This is my story of what it is like to fly on Emirates Business Class on their amazing A380 plane. In that same spirit I enjoy reading about others’ experiences, I share this with you. Please enjoy.
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Boarding. I could not help myself and raced out of the Air France lounge with a quick ‘Merci’ and ‘Thank you’. I was one of the first to board the upper deck, which is
reserved fully for first and business class passengers. We board in a separate line and a steeper jet-way to the upper deck than economy which occupies all of the lower deck.
I stepped onto the plane and was given a sincere and warm greeting. A quick look to the left shows the first class suites and to the right was business class.
I proceeded to find seat 14k, my home for the next 13 hours. (My seat for the return was 23k which, along with 23a, is arguably the best business class seat on the plane since the bulkhead creates a space emulating a closed suite).
On Emirates A380, both business and first are a mere four across. By comparison, Qantas A380 business class is 3 across in first and 6 across in business. Emirates 777 Business Class product is an unfortunate 7 across and British Airways A380 Business Class is a whopping 8 across. To give a sense of size, the cabin width of the upper deck is slightly over 19 feet (making it less than 1 foot more narrow than my house). My master bedroom and bathroom could easily fit into this plane – actually every room in my house could.
Notice that the window seats alternate between being truly against the window and against the aisle with the console between the seat and the window. Pick your seats wisely based on what you prefer. The true window seats offer more privacy while those directly on the aisle leave you a bit exposed to anyone walking by. Then again, you are in an exclusive cabin not at a shopping mall – there are only so many people that can walk by.
Most striking about the cabin is the amount of wood veneer (instead of cream-colored plastic like many airlines). I felt like I was on a European passenger train of old.
Greetings and Champagne. My seat had a blanket, pillow, and good quality headphones on it, plus a food and bar menu, a separate wine list, and a breakfast door card. The storage is plenty.
As I settled in, the Purser greeted me by name (she had a list). She asked if I had any questions about the seat or the flight and explained what would happen pre- and post- takeoff. She would stop by later in the flight – friendly yet efficient.
My next visitor was a delightful attendant walking around with a caddy offering a pre-departure choice of water, orange juice, Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut, or “perhaps a Mimosa”. Now I knew that first class was enjoying a Dom Pérignon 2006 but Veuve Clicquot certainly is respectable. So of course I had a glass.
Eventually our cabin got fairly full.
Take Off. One of the coolest things about the A380 is the cameras. This jet has a camera on the nose, on the top of the tail, and looking down from the belly. I watched takeoff on the 23” screen from the nose camera and then switched to the tail camera.
I have flown plenty. I understand how flight works, Bernoulli’s principles of fluid dynamics, all that, but all I could think as we rolled down the runway in this monster airplane was, “We are not going fast enough.” But lo and behold we had a graceful, smooth takeoff over the Virginia countryside.
Crew. As we traveled over Long Island and just off the northeast coastline, a number of the crew members stopped by to introduce themselves. They were quite an international mix and pointed out their lapel pins for their country of origin. One crew member took drink orders. Trying to pace my drinking I had an Orange Fizz Mocktail. Another brought me a ramekin of nuts – a nice mix of jumbo cashews, pistachios, macadamia, and almonds.
I filled out my breakfast card for the following morning and a crew member picked it up, thanking me sincerely and telling me so few passenger fill them out. I’ll tell you, these business class passengers.
I was told to let the crew know if I would like to sleep and they would bring me a duvet mattress and convert my seat into a bed.
They also passed around wonderful amenities kit featuring BVLGARI products – I am a fan – and a number of other practical items.
I cannot say enough good things about the warmth, manners, friendliness, and efficiency of the crew. Seeing them in action gave me full confidence that in a case were safety was primary they would handle it perfectly. That is a good and coordinated crew.
Seats and Facilities. The A380 business seat is comfortable and, with the duvet, is a nice sleeping surface. It is 18.5 inches wide and converts to a 78 inch bed (6 feet 6 inches). It has a built in massage feature and many angles. The length of the bed is much more than I need. However, as a side sleeper, I do find the seat too narrow for great sleeping. But then again, I had little desire to sleep on this flight.
