09 July 2006

Time zones, jet lag and Emirates

UPDATE: Roger Federer did retain his Wimbledon crown and won his fourth straight, beating Rafael Nadal in a four-setter. And although my heart bleeds for Zinedine Zidane and the French side, Italy's victory via penalty shootout was consoling for one simple reason: I told my LSJ13 friends that whoever wears blue will win the World Cup. And the Azzuris did.:)

AS I WRITE this, I'm back in Naga and nursing through my jet lag. It would only be past 3 pm in the UK, and from the Wimbledon website, it appears Roger Federer is on his way to avenging his French Open defeat in the hands of six-time conqueror Rafael Nadal. My body's timeclock, having already adjusted to the British daylight saving time (which is seven hours early, eight when it is not DST), is keeping me very much awake.

Over breakfast last Tuesday, Rashida, our Indian IFP alumni facilitator, said it usually takes the human body a one-day rest to recover from every hour of time zone difference. Taking a one-week off would be great, I said, but I simply do not have the luxury to do that.

Anyhow, my return trip took a total of 28 hours from the time our Emirates Airbus A330 left Birmingham International Airport to the time our Philippine Airlines Boeing 737 touched down at the Naga Airport in Pili. Taking away a 2.5-hour layover in Dubai and another 9 hours in Manila, it meant spending a total of 16 hours airborne. The delay in Dubai was an ordeal caused mainly by Emirates' rapid expansion
that the current wing-shaped terminal building cannot cope up with, prompting the ongoing construction of a second one. Its network doubles every 4-5 years, putting it in the big leagues, and its profits soaring, seemingly unaffected by woes plaguing Western carriers.

But that ordeal soon faded into memory with the airline's cutting edge entertainment system onboard the Boeing 777 aircraft that features audio and video on demand even for the economy class; we did not have it in our Airbus flight. For most of the 8-hour journey between Dubai and Manila, I watched in succession Shadows in the Sun, Failure to Launch (missed the middle as I dozed off), The Pink Panther, a Juday-Piolo starrer with a truly forgettable title, and the TV sitcom Fraser. The food was equally top-flight though not really exceptional, and the crew pleasant and accommodating.

I am not certain how much of the Dubai state's backing would account for its tremendous performance, but now I know why Boeing and Emirates are dominating the competition: it's all about exceptional customer experience while airborne, which trumps terrible ground experience everytime.

NOTE: Two of the pictures I took during the LSJ Institute, which I will blog about later.