Ever since I first started flying as a teen, I have always loved the thrill of stepping on board an aircraft bound for foreign shores. Even when the aircraft in question was only flying from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg, the trip always seemed all the more glamorous if you were flying. Over the years, it is fair to say that I have done a great deal of flying and that the glamour of air travel has gradually become tarnished by security measure at airports (who looks glamorous walking around barefoot and beltless?) and the rise of the no-frills budget airline philosophy where everybody is subjected to the humiliating ordeal of trying to jam their hand-luggage into an ever shrinking metal cage so that the humourless ground staff can verify that it is minuscule enough top take on board. But… there is another way: the mythical land of Business Class (OK, also First Class but I have yet to have the pleasure!). I have been fortunate enough to fly Business Class a few times in my life and recently I got to try the Emirates Business Class offering on a flight from London to Dubai, on one of their fleet of Airbus A380 planes.
ON THE GROUND: EMIRATES COMPLIMENTARY CHAUFFER DRIVE SERVICE & THE GATWICK EMIRATES LOUNGE
Unusually, with Emirates the Business Class experience starts as soon as you leave home: each Emirates Business Class (and First Class) ticket includes a chauffer-driven car from your home or work to the airport as well as a car at the other end to drop you at your final destination. In other words… the lifestyle to which I would like to become accustomed!! The service is available in over 70 cities worldwide and must be booked 48 hours in advance of travel. In London, it covers any address within within a 70-mile radius of Heathrow of Gatwick airport, including all Greater London postcodes. At the appointed hour my sleek black carriage duly arrived and whisked me away to Gatwick, leaving me ample time to relax in the back seat, answer some e-mails, sip complementary water and generally enjoy the trip more than if I were standing on a packed Southern train to the airport. Definitely the way to travel! At Dubai Airport, Business Class passengers are given a fast track card for immigration, and from there you can go straight to the dedicated Emirates chauffer transfer desk in the airport.
Check-in at the dedicated Business Class desks at Gatwick was speedy and efficient and before I knew it I was ensconced in the Emirates Business Class Lounge. The lounge features free wi-fi, shower facilities and ample lounge as well as café style seating. There is a full range of complimentary beer, wine, champagne and premium spirits available as well as a good selection of sweet and savoury snacks as well as hot and cold food. I was particularly happy with the cheese board and a glass of bubbles – the perfect way to start a long journey.
ON BOARD: EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS FACILITIES AND SEATS
Once on board, the luxury experience continues. On the Emirates A380 the Business Class section is situated on the upper deck directly behind First Class and its 76 seats are spread out across two cabins. The seat configuration is 1-2-1 and the seats are staggered. This means that in every second row, the 2 middle seats will have their minibar consoles separating them, making for a very private experience; while in every other row, the two seats will be side by side with the minibar on the aisle side – perfect for couples travelling together. But there is a privacy screen if you are not in the mood for talking! Four dedicated Business Class toilets are located at the back of the cabin, two of which have windows.
The seats at 18.5 inches wide are not the widest Business Class seats in the sky but are still very comfortable and all the seats in Business Class recline into a fully flat bed. Even before the seat is reclined into a bed, you can put your feet up on the footrest below the screen which is great for those who complain of swollen feet after long flights. Each seat is provided with socks, an eye mask, ear plugs and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones as well as a duvet and a pillow. Beside each seat is a console containing a mini-bar (non-alcoholic drinks only); a power socket for charging your devices; and USB ports. There are plenty of nooks and crannies for you to securely stash your belongings and an individual reading light.
One of the strongest elements of the Emirates A380 is the inflight entertainment system, called ICE (information, communications, entertainment). Content is displayed on large 23-inch seatback touch screens and each seat comes equipped with two hand-held controllers – a standard handheld remote and a tablet, both of which can be used to control the ICE system as well as surf the net. Browsing ICE reveals an eye-popping array of content, from an extensive range of on-demand new-release and classic films, television shows, box sets and an eclectic mix of music to suit any musical tastes – 2,500 channels in total! There is also an HDMI port to stream content from your personal devices directly onto your screen. For gamers, there is a range of games available and for aviation geeks like me there is a feed to the tail, nose and belly-mounted cameras on the plane’s exterior. There is also onboard wifi available – enjoy 10MB of free data (that’s enough to search, send emails and update Facebook) or do what I did and pay just $1.00 to use up to 500MB and stay connected throughout the flight.
And when it’s time to turn in for the night, the crew will make up your flat bed for you while you visit the bathroom to use your complimentary luxury amenity kit. Emirates created their stylish amenity kits in conjunction with luxury Italian brand Bulgari to help you look and feel your best on your journey. The kits feature Bulgari’s new signature fragrance, Eau Parfumée au thé noir, along with more skincare essentials, a hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste and small vanity mirror.