There is a tablet and a handheld device for controlling lots of things including the entertainment screen and lights. You can have the plane cameras on the tablet and watch a movie on the entertainment screen. There is a separate reading light, plugs for charging devices, USB ports, a large tray table, and a mini bar. The minibar contained Voss Water, Pepsi, Sprite, Perrier, Nectar, and a drinking glass.
The entertainment system called ICE (information, communication, and entertainment) worked well and has a ridiculously huge number of selections.
The bathrooms are behind the bar. The outer bathroom has a window over the toilet, so that was an oddly cool experience to pee while looking down 35,000 feet (no picture of that, don’t worry). The bathrooms remained appropriately clean throughout the whole flight. First class has a shower – again, maybe someday.
The Bar and the Decor. Lets get this party started. After we reached a comfortable cruising altitude, I explored the cabin – which really meant I headed to my favorite place on the whole plane – the bar.
As you can see, Emirates 380 bar is not a spread of self-service bottles with room for 2-3 passengers to stand. This is a real bar, well stocked, martini shakers, proper glassware, bar seats, bar food, and a great bartender.
The bar has chips, nuts, olives, and little sandwiches with the crust cut off on it.
Towards the back of the bar area is a display featuring world clocks and an even more extensive spread of food – skewers, deserts, fruit, more sandwiches, and passengers definitely feasted from here.
In case of turbulence, the bar seats have seatbelts. (I have been to a few ground-level bars that could probably use seatbelts on their bar seats.) The structural features and the lighting nicely add to the experience.
I am not one to talk to strangers on an airplane, but I felt otherwise in the bar. Although a decent number of passengers came through the bar, none seemed very interested in talking or socializing with strangers. I respect that.
After maybe a couple hours in flight, we were all invited back to our seats for lunch service. Oh the choices.
“Might you enjoy some wine with your dinner?”
“But of course,” said I.
My selections for dinner were:
Appetizer (enjoyed with Sancerre Cuvee Maxime 2014 from Domaine Vincent Delaporte)
Main (enjoyed with Chateau La Marzelle Grand Cru Classe 2007)
A closer look: The sesame tuna was delicious. The beef was good by airplane standards (but this was the only non-standout course of all my flights).
My post-desert drink for all legs was Nieport Tawney 20 year old from the Douro Region of Portugal (a wonderful destination for an off-the-beaten path vacation by the way).
This port is graceful and balanced. It received 93 points from Wine Enthusiast and 92 points from Wine Spectator.
If ever hungry during the flight, Emirates offers a mix of hot and cold, and sweet and savory Light bites, any of them served on request.
Honestly between grazing (and drinking) at the bar I did not get around to trying any of the Light bites on this leg. And before I knew it, we were all invited back to our seats for breakfast. I realized one mistake I made, which was I only slept about 2 hours on this flight. But then again, I was on a very cool and fun airplane, so oh well.
Breakfast. Just as I had selected about 10 hours earlier, I had the continental cold plate.
The cold-plate was good. Thought I wish I had the pancakes after smelling them. I am sure if I asked they would have been served, but at that point we were soon to land.
A380 Revisited. The A380 has some subtle features that make it a wonderful cabin experience. Three notable features:
- The air quality seems better and the sound is quieter. My understanding is the A380 uses more advanced pressurization and recirculates air more frequently than previous aircraft. My contact lenses usually can’t suffer a plane for more than 4-5 hours and far less if I sleep. They had no issues with the A380.
- The A380 windows are large. There is a button that will put a lighter shade down, and then continue to a full blind closed. I really liked the dual mode.
- The lighting in the cabin changes throughout the flight, giving an ambiance and helping the body. After dark, stars appear on the ceiling of the cabin. Very nice. The lights are never on then off – they gradually get lighter and darker, going through a variety of colors.
And with the same friendly efficiency, the crew prepared the cabin for landing. I believe our flight time was about 12 hours and 50 minutes. It did not feel like it at all. I felt great.
This is a continuation of a multi-part series about the Emirates Experience. The parts are:
Part 3 – The Amazing A380 Experience — Flying Dulles to Dubai (this post)