flydubai offers unique Dubai T2 business class proposition

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When you think of Dubai Airport’s premium passenger facilities, you think of the entire floor dedicated to Emirates’ first and business class passengers, or perhaps the Moët & Chandon Champagne bar. Low-cost carrier flydubai, which operates from the compact and less wow-factor Terminal 2, has none of that glitz and glam.

What it has is a business class airport experience that feels like a true convenience boost, and last week when the airline flew me out to experience their service, it made me think of the business travel-heavy London City Airport: is small, lacking many of the facilities of its larger cousins, but still a passenger experience favourite because of the ease of passing through.

Arriving at Terminal 2 is the first difference: there’s no link to the Dubai Metro, unlike Terminals 1 and 3. That said, taxis and car services in Dubai are very inexpensive on a global scale, and many business class passengers will prefer (or at least don’t mind) hopping in a car rather than taking the train. I certainly didn’t mind forking out the US$12 from my hotel downtown.

The business class counter sits at one end of the checkin area, closest to security and passport control. There was no queue and two friendly staffers working the desks when I checked in mid-afternoon, and with just a few steps I was at security, zipped through passport control, and entered departures.

The quick, easy and well-located business class checkin was a welcome convenience. Image: John Walton

If I had been cutting it close to my flight time, I would have turned right and headed straight for the business class boarding gate: since flydubai is a bus gate operation, the airline has a fleet of nicer business class buses for premium passengers, and these board from a separate space to the main terminal.

The business boarding gate sits just after security, making the whole process feel very fast track. Image: John Walton

Instead, with a 5:40pm flight but a 2pm hotel checkout time, I passed through the comparatively small duty free shopping area (blessedly small and with pleasingly spacious aisles, so dodging milling shoppers was at a minimum) and headed to the lounge to get some work done, although I noted the wide range of food options in the terminal.

The rest of the terminal was busy, but well-organised, with a pleasing variety of eateries. Image: John Walton

Spread over two floors, flydubai’s lounge is small but, during the few hours I was there, it met my needs very well indeed. Downstairs is the dining area, with truly delicious buffet-style Indian food plus, when I was there, a rather missable mushroom pasta dish.

There’s also a variety of cold salads, sandwiches, a fridge of soft drinks, plus an espresso coffee machine and options for tea

Higher dining-style tables near the walls feature comfortable bank or semi-armchair seating with numerous power sockets next to them, winning the #LoungeHolyGrail challenge. Fast, easy-to-access wifi — about ten times the speed of my hotel — was a real bonus.

After a snack, I headed to the upstairs section, which is decorated in much the same style, features the same range of chiller cabinet sandwiches, cheeses, and dips, but with two differences. Firstly, there’s a full bar serving some impressively upscale alcoholic beverages, including Billecart-Salmon Champagne, one of my favourites and well up there in terms of a premium non-vintage drop.

Secondly, I was delighted to discover some very cleverly designed armchairs, with a hidden cocktail table in one arm and a larger table in the other, which rotate out and come together to create a larger table area. This was a fantastic solution to one of the perennial lounge problems: where do I sit with a coffee or a glass of something, perhaps a snack, and either get some work done on my laptop or pull out my tablet to watch something?

Combined with plentiful power sockets, and with a quiet ambience — there were never more than four or five people in there during my stay — it all combined to make a very pleasant space to fill the gap between hotel-turfing-out-o’clock and boarding.

On the downside, I did miss natural light, and the very white lighting (either fluorescent or bright LED) could have used a bit of softening — as could the rather industrial chic space and materials.

The décor, too, didn’t feel premium: the bright blue and bright orange spoke more to the low-cost carrier flydubai was than the more premium network carrier it is becoming.

The geometric patterns are at least a start towards making the space feel more premium. Image: John Walton

The all-white walls would have felt sterile if they had been clean, with a good coat of paint, and in a good state of repair, but that just wasn’t the case.

Most of the walls and pillars of the lounge were in this state of repair, which just isn’t good enough. Image: John Walton

When it was time for boarding, I retraced my steps to the business class boarding gate, where I found a separate, quiet and premium-feeling mini-lounge that provided drinks and light snacks for passengers preferring not to hit the main lounge. It reminded me a little of the Porter Airlines concept of a more pleasant than average departure gate experience.

I was pleased to find drinks and light snacks at the boarding gate. Image: John Walton

Hopping on the business class bus to be driven out to the aircraft, I reflected that the entire Terminal 2 experience, rather than feeling like a just a small terminal for a small airline, was clearly the result of a lot of smart thinking.

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Business class is relatively new to Flydubai, and certainly before the airline took its Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft with the Thompson Vantage seat it wasn’t playing in the same league as major international carriers using other terminals in Dubai.

While there’s no excuse for letting a lounge’s walls and surfaces become quite so worn, none of the issues I encountered are unsurmountable with a bit of design nous, a good lick of paint, and an order for some new furniture.

Cleverly, flydubai hasn’t tried to compete with its larger partner Emirates in terms of glitz and glamour (nor, thankfully, in bling and burled walnut).

Instead, the little sibling of Dubai aviation has its own value proposition for business class travellers: time and convenience.

There’s a separate business class bus to take premium passengers to the gate. Image: John Walton

John Walton was a guest of flydubai.

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