Flying better with Emirates from Tel Aviv

The new Ben-Gurion-Dubai route is extremely popular with Israelis – gourmet kosher dining and excellent lounge and in-flight options. Now the airline is doubling its service to the UAE.

 THE UAE’S flag carrier Emirates offers everything from delectable kosher fare to an innovative in-flight entertainment system (photo credit: Emirates Airlines PR)
THE UAE’S flag carrier Emirates offers everything from delectable kosher fare to an innovative in-flight entertainment system
(photo credit: Emirates Airlines PR)

Babka! It has to be for the delicious babka! It’s not too difficult to find reasons to come back to Dubai. When Emirates invited us to see how they “Fly Better” between Tel Aviv and Dubai it really wasn’t a difficult decision.

Especially with the promise of a behind-the-scenes tour of Kosher Arabia, and its soon-to-be-famous babka cake. Emirates, a United Arab Emirates flag carrier, started flying from Tel Aviv to Dubai in June.

From the end of October, Emirates will operate twice-daily flights on the route. Why has this new service been so successful and what differentiates it from the other airlines flying between Tel Aviv and the UAE? 

According to Emirates chief commercial officer Adnan Kazim, passengers from Tel Aviv are choosing Emirates for its extensive network. It offers more than 150 destinations across the globe, making access to and from Tel Aviv so much easier. With its codeshare partner flydubai, that number exceeds 200. 

The most popular onward destinations so far in 2022 are Australia, New York, the Philippines and, surprisingly, Indonesia and Malaysia, countries without diplomatic relations with Israel.

Sitting in Kazim’s office on the top floor of Emirates’ head office, filled with model airplanes and a magnificent view overlooking the world-record-breaking Dubai International Airport (it has the largest terminal, largest lounges, largest baggage-handling system, largest aircraft hangars and most international passengers handled per annum), we discussed whether, in his 31 years at Emirates, he thought the day would come when Tel Aviv would be added to the destination list.

It was never in doubt, he says. What he didn’t expect was announcing a doubling of flight frequency to two Boeing 777-300s per day, within a month of the launch.

His offices are flanked by two of the founders of Emirates – president, Sir Tim Clark, and chairman, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who were in situ in the mid-1980s when Pakistan International Airways gifted the nascent airline a pair of new jets. The first flight went to Karachi, and in that inaugural year, Emirates carried 260,000 passengers. 

In 2019, the last full year before COVID, Emirates carried more than 56 million passengers. The most in the Middle East. The Emirates brand is recognized globally as a sponsor of the Thames Cable Car, soccer teams such as Real Madrid and Arsenal, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Symphony.

Emirates’ difference starts before you reach the airport

In Dubai and other major destinations, for first and business-class customers, an Emirates limo picks you up and transfers you to the airport, without the stress of having to find a taxi or train.

In Dubai, we were collected from our hotel and taken to a separate entrance at Dubai International, experiencing the smoothest of smooth check-ins. A far cry from this summer’s queues at Ben-Gurion. 

It’s tempting to arrive as early as possible so that you can spend time in one of the seven lounges at the airport. They are an oasis. A chance to sip Champagne, rest in one of the sleeping areas, have a barista make you a coffee, enjoy a pampering spa experience or even get your shoes shined.

And there is outstanding food throughout the lounges – with separate areas for international cuisine, Asian dishes, healthy food and even an ice cream cart. For customers that keep kosher, special meals are available too. And if you enjoy the Emirates lounge experience in Dubai, there is an Emirates lounge in 30 more airports around the globe.

BACK TO the babka. A 40-minute drive south through the desert and you arrive at Dubai’s other airport, Al Maktoum International. Inside a gleaming 1,900-sq.m. facility sits Kosher Arabia, a joint venture between Emirates and Dubai community member Ross Kriel, set up not only to provide in-flight catering, but also kosher meals to hotels and events throughout Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 

Hailing from Samoa, executive chef Trent Sanft brings his many years of experience from Emirates Flight Catering and is applying it to creating an appetizing menu for the Emirates’ new Tel Aviv market.

Trent and his team have put a real emphasis on taste, whether it’s the vegan shakshuka, the cauliflower shwarma salad, the sea bass with spiced rice sayediah, and, yes, the delectable babka, a cake made of rich brioche dough, with a chocolate filling.

Before Kosher Arabia, Emirates would receive its kosher food frozen from Thailand. Now, fresh kosher food can be supplied to flights and lounges and is usually consumed within 24 hours. 

And while most customers’ vision of kosher food is a foil-wrapped tray of plastic boxes and cutlery, Kosher Arabia is minimizing single-use plastics by serving its meals in sugarcane compostable oven containers and using cutlery made from palm leaf pulp. All meals are certified by the Orthodox Union in partnership with the South African Union of Orthodox Synagogues.

Ultimately, the Emirates “Fly Better” experience is all about the flight. As massive soccer fans, we were upset to see that our flight back to Israel meant we would miss the big Manchester derby – United vs City. 

Not a problem, as Emirates’ in-flight ICE (Information, Communication and Entertainment) entertainment system has a live sports channel so you catch every second while up in the air.

Patrick Brannelly, the senior vice president who created ICE tells us Emirates has always led the way for the in-flight experience. Starting at Emirates in 1992, Brannelly has overseen the market-leading development of at-seat customer experience, starting by rolling out a screen for each seat to introducing video-on-demand.

The current iteration of ICE has more than 5,000 channels and thousands of movies and series, sourced from all over the world, in a myriad of languages, including six Hebrew films. 

Emirates, according to Brannelly, wants you to look forward to the flight as the beginning of the trip or holiday and get off the plane wanting to fly again.

In business class, they want you to feel that you are in a fine-dining restaurant rather than eating for sustenance: The white tablecloths, the extensive menu in Hebrew as well as English and Arabic, the high-end wines and cocktails and the outstanding customer service, with cabin crew who felt like friends by the time we disembarked. They really were that good.

From zero direct flights at all in 2020, there are now five airlines flying between Tel Aviv and Dubai, so competition for customers is fierce. Emirates may have been the latest arrival to the party but it clearly intends on being No. 1.

The writers were guests of Emirates. They host The Jerusalem Post Podcast – Travel Edition,