Aircraft Type: A380-800
Class: Business Class
Date: February 2014
Best for: Luxury long haul explorers wanting all the trimmings.
Most likely to sit next to: Either your partner or no-one thanks to their staggered seating. But this is ex-pat country, with many international travellers currently based in the UAE on business.
Business or pleasure: Well the A380 is built for both. Big onboard bars, excellent IFE and flat beds are there to let your hair down, and affordable wifi, power sockets and large tables make for a good working environment too.
Routes: The A380 is quickly being rolled out on all of Emirates major routes, and with another 50 still to be delivered, they will be the mainstay of the fleet for a while.
Frequent Flyer Programme: Emirates Skywards, with no blackout dates and the chance to upgrade on the plane. All in all, a very good system, with many routes to use your miles on too.
Best bits: IFE, food and private flat bed seats.
Worst bits: There isn’t much to really state here. Our one little bugbear is the styling of the cabin isn’t super sleek and could be more contemporary.
Emirates A380 Business Class Report
We were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to fly on Emirates longest A380 flight in February, just three months after it first launched the new aircraft on the route. With the advent of new aircraft, ultra-long haul is becoming much more common, and as more cities are becoming connected, flights in excess of 15 hours are increasing. This flight at around 16 1/2 hours is a perfect excuse to experience all that Emirates business class has to offer. We decided to fly on the overnight flight back from LAX to DXB, taking off the same day we landed from HNL.
With an overnight flight with Hawaiian from Honolulu landing at 5am, and taking off with Emirates at 4pm, we had 11 hours to spend at LAX, so a little bit travel weary, we were obviously one of the very first to check in.
On the Ground
Emirates operates from TBIT at LAX. It’s recently undergone a new build, which currently fuses the older terminal to the new terminal. The older terminal wasn’t exactly the most exciting of architectural builds, so this new terminal and new facade is a refreshing change. We love LAX, its a melting pot of decades of different architecture. From the generic builds of the regular terminals, to the fantastic 1961 Theme building by James Langenheim, who’s observation restaurant has sadly now closed.
Check in was in the older hall, which still featured the retro departures board that looks like something out of Airplane! the movie. But there is something charming about that, and part of us doesn’t want it to change. What has changed though is large TV screens behind the check in desks, and smart clean lines of digi-displays above the counters making the place a myriad of new technology and retro design. Emirates, with its giant A380, takes up a fair few counters, and shares the space with earlier departing ANA flights.
Check in is run by a ground staff agency, with one Emirates employee managing the check in experience. As we were the first passenger to check in, we were warmly greeted, and apologies made for keeping us wait whilst they prepped the check in desks. At 4 hours before the departure time, we weren’t exactly rushing to get airside, although we were keen to see what lounge they had to offer.
Business and First Class passengers are able to use the priority queue through security and within a matter of minutes we were making our way past the lounge we previously were in for our Fiji Airways trip (situated in the older part of the building) and headed into the new concourse. Which with their massive video installation on display, it was a breathtaking sight and wonderful piece of terminal design.
Emirates will eventually use their own lounge, which is being constructed (no completion date has been released yet) so we were directed to Korean Air’s lounge which is one floor above the main concourse. We weren’t allowed to shoot inside the lounge, but it is spacious, clean, well equipped with showers and a bar, along with indoor and outdoor (a balcony overlooking the concourse) seating. They don’t have an á la carte menu however they do offer a good selection of cold foods and drinks.
After a couple of hours and a hot shower later it was time to make our way to the gate. On the way we passed some more of the digital displays, which you could spend hours watching without getting bored.
Boarding using the A380 gates at TBIT mean that First Class and Business Class passengers use the upper bridge, with no interaction or view of the economy cabin on the lower deck, and with priority boarding the whole experience is painless and fast. Boarding happened about one hour before scheduled departure time, and the boarding area wasn’t exactly crammed full of waiting passengers.
