Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.
Today (December 31, 2014): Flight Review: Emirates A380 Business Class from Brisbane to Dubai.
On November 10th 2014, I flew Business Class in an Airbus A380 of Emirates from Brisbane (BNE) to Dubai (DXB). You can read here my review of the Emirates flight from Dubai to Sydney, which was also operated by an A380 and part of the same trip to Down Under. The success of Emirates’ Business Class product is very much based on the comfort and space of its Airbus A380 fleet, and that’s why the mega plane is quickly being rolled out on all the major international routes. In 2013, Emirates upgraded Brisbane from a Boeing 777 to an Airbus A380 (making it the only Airbus A380 currently flying in and out of Queensland).
In a nutshell: comfortable seats, mammoth amenity kits, a huge entertainment selection, excellent food, a wonderful crew and a well-appointed bar on the upper deck makes flying Emirates’ A380 Business Class a phenomenal event. Flying the Airbus A380 is a totally different (and superior) experience as compared to Emirates’ Boeing 777, since the airline does not display the same Business Class product on both aircraft types (click here to read my trip report of an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER Business Class trip from Dubai to Brussels).
Emirates features in my top 10 lists of the world’s best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the most luxurious First Class suites in the sky, the best Business Class amenity kits in the sky, and the most delicious airline food.
- Trip: BNE-DXB
- Date: November 10th, 2014
- Airline: Emirates
- Aircraft type: Airbus A380
- Aircraft ID: A6-EDO
- Flight Number: EK435
- On time departure: yes (8.45 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (5.05 am)
- Miles: 7443
- Flight time: 14:20
- Seat: 23K
- Class: business (D)
In this review (more information & photos below our Youtube clip and slideshow):
- Emirates Business Class Lounge at Brisbane International Airport
- Business Class Cabin
- Business Class Seat (+ best & worst seats in the plane)
- Other inflight & ground experiences (crew, lavatory, WiFi, bar, chauffeur service)
- Comparison with other Middle Eastern carriers (Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways)
- My verdict
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1. EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS LOUNGE AT BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (BNE)
The Emirates Lounge in Brisbane is impressive and the perfect place to start the Business Class flight experience. It’s quite surreal that Emirates has its own luxurious lounge at BNE, given the fact that it is used only 3 times a day for the Emirates flights to Auckland, Singapore and Dubai. The lounge is large and elegant, the food tasty and very nicely presented with a plethora of choice (it outclasses the food on display at Emirates’ Dubai lounges). The best news is you can board directly from the lounge, so no queues.
2. THE BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
All of Emirates’ Business Class seats are located in two cabins on the upper deck of the Airbus A380, behind the First Class cabin. The first cabin contains the bulk of the seats (58 in total), while the cabin located at the rear of the plane (just in front the bar and the restrooms) contains only 18 seats and feels more intimate. The layout of the seats is staggered (1-2-1), which means every passenger has access to the aisle without having to step over anyone else. For a seating plan of the Emirates A380, click here.
The cabin offers a warm feeling, with a lot of classy burled walnut veneer, gold trim and pearlised plastic that frames the seats (and which may not suit all tastes). The mood lighting during the flight is very enjoyable: the colors of the ceiling chang with the local time, and the starry sky panels adds a touch of magic during the night.
The Business Class cabin was only half full for this overnight flight from Brisbane to Dubai.
3. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
Each seat comes with plenty of storage space, an in-seat power supply (so you can use your laptop for the duration of the long-haul flight), a side table for space to work, and a personal minibar, stocked with soft drinks (albeit not cooled: so more aesthetic than functional). The seat can be reclined into a fully and very comfortable – albeit narrow – flatbed. A duvet was provided by the crew to enhance the sleeping comfort (I slept more than 8 hours on this 14 hour 20 minute flight).
How to choose the best Emirates A380 Business Class seat?
- The window seats (A, K) are more private than the aisle seats (B, D, G, J) as they are sheltered from the aisle by the seat’s mini-bar cabinet and the enclosed footrest of the person behind. The window seats also benefit from the storage cabinets under the windows.
- The dual and more intimate seats in the centre of the cabin (E, F) are perfect for partners traveling together.
- Keep in mind that aisle seats (B, D, G, J) are slightly shorter when fully flat, extending to 70 inches (178 cm) as compared to 79 inches (200 cm) for window and central seats (A, E, F, K). Seat pitch varies from 48 to 39 inches (122 to 99 cm), with the central and window seats again offering more space as compared to aisle seats. Seat width is 18.5 inches throughout the cabin.
What are the best Business Class seats on Emirates’ Airbus A380?
- Seats 23A & 23K are the best Business Class seats on the A380 since they offer more legroom and privacy as compared to other window seats.
