Trip report with photos: Emirates A380 Business Class review, Dubai to London

This is my review of Emirates Business Class on an A380.  I was lucky enough to fly this with my family on our way back from holiday in Dubai last week.

I had booked our outbound flights on British Airways (into Abu Dhabi, not Dubai, but it was only a 70 minute / £60 taxi ride to our hotel) but return flights never opened up.  This is not really surprising – four business class seats on the last day of half term were always going to be in high demand.

As I wrote in my pieces on Emirates Skywards recently, Emirates has ‘Flex’ awards.  These cost more (62,500 miles each way in Business, compared with 45,000 miles for a ‘Saver’ award) but availability is excellent.  I could take my pick from multiple Emirates flights to London on the same day with 4 Business Class seats available.

I funded this by moving 200,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points to Emirates Skywards which became 250,000 Emirates miles.  At the time I booked this was the only option, but now I can use Amex Membership Rewards as Emirates is now a partner.

Check-in

Emirates redemptions include their chauffeur service.  Here is one of the two cars that turned up at Emirates Towers hotel to collect us.  (They assumed four passengers would need two cars, ignoring the fact that two were children.)  In the end, one car was used solely to transport our baby buggy!

A380 car

The ground experience at Terminal 3 is not great.  You are separated entirely from Economy passengers, from the second you get out of the car, but it is still not luxurious.  The fact that we had come in via Abu Dhabi also caused issues at passport control, where we waited for 6-7 minutes.

We were not in the new Concourse A, but on Concourse B.  This was the same one we used five years when we went to The Maldives on Emirates.  The lounge is h-u-g-e, literally running as far as the eye can see, but it isn’t luxurious.  Horrible brown furniture dominates.  It didn’t appeal at all and I am in no rush to return.

A380 lounge

On board

This is where Emirate scores.  Seating is 2 x 4 x 2, with Business Class taking up the rear portion of the upper deck, behind First Class.  You board and disembark directly from the upper deck, so to all intents and purposes you don’t even realise there is a second tier beneath you.

A380 interior

Whilst I say ‘2 x 4 x 2’, in reality it is staggered.  All seats have direct aisle access.  This is arranged by giving the aisle seats less leg room when the seat is in bed mode, to allow the centre passengers to walk behind the seat.  We had a middle pair (in the middle block) and the aisle seats in the row behind.

Here are my kids in their seats.  Note a) the little built-in drinks cabinet and b) the huge TV.

A380 interior 2

A380 interior 3

There are three TV cameras built into the A380, so you have a live feed – pretty cool at take off and landing.

A380 TV picture

Food and drink

Like Virgin Atlantic, Emirates has an on-board bar, staffed that day by a girl from Essex for that genuine London pub experience!  I really liked this.  Not because I could sit and get hammered, but because I could sit with my son ‘normally’ instead of in an airline seat.

(I decided not to publish my photo of the bar as there are a number of people in it whose permission I did not ask.  You can see a stock photo here.)

Food was ‘interesting’.  The quality was excellent.  Take a look at this kids meal, which is better than the adult meals a lot of airlines serve!

A380 kids meal

The full menu is at the bottom of this post.  This was the tuna appetiser I had:

A380 adult meal

However, that was it – one meal.  Nothing else appeared during the flight!  There were canapés available in the bar, but these had got rock hard towards the end, after sitting out for six hours.

Here is one of the customers enjoying the seating area in the bar, which is at the back of the business class cabin:

A380 down the bar

Landing

At Heathrow, we were again able to take a free Emirates chauffeur home.  They are well organised – there is a proper waiting area as soon as you exit from Terminal 3, where you can sit and read the papers or have a coffee whilst your driver comes down from the car park.  The wait was only about 10 minutes.  Yet again, two cars had been provided, but this time we squeezed everything into one.

Verdict

It certainly isn’t true to say that Emirates beats British Airways on every criteria.  That may surprise some people who have read that the Gulf carriers are wiping the floor with their European rivals.  If I had to score each aspect of the flight, I would say:

  • Seat availability – excellent, albeit at higher ‘Flex’ pricing
  • Miles and taxes required – average (but traded off for the availability, and remember it includes the chauffeur service)
  • Check-in – average
  • Lounge experience – average
  • On-board seating and environment – excellent
  • On-board food and drink – good, but could be more of it!