ON BOARD: EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS FOOD
Emirates are justifiably proud of their Business Class food offering, almost all of which is prepared from scratch in their catering facility in Dubai. Menus are distributed at the start of the flight and there is a choice of three options for starters, mains and desserts plus a cheese board. In terms of drink, there is a full cocktail selection, premium spirits, Veuve Cliquot yellow label Champagne, two reds, two whites and port to choose from. Your table is laid with proper linen and cutlery, and very pretty Royal Doulton bone china plates – I loved the organic motif on the rim of the plates. To start, I chose Scottish peat-smoked salmon on fennel salad with lemon oil and watercress. The salmon was excellent and not overwhelmingly smoked and it was also accompanied by a substantial green side salad topped with Parmesan. For my mains I had seared monkfish with seafood velouté, topped with a scallop and served with spinach risotto and vegetables – a wonderful dish that I would have been happy with in any earthbound restaurant. And for dessert I chose the cheeseboard which arrived in astonishingly generous proportions – two people could easily have shared it! The cheeses were an Isle of Man extra-matured cheddar; a Belton double Gloucester, a Cropwell Bishop Stilton; and a Saint Paullin (a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from Brittany). All were delicious but the cheddar was definitely my favourite. To drink, I had a few glasses of excellent 2014 Stag’s Leap Karia Chardonnay from Napa. And if you still get the munchies after all that, hot and cold light bites are available non-stop available during the flight.
Take a break, stretch your legs and meet some of the most interesting people on the planet in our elegant A380 Onboard Lounge – exclusive to First Class and Business Class customers.
Make new friends as you delve into a selection of canapés and sip a refreshing cocktail. Choose from premium spirits, exclusive wines, champagne, cocktails and beers alongside hot and cold beverages served by our dedicated bartender.
ON BOARD: THE EMIRATES IN-FLIGHT COCKTAIL BAR (A380 ONLY)
Yes, you read correctly: in-flight cocktail bar. Sure, you say, but many airlines leave a selection of alcoholic drinks out all night so that passengers can mix or fetch their own? Well this is different. On the Emirates A380 the Skybar is a small but perfectly formed stand-up cocktail bar at the rear of the Business class cabin, staffed for the duration of the flight by crew who will mix you the perfect cocktail on demand while you stand around, nibble bar snacks and make small talk with your fellow passengers. Around the bar there is standing room only but there is banquette seating (with seat belts) along both sides of the fuselage, and after take-off, a shelf is mounted across each exit door to act as a poser table and allowing passengers to stretch their legs while they enjoy a drink. I tried a number of cocktails from the menu including a classic cosmopolitan, a kir royale, a Rob Roy and a couple of excellent espresso martinis. If you are not in the mood for cocktails, there is a good selection of premium spirits, champagne and wines, as well as hot and cold snacks. And of course you can order a drink to take back to your seat. It feels like a throwback to a far more glamorous era of flight and is one of the most enticing reasons I have come across to far to splash out on a business class ticket!
EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS: THE VERDICT
I always find it interesting how airlines differentiate their premium products in an increasingly saturated market – some clearly focus more on one or other element in order to stand out from the crowd. For me, the cocktail bar was the biggest plus of the Emirates A380 Business Class experience – it truly made the flight into a more glamorous experience. I also loved the democratically priced wi-fi and the impressive entertainment system that truly had something for everyone (and finally allowed me to binge-watch The Night Manager!). Service was excellent and the food was close to restaurant quality, although Singapore Airlines’ Book the Cook still has the edge in my opinion. Seats and flat beds were perfectly comfortable but perhaps not as large or as luxurious as some other Business Class offerings – although the “minibar” was a nice touch. The limo service to and from the airport is another big plus and should definitely be a consideration when choosing your next business class flight.
For other perspectives on our flight, have a look at May’s review Fiona’s review and Emily’s review.
Fly Business Class with Emirates from London Gatwick to Dubai return from £2,209. Business Class passengers can take advantage of the complimentary chauffeur drive service.
Emirates airline operates 126 non-stop flights per week from the UK to Dubai – six services a day from Heathrow, three daily from London Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham, two per day from Glasgow and a daily service from Newcastle. In Dubai, passengers can connect to flights to Emirates’ global network which spans 155 destinations across six continents in 83 countries.
DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed this flight as a guest of Emirates but received no further remuneration to write this post. I was not expected to write a positive review – all views are my own and I retain full editorial control.
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