I get to travel a lot with work and a great chunk of my overseas trips will be in Business Class. I thought it was time to give an honest and frank review of the Business Class experience on offer thanks to Emirates from the very start to the very end.
My employer has just spent around $11,000 on return tickets with Emirates for a trip from Melbourne, Australia to Madrid, Spain and return. This includes the Melbourne – Dubai, Dubai to Madrid and Madrid to Dubai legs on an Airbus A380-800 and the Dubai to Melbourne leg on a Boeing 777-300ER.
Service before the airport
The experience starts before you even arrive at the airport. Emirates offers customers the ability to book a complimentary chauffeur hire car service from home to the airport return and also during each stop leg (i.e. if you decide to split the trip with a stopover in between). They call this the Emirates Experience.
While there are limits in most cities, the limits are reasonable and can be extended for an additional fee. The current limit for Melbourne is 60km from the airport.
My driver arrived early and arrived in a Holden Caprice — in the past I have had a Chrysler 300 and Audi A8. The driver helped with the luggage and we were off to the airport.
At the airport
Once at the airport, a dedicated line for Business Class passengers allows quick and easy transit through the check in area. You can also check in using the Emirates mobile application, which makes life even easier.
Following check in, the staff will give you an express card, which can be used to bypass the sometimes long lines at customs at the airport.
After passing through customs, it’s direct to the Emirates First/Business Class lounge. Located near gate 11, the lounge sits adjacent to the QANTAS First Lounge.
Emirates Business/First lounge — Melbourne Airport
As far as lounges go, it’s pretty impressive. It’s a big, open space with a restaurant area, drinks station and business lounge — along with showers and toilets with private cubicles.
Staff members in the lounge are able to offer free WiFi access (the speed was pretty slow, measured at 2Mbps/2Mbps, which reduced as the lounge began to fill) and make announcements, as flights are getting ready to board.
The best part is that the lounge backs on to a dedicated boarding area for First/Business Class passengers, effectively bypassing the line of Economy Class passengers boarding the plane.
The A380 Emirates Business Class experience
Our first leg was on an older Airbus A380-800. Emirates currently operates two versions of this plane — one with the older cabin setup and one with the newer version. You’re unlikely to know whether you are flying a newer or older plane, but it’s easy to tell the differences.
For example, V1 features manual blinds, a smaller entertainment screen, smaller handheld ICE (Information Communication Entertainment), a different tray table and a different retractable controller.
V2 of the Airbus A380-800 comes with powered operated blinds (two stages — one stage draws a concertina blind, while the next stage is a black out blind. Additionally, the entertainment screen is larger and the handheld ICE iPad-esque controller is faster and easier to use. The tray table also comes out in one piece as opposed to two.
Unlike some airlines, Emirates really focuses on luxury and making the passenger feel like they are sitting in an opulent environment. Each business class suite sits within its own culvert. Each time I fly, I aim to get one just ahead of the bulkhead. It offers an extra element of privacy and seclusion.
Within your suite is a small bar that comes pre-filled with drinks (including a miniature VOSS water, which is cool), snacks and toiletries. There’s also a small table just ahead of the drinks that is useful for storing things like your passport and arrival documents.
The large fold out tray is also woodgrain and an adequate size to hold a laptop and the multiples of food that come through the cabin. My favourite aspect of the experience is actually proper espresso coffee. At the push of the attendant button, you can have a latte, cappuccino or espresso coffee delivered to your suite.
Sitting in the large business class seat is comfortable, but can be a little firm at times. This is fixed shortly after an additional mattress is delivered by the flight staff. This acts as a mattress for sleeping, but also as padding for extra comfort.
Speaking of comfort — the seat can be adjusted a number of ways and has an inbuilt massage function. The seat can be reclined, the bottom can be extended as a foot rest and the seat can then be fully reclined into a totally flat bed.
Just ahead of the seat is a cubby for tucking your feet into when the seat is reclined and a storage area for shoes during the flight. On the A380, there are also bins adjacent to the seat where odds and ends can be stored. If you sit at one of the recommended seats below, you will have access to two bins and a third at a stretch.
Emirates uses a very comprehensive inflight entertainment system called ICE. Your whopping 20-inch wide screen is one of the largest in the industry (only beaten by the 32 inch screen fitted to Emirates First Class suites). The entertainment system can be controlled either by touch or by an iPad-esque remote controller next to your seat.
The easiest way is with the remote controller. It allows you to configure your seat, adjust massage settings and browse through programs currently showing on ICE. It’s also able to control the airplane cameras to either display on the removable device or on the larger screen. Emirates boasts 2186 channels and over 4300 hours of entertainment. It’s over 600 movies and 50 full TV box sets.
That brings me to the final point on the infotainment system — the headphones. The ear-wrapping headphones feature active noise cancellation to literally stop all noise around you. The way they work really is quite incredible. They also produce great sound.
On board, passengers have access to inflight WiFi. You are allowed a small quota free of charge, but can pay EU1 for 500MB of data. At first, I was excited by this concept and signed up for the paid plan. The service was so slow that it become almost totally unusable. It’s unclear whether this was because an A380 full of people were trying to browse at the same time or whether the connection quality was sub par.
Let’s talk about the staff. Based on the flights I have taken so far, the staff in Business Class have been absolutely fantastic. They are very attentive and ensure you feel like you are getting your money’s worth. The staff deliver a small toilet bag at the start of the flight that contains brand named lotions, deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
The luxurious toilets in Business Class also feature toiletry packs and shaving kits if you need any extras.
At the rear of the Business Class cabin there is a full service bar with seating. It’s actually a pretty cool place to hang out and meet new people if you are on a day flight. Popularity can be a bit hit and miss at times. I have been there at times when it has been empty, while at other times it has been crammed full of people sharing a laugh over a drink.
To cap things off, when your flight reaches its destination you will be the first — well, second after First Class — to leave the plane and your bags will also come out first on the conveyor. There is also an express pass that is handed out soon before arrival to make sure you don’t get held up at customs.
That’s a wrap of Business Class on the Emirates A380. If you are considering giving it a shot, it’s well worth the extra money. It is literally a first class experience without the First Class price tag.
Definition of luxury
Emirates Airlines prides itself on an image of luxury and class. Emirates Business Class on the Airbus A380 is absolutely no exception. Everything from the initial service through to the final product is well above standard.
Business Class on Emirates offers luxury above all else. It's worth trying — even if only once in your lifetime.
- Dining and Entertainment