My wife, not generally a lover of bling, said she preferred it to Club World.  This surprised me slightly, as it is trickier to keep an eye on your kids in EK.  The seats are bigger and further apart – if you are on the aisle, you cannot actually see what the people in the middle pair are doing, which is tricky if they are 2 and 5!  However, the extra space is helpful.

Having an ‘all business / First’ deck also helped, I think.  Normally our little one runs around the plane and ends up getting tangled in World Traveller!  Here, there was far less chance of causing themselves an injury and it was good to sit on the sofa in the bar with the kids.

We will almost certainly be doing it again – especially as I’ve just transferred some Amex Membership Rewards points to Emirates Skywards to take advantage of the 25% transfer bonus which runs until the 21st.

Do post below if you have any questions which I didn’t cover here.

(PS.  Here was the menu:

Appetisers – Traditional local Arabic mezze, Yellowfin tuna, Potato and leek soup, Seasonal salad

Main Course – Grilled beef fillet, Chicken korma, Seafood machbous, Reuben sandwich

Dessert – Ipanema mousse, Cranberry cheesecake, Cheese board, Selection of fruit)

3,000 bonus United MileagePlus miles for a RocketMiles hotel booking
10,000 x £10 East Coast trains vouchers in The Sunday Telegraph tomorrow
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Comments

  1. Adult food looked fabulous and kids meals significantly better than BA. On 6 hour flight do you need more?

    For me space and freedom on board trumps everything else including lounges so your report ( and EK now being MR partner removes BA from another route)

    The car is a real differentiator and even BA full F don’t get this.

    Use of upper deck for. F and J also interesting. Have not seen anyone comment yet on the 12 minute minimum waiting time to get a single passenger off a BA A380 as a result of the process with jetties and F being on lower deck. At most airports upper deck doors must/ can only be serviced first before lower deck jetty to door one positioned. Consequently doors on upper deck not opened till F paxs off. This taking at least 12 minutes and often much much longer.

    EK will avoid this by sensibly putting F upstairs so most premium passengers will be off before lower deck doors even open.

  2. “The fact that we had come in via Abu Dhabi also caused issues at passport control”

    How come?

    • Dunno. But the guy had real issues and spent ages tapping away, including making a phone call (in arabic).

      • Used to happen to me all of the time… Passport computer systems at the different “emirates” don’t seem to communicate each other very well, if at all. It’s not normally an issue, particularly if you can point out your passport stamp from the other emirate.

        I do wonder whether Dubai think I’ve overstayed my visa because I left via Abu Dhabi last time…

      • Last year they also struggled with my passport (I had entered overland from Oman) – I even had the excitement of going into a special room whilst they sorted it out !

        Took about 10 minutes.

  3. I find the business A380 to Dubai a real pleasure… It just works !
    Then again, I do not have children in tow.

  4. Very cute kids Raffles and great report. Travelling with the little ones, I often find the attitude of the cabin crew to kids a major factor. Personally, JL and TG come out tops in this respect for us. How would you rate EK in this respect?

    • No problem at all, although my kids are very self sufficient – the 2-year old has done 3 long hauls in the last 12 months – so they know the drill! The kids are worse on short haul, frankly – I would far rather take them on a long-haul 7 hours to Dubai than 2.5 hours to Spain.

  5. great blog rafflles. i’d like to pick your brains, to max the best benefits/airlines for my miles.
    I would like to fly with my husband to DXB/AUH , thinking possibly of Yas island.
    i have opened 2x AA cards and qualified for the points, and i’ve also just been accepted for 2 x etihad cards. i would like to take advantage of middle east airlines possibly in first class one way and also if i could get chauffeur both ways, i live 90 ish miles from lhr.
    I do have about 40k of amex rewards and lots of BA miles (which i don’t really want to use but will if needed)

    • Seems easy enough. First Class on Etihad from Heathrow is 40,000 American miles each, so you’ve got that sorted.

      For the other leg, I’m not sure what Etihad charges using their own miles, but it will be a bit more at a guess. I would top up your 17,000 Etihad from the credit card with Amex points. You might end up doing this leg in Business, it depends what the miles difference is.

      Etihad gives you a car up to 150 miles from Heathrow in First and 100 miles in Business, so you’re fine.

