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Transport : Airlines

Related: Airbus, Emirates

In April 2016, I flew First Class on an Emirates Airbus A380 travelling from Dubai (DXB) to Amsterdam (AMS). The privacy of the suite, excellent food, comfortable bedding, onboard shower, amenities, staff and bar made this a brilliant experience. I have also compared Emirates First Class to British Airways, Etihad and Qatar in First.

Emirates has more than 240 wide body planes in its fleet, carrying more than 40 million passengers to more than 100 destinations in the world per year. The Dubai based airliner is also the largest operator of the Airbus A380, with currently 74 of this aircraft type in its fleet and 66 more on order. The success of Emirates is very much based on the comfort and space onboard its A380s which are used on both shorthaul and longhaul.

Emirates features in my top 10 lists of the world’s best Business Class airlines, with the most luxury First Class suites in the sky, the best Business Class amenity kits, and the most delicious airline food in the air. The Emirates fleet averages less than half the age of many European airlines, meaning newer technology and efficiency breakthroughs characterise our aircraft.

I booked this trip using 85,000 Skywards miles for a one-way Emirates First Class ticket between Dubai and most European cities. Skywards is the frequent flyer program of Emirates, and although I have not earned a single Skywards mile with Emirates, I spent 85,000 Skywards miles on the ticket by transferring some of my SPG points to a newly created Skywards mileage account under my name. You get 25,000 miles for every 20,000 Starpoints converted, including a 5000 conversion bonus. I converted 75,000 SPG points to 85000 Skywards miles for booking the ticket.

All Emirates flights arrive and depart from Emirates Terminal 3 at Dubai International airport. This terminal comprises two concourses: Concourse A (the world’s first A380 purpose-built facility, accommodating 20 air bridge gates) and Concourse B. Both concourses feature Business and First Class lounges. My flight departed from Concourse A, and I have reviewed the Emirates First Class Lounge in Concourse A at Dubai International Airport separately.

Emirates Airbus A380 First Class Cabin
I entered the plane via the massive door and was welcomed by a very friendly flight attendant who escorted me to First Class in the forward upper deck of the A380. The cabin features 14 enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration. All have direct aisle access. The 8 suites along the windows are spread across 4 rows, while the 6 middle suites are spread across 3 rows. All suites enjoy complete privacy, as none of the rows quite line up, so nobody is directly looking into the suite across the aisle, even when you don’t close the sliding doors of your suite.

First Class Suite Review
The First Class suites on the sides are ideal for solo travellers (with a generous 3 windows per seat, offering great views), while the 6 suites in the middle are perfect for those traveling with a companion since dividers between these suites can be raised or lowered to provide a feeling of extra spaciousness.

Despite the high number of suites, the First Class cabin still offers an exclusive ambience. It features a sumptuous decor though, with lots of walnut veneer, gold trim. I was seated in suite 3A during the flight.

With the exception of the window side, the suite is surrounded by high walls, only interrupted by two sliding doors that connect the suite to the aisle and can be closed to create a completely private space. The ergonomic seat, which has a width of 23 inch (58 cm), is comfortable, and its various positions as well as built-in massage systems are controlled via a tablet. At the push of a button, the seat automatically reclines into a fully-flat bed of 86 inches (218 cm) long, with fully retractable armrest. When you want to sleep, a member of the cabin crews installs a mattress, fluffy pillow and soft duvet.

In front of the seat, you find a gold framed, 32 inch (81 cm) video screen, the largest of its kind in the skies, with a desk below. The latter features a fold-away mirror with vanity kit, as well as a drawer containing a writing kit. Upon boarding, the crew also puts a basket with several snacks (e.g. dried mango, chocolates, etc …) on the desk.

One side of the seat features a room temperature minibar with soft drinks and juices and you can order whatever (cooled) drink you want during the flight. Besides the minibar, there’s also a tablet to control the seat movements as well as the inflight entertainment system ICE. ICE has an extensive range of new-release and classic films, television shows, box sets and audio options. You can choose from up to 1,800 channels of the latest and greatest movies and must-see TV shows, on demand and in multiple languages. The cameras installed in the tail, nose and belly of the A380 megaplane also offer some fun moments, especially at take-off and landing.

The First Class suite lacks overhead bins nor does it has large storage compartments, so at first I was a bit puzzled where I had to store my hand luggage. You just stow away your personal belongings in the (large) space below the desk and entertainment screen.

