A grand sprawling airport equipped with all the so-called latest features fails to do a decent job of handling the crowds.
- The flight boarding area (gates) for each flight is behind a check-in counter (similar to London Heathrow but unlike the airports in the US). As expected the check-in counter opens less than an hour before the flights. This means that the large passenger waiting area behind the counter remain inaccessible until just before the flight. The result is that you have an assembly line of gates with empty seats and a long corridor with just a single row of seats which invariably gets filled up in no time. With no where else to go, transit passengers literally sleep all over the place on the floor!
- Emirate Airlines (UAE’s state owned official airlines) does not issue a day long visa to get out of the airport (unlike for instance in Singapore). They instead insist on transit passengers purchasing a package that includes hotel and visa. Even if I could take care of myself in Dubai for a few hours and return for my connection flight, I had no option but to buy the package or stay put in the airport. (Apart from this, Emirates is an excellent airline — great service, international crew etc.)
- The smoking areas at the airport are not rooms or complete enclosures. Instead they are small areas bang in the center of the walkways with no clear seclusion. So there is no shortage of second hand cigarette smoke.
- There is free wi–fi available at the airport. The bad news is that this service is at best sporadic.
- The free Internet terminals are cramped in a partial enclosure very similar to the smoking area! Its hard to get in and if you do its even harder to get out! Some of the terminal don’t work and the rest are pretty slow.
- Emirate Airlines provides one free meal to passengers (at the Sahar restaurant) who have transit time of over four hours. The queue to grab a meal at this restaurant is akin to a line for food at a refugee camp. Its long and painful.
- There are no courtesy phones for transit passengers to use. If they exist, they are well hidden because I could not find any.
Note: If your destination is Dubai then the airport experience is pretty smooth. It is transit at Dubai that is very painful.