      Abu Dhabi is a modest drive to Dubai, so even if you fly to Abu Dhabi don’t let that put you off considering staying in Dubai – its a 70 minute drive (and of course Etihad will drive you!).

  6. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    What’s the verdict on UAE as a destination in its own right? Keen to go, but impression I get is that it’s better as a stopover en route east.

    That said, is it easy to get across to AMM? Cheap avios redemptions from there have always been tempting and could pair nicely with etihad out.

    • Dubai would be an odd place to go for a holiday without being in a beach hotel – unless you are a crazy shopper (I’m guessing not …). The key, for us (disregarding that we have family who live there, as we only see them a couple of times during each trip) is that it ‘works’. Need nappies? Waitrose supermarkets all over Dubai. Need cough medicines? Boots everywhere. Food etc served to a UK standard, none of the ‘manyana’ approach of the Caribbean. Sub 7 hour flight, multiple departures, sensible airport. Cheap and plentiful taxis.

      It’s not Barbados, of course. There is something fundamentally different is sitting on Sandy Lane beach compared to Madinat Jumeirah, even though fundamentally its the same thing. But then Barbados doesn’t have an indoor ski slope or the worlds biggest dancing fountain!

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        That was pretty much my impression. There are things that I’d like to do there – up the Burj, Friday brunch, souks, but not really enough to justify a special trip.

    • Dubai is one of only 2 places I’ve been to that I really didn’t like (the other being French Polynesia).

      I didn’t stay in a beach hotel which could have been the problem, I went for a concert at Media City and stayed near there.

      I found Dubai to be one big building site when I went, it was really difficult to get anywhere without jumping in a cab which often involved waiting in a long queue, I prefer to walk around places when I go to them, I liked the old Dubai area near The Creek but that was about it.

      Hotel bars are my least favourite places to go for a drink so maybe Dubai was never going to a place I’d like!

  7. The food service on Emirates is very good, but similar observation as Raffles as to once its done its done. Was similar experience on A380 flight from KUL to DXB. I think there is more of a service on their 777s, but the bar area at the back of the A380 does make up for it.

    Did you not ask for the crew to take some pics of you guys at the bar? The staff have the whole thing well planned – includes kicking the ‘barmaid’ out of the bar to let you stand behind it. Slightly embarrassing but good fun.

    Using the entire upper deck for biz and first makes good sense, gives a real sense of space to the deck, if lacking the ‘exclusive’ feel.

    Also, EK stopped doing amenity kits on daytime flights, still on most overnight flights.

    • They did let a family stand behind the bar from photos – they (the crew) even had a Polaroid camera if you didn’t have your own. We never all got down there at once, though.

      No amenity kit, although all the stuff you realistically need is in the loos.

  8. Have just returned from Rome – Auckland return all on EK A380, Business Class

    Following highlights/lowlights

    EK use Alitalia Business Class lounge at Rome. This has to be the most dreadful lounge anywhere. One good reason for Alitalia to fold!

    Despite being advertised as an all A380 terminal, Dubai concourse A offers a mix of planes and our two departing flights from Dubai left from Concourse B!

    On board the window seats A and K are the best, followed closely by B and J. Avoid those centre seats which are close to each other, as there is less room and your partner is quite close.

    The newer A380s ( certainly from A6-EEi upwards) have a slightly bigger and better TV screen and a marginally revised configuration creating more room. This is of particular benefit in B and J seats.

    The rear bar is a godsend, though dessert wine would be a nice addition, instead of Port. The crew kindly got me some from First Class. It can be noisy, so avoid rows 21-25 if you want to sleep.

    Priority baggage worked perfectly at both Rome and Auckland. ( a rarity these days)
    Food in EK lounges in Brisbane, Auckland and Melbourne excellent. Dubai a bit of a scrum and much more hit and miss.

    Showers in Dubai always a problem in peak periods. There are simply not enough!

    Travelled with two ten year old daughters. Kids food good and entertainment worked perfectly for them (and us)

    Crew generally good, though did not need to hear two of them whinging, standing at the back of the cabin on the Brisbane – Dubai Leg.

    Amenity kit excellent, with sensible size toiletries.

