British Airways Terraces Lounge Seattle
British Airways First Class Seattle to London Heathrow
Emirates Lounge London Heathrow (after a surprise!)
Emirates First Class London Heathrow to Dubai
Grosvenor House Dubai
Afternoon tea in the Skyview Bar at Burj Al Arab
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island
St. Regis Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island
Qasr Al Sarab
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Abu Dhabi to New York JFK
British Airways Galleries Lounge New York JFK
Cathay Pacific First Class New York JFK to Vancouver
I don’t think I’ve ever had a flight that I’ve anticipated as intensely as this one. Part of it was probably that I only had two hours notice about the flight, so my anticipation was naturally more intense than if I had 10 months to look forward to it. But beyond that, Emirates is an airline I’ve always wanted to fly up front. When you ask the average person what the world’s best airline is, chances are they’ll say Emirates or Singapore. Having flown Singapore many times, I was curious to see how Emirates compared.
London (LHR) – Dubai (DXB)
Wednesday, December 12
Arrive: 3:15AM (+1 day)
Aircraft: Airbus 380
Seat: 2E (First Class)
The jet bridge let out at the upper deck door right behind first class, where the purser, Toby, was greeting passengers. He escorted us to our seats in row two, and saw the British Midland Gold tag on my laptop bag. He said it was the first of that style he had seen, and as it turned out he used to work for British Midland.
My initial reaction of the cabin? Holy crap, this is gaudy as could be! But awesome gaudy… if there is such a thing. The cabin had 14 seats, with three pairs of center seats and four seats on each side by the windows.
While I was in seat 2E I took the opportunity to snap some pictures of the window seats before the cabin filled up.
After snapping a few pictures I settled into my seat, 2E.
While the seat itself is modest enough (in that it’s not gold plated and doesn’t have signage saying “the person sitting in this seat is AWESOME”), the same can’t be said for the rest of the suite.
Everything else is gold-colored, and there’s even a vanity mirror right by the entertainment system. After all, what would anyone rather do for a seven hour flight than, like, look at themselves the whole time?
Immediately below the vanity mirror was a kit consisting of Temple Spa branded toiletries, including shower, foot, body, nose, and eye balm (whatever that actually means)…
Also below the main console was a writing kit with all kinds of Emirates branded stationery.
Also redefining first class service is the minibar, consisting of soda, juice, and water. There’s such a high degree of irony to the minibar, given that the whole concept of first class on an airline like Emirates is that you don’t have to serve yourself, and instead that someone looks after you. But that’s part of what makes Emirates first class so damn awesome — they have some amenities not for good reason, but just because they can.
Also at the seat is a small snack basket with all the things that Emirates imagines their first class passengers wouldn’t eat — Pringles, Mars bars, granola bars, Toblerone, mints, etc. The funny thing is that the snack basket sits loosely on the counter, so it’s there during boarding, then they collect it before takeoff, then bring it back after takeoff, and then collect it again before landing.
One of the aspects of the seats that really impressed me was that there was plenty of storage. There was a huge compartment at the back right of the seat, which could fit just about anything.
Then to the left of the seat was a small compartment for glasses/passports/etc.
Then on the right side of the seat was the entertainment control.
And immediately above was the control unit for the seat, which controlled lighting, seat positions, etc.
The cabin doesn’t have any overhead bins so that it feels more spacious, but there’s plenty of space in the front of the suite for storing bags.
Once settled in the rather charming flight attendant working my aisle bowed down at the side of my seat, introduced herself, and said it would be her absolute privilege to be serving me today, and to not hesitate to let her know if I needed anything.
I ordered a glass of Dom to start, which was poured at my seat.
Meanwhile I was also offered slippers, eye shades, and an Emirates branded beach bag of sorts.
I was also offered noise canceling headphones.
As the departure time approached the cabin crew offered Arabic coffee and dates, which I gladly accepted. Refills were also offered, though one is about my limit.
We were also offered hot towels and the menus.
About five minutes before our scheduled departure time the captain came on the PA to announce our flight time of 6hr20min, and that he was anticipating a smooth ride to Dubai.
At this point the shower spa attendant made a round through the cabin for reservations. The coolest part of Emirates first class on the Airbus 380 has to be the two shower suites. The attendant is solely responsible for the shower suites, and asked at what time I wanted to shower. I asked to shower after dinner, about 2.5 hours into the flight. It seemed most others didn’t want to shower, so there wasn’t a need to give an exact time.
As departure time rolled around I asked for a pair of pajamas, which I guess the flight attendant forgot to distribute, as she was confused why I didn’t have a pair yet. The pajamas were surprisingly modest for Emirates (I was fully expecting a Flavor Flav bathrobe and gold watch). As the door closed there were only two empty seats in the cabin, so it was a pretty full load.
The safety demo began to play as we pushed back. Once the video finished I began playing around with the entertainment system, ICE (which stands for Information, Communication, and Entertainment). The variety of shows and movies was fantastic, on par with Singapore’s Kris World and Cathay Pacific’s StudioCX.
For takeoff I switched to the nose camera view, which almost every airline offers on the Airbus 380.
There was a bit of chop on our climb out of London, though after about 10 minutes it smoothed out a bit. I took the opportunity to connect to Emirates’ On Air wifi service, as it would be my first time using wifi on a longhaul flight. The wifi was reasonably priced at $20 for 100MB. I ended up needing two sessions, as I used the wifi extensively (I blogged, Tweeted, and Instagrammed just about the whole flight). The only thing I’m a bit confused about is that 100MB costs $20, while each additional 100KB costs 7.3 cents. Unless I’m missing something, isn’t that substantially more expensive — the marginal cost increases the more you use it? That’s why I did two different sessions, though I feel like my math is probably just a bit off here.
