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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
There are three TV cameras built into the A380, so you have a live feed – pretty cool at take off and landing.
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!
The full menu is at the bottom of this post. This was the tuna appetiser I had:
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:
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.
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)