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As you walk up to Emirates’ one and only A319, it looks more or less like any other single-aisle Airbus. Sure, the livery’s a bit subtle and the fuselage finish looks like it’s fresh from the factory floor, but by and large this is just an ordinary medium-haul jet. Until you step inside.
Emirates operates a fleet exclusively made of wide-body planes, including a mix of Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s, so what’s this little Airbus A319 doing here? There’s a simple explanation, and no, there isn’t a radical shift in strategy on the way.
As you’ve probably gathered, this is a private plane, even though it bears an Emirates logo on the side. There’s room for just 19 passengers in a seated configuration, or 15 if everyone plans to sleep — Spirit, for example, fits 145 into the same space.
It’s not uncommon for carriers to offer planes exclusively for charter operations. You can charter a passenger aircraft from a US carrier, if you’d prefer, but if you really want to go all out then you’ll be best off renting from a Middle Eastern airline, like Emirates or Qatar. And since I did get to visit Qatar’s relatively modest A319 last year, I think I know which one I’d pick.
At first glance, Emirates’ A319 doesn’t look all that different from other private jets…
…but once you go past the over-wing exit, it’s clear you’re in for a treat.
First, there’s the mid-cabin lavatory, which offers the standard Emirates bling. There’s lots of gold, sparkle and other shiny objects.
But the highlight sits just behind — a long bank of 10 first-class suites, arranged in a 1-1 configuration.
American Airlines also offers first-class seats in a 1-1 configuration on some Airbus narrow-body planes…
…but these are full-on suites, just like you’ll find on older versions of the 777 and A380.
Better yet, these are even a bit more spacious — they’re noticeably wider and perhaps a bit longer as well.
There’s a mini-bar, pop-up vanity and a 32-inch HDTV.
You also get the same entertainment and tablet controller you’ll find on the airline’s commercial planes, plus the snack basket and other amenities.
When it’s time to sleep, flight attendants will install special bedding and hand you a set of Emirates pajamas.
Other amenities are upgraded from those on commercial flights, such as the kit and the handmade (!) cashmere eye mask and socks.
And what about the shower? Yup, you get one here. It occupies the aft section of the plane, where you’d otherwise find the lavatories, exit doors and galley.
The shower here is even nicer than what you’ll find on the A380, and there’s no time limit on the water — although there is a finite supply, of course.
Interestingly, according to a crew member I spoke with, the plane was a “gift” from Airbus. Neither company would confirm (or deny) the accuracy of that claim, but given how critical Emirates is to Airbus’ success, it certainly doesn’t seem far-fetched.
The plane has a range of just over 4,300 miles, so from its home in Dubai you can reach as far as Iceland, South Africa or Tokyo, but flights to the US will require a quick stop to refuel.
Emirates probably won’t be gifting any flight time, though. While hourly rates vary depending on a large variety of factors, they’re generally fairly hush-hush, and we weren’t able to get a quote from the airline this time around. You’ll almost certainly be paying less to charter this A319 than you will for yesterday’s out-of-this-world Dreamliner, though.
You can charter the plane directly through Emirates by calling +971 4 708 1121 or emailing email@example.com.
Know before you go.
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