Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel and/or flight review.
Last October, I enjoyed a fabulous holiday in the Seychelles, the legendary island archipelago of exceptional tropical beauty in the Indian Ocean. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Condor B767-300ER Business Class from Frankfurt to Mahe
- Review: Six Senses Zil Pasyon
- Review: Maia Luxury Resort
- Review: North Island (the world’s most exclusive resort)
- Review: Qantas A380 First Class from Dubai to London (today)
Today (28 December, 2016): Trip report: Qantas A380 First Class from Dubai to London.
On November 1st 2016, I flew First Class in an Airbus A380 of Qantas from Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the United Arab Emirates to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) in the UK. This was the last leg of my Seychelles holiday (the flight from Mahe to Dubai was on an Emirates B777). Qantas – the flag carrier of Australia – is one of the airlines that I admire the most. Although I am not sure where my fascination with the airline comes from, it probably has to do with the fact that it’s the third oldest airline in the world (after KLM and Avianca) and that is has a reputation for being the safest airline in the world. Qantas hasn’t had a fatal crash during the entire jet area (which began in 1951), a reputation which was glorified in the 1988 blockbuster Rain Man, when Dustin Hoffman’s character refused to get on a flight unless it was Qantas because of the airline’s stellar safety record.
The Australian carrier was one of the first A380 customers, and back in 2008, it placed an order for 20 of the megaplanes. Currently Qantas has 12 A380s in its fleet and mainly deploys them on the London, Dubai, Hong Kong, and USA routes. It doesn’t want its remaining 8 A380s on order anymore, since its current jumbo fleet is enough to meet the existing passenger demand. The particular plane I flew on was an Airbus A380-800 with registration number VH-OQI, nicknamed ‘David Warren’ after the inventor of the flight date recorder and cockpit voice recorder. My experience onboard the Qantas A380 was awesome: the hard product is slightly inferior to the Middle East A380 First Class cabins but the cheerful and courteous cabin crew was the best I ever encountered in all my years of flying.
Qantas features in my top 10 lists of the best Business Class amenity kits in the sky and my most phenomenal travel experiences of 2016.
- Trip: DXB-LHR
- Airline: Qantas
- Aircraft type: Airbus A380
- Aircraft registration number: VK-OQI (nicknamed David Warren)
- Flight Number: QF9
- Date: November 1st, 2016
- On time departure: yes (8.20 am)
- On time arrival: yes (12.50 pm)
- Miles: 3420
- Flight time: 7.30 hours
- Seat: 4K
- Class: First
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- Emirates First Class lounge at Dubai International Airport
- Facts & Figures about the Qantas A380
- First Class Cabin
- First Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other experiences
- My verdict
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1. COST OF MY TICKET
As previously explained, I almost never pay a full price for a flight, as I mostly use my hard-earned miles for booking a premium class seat or make the booking during an airline’s promotion. I booked this particular journey using 62,500 AAdvantage miles, which is the number of miles needed for a one-way First Class ticket between the Middle East and Europe. In addition, I had to pay $98 USD for taxes and carrier imposed fees. AAdvantage is the frequent flyer program of American Airlines. The US airline devaluated its program this year, and you now need more miles to book award tickets on certain routes (such as the First Class route between Europe and the Middle, which used to be 40,000 miles one-way). But despite the devaluation, I still consider AAdvantage to be the best frequent flyer program in the world and you can read here why.
2. EMIRATES FIRST CLASS LOUNGE AT DUBAI AIRPORT
Qantas does not have its own lounge at Dubai International Airport, but that’s not bad news since its premium passengers have access to the excellent lounges of its partner Emirates at Terminal 3, 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 Emirates lounge only. I have previously reported on this fabulous lounge in my Emirates First Class DXB-AMS trip report, so this is mostly a repeat.
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 not a defined space but rather an ultra-luxe concourse floating above the terminal’s ground floor. The lounge is enormous as it spreads the entire length of the 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 Tom Ford and Chanel. 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 (early morning time), an impressive breakfast buffet was diplayed. Unfortunately, I did not have time to try out the a la carte breakfast.