Anyway, as we continued our climb out meal orders were taken. The flight times were awfully strange, as it departed in the afternoon and landed in the middle of the night, so they had an a la carte menu, whereby you could eat what you want when you want. The menu read as follows:
The wine/drink list read as follows:
Drink orders were taken first, and I ordered a Diet Coke with lemon, which was served with mixed, warm nuts.
This was also served with canapes, including mushroom quiche, a crab cake, and chicken skewer.
About an hour into the flight the meal service began, starting with the tray table being set. I was also offered a bread basket, which must be one of the biggest I’ve ever gotten on an airplane.
For the first course I ordered caviar, with was well presented.
For the next course I ordered Arabic mezze, which was top notch.
Then I had the roasted tomato soup, which was probably the best soup I’ve had on a plane.
At this point I wasn’t hungry so didn’t have a main course or dessert, though figured I might get back to that closer to landing.
Meanwhile my friend had the lamb as the main course.
And the apricot sponge pudding for dessert.
I found the service throughout the meal from the flight attendant working my aisle to be consistent with what I’ve experienced on Etihad and Qatar. It wasn’t especially sincere or attentive, despite the over-the-top verbiage and gestures. I had to push the call button several times during the meal service for refills, to have my tray cleared, etc.
After dinner it was time for my shower, so I headed to the front of the cabin, where there’s a small first class bar and also the stairs to the main deck.
The flight attendant directed me to one of the shower spas, and explained the features to me. I wasn’t given a time limit for actually using the room, though you’re limited to five minutes of water. The good news is that you can turn the water on and off at will, so it really is plenty of time for a shower.
She explained that if there was turbulence I should sit down on the bench in the shower, and also explained the location of the oxygen mask.
Lastly, she familiarized me with the other amenities, and explained that the floors were heated.
Look, I’d like to be all suave about this and play it off as if it’s nothing special, but this was quite possibly the coolest damn thing ever. Ever since this flight, all I can think about is showering on an airplane. For the 20 or so minutes I was in the shower spa, I was giggling almost nonstop.
It. Was. Awesome.
The water pressure was surprisingly good for a plane, and so began quite possibly the most enjoyable five minutes of my life.
I’d like to say a shower on a plane is a gimmick, though I really don’t think it is. As much as I love flying I also associate it with being groggy and tired, and I didn’t feel like that for the first time after getting out of the shower.
The shower attendant was standing right outside the shower spa as I exited, and asked me how I enjoyed my shower.
When I returned to my seat I found a small fruit plate with a dipping sauce.
At this point I asked for turndown service, and took the opportunity to check out the business class cabin and bar, which takes up the rest of the upper deck.
I find it funny how when you go from first class to business class the seating looks so uncomfortable, while if you hadn’t seen first class it would look perfectly comfortable. The product actually looked quite nice, though, and the cabin was nearly full.
All the way in the back of the cabin is a huge bar and lounge, with two couches, a bar, and a self serve area with a large flat screen TV.
When I returned to my seat turndown service had been completed with great precision (a bit more than on Thai Airways), and there was even a box of Godiva chocolates and a flower left on my pillow.
Now, this was a short flight landing in the middle of the night and I wasn’t about to sleep, though I do prefer watching TV while curled up in a comfortable bed with my door closed.
About two hours out of Dubai I decided to order dessert, and pushed the call button to do so. They label this as “room service,” which I thought was hilarious.
For dessert I ordered the chocolate chilli tart, which sounded mighty odd. It was a really interesting dessert, as it was basically a chocolate tart with a chilli filing, which is a combo I’ve never had before. I had some breakfast tea with dessert.
About 30 minutes out we began our descent, and the flight was nearing an end far too soon. The purser, Toby, once again made a pass through the cabin to thank each passenger for flying Emirates. He was the one crew member that seemed to genuinely enjoy his job, and it showed. The rest of the crew were friendly, though executed the service in a manner that felt a bit forced.
Another crew member distributed the fast track cards for Dubai.
For our descent I once again switched to the nose camera view.
We had a fairly quick taxi to the gate, and arrived right on-time.
This was my first time flying into Dubai Airport, and the terminal had a very airy feel to it.
Immigration queues were non-existent, so we just had to wait 10 minutes for my bag at baggage claim.
Just outside immigration is Emirates’ limo service desk. Typically this service has to be booked in advance, though I explained we had been rebooked, and they gladly arranged a limo for us (free of charge) to the Grosvenor House.
We made it to the Grosvenor House shortly after 4AM, where a whole new adventure started as we didn’t have a reservation for that night (given that we were originally scheduled to arrive several hours later).
I’m trying to properly summarize my Emirates experience, and I’m really struggling with it. First let me say this — the flight was awesome, and there’s no airline I’m more obsessed with traveling on in the future than Emirates.
The first class suites were uncomfortably awesome. That’s to say that it doesn’t feature soothing tones and finishes, but instead was blingy as could be.
The purser, Toby, was awesome and sincere, though the rest of the crew was more style over substance. There are some airlines where you get consistently excellent/sincere service, like ANA, Asiana, etc., so I’d say they probably come out ahead in that area.
But at the same time it’s simply a phenomenal product. The food was fantastic. And the amenities themselves were great.
Best of all, there’s just something about Emirates first class that makes you feel like you’re just not worthy… and for whatever reason it makes them even better.