Time Out hops aboard Rotana Jet’s new daily flight to the nation’s capital, to see if it’s a better journey than the traffic-heavy Sheikh Zayed Road.
Launched last month, Rotana Jet is offering an alternative to the drive down Sheikh Zayed Road to Abu Dhabi. If you want to avoid the traffic and monotonous desert highway, you can now opt for a short 25 minute flight from Terminal 2 of Dubai Airport to Al Bateen Airport in the nation’s capital. With one-way tickets starting at Dhs100 it’s also cheap, but is it worth doing?
The first thing you’ll need to consider is that, despite the speed of the flight, you still have to get to Dubai Airport, in our case adding a good 30 minutes to the journey. Once you hotfoot into departures, the process is much the same as any other flight; you present an e-ticket and your passport at the desk to receive your boarding pass before emptying your pockets and going through the usual security precautions. We also have to reiterate at immigration that we are not leaving the country and therefore do not require a departure stamp.
There are no flights to Abu Dhabi from Dubai in the morning, so we tried out the 4.50pm departure. You’re required at the gate by 4.10pm so that adds an additional 40 minutes on to the journey. We’re also feeling slightly smug after discovering we’re the only people booked on the flight, with the ticket lady joking that we should expect special VIP treatment.
We’re then shuttled to the plane – a 50 seater, twin propeller Embraer Jet. There aren’t the power points, TV screens and other bells and whistles the modern flyer has come to expect. All you get is either a twin seat or an adjacent single seat along with a smiley hostess who’s happy to supply you with water but not much else. But then for a 25 minute flight why complain? Following a delay on the runway we finally lift off around 20 minutes late. It’s worth noting that, if you’re a jittery flyer, this experience is probably not for you as the turns and ascent feel more extreme than on a larger aircraft – we enjoyed this though. Once airborne, the flight really starts beating the mundane desert surrounds of Sheikh Zayed Road. The journey takes you parallel to Dubai’s coast, where there’s an opportunity to take in the landmarks including the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and The Palm and the marina. If you’ve got some work to do, flying by plane can also be beneficial, although how much you’d get done in 25 minutes is up for debate.
The Al Bateen Airport where we land is a dedicated private jet airport so you get an interesting insight into how the other (rich) half live. Essentially, you disembark, put your possessions through the security scanner and you’re home free (in less than five minutes). However, as it’s clearly an airport that’s primarily aimed at the sort of flyer who can probably afford something superior to a cab, there isn’t an abundance of transport options once you walk out the door (we had to trudge across some grass towards a supermarket to find a main road and a cab, putting a little bit of a dampener on our short glimpse into the world of cosseted wealth).
The flight and service are faultless but unless you live next to Dubai Airport and work near Al Bateen we can’t really recommend using Rotana Jet on a regular basis. With Abu Dhabi just over an hour away (traffic permitting), it’s actually far quicker to simply drive.
Dhs100 is half the price of a cab, and air travel is statistically safer than chancing your luck on Dubai’s roads but once you’ve factored in the expense of getting to the airport and travelling on to your destination, it looks less feasible. Although going with a group of friends on a flight to catch a gig on Yas Island could make it a lot of fun.
If you are a plane nut, you despise Sheikh Zayed Road or want to avoid the traffic it starts to make a bit more sense and it’s worth trying (even if it’s just for the views alone). But we think it’s more for special occasions, or people with more dirhams (and time) than us.
Rotana Jet fly from Dubai to Abu Dhabi on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 4.50pm. Flights from Dhs100. www.rotanajet.com (02 444 0002).