With no where else to go, transit passengers literally sleep all over the place on the floor!
  • Emirate Airlines (UAE’s state owned official airlines) does not issue a day long visa to get out of the airport (unlike for instance in Singapore). They instead insist on transit passengers purchasing a package that includes hotel and visa. Even if I could take care of myself in Dubai for a few hours and return for my connection flight, I had no option but to buy the package or stay put in the airport. (Apart from this, Emirates is an excellent airline — great service, international crew etc.)
  • The smoking areas at the airport are not rooms or complete enclosures. Instead they are small areas bang in the center of the walkways with no clear seclusion. So there is no shortage of second hand cigarette smoke.
  • There is free wifi available at the airport. The bad news is that this service is at best sporadic.
  • The free Internet terminals are cramped in a partial enclosure very similar to the smoking area! Its hard to get in and if you do its even harder to get out! Some of the terminal don’t work and the rest are pretty slow.
  • Emirate Airlines provides one free meal to passengers (at the Sahar restaurant) who have transit time of over four hours. The queue to grab a meal at this restaurant is akin to a line for food at a refugee camp. Its long and painful.
  • There are no courtesy phones for transit passengers to use. If they exist, they are well hidden because I could not find any.
Don’t know if the challenges facing Dubai airport are simply a case of bad planning and design or an inability to deal with unprecedented growth in traffic through Dubai. In any case, Dubai’s mess starts at the airport. As for the rest of the city it is one big parking lot with perennially clogged roads, sweltering heat, and endless construction sites in the midst of tall fancy buildings of various shapes, colors and sizes.

Note: If your destination is Dubai then the airport experience is pretty smooth. It is transit at Dubai that is very painful.

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3 Responses to Dubai: The Mess Starts at the Airport

  1. Anonymous says:

    Is this what you call challenges of DAILY living?

  2. Jaidev says:

    Pran:
    I did not look at the Dubai Airport the way you saw it. I suppose it was because I never was a transit passenger at the Airport. But yes, the observations are valid. And as for Anonymous’ comment, he probably did not get your message in full. The mess starts at the Airport. I am living the daily traffic mess as a resident of Dubai.

  3. Pran Kurup says:

    I mentioned at the bottom of the article that if you are not in transit Dubai airport is just fine. i have been visiting Dubai for many years now since the early nineties and I have seen it evolve with each trip. I added a link in the article to an earlier post on Dubai. I suspect the person missed the link. This post is entirely on the Dubai airport but I had written earlier about everyday Dubai in general.

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