Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel and/or flight review.
Last April, I enjoyed a terrific holiday with one of my best friends in incredibly beautiful Oman. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: British Airways B787-9 First Class London to Muscat
- Review: Shangri-La Al Husn
- Review: Alila Jabal Akhdar
- Review: Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton hotel
- Review: The Chedi Muscat
- Review: InterContinental Muscat
- Review: Emirates A380 First Class Dubai to Amsterdam (today)
Today (May 25, 2016): Trip report: Emirates A380 First Class Dubai to Amsterdam.
On April 17th 2016, I flew First Class in an Airbus A380 of Emirates from Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the United Arab Emirates to Amsterdam (AMS) in the Netherlands. The privacy of the suite (with sliding doors), mouth-watering food, excellent bedding, onboard shower, impressive amenities, and the well-appointed bar made for a brilliant experience! In addition, the First Class cabin crew was the best I ever encountered during all my years of flying.
Emirates is a mammoth airline: it has more than 240 widebody planes in its fleet, carrying more than 40 million passengers to more than 100 destinations in the world per year. According to Wikipedia, Emirates is currently the fourth-largest airline in the world in terms of international passengers carried, the world’s third largest airlines by scheduled passenger-kilometres flown, the seventh largest airline in the world in terms of revenue, and the largest airline in the Middle East in terms of revenue, fleet size, and passengers carried. The Dubai based airliner is also the largest operator of the Airbus A380, with currently 74 of this aircraft type in its fleet and 66 more on order. The success of Emirates is very much based on the comfort and space onboard its A380s, and that’s why the mega plane is quickly being rolled out on all the major international routes (both shorthaul and longhaul).
Emirates features in my top 10 lists of the best airlines for longhaul Business Class, the best airlines for longhaul First Class, the most luxurious A380 First Class products, the world’s best airlines for in-flight meals, the best First Class lounges, the best Business Class amenity kits, and the best First Class amenity kits.
- Trip: DXB-AMS
- Airline: Emirates
- Aircraft type: Airbus A380
- Aircraft registration number: A6-EOH
- Flight Number:EK149
- Date: April 17th, 2016
- On time departure: yes (3 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (8 pm)
- Miles: 3215
- Flight time: 7 hours
- Seat: 3A
- Class: First
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai Airport
- Facts & figures about Emirates’ longhaul fleet
- First Class cabin
- First Class seat (+ best & worst suites)
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict (score)
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1. COST OF MY TICKET
I booked this journey using 85,000 Skywards miles, which is the number of miles needed for a one-way Emirates First Class ticket between Dubai and most European cities. Skywards is the frequent flyer program of Emirates, and although I have not earned a single Skywards mile with Emirates in my life, I was still able to spend 85,000 Skywards miles on the ticket by transferring some of my SPG points to a newly created Skywards mileage account under my name. SPG is the loyalty program of the Starwood Hotel Group, and you can read here why I like it so much (pros & cons). One of SPG’s major benefits is the SPG airline transfer program, which allows you to convert SPG points to frequent-flyer miles on over 30 major airline partners on a 1:1 basis (including Emirates). You get 25,000 miles for every 20,000 Starpoints converted, including a 5000 conversion bonus. So I converted 75,000 SPG points to 85000 Skywards miles for booking the ticket.
2. EMIRATES FIRST CLASS LOUNGE AT DUBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
All Emirates flights arrive and depart from Emirates Terminal 3 at Dubai International airport, currently the world’s largest airport terminal, with over 1,713,000 m2 (18,440,000 sq ft) of space. This terminal comprises two concourses: Concourse A (the world’s first A380 purpose-built facility, accommodating 20 air bridge gates) and Concourse B. Both concourses feature Business and First Class lounges. My flight departed from Concourse A, so this is a review of the Concourse A First Class lounge only.
The Emirates First Class lounge in Dubai is one of the most spacious, unique and innovative lounges in the world. In fact’s, it’s more of an ultra-luxe concourse floating above the terminal’s ground floor than a defined space like you find in other First Class lounges around the world. The lounge is enormous as it spreads the length of the entire terminal, offering direct access to most gates with multi-level boarding. Immediately after you enter the lounge via the hugely impressive reception area, where gigantic pillars seem to reach for the skies, you’ll find yourself in a gallery lined by high-end, duty-free boutique shops, including brands such as Tiffany&Co and Bvlgari. From there, two walkways run along both sides of the lounge, offering nice views of the terminal’s groundfloor in between, and with plenty of seating corners along the way, most of them centered around the gates. At the opposite side of the lounge, the two walkways converge into the main seating area, which features a gorgeous chandelier. It’s pretty insane that this ridiculously overwhelming space and the large number of seats accommodate only a few First Class passengers, but I guess that is what Emirates aims to reach: impress their First Class passengers and make them feel very privileged. And boy, did they succeed at that!