We were greeted onboard at the door, by welcoming, smiling crew, who directed us to our seat, 18K, a window seat in the main business class cabin, near the rear of the top deck. On arrival, Sam, our dedicated cabin crew took our jacket and immediately offered a glass of Veuve Cliquot. There are two types of seat in the business class cabin, that has a staggered seat layout. Solo seats that sit on the aisle, and either solo seats by the window or dual seats next to each other in the centre of the cabin. If you travel as a couple, then the centre seats are perfect for you, but for those solo travellers, the window seats are by far the most private, as they are protected from the aisle by your very own mini-bar cabinet (and the enclosed footrest of the person behind).
The cabin offers a warm feel, with a lot of walnut veneer, gold trim and pearlised plastic that frames the seats. At the front of the top deck is the private cabin for first class, that has two showers, and mini suites along with dedicated first class cabin crew. Behind is a mammoth deck of business class seats, inclusive of a very large bar at the rear of the A380.
The bar is well designed (if a little grand!), well situated near the galleys, and offers a lot of seating and standing space. the seats even have seat belts incase of turbulence. What is noticeable though throughout the whole cabin is the sense of space.
The seat is a big winner for us. A flat bed seat with more controls than the death-star. The window seats are a big bonus too, being a bit more private than the aisle seats. The window seats also benefit from the storage cabinets under the windows. Whilst the colours of the seat aren’t really our favourite, the structure of the seat is fantastic, and there are a lot of cubby holes and features to keep you in relative luxury. From your very own, (and possibly under-utilised mini bar), variety of cubby holes and infinitely controllable seat it’s easy to make the seat your own home for 16 hours. There is a great element of privacy too and from our seat we couldn’t see another passenger.
The bed when fully reclined is comfortable, and very flat, not too many lumps and bumps. We did however find it slightly narrow, which is perhaps the downside to these seats compared to the aisle seats, but we didn’t get knocked when asleep. There wasn’t a full duvet available, but the warm blanket was good enough, and in the fairly warm cabin, gave us plenty of comfort.
One of the strongest elements of the Emirates A380 is the IFE. A giant 17-inch touch-screen that is supported by two hand-held controllers, one dedicated to the business class seat, including the seat controls, the other the standard IFE controller. meaning plenty of options depending on how the seat is reclined. Admittedly our IFE did pack up, but it was back up-and-running within 20 minutes, and on a 16+ hour flight, we weren’t really bothered by this.
The IFE, dubbed ICE, (Information, Communication, Entertainment) is packed full of movies and full TV series, and on a 16 hour flight we didn’t manage to even touch the tip of the entertainment iceberg. The system is fast and responsive, and by far the best bit for any #avgeek is the three cameras mounted to the exterior of the aircraft, giving you excellent views, especially on departure and arrival to your airports.
The headphones were noise cancelling, and ‘active noise cancelling’ at that. Good quality and very comfortable, even on such a long flight.
We were interested to see how a 16 hour flight was going to be catered, especially considering it verges on a normal day awake, so three meals would seem logical. However, on presentation of the menu, we only found two main courses. A dinner, which seemed suitable for the time of day, and a breakfast (whilst we were going to be landing at around 7pm local time in Dubai, it was the equivalent of 8am in LAX) Between the two courses however, were a variety of dining options and smaller bites.
Sam described to us the way the dining worked as he brought the first glass of champagne, including the way the bar offered a different snack menu to the main cabin, meaning there was even more choice available that first met the eye. If you are lucky enough to travel with Emirates business class, don’t forget to visit the bar at some point during the flight, as there may be goodies there waiting to be discovered.
The menu also showcased a wide variety of wines, and cocktails, some classics and some I had never heard of, but these weren’t basic drinks or pre-made mixers, so some showmanship was used to create them. It’s nice to see this attention to detail in the service offering. Once airborne, orders were taken and warm nuts handed out, our Bloody Mary was perfect! Slightly mis-understood, I thought the menu offered not only a starter, main and desert; but a soup course as well, so when my main arrived, and I questioned about the soup, one was brought instantly, although obviously I wasn’t really meant to have it as well. I loved the fact that anything was possible on this carrier, and everything was done with a smile. (I later found out the crew had to operate the flight as a standby crew the day before, and only had 24 hours rest in LAX before flying back – so an exhausted crew, but this wasn’t to be seen on a single of the 24 crew’s faces)
The starter, of a traditional local Arabic mezze was delightful, and generous. The alternative offering of smoked salmon, was smaller, but just as delicious. The soup course, a tomato and coriander shorba was warming and filling. The main course was supported by a light seasonal salad, nothing groundbreaking there, but the star of the show, the Nilgiri chicken packed a punch as was full of flavour, although the presentation was a little underwhelming. Opting for this compared to the other option of the Beef tenderloin was more of a test of the airline, but the beef, talking to passengers afterwards, was just as delightful.