What are the worst Business Class seats on Emirates’ Airbus A380?
- IMHO, seats 7A & 7K are the worst seats: despite the fact that they have extra legroom (similar to seats 23A & 23K), they are totally exposed to the aisle and do not offer privacy at all (they seem to be lacking a shelter like is the case for all the other window seats).
Each seat comes with a thin but comfortable blanket, a decently sized pillow, a lovely duvet, a noise cancelling headphone, flight socks and earplugs.
Before take-off, a very luxurious amenity kit was offered to all Business Class passengers. The amenity kit was presented as a large and gorgeous toiletry bag, and it contained the usual necessities – albeit in luxe edition – such as toothbrush and toothpaste through to handkerchiefs and deodorant. The mens amenity kit also provided Gilette shaving foam and a razor, as well as moisturizers and aftershaves by Bvlgari. The women’s one was different, catering with more feminine product ranges.
Unfortunately, pyjamas are not offered on Emirates’ longhaul flights, despite the phenomenal Business Class product. This is in contrast to its Middle East competitor Qatar Airways.
Upon boarding, I was offered the choice between a glass of water, orange juice or Veuve Cliquot. I also received a refreshing hot towel with a nice texture (hot towels were also served before breakfast, 2,5 hours prior to landing). It took a long time before the plane was airborne, so I had plenty of time to go through the menu (which also included an extra dinner for those passengers connecting on the same plane from Auckland).
Soon after take off, and thanks to the fact that the cabin was half empty, dinner was served. As as starter, I choose the thai-style beef salad, which was good: thinly sliced prime beef tenderloin marinated with oriental soy sauce, chilli and fresh lime, presented with a green papaya salad. The main course was not my favorite but was ok nonetheless: garlic and chilli prawns, served with steamed pak choy, stir-fried shiitake mushrooms and lemongrass and coconut-infused rice. As a dessert, I choose the chocolate soufflé tart, served with fresh raspberries. Overall, food was ok but not as excellent though as the food served on the Dubai-Sydney leg.
About 2,5 hours before landing, breakfast was served. I felt this was too early, as everyone had finished his or her breakfast about 2 hours before touchdown, so they could easily have let the passengers sleep for another hour. It was refreshing nonetheless: a fresh mango juice, a palette of tropical and seasonal cut fresh fruits, fruit flavoured yoghurt, and a bread basket (butter croissant and a pastry). As a main course, I choose the delicatessen’s cold meat and cheese, offering a gourmet selection of mild breakfast cheeses served with sliced roasted beef and shaves smoked chicken, dressed with an array of garnishes.
For the hungry ones, light bites were non-stop available during the flight, from cold snacks (panini sandwich) to hot snacks (e.g. Yakitori chicken skewers, seafood vol au vent, sun-dried tomato and feta quiche) and sweets (fresh fruit tart).
One of the strongest elements of the Emirates A380 is the inflight entertainment system, the so-called ICE (information, communications, entertainment). ICE has an extensive range of new-release and classic films, television shows, box sets and audio options to choose from. You can choose from up to 1,800 channels of the latest and greatest movies and must-see TV shows, on demand and in multiple languages. You can also relax to music from around the world or play our range of fun games. The cameras installed in the tail, nose and belly of the megaplane also offer some fun moments, especially at take-off and landing.
The inflight entertainment is displayed on an individual giant 17-inch (43 cm) touch-screen that is supported by two hand-held controllers: one tablet-like device dedicated to the business class seat (including the seat controls) and another smaller, standard inflight entertainment system controller. The touch-screen combined with the 2 controllers means that there is plenty of options to control your inflight entertainment depending on how the seat is reclined.
7. OTHER INFLIGHT & GROUND EXPERIENCES
#CREW: Emirates’ cabin crew is famous for the delivered onboard service and this was no different on this flight. Crew was professional and extremely friendly (addressing me by name, presenting themselves individually before take-off, and also thanking me in person for choosing Emirates before landing). All requests were dealt with promptly and cordially. Upon boarding, steward(esse)s explained the features of the cabin and seat to passengers individually.
#BAR: At the rear of the upper cabin, you can find the A380 Onboard Lounge – a bar exclusive to First Class and Business Class customers and a hub of activity throughout the flight. One could choose from premium spirits, exclusive wines, champagne, cocktails and beers alongside hot and cold beverages served by a dedicated bartender It’s a good platform to stretch your legs while interacting with other passengers and the international crew. I liked the Burj Al Arab (one of the most expensive hotels in the world) and The Palm Island motives on the wall.
#LAVATORY: the 4 lavatories for Business Class passengers are located at the rear of the plane. Two of them come with a window. All lavatories were kept very clean during the flight.