Every seating area in the First Class lounge comes with its own food station, with food varying from light snacks, sandwiches and sushi, to desserts, coffee tables and cheese spreads. The main restaurant is located halfway the lounge, and offers both a la carte dining and an extensive buffet. The restaurant ambience does not feel very cozy or upscale (due to the terminal’s incredibly high ceilings), although the open kitchen creates a sense of intimacy. During my visit (noontime), the food tasted superb. I choose the following items from the lunch menu:
- Starter: foie gras terrine, served with fig and walnut chutney.
- Entree: pan-fried Red Snapper fillet, served with quinoa, grilled courgette, and a trio of Mediterranean-flavored purées.
Emirates’ First Class passengers also enjoy complimentary treatments at the Timeless Spa, which is located adjacent to the First Class lounge. The lounge also features a business center, a stylish decorated cigar room, a wine cellar, and two sleeping rooms (each featuring a dozens of day beds).
As already mentioned, the lounge has direct gate access. When it was time to board, a staff member scanned my boarding pass, after which I took the elevator down to the jet bridge which offered some terrific views of the A380, which size never ceases to amaze me. Those four engines are just huge!
3. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT EMIRATES’ A380 FLEET
Here is some general information about the A380 as provided by Emirates:
- The Emirates A380 burns up to 20% less fuel per seat than its nearest competitor. This is the most significant advancement in reducing fuel consumption and emissions in four decades.
- Lower fuel burn means lower CO2 emissions. The Emirates A380 produces less than 75g of CO2 per passenger kilometre, almost half of the European emissions target for cars manufactured from 2008 onwards.
- The A380 uses a range of lightweight materials that account for 25% of its structure.
- The Engine Alliance GP7200 engines comfortably meet the strict new ICAO Stage Four noise level standards.
- Emirates fleet, including our A380s, has 30% better fuel efficiency than the ICAO global fleet average.
- Larger aircraft mean fewer takeoff and landings (in passenger terms, this would be the equivalent of flying up to seven smaller aircraft types, for certain versions of the Emirates A380).
- Emirates continues to work closely with Airbus to further reduce weight of future A380s.
- Emirates average fleet age is less than half that of many European airlines, meaning newer technology and efficiency breakthroughs characterise our aircraft.
4. FIRST CLASS CABIN
Upon entering the plane via the massive boarding door, I was welcomed by a very friendly flight attendant who escorted me to First Class, which is nestled in the forward upper deck of the A380. The cabin features 14 enclosed suites in a 1-2-1 configuration, all of them having direct aisle access of course. The 8 suites along the windows are spread across 4 rows, while the 6 middle suites are spread across 3 rows. All suites enjoy complete privacy, as none of the rows quite line up, so nobody is directly looking into the suite across the aisle, even when you don’t close the sliding doors of your suite.
The First Class suites on the sides are ideal for solo travelers (with a generous 3 windows per seat, offering great views), while the 6 suites in the middle are perfect for those traveling with a companion since dividers between these suites can be raised or lowered to provide a feeling of extra spaciousness.
Despite the high number of suites, the First Class cabin still offers an exclusive ambience. It features a sumptuous and kitschy decor though, with lots of walnut veneer, gold trim and pearlised plastic framing the suites, doors, and seats, which does not completely suite my taste (I prefer the more minimalist and contemporary design of Qatar Airways, British Airways, and Etihad Airways).
Click here for a seat map of the Emirates’ Airbus A380.
5. FIRST CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
All Emirates First Class suites feature the same layout, and are peaceful sanctuaries that make you forget that you are sailing high above the clouds. I was seated in suite 3A during the flight.
With the exception of the window side, the suite is surrounded by high walls, only interrupted by two sliding doors that connect the suite to the aisle and can be closed to create a completely private space. The ergonomic seat, which has a width of 23 inch (58 cm), is very comfortable, and its various positions as well as built-in massage systems are controlled via a tablet. At the push of a button, the seat automatically reclines into a fully-flat bed of 86 inches (218 cm) long, with fully retractable armrest. When you want to sleep, a member of the cabin crews installs a mattress, fluffy pillow and soft duvet on the seat for impeccable sleep comfort.
In front of the seat, you find a gold framed, 32 inch (81 cm) video screen, the largest of its kind in the skies, with a desk below. The latter features a fold-away mirror with vanity kit, as well as a drawer containing a writing kit. Upon boarding, the crew also puts a basket with several snacks (e.g. dried mango, chocolates, etc …) on the desk, which is removed during the takeoff and landing phase of the flight.
One side of the seat features a minibar with soft drinks and juices (on room temperature). It’s more a fancy decoration to impress passengers than a functional amenity, as you can order whatever (cooled) drink you want during the flight. Besides the minibar, there’s also a tablet to control the seat movements as well as the inflight entertainment system (more on that later).
