When Emirates Airlines started flying direct out of Seattle to Dubai, I decided it was time to try the airline I had heard so much about. It was a personal trip back home to Cape Town to visit family and, although it’s not the fastest way from Point A to Point B, I wanted to try a new route and a new airline. This patricular routing left me with 8 hours and 50 minutes between my two flights at Dubai Airport. Oh sure, I love people-watching at airports – who doesn’t? Time spent at an airport offers a glimpse into a seemingly endless number of stories and lives. But I’ll admit that I wasn’t looking forward to THAT much time to kill... As it turns out, Dubai Airport is itself a mini-destination.
Emirates now flies in and out of Dubai Airport’s Terminal 3 and on first impression, it is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Dubai – new, modern, and gleaming. This state-of-the-art terminal feels spacious and bright, and offers the anticipated variety of restaurants and duty-free shopping options. However, it was the unexpected amenities that turned a dreaded layover into a pleasant, ‘Where did the time go?’ experience. Here are a few personal stand-outs for me:
- Free wifi is accessible throughout the terminal, so be sure to keep your smart phone or iPad handy.
- There are comfortable loungers lined up at each end of the terminal; these chairs allow you to lay back with your feet up, and perhaps even take a nap.
- There is a hotel inside the terminal that you can rent for just the number of hours you need the room – just be sure to book early and in advance, as it was full when I inquired.
- I was able to fit a work-out in between my two long-haul flights; for US$21 you can work out at the small but well-equipped airport gym, plus shower and change.
- There is a full spa that offers a wide range of treatments and massages, as well as a day-pass for access to the sauna and heated swimming pool.
- The restaurants on the main floor of the terminal are your typical fast food or café style eateries, but if you are looking for something a little more refined, look up! Take the elevators up to find the quieter places with fine dining menu options. On one end there is great little tapas bar and The Hub which offers a full bar. On the other end of the terminal is The Seafood Bar, which offers great sushi, and the Courtyard Café offers Arabic cuisine.
If you have extra time, I highly recommend taking a walk to Terminal 1 for a complete change in pace and scenery. It is an older terminal and a fun little excursion because of the vast differences to Terminal 3. The old terminal’s layout and feel definitely depicts a different era in Dubai - massive indoor palm trees in the atrium, intricate yellow-gold light fixtures, and faux desert sand printed carpeting. It’s smaller and therefore has much more of a hustle-bustle vibe and the shops are completely different – rather than designer duty-free retail stores, it has a market atmosphere with just about everything imaginable on sale from toiletries to Tang. The passage-way that connects the two terminals has a great collection of photographs and information depicting Dubai’s history from a pearling outpost to crude oil giant.
So the next time you're trying to sort through the maze of air routing options available for your next adventure, don’t worry about a long connection at Dubai Airport. It’s the perfect mini-destination between flights.