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Flying on Qantas QF1 from Sydney to London? James Wallis reveals how to take the stress out of the short Dubai stopover.
As a British ex-pat living in Sydney I often find myself doing the Kangaroo Route a couple of times a year – and as a Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer, I typically choose QF1 from Sydney to London via Dubai.
And while those are long flights, the stopover in Dubai is relatively short. QF1 arrives from Sydney around 12.25am, and departs Dubai for London at 2.10am.
That gives you 1 hour 45 minutes on the ground. But by the time you get off the plane, go through transit security and make your way to Emirates' first class lounge it's at least 12.45am, or close to 1am if you're not up front in business class or first class.
But with boarding for QF1's Dubai-London leg from around 1.40am this leaves you less than an hour in the lounge itself.
Ready, set, go!
After the long journey from Sydney, my priorities on arrival at Dubai are to hit the showers and grab a meal at the à la carte dining room before heading back onto the plane.
Add the fact that you are one of many travellers trying to book a shower at the same time (meaning there may be a wait) plus slightly tardy service in the restaurant due to the same factor, and suddenly you’re back on the A380 and continuing to London without being able to fully unwind.
I'm very much aware that the clock is ticking during my stay at the lounge, so it's not very relaxing – especially if I've had to fly in economy.
What's more, as much as I look forward to being in London, I don't enjoy negotiating Heathrow at one of its busiest times when QF1 lands at 6.55am, or fighting rush hour traffic into the city.
Change flights and shift gears
There's a solution to all of this which isn't obvious at first, but makes plenty of sense: for the final leg to London change your Qantas flights at Dubai, from the inbound QF1 from Sydney to the outbound QF9 from Melbourne.
Setting up this 'broken' journey is no more difficult than a standard booking at Qantas.com, as Qantas offers this an option within its proposed connection routes.
Both flights are on a Qantas Airbus A380 but because QF9 leaves Dubai at around 9am you get a decent layover time between the incoming QF1 from Sydney and then continuing on QF9 to London, stretched from a rushed hour to a lavish seven hours.
At face value, seven hours in the Emirates first class lounge may seem a lot, but I’ve found it provides me with much-needed time to actually relax before continuing onto London.
Nothing seems rushed or stressful. I don’t worry about trying to get off the plane quickly to launch into my preferred lounge itinerary.
Instead, I leisurely disembark and head through security, not frustrated that I've again been 'randomly' selected for extra explosive checks, before heading to the lounge.
Time to relax
With such a wide window of time in Dubai it means there is more flexibility to sample everything the first class lounge has to offer, and more.
As a Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer I'm entitled to a short complimentary treatment at the lounge's spa, but being able to book a slot during the short stopover of QF1 is very difficult indeed.
However, with the longer QF1-QF9 layover the likelihood of getting a spot is significantly higher.
The same principle applies for the showers, where any kind of wait becomes immaterial.
All of a sudden, it doesn’t matter if the restaurant meal service is a bit slow (or you fancy two desserts). You’re still able to enjoy a full three course meal without any time pressure.
With all that extra time in Dubai you also have the option to explore the airport, browse the duty-free stores, or take advantage of the airport's super-fast WiFi and catch up on some work.
The stopover becomes a sleepover
The real clincher for me is that if I've been flying in economy, this longer transit time provides an opportunity to get some decent sleep in the lounge's Quiet Room.
This room, as the name suggests, has been specifically designed for weary travellers seeking some shut-eye before continuing on their journey.
The Quiet Room is a large communal lounge containing many individual nooks with a chaise-type lounger where you can stretch out.
Although not completely private, there are several partitions to provide enough separation to feel you have your own personal space.
Bottled water is available on entry and next to each lounger is a side table with power points, which is great for recharging devices which you also recharge.
On each lounger are eye shades and blankets to ensure you can truly get comfortable. Of my seven hours in the lounge I usually manage to get a decent 2-3 hours of sleep.
Just be sure to set your smartphone alarm because there's no wake-up service!
Breakfast in Dubai, lunch in London
After a few hours' sleep, my routine sees me rise about 90 minutes before QF9's 9am departure, giving me plenty of time to fit in a light breakfast and a coffee at the restaurant before being called to the gate.
The flight to London is about seven hours and after being fully rested, even in economy that's a breeze.
A final benefit which QF9 regulars would be aware of is that the flight lands in Heathrow at 12.40pm when there's much less congestion at the airport.
Moving through passport control and customs is much quicker, and the roads are much clearer (a huge relief for any colleague, friend or family member driving to the airport to pick you up) or checking straight into your hotel.
Having access to Emirates first class lounge is key to all this, although you can adapt the same strategy for Emirates' business class lounge.
There's the obvious sacrifice of a longer overall travel time, because you're spending extra hours in the lounge instead of in the air.
But if you're travelling in economy or premium economy, have the time and have the required Qantas status (Platinum for the first class lounge, Gold or Qantas Club for the business class lounge) this is a great way to de-stress the long journey to the other side of the world.