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

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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)

Comments (27)

  • James67 says:

    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.

    • Volker says:

      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.

      • James67 says:

        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.

        • CV says:

          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!

          • James67 says:

            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

  • 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.

  • Andrew says:

    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.

  • 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.