Comparing First & Business Class On The Emirates A380

I’ve flown Emirates’ A380 well over a dozen times, almost exclusively in first class. I’ve reviewed Emirates first class on many routes, including from London to Dubai, Singapore to Dubai, Dubai to London, Los Angeles to Dubai, Dubai to Singapore, Dallas to Dubai, and Dubai to Manchester.

Well, I recently flew Emirates A380 business class for the first time from Dubai to Los Angeles. While I’ll have a full trip report shortly, some readers asked if I could do a side-by-side comparison of Emirates’ first and business class product, which is what this post is about.

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Is there actually a big difference between Emirates first and business class? Here are my thoughts:

Emirates A380 seats

Emirates has 14 first class suites on the A380, each featuring direct aisle access. The suites are incredibly blinged out and comfortable, though they’re definitely on the tight side as far as A380 first class seats go. Personally I don’t mind one bit, but the product isn’t as spacious as Etihad’s A380 first class, for example.

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Meanwhile Emirates’ A380 business class features direct aisle access from every seat as well, and quite a bit of privacy. If you can snag one of the best seats (specifically, a “true” window seat), you’ll have a lot of privacy as well.

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So the first class seat is of course better than the business class seat, but I actually found the business class seat to be extremely comfortable, especially thanks to the bins along the side of the aircraft, which are great for storing things.

Emirates food

This is probably what surprised me most — when it comes down to it, the food in first and business class isn’t that different.

Yes, in first class there’s a caviar course.

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And yes, the first class mezze is a lot more impressive than the business class mezze.

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But other than that, I found the food remarkably similar. Most of the main dishes are actually the same in first and business class, but they’re just plated differently.

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The same is true for dessert, cheese plates, cappuccinos, etc.

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The major difference is that in first class you have dine on demand and a more extensive menu, where you can eat what you want when you want. Meanwhile in business class you have to eat the main meals when they’re served, and don’t have much flexibility.

So first class certainly has some nice touches and added flexibility, but in terms of actual quality (aside from caviar), I didn’t find there to be that much of a difference.

Emirates drinks

Emirates is known for their ridiculous first class drink selection. They serve Dom Perignon, and also serve Hennessy Paradis, which is the most expensive drink in the sky.

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However, in business class they have Veuve Clicquot, and an all around impressive selection of liquor.

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The first class drink selection is certainly more over the top, though you won’t go thirsty in business class either. 😉

Emirates service

This is perhaps the biggest point of differentiation. Let me start by saying that I find service on Emirates to be somewhat inconsistent — sometimes you get an incredible crew which couldn’t be more proactive, while other times you get a lazy crew.

However, in theory first class service is fully customized. You get what you want when you want.

In business class service feels like an assembly line. That’s probably what disappointed me most about Emirates business class. While the crew was friendly, you’re served during the meal times, and if you want one of the main meals at another point, you’re out of luck. The service is so systematic and robotic that it almost feels like economy.

Again, this has nothing to do with the friendliness of the crew, but rather with how robotic the procedures are. Emirates has room for improvement in this regard, given that Etihad and Qatar offer dine on demand in business class.

So I think this is a huge point of differentiation.

Emirates A380 entertainment and wifi

This is identical in first and business class (and even economy). Emirates has the best entertainment selection in the sky, with so many movies, games, TV shows, etc.

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Emirates also offers 500MB of wifi for $1 in all cabins. While I appreciate the concept, the wifi is so excruciatingly slow that it’s almost useless.

Emirates amenity kits, bedding, etc.

In terms of bedding, there’s a huge difference between first and business class. In first class you get a proper turndown service with two pillows, a great mattress pad, and a comfortable duvet.

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In business class you get a single pillow and a basic blanket.

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Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still be able to sleep well, but it’s not quite like sleeping in a bed on the ground.

In terms of other amenities, Emirates has fantastic pajamas and amenity kits in first class. They actually recently updated them even further, and now have the world’s first “moisturizing” pajamas.

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In business class Emirates offers a nice amenity kit with Bulgari amenities, though no pajamas.

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I do wish Emirates would improve their business class bedding and maybe even add pajamas (as Qatar Airways offers in business class), but ultimately none of this is the end of the world.

Emirates airport lounges

At outstations, Emirates doesn’t differentiate between first and business class for lounges. Their lounges are a shared space for all premium passengers, so there’s no difference.

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In Dubai, Emirates has separate first and business class lounges, though the differences aren’t huge. In the “A” concourse the lounges are roughly the same size and have similar decor. The major difference is that the first class lounge has a la carte dining, while the business class lounge only has a buffet.

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First class passengers are also entitled to a complimentary 15 minute treatment in the Timeless Spa, while business class passengers have to pay for treatments.

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Emirates A380 amenities

Probably my single favorite thing about the Emirates A380 is the shower suite, which is available to first class passengers. If you’re an airline geek and haven’t yet showered on a plane, you’re really missing out. Okay, admittedly it’s just a five minute shower, but still, there’s something amazing about it.

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My other favorite amenity on the A380 is the onboard bar, located at the back of business class. It’s shared between first and business class, and is such a fun place to hang out. Often when I’m in first class I’ll spend half my time there, though almost feel like it’s a “waste,” since I could spend my time there when in business class as well.

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Bottom line

Emirates’ A380 first class product is one of my favorite in the world, so it was interesting to see how their business class compared. I simultaneously think there are big differences between the two products, and also think a lot of things are very similar.

