Bling it on: Emirates First Class London Heathrow to Dubai

Introduction
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.

Lastly, I’ve flown the other two premium Middle Eastern airlines — Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — so was curious to see how Emirates stacked up.

Emirates 30
London (LHR) – Dubai (DXB)
Wednesday, December 12
Depart: 4:30PM

Arrive: 3:15AM (+1 day)
Duration: 6hr45min
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.


First class cabin

While I was in seat 2E I took the opportunity to snap some pictures of the window seats before the cabin filled up.


Seat 2A


Seat 2A


Seat 2A


Looking towards the back of the cabin

After snapping a few pictures I settled into my seat, 2E.


Seat 2E


Cabin view from 2E


View from 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?


Seat 2E console

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)…


Enough balms for a mortician

Also below the main console was a writing kit with all kinds of Emirates branded stationery.


Writing kit


Writing kit

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.


Minibar

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.


Snack basket

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.


Storage unit

Then to the left of the seat was a small compartment for glasses/passports/etc.


Storage unit

Then on the right side of the seat was the entertainment control.


Entertainment control

And immediately above was the control unit for the seat, which controlled lighting, seat positions, etc.


Control unit


Privacy controls

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.


Pre-departure champagne


Console with champagne

Meanwhile I was also offered slippers, eye shades, and an Emirates branded beach bag of sorts.


Slippers, eye shades, and Emirates bag

I was also offered noise canceling headphones.


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.


Arabic coffee and dates

We were also offered hot towels and the menus.


Yes, that’s what a towel looks like


Menu

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.


Shower spa brochure


Shower spa brochure

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.


Pajamas

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.


ICE entertainment system


ICE entertainment system


ICE entertainment system

For takeoff I switched to the nose camera view, which almost every airline offers on the Airbus 380.


Nose camera on the runway

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.


On Air sign in page

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.


Diet Coke with lemon and mixed nuts

This was also served with canapes, including mushroom quiche, a crab cake, and chicken skewer.


Diet Coke, mixed nuts, and canapes

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.


Table setting

For the first course I ordered caviar, with was well presented.


Caviar

For the next course I ordered Arabic mezze, which was top notch.


Arabic mezze

Then I had the roasted tomato soup, which was probably the best soup I’ve had on a plane.


Roasted tomato soup

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.


Rack of lamb

And the apricot sponge pudding for dessert.


Light apricot sponge pudding

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.


Stairs to main deck


First class bar

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.


How many people are allowed in the shower spa?! ;)


Shower spa


Shower and sink


The number of towels doesn’t seem sufficiently over the top


Sink


Towel and toiletries


Toiletries


Airshow


Bench in shower


Shower timer

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.


Fruit plate

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.


Business class

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.


Business class bar & lounge


Business class bar & lounge


Business class bar & lounge

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.


Turndown service


Turndown service


Chocolate and flower on 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.


The good life…


Stars on the ceiling

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.


Airshow


“Room service”

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.


Chocolate chilli tart

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.


Fast Track card

For our descent I once again switched to the nose camera view.


View on final approach

We had a fairly quick taxi to the gate, and arrived right on-time.


Cabin upon deplaning

This was my first time flying into Dubai Airport, and the terminal had a very airy feel to it.


Dubai Airport


Dubai Airport

Immigration queues were non-existent, so we just had to wait 10 minutes for my bag at baggage claim.


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.


Limo desk


Limo to 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).

Conclusion

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.

Comments

  1. mangoceviche says

    Love reading your trip reports!

    Emirates’ shower spa looks bigger than my bathroom!

    stars on the ceiling in Asiana F ORD-ICN too. i didn’t know about the stars before my flight so I was definitely wow’ed when i woke up from my nap.

  2. Og says

    If you ever fly into Or out of any of the other terminals, they are sh!t. The emirates terminal is very nice, with palm trees and waterfalls to boot.

  3. says

    Great report,Ben!

    What did you think of the seat itself, bling aside? For actually sleeping on a long haul, or in terms of overall comfort relaxing and watching TV?

    Compared to, say, CX?

  4. lucky says

    Thanks, guys!

