Do­minic El­lis spends an af­ter­noon at Emi­rates Ter­mi­nal 3 and dis­cov­ers hid­den gems where you can work and re­lax above the duty free stores

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Contents -

Do­minic El­lis spends an af­ter­noon at Emi­rates Ter­mi­nal 3 and dis­cov­ers hid­den gems where you can work and re­lax above the duty free stores

“Busi­ness or econ­omy?” asks my taxi driver. For the first time in 17 years, I’m not sure how to an­swer. It’s 11am and as I walk with the hordes into Emi­rates Ter­mi­nal 3, I could pass for a bona fide pas­sen­ger; I’m wear­ing my suit, car­ry­ing a small bag and even have my passport – al­beit as a se­cu­rity rather than clear­ance mea­sure (as it hap­pens I’m is­sued with a spe­cial pass which rather re­as­sur­ingly, is scru­ti­nised at ev­ery turn). Whereas those around me will soon be fly­ing to all cor­ners of Emi­rates’ net­work, I’m spend­ing the af­ter­noon as a proxy tran­sit pas­sen­ger in Ter­mi­nal 3.

I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the tran­sit el­e­ment of hub air­ports, prob­a­bly on ac­count of the numer­able times when I’ve spun off to­wards UAE ar­rivals and watched rows upon rows head onto con­nect­ing flights; to this day it re­mains the air­port’s com­mer­cial lifeblood (in­deed the same goes for Qatar and Abu Dhabi), yet it’s a process few ori­gin and des­ti­na­tion pas­sen­gers wit­ness. Dubai In­ter­na­tional han­dled 83.6 mil­lion pas­sen­gers in 2016, up 7.2 per cent year-on-year, and more than half were in tran­sit (52 per cent).

Those who aren’t dash­ing be­tween shops are en­cour­aged to re­lax in the ho­tel fa­cil­i­ties, which also serve as a stop-gap for de­lays or other un­fore­seen in­ci­dents (not solely Emi­rates, I was told flydubai pas­sen­gers were also ac­com­mo­dated re­cently).

Dubai In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel Deputy Gen­eral Man­ager Av­inash Menon greets me with a beam­ing smile as I en­ter Dubai Duty Free in Con­course B. The first point I make to him is the vis­i­bil­ity; un­less you spot the small ‘ho­tel, gym, spa’ sign im­me­di­ately

ahead, and even more dis­tant Time­less Spa one at the top, you wouldn’t know they were there. “We need to have brand­ing,” he ad­mits, though there is another en­trance in Con­course C (plus another ho­tel in Con­course A, which I’ll touch on later).

One rel­a­tively re­cent change has seen ho­tel pas­sen­gers greeted im­me­di­ately off the air­craft. On av­er­age, they re­ceive 150 trav­ellers a day. “The air­port is enor­mous and you tend to get lost,” says Menon. “As long as we have the flight details, we’ll meet you off the air­craft.”

Dubai In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel op­er­ates more than the ho­tel el­e­ments alone within DXB. Menon says it plans to op­er­ate an all-day restau­rant and lounge in each of the three con­courses – in Con­course D, it only has first and busi­ness class lounges; in C, it has the pop­u­lar McGet­ti­gan’s and a lounge and restau­rant are com­ing up.

Four-to-eight hours is where it sees max­i­mum util­i­sa­tion of rooms, though some have stayed for 12 hours and up to two days. Daily on­line rates vary be­tween AED700-800 dur­ing March. I ask him if he’s ever had any­one like Tom Hanks in

The Ter­mi­nal. “We had one guest from the US who couldn’t get his visa to Ta­jik­istan, and he stayed with us for a week – he loved it.”

The old­est part of the ho­tel, in Con­course C, is ear­marked for room re­fur­bish­ments (it was the first 88-room block that came up in 2000) soon, with work most likely start­ing this sum­mer, though that clashes with the peak travel sea­son.

I visit the ho­tel in the heart of Con­course B which has 253 rooms (dubai­intl­ho­ Deluxe rooms are on the lower lev­els and I’m es­corted to the top sixth floor ex­ec­u­tive floor which has two room types; the ‘nor­mal’ one with a large king size bed and a twin, and there are Ju­nior Suites and Royal suite. Black mas­sage chairs are a wel­come touch, along with flight times which ping up on the TV screen.

Ex­ec­u­tive floor rooms come with lounge ac­cess by reception and you can have buf­fet break­fast and round-the-clock snacks and drinks. Rates vary from 1-3 hours, 4-6 and 7-12 (most pop­u­lar) and 13 up­wards is set at the ‘best avail­able rate’.

We pass through a se­cu­rity check at one of three re­mote gates for con­nect­ing pas­sen­gers. Around the cor­ner, eight Dnata staff are re­ceiv­ing a brief­ing, a lit­tle fur­ther a man is stack­ing up no end of strollers. Even in quiet times, there’s never a se­cond of in­ac­tiv­ity in the world’s largest air­port for in­ter­na­tional pas­sen­gers.

We head up­wards, into the heart of Con­course B. I’m stopped by the ladies on the ‘Be Re­lax’ stand – their most pop­u­lar mas­sage is the 10-minute back mas­sage (AED105 dirhams, AED195 for 20 min­utes,

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