The Timeless Spa is located adjacent to the First Class lounge and offers complimentary treatments. 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. The latter offered some terrific views of the A380, which size never ceases to amaze me. Those four engines are just huge!
3. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT QANTAS’ A380 FLEET
Here are some fun and impressive facts about the A380, as provided by Qantas and Wikipedia.
- The A380 holds 81900 gallons of fuel weighing 560 tons . However, the megaplane is cleaner and more efficient – burning 17% less fuel per seat – than today’s largest jets.
- The A380 produces around 60% less carbon dioxide than the average family car, per passenger kilometre.
- The A380 is quieter than other large aircraft with a reduction in take-off noise by half and a quieter cabin experience in flight.
- There are over 320 miles (more than 500 km) of cable wired throughout an A380.
- The A380 wings and engines are made in England; the tail and fuselage are made in Spain and Germany. Once made, all parts are then shipped to France for assembly.
- The A380 offers Qantas’ most spacious and comfortable International Economy seat yet, designed by Marc Newson and built by Recaro.
- The A380 wingspan (8 m or 262 ft) is longer than the plane’s actual length (72.7 m or 236 ft).
- The A380 provides seating for up to 853 people in an all-economy class configuration.
- The A380 double-decker is the length of eight buses and has enough room on its wings to park 70 cars.
- The A380 has 50 percent more floor area than the B747.
- It takes 3,600 liters (950 gallons) of paint to cover the 3,100 m2 (33,000 sq ft) exterior of an A380. The paint is five layers thick and weighs about 650 kg (1,433 lb).
4. FIRST CLASS CABIN
The Qantas A380 has 484 seats in total: 14 First Class, 64 Business Class, 35 Premium Economy Class, and 371 Economy Class seats, spread over the two decks.
The First Class cabin is located on the plane’s forward lower deck, immediately behind the cockpit. Upon entering the plane, First Class passengers are escorted by a member of the cabin crew to their seat. The airy cabin features a design of understated luxury with 14 open suites in a 1-1-1 configuration, all of them having direct aisle access of course. There are 10 window seats (5 on each side) and 4 seats in the center of the cabin. The latter share the same aisle as the right sided window seats, so I would suggest choosing a seat on the plane’s left side (row A) for more privacy. Although they are not fully enclosed, all suites have high seat walls and enjoy total privacy, as none of the rows quite line up and the suites are angled towards the windows, so nobody is directly looking into the suite across the aisle. In addition, dividers can be raised for extra privacy.
For a seat map of the Qantas A380, click here.
5. FIRST CLASS SEATS (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
I had chosen window seat 4K for the flight. However, to call it a ‘seat’ is a misnomer, since it’s more of a very spacious suite.
During takeoff and landing, the seat – which is located at some distance from the window – faces forward, but during cruise, the seat can be swiveled around to line up with the ottoman (and form a flat-bed). Besides the seat – at eye level – is a small touch screen that controls all of the seat and suite functions, such as the programmable seat positions, the multi-zone massage function, the suite’s lighting, privacy screens, and dual layer window shades. Below that screen is the remote control for the entertainment system. In front of the seat is a small fold-out table, which can be used for drinks and small plates so that you don’t have to take out the enormous tray table. The latter can be folded in half and is hiding in the seat’s side cabinet, which also holds two drawers for storing smaller personal items, such as glasses and mobile phones. The noise-cancelling headphones are located in one of these drawers.
The leather ottoman can be used as an extension of the flat-bed, as well as an extra seat to host a companion (for dinner) in your suite. For that particular reason, it also comes with its own seat belt, so that your guest can remain seated during an episode of turbulence. Above the ottoman is the electronically deployed 17 inch LCD widescreen video monitor. There’s no seat wall behind the monitor, although a screen can be raised here for complete privacy.
With one press on a buton, the seat converts into a 212 cm (6’11”) fully flat-bed complemented by a foam mattress, sheepskin overlay and fitted cotton sheeting.