#INTERNET: Emirates offered 10MB of free WiFi to each passenger during the flight. An additional 600MB could be purchased for $1. If you exceeded that limit, you could purchase yet another 600MB for $1. WiFi worked great.
#CHAUFFEUR SERVICE: one of the great things about flying Business (or First) class with Emirates is the complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers. Chauffeur-drive must be requested online, up to 48 hours prior to your flight. It is so nice to be picked up at your hotel and to be whisked away to the airport in a minimum of time.
8. COMPARISON WITH OTHER MIDDLE EASTERN CARRIERS
The 3 major Middle Eastern carriers (Etihad airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways) are known for their excellent Business Class. There are some differences however that distinguish one from another (click here for more info):
- Chauffeur service: both Etihad and Emirates offer complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers, while this is not the case with Qatar Airways. A huge plus for Emirates and Etihad!
- Pyjamas: Qatar Airways offers pyjamas on overnight medium- and long-haul flights, while Etihad and Emirates only offer them in First Class.
- Duvets: Qatar Airways and Emirates offer duvets on medium-haul flights (to increase sleeping comfort), while Etihad only offers them on longhaul flights.
- Fleet-wide consistency: Etihad offers a consistent Business Class product across it wide-body fleet (with the exception of its superior Dreamliner B787 & Airbus A380 products, which were recently introduced), while Emirates and Qatar offer a more variable Business Class product across their wide-body fleets.
- Cabin interior & design: Etihad’s Airbus A380s & Dreamliner B787s feature an extremely elegant decor in their Business Class cabins (it doesn’t get any better at 30.000 feet), while Qatar’s A380, B787 and A350 cabins are very sexy with a red/white theme. Emirates features rather bombastic interiors, with lots of walnut veneer, gold trim and pearlised plastic, which is not to my liking.
- Cabin layout & seats: the best wide-body Business Class layout & seats are (in order from excellent to mediocre): (1) Etihad B787/A380; (2) Qatar B787/A350/A380; (3) Emirates A380; (4) Etihad A330/B777; (5) Qatar B777; (6) Emirates B777; (7) Qatar A330. So bottom line is to take the aircraft type into account when booking a flight on one of the 3 Middle Eastern carriers.
- Flat beds: Etihad Airways is the only carrier to offer flat beds (with 180 degree recline) across its wide body fleet. Contrary to their A380s, Emirates’ B777s have angled lie flat-beds (although they are still comfortable). Qatar Airways is currently replacing the (very uncomfortable) angled lie flat-beds on its Airbus A330 fleet by true lie-flat seats (after which the whole Qatar fleet will offer flat beds).
- Food: meals are delicious on all 3 carriers, but my best gastronomic experiences (so far) were always on Qatar Airways, followed by Etihad, and then Emirates.
- Number of meal services: on longhaul flights, all 3 carriers offer 2 meal services (one after takeoff, and one 90 minutes before landing). On medium-haul flights though, Etihad and Emirates only offer one meal; Qatar Airways used to offer a second light meal before landing but now seems to have skipped that as well. So there’s no difference here.
- Inflight entertainment: Emirates is the winner when it comes to the inflight entertainment product, with large screens and an extensive range of films, television shows, and audio options (but Etihad and Qatar offer plenty of choices as well).
- WiFi: onboard WiFi is offered by all 3 Middle Eastern carriers, but with a different price tag: Emirates offers the cheapest WiFi, while Qatar’s WiFi is just way too expensive, with Etihad somewhere in between.
- Amenity kit: Emirates has by the far the best amenity kit of the 3 airlines, with Etihad offering the least impressive Business Class amenity kit. Unfortunately, Emirates only offers them on longhaul flights, while Etihad and Qatar Airways offer amenity kits on both medium- and longhaul flights.
- Onboard bar: an onboard bar, exclusively accessible for passengers flying the premium cabins, is only present on the Airbus A380 aircrafts, which are now operated by all 3 carriers. But your chances of flying an Airbus A380, and thus socializing with other passengers in a fantastic onboard bar, are highest with Emirates, which has no less than 60 of these megaplanes in its fleet (Qatar Airways and Etihad own only 4 and 2 Airbus A380s respectively).
Read here my review of Etihad Airways’ Business Class in an Airbus A330.
Read here my review of Emirates’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
Read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Read here my review of Qatar Airways’ Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER.
9. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 8/10
- Food: 7/10
- Inflight entertainment : 10/10
- Amenity kit: 10/10
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin atmosphere (upper deck): 9.5/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8.8/10
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What a brilliant review, I just flew Emirates on a trip to Australia but really need to write up something on my blog soon about the experience. Also great photos!