    @ Gary — Ah, it occurred to me that in the process of dishing out every little detail I may have missed some of the “big picture” details. The seat was comfortable for sleeping. Not the most comfortable in the sky, but comfortable. I’d say it was a bit better than Singapore’s first on the 777, and a bit worse than Cathay’s first on the 777 (which I still find to be among the most comfortable).

  5. says

    I have to wait 17 more days, and only have half the flight (AKL-SYD), but posts like this are guaranteeing that I will be annoying to talk to in the interim with only showers on the brain.

  6. William says

    Great report. And just think, you were considering not even using that companion pass and going somewhere!

  7. Barry says

    Wow, Great pictures. My wife & I just flew Asiana’s new First Class Suite last week from ICN to ORD & I thought it couldn’t get much better until seeing that!

  8. RakSiam says

    I didn’t know about the storage bin at the back. Are the window seats the same? I felt like there was a real lack of storage space. And if you don’t put your stuff at the front of the suite in the little corral it will get crushed when you turn the seat into a bed.

  9. lucky says

    @ RakSiam — Yeah, window seats definitely had them as well. Wasn’t a huge fan of storing the stuff in front of the seat, simply because I had a hard time getting the bag out of the “seatbelt.”

  10. Gordon Simpson says

    Brilliant article Ben

    I couldn’t agree more. My experience of EK 1st is identical to what you’ve written :-)

  11. jmd001 says

    Regarding the shower, did her explanation really say “…that the floors were headed.” … as opposed to “heated”? :)

  12. jon says

    Thanks for the report Lucky. One question: many say 14 seats in BA FIRST is cramped at least in the 747. Is first class a larger piece of real estate on a 380? At least an Emirates 380? Thank you

  13. BBTBphile says

    Typo: “t0″ with a zero and not an o. Look at the fourth to the last word here:

    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) t0 the Grosvenor House.

  14. FlyingDoctorWu says

    Wow great trip report. I still can’t figure out a way to enjoy Emirates first… damn all those Avios/star alliance miles….

    How was the width of the seat for sleeping? It looks kind of narrow…

    And, what’s the deal with airline serving Woodford Reserve as the premium bourbon in First class… it’s definitely not in the same class as Chivas Royal Salute/Johnny Walker Blue/or Glenfiddich…. they got to get a supply of Pappy van Winkle or something else. America’s got to represent…

  15. Rob says

    Curious about your ride to the hotel. You mentioned a limo ride and I didn’t realize EK was doing limo service. As far as I know Chauffeur Drive was provided with (very nice) sedans, wagons, and minivans — but if they’re using limos this is a change from my four EK flights this year.

  16. AdamH says

    Lol. Love the stars on the ceiling. Awesome touch. Is there any way to actually book this award though? I know AS is suppose to open up so,e space eventually.

  17. Harold says

    Awesome report!!!

    And yes, if I were you, I would be giggling non-stop all the way during the trip.

  18. lucky says

    @ jon — Absolutely, the first cabin on the Emirates Airbus 380 is substantially larger than the first cabin on the British Airways 747.

  19. lucky says

    @ BBTBphile — Thanks, fixed. That happens once in a while and I’m not sure why. I typed it correctly and when I go back to the draft it also shows it correct, but for whatever reason it displays it as a “0” instead of an “o.” Going back and typing it again seems to fix the problem.

  20. Mitch says

    Great TR. Need to get me some Alaska miles, I guess.

    Another mistake is that, while I’m sure the writing supplies didn’t move, the correct noun is stationery.

  21. lucky says

    @ FlyingDoctorWu — It was decent. Not amazing, but not anything to complain about either. The armrests do go down a bit, which increases the seat width.

  22. lucky says

    @ Rob — Sorry, I guess I misused the word. You’re correct, it’s not a limo in the sense that it’s a limousine, but rather towncars, sedans, etc.

  23. Lantean says

    @lucky
    that’s a bummer since singapore only releases 1 suite per flight… i was hoping emirates would release 2… but i guess it doesn’t matter anyway.

  24. says

    Was thinking 110,000 Starpoints had better value elsewhere. I’m really starting to have a hard time justifying that. Hello Dubai!

