x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Crowds are fun at a football match, but not so much at the airport

Joy aboard an Emirates Airline flight, but not so much at the North London derby.

I often hear people whingeing along the lines: “Why does the UAE need another airport/airline/financial centre/port? Surely it’s wasteful to have two of everything.”

Well, my answer, at least to the first couple of items, would be: “Get down to Dubai International virtually any weekday morning and see for yourself.”

I was flying out last Thursday on Emirates, and Terminal 3 was absolutely packed to the gunwales. Queues for check-in, passport control and security checks were trailing back nearly to the main doors, but moved surprisingly quickly. There will come a time, and at T3 it surely cannot be too far off, when the volume of passengers will simply be too much for the physical resources, however efficiently the place is organised. That’s why Dubai World Central is being built, and Abu Dhabi airport being extended.

The same was true of the airplane. There wasn’t a single spare seat on the Airbus A380 – surely the best plane ever to grace the skies – and the number of Australian accents I heard on board must be some testimony to Emirates’ tie-up with Qantas. It can only be good for business.

*****

I was in London for my son’s 17th birthday. It’s become something of a tradition that I get him tickets for an exotic football match of some kind to celebrate his day. Last year it was at Barcelona in Spain, this year it was in Tottenham, London N17.

Not quite as alluring as the beautiful city on the Spanish costa, you might think, but as the game was against Tottenham’s arch-rivals Arsenal, it had all the magic in the world for a pair of Spurs fans like myself and the young man, as he indeed is now.

It was the perfect father-son experience: a pint of something nice to wash down a burger, the match itself, followed by a curry in our favourite Indian restaurant. The only thing that spoiled it was the result, but I won’t dwell on that. It’s only a game after all. (Picture of blubbering emoticon here.)

This was the second time I’d been to Tottenham since the riots in 2011 which on my last visit had left the area a smouldering, charred battleground. I was very impressed by the speed with which the local authorities, backed by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had got on with the work of restoring the area to its former … glory would be too strong a word for N17 – let’s just say “its former self”.

Even the old carpet store, a local landmark I remember from my very first visits to Tottenham in the 1960s, had been rebuilt in full.

It just shows what can be achieved by people in a resourceful and committed community, determined not to let adversity grind them down. Now, if they could do the same thing for my football team please.

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The return trip was a joy, thanks to those very nice people at Emirates in Dubai who managed to get me an upgrade to business class. I wrote a few weeks back of the sublime delights of Emirates first class, but let me tell you, business is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

What makes the difference between business class and economy, I have decided, is privacy. Yes, the seat is better, the food definitely more appealing and the TV screen is just massive.

But the clincher is that you don’t have to squeeze in beside a chap who looks like his other job is for the World Wrestling Federation, with a party of crying, kicking toddlers in the row behind.

Call me a snob if you like, but I think I’m just too old for seven hours in economy.

fkane@thenational.ae

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