My first steps around O2 Arena in London during the Country 2 Country Festival 2019 were not motivated by country music at all, but by airlines and aviation: I visited the Emirates Aviation Experience, presented by the UAE Airline. You may fly Airbus A380 or Boeing B777 in their simulators. Here you can read whether I crashed their planes in the simulator or not not.
Emirates Aviation Experience – Location
The Emirates Air Line cable car has become one of the most well-known tourist attraction in London – and is by the way also popular among the locals as public transportation. The Emirates Aviation Experience is located at the Southern stop of the ride, close to North Greenwich station and the O2 Arena.
Emirates Aviation Experience – Admission
Strictly speaking, the Emirates Aviation Experience contains two parts: the first part is like a small museum, teaching you about aviation and the processes at an airport. The adult admission to the Exhibition is 5 GBP. You may have it incuded in your cable car ticket if you go for a tourist package.
The Simulator Experience typically lasts 30 minutes and costs 60 GBP (regardless whether you go for the B777 or the A380). It contains one admission to the exhibition. If you go for one hour of simulator ride, the Ultimate Simulator Experience costs 90 GBP and includes two admissions.
Emirates Aviation Experience – The Exhibition
The exhibition is quite limited. Emirates definitely tried to do their best in the very limited space, using a lot of media and interaction. You can explore step-by-step how a jet engine is working or do an interactive plays about the turnaround processes on an airport. A movie theater shows you how cargo is moved on the ground. Sitting inside a mock-up A380 cockpit is likely more fun than sitting in Economy seats, which are displayed on lower floor.
The building contains a cafe and a gift shop, where you can buy quite some Emirates Airlines souvenirs.
The four plane simulators, two B777 and two A380 ones, are located on the upper floor of the building in a separated area. They are non-moving, but also just feature the key controls. For example, you do not start the engines manually or care about the lights. There is also no autopilot functionality. That’s the negatives.
The positives: you can do more or less do anything in your time you like. There are some suggested scenarios, but you may also ask for any airport or route (which is realistic in that timeframe). During my 60 minutes A380 experience, I did:
A roundtrip from Heathrow to Heathrow
A flight from Dubai DXB to Sharjah airport
A flight from the new Hong Kong airport to the old one
An approach to Cologne/Bonn, my hometown airport
An approach to Dubai DXB with taxiing to the gate.
You are assisted by an instructor. Like in other aviation experiences I had, I have no idea how much assistance I have been given in fact. The flights are a bit more of an “Aviation Experience” than a simulation. For example, you do not recognize when the plane would be crashing in reality.
Emirates Aviation Experience – My View
The easy part of the review: I would say tha the aviation exhibition is not worth spending 5 GBP. Emirates really did a great job in the limited space – but the space is just too limited. It is a nice 20 minute visit if you have it for free or if you feel you just have to do it for whatever reasons.
The Aviation Experience is hard to judge for me. Yes, it is fun, definitely. It is also cool that you can do so many different things and that they can customize it to your wishes and needs. The pricing is quite fair as well – similar experiences in other places are typically more expansive. However, these places typically offer real simulators. I want to start the engines, use the autopilot and want to see if the plane is crashing, when I am doing it on my own. This may make sense if you go with younger people. I cannot deny it was fun, definitely! Thus, depending on your attitude, you will have a great time.