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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Business class with flydubai takes stress out of Nepal

Executive lounge that flydubai shares with several international carriers provides substantially more comfort than elsewhere in the airport

A flydubai flight was delayed by almost 12 hours after its pilot failed an alcohol test. Natalie Naccache / Bloomberg
A flydubai flight was delayed by almost 12 hours after its pilot failed an alcohol test. Natalie Naccache / Bloomberg

The flydubai business class experience is a welcome contrast to the journey to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport.

Getting to some places can be something of a challenge through the metallic zoo that is the Nepalese capital’s notorious traffic-snarled streets.

But having left the elegant lobby of the Hotel Shanker, just under four hours ahead of a 7.20pm flight to Dubai International, our canny driver blended side streets and sheer bravado to reach the departures concourse without drama.

That landed us front of the business class check-in line, where you can deposit a significant 40kg of baggage, and through immigration swiftly to enjoy the executive lounge long before push back. In fact, quite a while before take-off, it turned out, as weather in the changeable Kathmandu Valley meant flight FZ 576 faced a flash storm.

Thankfully, the executive lounge that flydubai shares with several international carriers provides substantially more comfort than elsewhere in the airport.

Like flydubai’s dedicated business class lounge at Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 2, complimentary hot and cold food and snacks are available alongside hot drinks and beverages.

Two main areas are laid out with leather sofas. Several widescreen TVs display news and departure times beside clocks set to major cities – including Dubai. There’s also a good view of plane activity.

For those with flights at unsocial hours, an attached Forty Winks Lounge, operated by Radisson, acts as a silent area with inviting leather armchairs.

Oddly, the executive lounge is situated after immigration yet before security scanning, but the walk to the gate is brief. Flydubai operates Boeing’s 737-800 on the three-times-a-day Kathmandu route with a dedicated Dubai departure gate at Terminal 2, with complimentary refreshments. Departure and arrival business class passengers also transfer by their own leather-seated coach, for priority boarding or deplaning.

On board, business class configuration places two comfortable wide seats either side of the aisle, in three rows – rather than the three each side of the aisle in economy. There’s plenty of overhead storage to accommodate a 14kg carry-on allowance – handy if you’re travelling without check-in luggage for a swift check-in or exit from the airport.

Each seat delivers a 12.1-inch HD screen for in-flight entertainment ranging from music and games to a fair selection of English language and international films, including some Bollywood staples. The choice of words dubbed over cursing in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, however, rendered the Best Picture Oscar winner surreal in places.

Decent quality full-ear headphones cancel out most other sound, making them equally useful for undisturbed sleep, aided by an impossibly soft blanket.

Service is unobtrusive, soft drinks and hot towels offered on boarding along with a menu card, this time including a vibrant biryani and moist rib beef, offset by a fresh leaf salad.

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With 1A in one of the front seats, we were served first, had extra legroom and were first off the plane once into Dubai. And, with visa procurement and passport control at Kathmandu somewhat slow, that business class rapid exit certainly warrants the outbound fare.

With rebuilding still underway in Kathmandu to repair monuments and buildings damaged by the earthquake three years ago, some UAE talent is making its way to Nepal.

On our flight was flydubai regular Michelle Evans, creative director of her own Dubai boutique design company. Specialising in luxury interiors, she travels to Kathmandu frequently to work with the Yak & Yeti Hotel on its refurbishment.

“We have been travelling to Kathmandu for this project for the last six months as we need to be involved personally with the property to better understand it before we do the design,” she said.

“The growth of Kathmandu is moving forward at a rapid pace, which I have seen, not just in my recent trips but from the time I visited over 18 years ago as a tourist. Some areas are positive, but the infrastructure is still struggling and is challenged to meet this growth.

“We are aware of a lot of new construction coming up in the next few years with new hotels being opened. So tourism is growing.”

Which spells good news for flydubai. As do long-standing ties between Nepal and the UAE. These range from generous aid given to the Himalayan nation following the earthquake to the thousands of Nepalese within the UAE economy – including many staff at Louvre Abu Dhabi – who look to flydubai for economical fares home.