What stands out about first class? The service, the bedding, the pajamas, the improved drink selection, the caviar, and the shower.

What’s more or less the same? The food, a private seat that’s comfortable for sleeping and relaxing, access to the awesome onboard bar, entertainment, wifi, etc.

So I do certainly have a strong preference for Emirates first class, though it’s possible to get great sleep in business class, and also have a lot of fun thanks to the onboard bar.

Of course there’s still something really fun about Emirates first class — it’s one of the most well rounded first class products out there. So while it’s worth the premium if you swing it, you won’t be bored in business class either.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

More articles by lucky »

Comments

  1. How does a seat having good storage bins make it more comfortable? The two things are not remotely linked

  2. If you are not a big drinker or a big smelly person, business class seems to be better value.

    To complete the article who should mention the differences in the mileage required for various mileage programs and any workarounds needed to snag award seats and this article would be good enough to be a complete guide to emirates.

    Thanks for the hard work.

  3. @luda they totally are, the A330 VA Upper Class seats have naff all storage apart from the footstool so I spend most of the flights with them having my stuff all over the ottoman.

    The storage on the side of the A380 cabins are so handy…

  4. My last flight in First was many years back when seats weren’t yet full flat so I can’t comment on the comparison. But honestly right now there’s an excessive offer of premium cabins that I am not sure on how airliners can make profit. And well here we go, speaking of Emirates their profit in 2016 is down 75%. Massive. I find today’s flat bed J classes extremely comfortable that I would really reduce the option to a three class config, having of course coach (maybe improve it as Air France did in its latest 777-300 ER), Premium Economy and Business which are so so comfortable that I can’t even compare today’s business with the seats of 15 years ago.

  5. @ Luda – So you don’t have to get up and down just to retrieve a laptop or purse from the overhead. Also, opening and closing those bins can be noisy and wake sleeping neighbors which passengers who dislike any sort of awkwardness might want to avoid.

  6. @Luda

    Google “creature comfort”.

    Having a place to stow personal items that are easily accessible without having to get up contributes to the overall comfort of the experience.

  7. So lucky let’s try to out a price on it. How much more is the value for emirates first over business say on a 6-7 hour flight. Even though I tried to drink a lot of the paradis (which was surprising good as I once hated cognac). It’s hard for me to quantify the value. Personally I thought the food was better on first but still compared to the chef concept on Etihad I found emirates lacking.

    I’ve flown both and to me the upgrade is worth maybe 750- 1000 USD. I’m curious what the rest of you thinks (and lucky).

  8. Just flew business class LHR-DXB-KUL. Mattresses provided on both legs, though amenity kit only from London. Agree with everything else, esp the assembly line. Qatar and Etihad both better on the service front though overall great experience.

  9. HI Lucky,

    Controversial I’m sure but…how about a review of the much derided 777 J product for completeness?

    Pete

  10. Flew SEA-DBX business class in late November…mattresses provided, cuisine excellent, service accomodating the entire 14+ hr. flight….have been traveling over 60 years, and this was one of the very best experiences and well worth the expense!

  11. I just flew EK business from SFO to Dubai r/t, and found the service quite different on the two flIghts. One was amazing, while the other was completely forgettable. Given the money we spent, full fare, I honestly don’t plan to fly Emirates again. It would be worth it if it was consistently awesome, but it is not.

  12. I thought Emirates business class was angled flat versus flat bed? That’s a big differentiator to me if true (debating Emirates Ethiad for an upcoming Bhutan trip).

  13. Check out their website to see how similar many of the menu items between first and business class are.

  14. Interesting comparison. It should be said, that there is a huge difference in price between Emirates First and Business class. I really enjoyed the Emirates First Class experience for three main reasons. It was everywhere ways less crowded and queue-less, you can close the door during the flight and there is the shower-spa. Leaving the aircraft freshly showered after a long flight was a nice – and spoiling – experience. Last time, I opted for Qatar Business Class on FRA-DXB, as they have really competitive prices (2200€ instead of 5.000€ Emirates First) and a brilliant product, including the Al Safwa Lounge in DOH.

  15. Hey Ben. I noticed you used Mileage Plan miles to book the EK business class flight from DXB to LAX. Maybe I am wrong when I thought this, but I thought that to book award tickets with AS miles you have to be originating somewhere in the US for it to be valid. But you booked out of DXB. Maybe I’m mistaken but what’s the real truth to this?

  16. I had flown Emirates economy many times, from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires, because this is the only wide -body flight on such a route. I found it disappointing as compared to Qatar, British and Turkish (departing from São Paulo, mainly concerning catering: tasteless, horrible food. On January 18th I chose to fly a Business leg: Hong Kong to Bankgok ( I flew AF 443, a couple of days later AF 188 plus a return…AF 165 (award) to Paris, and much later AF442 to Rio, all Premium Economy, and much much much valued for money as the terrible EK385, seat 08G, where as I was served a low quality Champagne ( not a

  17. Veuve Clicquot illustrated above), and a terrible red wine which the hôtesse tried to cover its label. Not enough? A disgusting dry salmon drowned in sticky congee; and a straw tasted pastry. I felt sick, and when I got up to clean my tongue in the bar, I was told the bar was closing, one hour prior to landing in Bangkok. I wish I have flown Thai Airways, much cheaper and highly recommended. Definitively Emirates is the worst airline. Now I learnt the lesson.

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