Following these filling and well presented courses was a selection of deserts, our favourite was a Black forest wedge, which was heavenly. Naturally chocolates, coffee and tea followed, and by this time, we were getting ready to settle into our 79″ flat bed. The mood lighting of the A380 is great, and the starry sky panels on the ceiling are a nice touch to add a little magic into the cabin.
After waking from a lengthy sleep, there were still 8 hours left to fly, and so a trip to the bar was in order. Here there wasn’t anyone else passenger wise, and we spent a little while talking to the cabin crew manning the bar. The bar when lit at night is stunning, mood lighting helps dull the slightly ‘bling’ appearance, and make it feel like a sophisticated hotel bar, rather than a galley at 38,000ft.
On offer here were a variety of snacks, pots of fresh fruit, and whilst sampling another glass of champagne, we were offered one of the snacking plates. There were 5 different plates to pick from. A deli platter, Hot Grilled vegetable sandwich, smoked salmon and broccoli quiche, which was lovely, and a bowl of chilli con carne, which was hot and just the right size. If that wasn’t enough, there was even a slice of key lime pie available as a sweet. After a bit or gorging we headed back to our IFE fortress made of blankets and pillows.
Breakfast was served roughly 2 hours before landing, and was another feast in itself. A lovely choice of scrambled eggs, tomato omelette, crepes or cold meats was on offer, as well as fresh fruit, and yoghurt. To accompany this was a wide selection of pastries and warm breads and croissants. It was a feast fit for a king, and if that wasn’t enough, you could always pop to the bar for a selection of smaller bites and pastries too.
All in all, the food on the Emirates flight between LAX and DXB was never ending, and whilst the menu may show limited choice for such a long route, in fact, when digging a little deeper, there is a plethora of food options, just waiting to be explored.
Emirates believes in giving a lot extra for its passengers, and one of the most comprehensive amenity kits by Bvlgari was presented to us when we took our seat. The amenity kit featured everything from toothbrush and toothpaste through to handkerchiefs and deodorant. The pieces were presented in a wonderful washbag, which was within a shoebag. The kit also provided moisturisers and aftershaves by Bvlgari. This was the mens amenity kit. The women’s one was different, catering with more feminine product ranges.
Alongside this were flight socks and earplugs (at request) but even with all of this, sadly the one thing we felt was missing that would have made the experience phenomenal, was pyjamas, especially on such a long flight. 16 hours to be wearing the same outfit is a long time. But this is a small criticism on what is generally an amazing product offering.
Technologically, we loved the wifi too, cheap and easy to use, the wifi was good enough on this flight, with a small price tag, to send emails, even text messages using our iPhone’s internet capabilities. It was really verry nice and quite magical to be able to emailed loved ones a happy birthday when over the North Pole.
The flight, all 16 hours of it passed in an instant, and for once, we loathed to get off the aircraft on arrival. The service levels were exceptionally high, and surprised us, for what is essentially a very large airline, offering luxury on a grand scale. We were concerned that the service offering and message would be diluted, that we would be treated as just another passenger number, but we weren’t. It was a very personal and enjoyable experience on a technologically advanced aircraft. The seat comfort was very high, and whilst the decor may not be to our taste, the practicality of the cabin and seat engineering is excellent. For an airline that offers such a large route network, and such a large amount of flights, we wouldn’t think twice about booking with them again. It seems Emirates are fine tuning their product into something quite exceptional, and whilst our memories are long lasting, they certainly make us want to come back for more.