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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Executive travel: Emirates eases the rigour of taking a 21-hour flight to Santiago, Chile

The writer tests the maiden ultra-long-haul journey to Chile and shares her experience and tips on the trip

Emirates' Boeing 777-200LR flies passengers to Santiago through Sao Paulo five times a week. Courtesy Emirates
Emirates' Boeing 777-200LR flies passengers to Santiago through Sao Paulo five times a week. Courtesy Emirates

A 20-plus hour flight is a daunting experience for any traveller but the comfort of business class certainly softens the blow.

This month, an Emirates plane landed in Santiago, Chile, for the first time after stopping briefly in Sao Paulo for a two-hour layover.

A business class ticket also buys you a chauffeur pickup: mine arrived at my home in Abu Dhabi two hours before the agreed time due to a mix-up with the booking service at Emirates. The driver graciously waited for me to get ready and eventually we were on our way.

I was doubtful about how functional I would be after the long-haul flight, so I spent most of the drive to the airport planning a tactical sleeping routine to ensure I would be well rested upon arrival and be fresh for a full day of meetings the following day.

Checking in at Dubai International Airport was quick and painless and passport control is now swift with mandatory e-gate registration, which came into effect last year.

The Emirates business class lounge was busy when I arrived at 8am but there were still some seats with charging ports and tables to go around for anyone looking to recharge their phones or get some last minute work done.

The flight began reasonably promptly, taking off 30 minutes late but, with an arrival time set for 9.45pm in Santiago, no business was expected to take place upon landing so delay was only a slight inconvenience.

The two-class Boeing 777-200LR is a comfortable plane, having recently been renovated for more room up front and a more attractive interior. The business class seats, in a 2-2-2 configuration, recline into flat beds and come with their own personal mini bar stocked with two sodas, a juice and sparkling water. The business section seats 38 people.

The refurbished Boeing 777-200LR has a business class seating formation of 2-2-2. Courtesy Emirates
The refurbished Boeing 777-200LR business class seating. Courtesy Emirates

I was in an aisle seat, meaning it was easier to stretch my legs by walking up and down but it did leave me feeling a little exposed. I had a window seat on my return journey, which offered a little more privacy – particularly with the barrier raised between me and my neighbour – but getting to the aisles did require some acrobatic skill.

Business class passengers receive a bag filled with Bulgari-branded hand creams, a tooth brush and toothpaste (also available in the toilets) and a small vial of perfume to keep passengers smelling nice throughout the long flight. Hot towels are also frequently handed out.

Travellers are each given a set of noise-cancelling headphones, which rivalled my Bose Quiet Comfort3. With a flick of a switch, the Emirates headphones blocked out all white noise and were comfortable enough to wear for hours on end – even with wearing glasses.

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As in all Emirates flights, suit jackets and dress shoes can be given to flight attendants to be safely stowed, but any change of clothes must unfortunately be done in the cramped toilets.

Each cabin seat has two USB ports and a three-point power outlet. Connecting the chunky charger that comes with a Macbook Pro is a bit of a wrestle but there are greater hardships in this world to contend with. The pull-out table can be brought closer or pushed further away from the seat to make laptop use more comfortable, though I must say I preferred typing off my lap.

Lunch is served two hours into the flight and dinner a few hours before landing in Sao Paulo. I was unable to postpone lunch since it had already been heated, but the flight attendant did offer to serve me last.

Snacks and sandwiches were available throughout the flight at the frequently restocked “Social Area”. Also, the flight attendants often patrolled the aisles offering refreshments.

The 'social area' is stocked with snacks throughout the flight. Courtesy Emirates
Social Area is stocked with snacks throughout the flight. Courtesy Emirates</p>

The economy class seats 264 passengers in a 3-4-3 configuration and are also given amenity kits with augmented-reality technology.

Every traveller is allotted up to 20MB of complimentary Wi-Fi on board, though it is a little patchy to non-existent over certain areas (namely the Atlantic Ocean, which makes up a reasonable part of the flight to South America).

After getting a little work done, I turned to the in-flight entertainment system, ICE, that boasts up to 3,500 channels including films, TV shows, podcasts and even live TV – broadcasting the Fifa World Cup at the time.

We landed in Sao Paulo around 15 hours after take-off. The plane was cleaned and the main door leading to the tarmac was opened, bringing some much needed fresh air into the chasm of body heat and recycled human breath.

A couple of hours later, we were back on track to Santiago. Disembarking was swift, as was passport control. I got to the baggage belt just in time to catch my luggage on its premier journey around the carousel.

My tactic of staying awake for most of the flight meant I was shattered by the time I arrived at the hotel, ensuring a solid night’s sleep before an early morning for a press conference.

The writer was a guest of Emirates

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