What are the best First Class seats on Emirates’ Airbus A380?
Solo travellers should go for the window seats, while companions should choose the middle seats. There are no bad seats in Emirates’ A380 First Class cabin. It is really just personal preference whether you prefer window seats or not.

Emirates only provides amenity kits on long-haul night flights and on flights over 10 hours. if the flight is shorter or during the day, you are not offered one. I did request an amenity kit to a member of the crew, who gave me one without any problem.

Emirates’ First Class amenity kit is a large toiletry bag: the men’s kit bags are made from fine leather, while the ladies’ kit bags are made of sophisticated satin. Both kits contains toothbrush and toothpaste through to handkerchiefs and deodorant. The mens amenity kit also provided Gilette shaving foam and a razor, as well as moisturisers and aftershaves by Bvlgari. The First Class amenity kit is not different from the Business Class one. In addition I also received pyjamas (after requesting them), slippers, eyeshades, earplugs, and noise-cancelling headphones.

Food In First Class
Emirates’ First Class menu is extensive, and you can order whatever whenever. Although the flight was only 7 hours, I had a full lunch (after takeoff) and dinner (before landing).

Lunch
Canapés: tartlet of marinated feta with aubergine caviar and schichmi; foie gras on gingerbread with smoked salt; and arm salmon tempo sushi with herb crust.
Appetiser: caviar, presented with traditional selection of finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon, served with melba toast and blinis.
Pumpkin soup with croutons and sour cream.
Main course: seafood harra, which is a traditional Middle Eastern dish of oven-baked prawns and fish in spiced tomato sauce, served with saffron rice.
Dessert: banana cheesecake with toffee sauce.
And this is what I had for dinner:
Chicken consommé with vegetable julienne.
Main course: braised beef short ribs, with balsamic juice, braised red cabbage and pan-fired gnocchi with herbs.
Dessert: seasonal fruit, an assortment of fresh-cut fruit.

The Emirates A380 offers an onboard shower in its First Class cabin. There are two showers (with heated floors!) at the front of the upper deck, each one of them located in one of the two spacious First Class lavatories. It’s quite surreal to indulge in a refreshing and rejuvenating shower at 40,000ft, using Bvlgari toiletries and Timeless Spa products. Each First Class passenger can shower once per flight, getting five minutes of water when showering (although you can turn the shower on and off as often as you want) and you can see more pictures in my separate picture review of the Emirates A380 First Class shower suite.

The crew during my flight were amazing. 4 crew members took care of the passengers in the First Class cabin, which was half empty. They almost made me forget I was flying and genuinely talked about how they loved working for Emirates.

In Flight Lounge & Bar
At the rear of the upper cabin, you can find the A380 Onboard Lounge – a bar exclusive to First Class and Business Class passengers and a hub of activity throughout the flight. Drinks include premium spirits, exclusive wines, champagne, cocktails and beers alongside hot and cold beverages served by a bartender. The First Class cabin also offers a walk-up bar, which is located in the nose of the plane, between the 2 lavatories. Before landing, the bar is transformed into a spa-like lounge with a mini-waterfall.

Emirates offers 10MB of free WiFi to each passenger during the flight (regardless of class). An additional 600MB could be purchased for $1. If you exceeded that limit, you could purchase yet another 600MB for $1. WiFi did not work great and it surprised me that you had to pay for internet in First Class.

When flying Business (or First) Class with Emirates, you also get complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers.

The 3 major Middle Eastern carriers (Etihad Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways) are known for their excellent Business Class. However, there are some differences that distinguish one from another. The noteworthy differences include the complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers offered by Etihad and Emirates offer but not by Qatar Airways. Qatar Airways offers pyjamas on overnight medium- and long-haul flights, while Etihad and Emirates only offer them in First Class. Qatar Airways and Emirates offer duvets on medium-haul flights (to increase sleeping comfort), while Etihad only offers them on longhaul flights.

You can read more of my Business and First Class airline reviews including flights on Emirates B777 in Business Class, Emirates A380 in Business Class, my comparison of the best First Class suite in the sky: Emirates Vs Etihad, and my review of Emirates vs Etihad vs Qatar Airways: Best Airline In The Middle East.

You may also want to read my other Long Haul Business and First Class flight reviews on Emirates and specifically, my other First Class flight reviews.

Review by my friends at Luxury Travel Expert

Emirates