    Finally we did this trip from Malta and would normally have gone direct from Malta to Dubai, however it was Euro 1500 per head cheaper to go via Rome, including Air Malta connecting flights(economy) with the added bonus of A380s all the way on EK.

  9. Flying from GLA to HKG, BKK and SIN most of the time I seriously considered switching allegiance to EK after demise of BMI. Failed to do so as I hate 777s so much and burning rates on skywards high compared to earning opportunities. Consequently BA got my business. This trip review was great in that it helped me reappraise my decision. The impression I am getting is that you thing the whole package is average to good with some excellent features but still considerable room for improvment. Largely confirms my paper assessment of my options so happy to stick with BA for now given I now have a decent stash of avios and good opportunity to use UuA. I also like the privacy CW layout offers me as a solo flyer despite the more cramped cabin. Have flew EK twice in J, got rather old and shabby seats on a 777 both times. Also, I was unimpressed with food both times.

    • James, in my eyes, a major drawback in GLA is BA’s ground handling staff (they are obviously not employed by BA though). Unfriendly, not recognising elite status nor travel class at the check-in counter (why do I have to remind them of attaching the PRIORITY tag to my luggage nearly every time?) – I have seen so much better elsewhere. Do you agree? I wonder what the EK staff in GLA are like. I always see them smile anyway, but I have preferred flying BA so far for reasons similar to yours.

      • I am a recent convert to BA from BMI so my views based on somewhat limitted experience over time, and because I usually do OLCI and take cabin bags only most of time. So far no cause for complaints.last time 2 weeks ago my printed BP would not work at gate so a trip downstairs was necessary. Proceeded to premium checkin lane, was called by next available agent who provided me with boarding passes for that plus 2 onward connections over 24hrs. She also invited me to use the lounge so all was fine. Although polite and efficient they are not the relaxed , friendly and informal bunche from BMI ground and cabin crew that I used to love. It used to be a great touch to be welcomed aboard last flight of the day at LHR by name by a Glasgow based crew – felt like I was home already. Flew EK once from GLA but it was horrible, nothing wrong with ground or flight crew but so hate the 777. I am visually impaired and although largely independent I still make BA and other airlines aware of my situation and needs before flying. Cannot fault BA in this respect, preflight, ground and inflight staff have all been top notch when anticipating and responding to any special needs I have.

        • Have always found the EK ground staff at GLA to be very helpful, and have always sorted out the correct luggage tags. The one thing they are is efficient.

          The main issue with EK staff, usually crew, is they don’t like to divert from their rehearsed routine. Asking them for something which detracts from the standard routine doesn’t seem to go down well.

          EK’s main problem at GLA is having to use the ‘Holiday’ Lounge, best take a pack lunch if going in there.

          The 777s out of GLA have changed a few times, the most recent flight on it seemed to have a fully refitted cabin and the ICE on it was better than ever with upgraded screens and controls.

          Interesting to have a different view from James67 on the BMI staff. I used to fly on staff tickets and BMI had a reputation as being a bit miserable! Whilst the BA staff did everything possible to help out for travellers flying on concessions. Those were the days – a standby ticket from Scotland to LON cost £25 return! To the States was £65 return!

          • Were EK flights not handled by BMI ground crew back in the day? Not sure my views on BMI GLA-baswd crew and staff was unusual; they got much praise on FT BMI threads

  10. Darren Carter says:

    Just sitting in the Emirates Towers right now after a day at the golf, flying Qantas PE for a change and a cheap TP collection.
    Having flown both BA CW and EK Bus here numerous times I have to say that Qantas PE is very good value for money. Apart from food, not much worse than EK bus on the 777, this did not impress greatly! (Car is a great perk though!!)
    It is after all only a 6 hour flight, lounge access with CX card (albeit T3 again tried to change FF to CX until i convinced them against it). If your paying for a change then can highly recommend.

  11. I think a big win for me departing DXB on EK rather than BA is the rather old fashioned “check-in not open yet” policy most of the airlines operate at DXB. It’s very unpleasant sitting around on suitcases in what feels like a bus station waiting to check-in for a Club World flight back to London. EK allows you to book a car 4 hours before departure and check-in on arrival.

  12. creampuff says:

    That light brown colour fake wood in Emirates biz class just makes me want to vomit. Infact the wavy-mottled pattern on it makes it look like someone has already vomited.