14th August 2013 at 13:35 #577768
Anonymous14th August 2013 at 13:35 #577769
A combined report on four recent long/medium haul sectors in Emirates Business Class (LGW-HKG and BKK-LHR).
Primarily price. Aeroflot and Turkish were marginally cheaper (but didn’t appeal for various reasons!), and Swiss was about the same, but didn’t have a day-time return flight which I prefer when returning from the Far East. (I also wanted to fly in an A380!).
Although booked through Ticketstoworld (check out for some good bargains), the Emirates.com MMB and on-line check-in worked well, including for booking chauffeur transfers. All chauffeur transfers were timely and courteous. I received calls from the limousine service ahead of the pick-ups in London and Bangkok to confirm times and vehicle requirements, and airport pick-ups were more or less immediate.
Not a big fan of beige leatherette but lounges at LGW and BKK were well stocked with a good selection of hot and cold food appropriate to the time of day. Restrooms were spotless and the atmosphere was calm. The Lounge at Terminal 3 in Dubai is vast and was pretty well deserted (I understand this may have been unusual). Fantastic views across the apron and excellent restaurant service. The Dubai lounge has the added attraction of direct boarding to the A380 upper deck.
Called very late at LGW in the Lounge so by the time we reached the aircraft they were ready to close doors. This meant a bit of a scramble to get seated. Bangkok was a complete scrum and boarding didn’t commence until the departure time without any announcements being provided. Priority boarding was, however observed, although in the second Business Class cabin, this simply means that you have the opportunity to be gawped at by 300+ economy passengers as they trundle past.
Ex-LGW on a recently delivered two-class 777-300ER. The new configuration has five rows between doors 1 & 2, a slightly strange bar structure between 2L and 2R and then one more row of Business class. With pink mood lighting and all screens blaring with pre-departure video it rather felt like walking into a TV show room. (More about the TVs later).
First impressions of the A380 were surprisingly a bit mixed. With all the bins down and the boxed seating arrangement, the initial impression was of a long and rather crowded looking cabin. This certainly improved once all the bins were closed. The stand-up bar is a great attraction on the A380 and clearly enjoyed by the crew for chatting to passengers and even using their instamatic camera to take snaps of those enjoying the facility. It was also unbelievably quiet during take-off.
I asked if I could sneak a view of the lower deck economy section and very soon decided that that was something I would actively avoid. es they get the same smooth ride, but there were simply too many people down there. It really felt like going below decks on a galleon!
The 777-300 ex-BKK, looked a bit tired by comparison and had much less of the faux-walnut veneer than other aircraft. Washrooms were spotless throughout and well stocked.
The angle-flat seats on the 777 were comfortable and not particularly wedgie-inducing, so sleeping was not a problem. The odd thing though was the lack of arm rests on one or other side of the seat. This did become somewhat annoying. Also as I’m rather small built it wasn’t a problem, but had I been a bit larger I think the comparative narrowness of the seat would have become apparent.
The provision of a mattress for the night flight was a nice touch and certainly made for a comfortable bed. On the A380 the individual cubicles seem slightly claustrophobic at first. However, after a few minutes I found myself adjusting to the space and actually quite liked the privacy. The individual seats closest to the windows, with the box structure and bar on the aisle-side afford the most privacy to individual travellers. The E and F seats in the centre are ideal for those travelling with a companion, though there is a very effective privacy screen if you are not. The seat can be reclined fully flat and as comfortable and soft enough for sleeping.
The cabin crew
This was a real plus point. The crew were young, international (the list of languages spoken went on and on) very friendly and personable. In fact it really showed up one flight attendant on one sector that was just going through the motions. On another airline/flight it might not have registered, but on Emirates it did.
On all flights the welcome on board was warm and friendly, with staff on hand to take jackets explain seats and offer drinks. I thought Emirates did this bit well. The crew were also clearly well trained in dealing with difficult passengers, including those from cultures that struggle to deal with commands/requests from people they might otherwise view as servants. Some persistent phone-chatterers/standers during the safety demo were dealt with very smoothly. On the whole a really friendly bunch who genuinely appeared to care and enjoy what they were doing.
The no-trolley service policy has some good and bad aspects. On a 777 with a relatively small Business Class section this generally worked well. However, the large A380 cabin meant that meal services became quite protracted and sometimes got out of sync. I liked the fact that they lay the E and F tables simultaneously from either aisle so that passengers travelling together are served together. But I never felt that the service on either A380 flight really flowed. It was a shame because this wasn’t obviously the fault of the crew who clearly worked very hard and were very accommodating of people, like me, who wanted to pick and choose across the menu.
The menus were extensive and reflected the cuisine of the destination, origin and home base. As in many restaurants, starters and deserts were better than main courses which were rather bland and there was a good selection of wines. Most obvious comparison would be with Qatar Airways whose food generally, and Arabian mezze in particular, is markedly higher quality. There was a good selection of snacks available throughout the flights, although curiously their availability wasn’t mentioned in the printed menu.
The latest digital widescreen ICE was pretty amazing, with an outstanding selection of films and audio. The CD selection was extraordinary. The touchscreen functionality worked well, but to be honest I never got the hang of the tablet which seemed a bit superfluous, particularly as there was also the more traditional sort of hand-held control. On the 777s I think the screens are simply too big. Fine if you want to watch, but if you don’t, its almost impossible not to be distracted by whatever your neighbour is watching as the screens are simply so big and bright.
The seatbelt sign. This seemed to ping on with the slightest bump or in anticipation of it and this did interrupt the service at times unnecessarily. As this was a feature of each flight, I can only assume they have a very cautious policy. The only problem with this is that after half and hour of seat belt sign and no turbulence people get up and walk about anyway which seems to defeat the purpose.
Would I do it again?
Definitely. Emirates seems to attract a mixed set of reviews and I think I can see why. It sets itself up quite high, so there is always the potential for it to underdeliver and the whole styling and experience is not exactly low-key if your preference is for an under-stated travelling experience. But there was a lot to like about it too and if it could sort out the service flow on the A380 its Business Class would be very good indeed.
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