  25. says

    “When you ask the average person what the world’s best airline is, chances are they’ll say Emirates or Singapore”. Uh, Ben, I’m pretty sure that the average person has never even heard of Emeriates…

  26. Dan ray says

    I’m surprised that with a ticket probably costing $10,000 they make you pay for Internet use. Is that common in international first class?

  27. Chrissy says

    Old bf of mine signed a two-year contract to teach in Saudi Arabia. His main flight was Seattle-Dubai on Emirates. He’d been given a coach ticket with the contract and was bumped up, without asking, to business for the flight. I guess it was either because he had a full-fare ticket or the ticket agent somehow picked up that he’d had the worst decade ever and just NEEDED this. Anyway, it was his first business class ever and it may have spoiled him for other airlines!

  28. lucky says

    @ Frequent Flyer University — It’s run by an independent company (On Air), so unfortunately isn’t free.

    @ TG — Service overall wasn’t as good as Singapore, but they made up for it in other departments.

    @ Frequent Miler — Guess we know different people, then. Even my non-FF friends have heard of Emirates!

    @ Dan ray — Yes, I don’t know of any airline that comps internet for any class of service.

  29. Euro says

    What really struck my eye was not the gold trim but the glossy wood panels in the suites and doors. It’s like they modeled the suites after the interior of a high-end Bentley. The wood in the showers area struck me as well but not as much since the color appears a lot more subdued and looks more like a matte finish…

  30. wwk5d says

    The B777 actually has even more wood trimming (around the windows and whatnot). The mini-bar is a nice idea, if you like your drinks at room temperature. You’re still going to have to ask the FA for a glass and ice, so while nice, it seems rather pointless. As does the vanity mirror. I’m curious to see how this compares to the Singapore suites service.

  31. LISA says

    This is the best trip report I’ve ever read–and I’ve read a lot! I really felt like I was there with you. Amazing job!

  32. dave says

    5 min of running water at a time or that’s all you got during the shower? the shower time came on for the last 1 min countdown?

  33. lucky says

    @ dave — It’s a total of five minutes of running water, but you can start and stop it as you please.

  34. Dana Caffrey says

    Seriously, this is the forst class flight of Emirates Airline? WOW! You must be very lucky to fly on a first class. I envy you! Excellent review!

  35. bobblyboop says

    Are you from the future? I’ve never seen anything that beautiful. Although, I normally take the cheapest possible routes and the cheapest possible seats to get from Point A to Point B, but I guess that I had never really thought about using first class because I thought it couldn’t possibly be worth that much money, I was severely proven wrong.

  36. Nelson says

    “For the 20 or so minutes I was in the shower spa, I was giggling almost nonstop.”

    that was the highlight of the TR lol.

  37. Noah says

    I may be fuzzy on this… but I am pretty sure an additional 20MB at the .073/100K rate would have been just under $15… am I wrong?

  38. says

    Absolutely the first class cabin of emirates airway & Qatar airway is very good. And very good presenting for this blog. Image clearly very clean and information is really awesome. Love reading these trip reports!

  39. Sven says

    When it comes to free internet a LCC in Europe called Norwegian Air Shuttle offers it.

    http://www.norwegian.com/uk/about-norwegian/our-company/fleet/in-flight-wifi/

    Said to be a bit slow because of all the users.

    Read a post on a Scandi board claiming Sas is also installing it in some of their planes, so guess it will end up the same way it has in hotels with almost everybody offering it for free.

    The Scandi board also said that the reason the Norwegian/DY installed it was for fleet management and customer use was just a happy side effect. Which might explain a bit slow speed.

  40. DrewBird says

    Lucky – from Expert Flyer, it looks as though Emirates at times releases 2 First class tix on a flight. But Singapore only releases 1 Suite seat per flight. Is this correct? If so, is Emirates First the best product available for a 2-person redemption?

  41. lucky says

    @ DrewBird — Singapore does often release two Suites Class seats per flight, just not on their routes to the US. However, to Australia and Europe they sure do.

  42. says

    I love how they pay attention to details, looks pretty amazing. However was there enough seating around the “bar/lounge” where people there hanging out or mingling or is the bar mostly for show?

  43. says

    @ Ak — I found most of the time a few people were standing around the bar, though rarely did anyone stay for an extended period of time or sit.

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