The First Class suite lacks overhead bins nor does it has large storage compartments, so at first I was a bit puzzled where I had to store my hand luggage. It turned out you just stow away your personal belongings in the (large) space below the desk and entertainment screen.
What are the best First Class seats on Emirates’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- Solo travelers should go fo the window seats, while companions should choose the middle seats.
What are the worst First Class seats on Emirates’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- There are no bad seats in Emirates’ A380 First Class cabin.
Unfortunately, this was a dayflight, and Emirates only provides amenity kits on long-haul night flights and on flights over 10 hours. However, I requested an amenity kit to a member of the crew, who gave me one without any problem.
Emirates’ First Class amenity kit is a large toiletry bag: the men’s kit bags are made from fine leather, while the ladies’ kit bags are made of sophisticated satin. Both kits contain 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 First Class amenity kit’s content is not different from the Business Class one.
In addition I also received a pajama (after requesting one), slippers, eyeshades, earplugs, and a noise-cancelling headphone.
7. FOOD & BEVERAGES
Emirates’ First Class menu is extensive, and you can order whatever whenever. Although the flight was only 7 hours, I had a full lunch (after takeoff) and dinner (before landing). All food was very well presented and executed.
- Canapés: tartlet of marinated feta with aubergine caviar and schichmi; foie gras on gingerbread with smoked salt; and arm salmon tempo sushi with herb crust.
- Appetiser: caviar, presented with traditional selection of finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon, served with melba toast and blinis.
- Pumpkin soup with croutons and sour cream.
- Main course: seafood harra, which is a traditional Middle Eastern dish of oven-baked prawns and fish in spiced tomato sauce, served with saffron rice.
- Dessert: banana cheesecake with toffee sauce.
- Chicken consommé with vegetable julienne.
- Main course: braised beef short ribs, with balsamic juice, braised red cabbage and pan-fired gnocchi with herbs.
- Dessert: seasonal fruit, an assortment of fresh-cut fruit.
One of the strongest onboard products of the Emirates is its inflight entertainment system, designated 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 A380 megaplane also offer some fun moments, especially at take-off and landing.
The inflight entertainment is displayed on the suite’s giant 32-inch (81 cm) touch-screen that is supported by two hand-held controllers: one tablet-like device that also holds the seat controls; and a small, 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.
One of the Emirates A380 most talked about features is the onboard shower in its First Class cabin. There are two showers (with heated floors!) at the front of the upper deck, each one of them located in one of the two spacious First Class lavatories. It’s quite surreal indeed to indulge in a refreshing and rejuvenating shower at 40,000ft, using Bvlgari toiletries and Timeless Spa products. Each First Class passenger can shower once per flight, getting five minutes of water when showering (although you can turn the shower on and off as often as you want).
10. OTHER INFLIGHT & GROUND EXPERIENCES
# CREW: this was by far the most friendly and amazing cabin crew I ever encountered during all my years of flying. No less than 4 crew members took care of the passengers in the First Class cabin, which was half empty. They almost made me forget I was flying (although I am a nervous flyer), and genuinely talked about how they loved working for Emirates.
# BAR: At the rear of the upper cabin, you can find the A380 Onboard Lounge – a bar exclusive to First Class and Business Class passengers and a hub of activity throughout the flight. One can 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.
# WALK-UP BAR: the First Class cabin also features a walk-up bar, which is located in the nose of the plane, between the 2 lavatories. Before landing, the bar is transformed into a spa-like lounge with a mini-waterfall.
# INTERNET: Emirates offers 10MB of free WiFi to each passenger during the flight (regardless of the class you are seated in). An additional 600MB could be purchased for $1. If you exceeded that limit, you could purchase yet another 600MB for $1. WiFi worked not so great and it suprized me that you had to pay for internet in First Class.
# FLIGHT PATH: normally, the flight path from Dubai to Amsterdam goes straight over Syria and Iraq, but the plane detoured around the current ISIS conflict area by flying over eastern Iran.
11. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Inflight entertainment : 10/10
- Amenity kit: 9/10
- Service: 10/10
- Cabin atmosphere: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,2/10
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I need your life
As a frequent EK flyer I enjoy reading your reviews. I’ve been on their business class on the A380 several times, but I’m still yet to try out the first class.
Thank you! It’s rumored that Emirates might announce a new First Class product soon, so you may want to wait a few months before trying out their most luxurious cabin.
Do you know if it’s possible to upgrade when the original award booking was made with miles of a partner FF program? For example…If I book an award ticket of EK with mile sof TAP Miles & Go, Alaska Miles oor Smiles (all partners of EK).
Can I upgrade that ticket with EK skyward miles ???
Thank you very much