What are the best First Class seats on Qantas’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- The middle seats and right-sided window seats share the same aisle, so I would suggest choosing a seat on the plane’s left side (row A) for more privacy and overhead bin storage space.
What are the worst First Class seats on Qantas’ Airbus A380? Click here for a seat map.
- Passengers seated in the first row may be bothered by noise from the lavatories.
- Passengers seated in the last row (row 5) may be bothered by noise from the galley and the more crowded Economy Class cabin behind them.
Martin Grant designed sleepwear and amenity kits are offered to customers traveling in Qantas’ First Class cabin. Designed exclusively by Qantas’ Creative Director of Fashion, Martin Grant, the unisex navy and black trim Qantas First pyjamas are 100 per cent cotton, feature a tailored neckline and tapered silhouette to ensure elegant comfort in the First cabin, and come with matching slippers. The stylish First Class amenity kit comes in the same navy hues and feature a range of bespoke hydrating ASPAR by Aurora Spa products, Martin Grant-designed travel socks, dental kit, ear plugs and deodorant. The amenity kit also features a Martin Grant designed eye mask that cups the eyes for maximum comfort and light block out.
While food was very good, I was not overly impressed with the tastes nor presentation of the onboard meals, which are created by Neil Perry. I did like it though that you could order whatever you wanted from the menu at any time you wished. The menu read as follows:
- Canapés: caviar tartlet with crème fraîche + sesame lavish with labne, carrot and dill.
- Spicy lentil soup with herbed crème fraîche.
- Small plate: Qantas signature steak sandwich with tomato and chilli relish.
- Main plate: Rockpool Bar & Grill style lamb rack with rosemary potatoes, peas and mustard.
- Dessert: fresh fruit.
Before landing, I was hungry again (despite this being only a 7.30 hour flight) so I ordered the seared hamour with tamarind chickpeas, cauliflower, and coriander (which was not exactly my cup of tea).
Qantas’ First Class A380 inflight entertainment system features a 17 inch touch screen, with noise-cancelling headsets and on-demand control so you can watch what you want, when you want with high-quality audio. The selection includes a wide range of movies, TV programs, CD albums, moving maps, interactive games and a selection of radio channels. Personal telephones are also available in every seat, as well as the option to reply text message. You can choose to use your own laptop with 110v AC power outlets to keep you going. The fin tail camera also offer some fun moments, especially at take-off and landing (as you can watch in my Youtube clip).
9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: This was by far the most friendly and amazing crew I ever encountered during all my years of flying. Qantas is known for its superfriendly crew and they did not disappoint. While I was taking some photos of the seat during boarding, the captain passed by and invited me to the cockpit for a quick tour (what a treat!). The cabin crew was extraordinary, as they almost made me forget I was flying (although I am a nervous flyer), and genuinely talked about how they loved working for Qantas. This particular crew was based in London, and the cabin director was – like me – a Belgian.
# BAR: The Qantas A380 does not have a real onboard bar, contrary to Emirates, Etihad and Qantas. However, the front upper deck features a small and cozy lounge, which is a good platform to stretch your legs while interacting with other passengers.
# LAVATORY: First Class cabin passengers can use two lavatories, located directly behind the cockpit. They both come with a window (and a view).
# FLIGHT PATH: Normally, the flight path from Dubai to London goes straight over Syria and Iraq, but the plane detoured around the current ISIS conflict area by flying over eastern Iran.
10. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 8/10
- Food: 7/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- Amenity kit: 8/10
- Service: 10/10
- Cabin atmosphere: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8,5/10
*** Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***
Thank you for your informative report. I will be using Qantas ( Australia } in Jan 2017 but unfortunately in Economy..however its interesting to see from your pics how different airlines configure their A380s. We will be using the A380( Emirates ) out of the UK to Sydney in Business Class. Happy New Year to you and keep posting your reports.
Thank you for your kind comment, Kathryn. You will love the Emirates A380 Business Class product on the long journey from the UK to Australia. Safe travels and my best wishes for 2017!
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