Emirates offers a chauffeur-drive service for its business and first passengers within a 70-mile radius (click here for details).
So, 15 minutes before the allotted time, a chauffeur pulled up outside my house, ready for the journey to London Gatwick airport. We completed the drive without any problems, despite heavy traffic on the M25, and I arrived at Gatwick’s North Terminal at 1915 for my 2115 departure to Dubai on flight EK10.
Emirates started its UK services from Gatwick some 26 years ago, and now has three flights daily. The airline upgraded one of these flights to the A380 in April 2014 (see news, March 31).
At Gatwick, the Emirates desks were listed as being in Zone B at the far end of the airport from where I had been dropped off. I walked down there but, on arrival, discovered signs saying that check-in was at Zone D, which I had just walked past.
I walked back to Zone D, and was quickly checked-in at the premium desks. The Premium Gatwick fast-track door is between Zones B and D, and there was no queue, so I was quickly airside.
From there, you turn left and then watch out for the signs for the lounges. The Emirates lounge is down one level.
The lady on reception said that everyone in the lounge would be on this A380 departure, and so she would call the flight, but to bear in mind it was a long walk to Gate 110.
This has recently been renovated, and is a huge and impressive place, with a great selection of hot and cold food (at least in the evening for this A380 flight).
At the time of my visit (May 2014) the lounge was not quite finished, and this was noticeable in an almost complete lack of powerpoints / plugs – even in the business centre.
This has eight desks but has plenty of space, allowing one passenger to quietly pray in the corner, although the staff walking around him didn’t make any effort to keep their voices down while he did so.
When I left, I asked about the lack of plug points and was told more would be fitted in the lounge, and that a prayer room was also planned.
I left the lounge early and walked down to the gate where boarding commenced just as I arrived, so I was one of the first on the aircraft.
On the way to the aircraft there was a selection of newspapers. Once on board, I was greeted and told where my seat was.
We’ve reviewed the Emirates business class seat many times, and to see those reviews, click here. This review therefore concentrates on the service and flight.
The aircraft (registration A6-EEF) has three classes. To view the layout on Seatplans, click here.
On the upper deck, there are 14 first class seats then two cabins of business class holding 58 and 18 passengers respectively.
The front, larger cabin where I was seated starts with just a pair of seats in row 6 (6D and 6G) and then has 7A, 7E, 7F and 7K followed by 8B, 8D, 8G, 8J. As noted in a previous review, some of these seats have more room than others.
The seat has plenty of storage room, including a magazine rack under the large IFE screen. The aircraft has internet capability for phones provided through OnAir. There are two price plans — $7.50 is for up to 15MB, and $20 for 100MB.
The list of films is available pre-flight simply by going to this link and typing in your flight details. Emirates is very strong on world cinema, and always has a couple of good Cantonese films, for which once you’ve found what’s showing on your flight, you can read reviews of here.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
There are two cabins here, one large and one smaller towards the rear. The bar is at the rear of the smaller cabin.
For a night flight like this I’d avoid the rear cabin. Service seems to come from both the back and the front, so the middle of the main cabin is best if you like peace and quiet.
I noticed that the back row of the rear cabin was empty, which since the flight was fairly full must be either because no one had chosen to sit there, or the Emirates reservation system keeps it free. Of course, there could be many reasons for this.
At first, the aircraft was very hot, but as passengers boarded the air conditioning was turned on and it soon cooled.
As we waited drinks were offered (juices, water and Champagne) and I was offered a wine list to accompany the menu at the seat.
Bulgari amenity bags were handed out just before take-off. These are large and contain Bulgari products, as well as (for men) a shaving kit, toothpaste, toothbrush, hair brush, tissues and deodorant.
At the seat, there was a plastic bag with flight socks and an eye-mask, although ear-plugs which have to be requested separately.
During the safety video a neighbouring passenger was speaking on his phone, and indeed continued to do so right the way through taxi and take-off, unnoticed or ignored by the cabin crew.
After take-off, our drinks orders were taken, which came quickly and with a huge saucer full of lovely warm nuts. Our food orders were then taken and the meal service commenced at about 2220.
Once this service started, it was swift and the main courses were served by 1045 (although I didn’t have the dessert so it could have been prolonged if I had wished).
The menu was as follows:
- Traditional local Arabic mezze including tabouleh, hummous, baba ghannouj, muhammara, moutabal, labneh ball with chives and vine leaves.
- Beetroot salmon — sliced salmon cured in beetroot juice, served with a creamy potato salad, accompanied by wasabi crème fraiche.
- Potato and leek soup
- Seasonal salad
The salmon starter
- Lamb machbous — marinated lamb with rice, roasted pine nuts served with raita.
- Chicken supreme in a creamy peppercorn sauce, with sautéed green bean parcels and spinach and polenta crepes.
- Seared cod fillet — fresh cod seared and served with spinach tarragon sauce, accompanied by grilled baby courgettes, steamed carrots, and home-style mashed potatoes with rocket.
- Apple tart with toffee sauce
- Passion fruit terrine on a soft coconut base with raspberry confit
Cheese board and selection of fruit
- Veuve Cliquot Yellow label
- El Jardine de Lucia Albarino 2012, Rias Baixas, Spain
- Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 2012, Santa Barbara, California
- Chateau Monbousquet 2004, St Emilion Grand Cru, France
- World’s End Spirit in the Sky Syrah 2010, Napa Valley
- Quinta do Portal Coheita Port, 2000, Souro, Portugal.
I had the starter of salmon, which tasted odd and which I did not finish, and the cod, which was fine but a little bland.
I then reclined the seat. There is a mattress cover for the seat which makes it more comfortable, but I had to hunt around in the overhead lockers to find one and fitted it myself, while the flight attendants served drinks and watched me.
Walking up to the washroom later, I noticed that the majority of people who were fully-reclined and asleep did not have the mattress cover. This maybe because they didn’t think it necessary, but I think most simply didn’t know about it and hadn’t been offered the option.
I slept well for about four hours, and then was woken by an announcement from the captain saying that we were about 45 minutes from Dubai. There was time to freshen up, but no drinks were forthcoming so I went to the back beyond the bar area (which had now been packed up) and asked for a drink of water.
About 20 minutes before landing the inflight entertainment stopped and we were shown information on Dubai and the transfer process for connecting passengers. The screen was then occupied by a photo of the Atlantis resort, so I couldn’t watch the aircraft landing on the flight camera, though this was turned on once we had landed.
We touched down on-time at Dubai International, but as we decelerated all the items that people had left on their side table (and not been reminded to remove by the flight attendants) slipped off and hit the floor.
There were no delays for disembarkation, and I used the fast-track card I had been given to clear security and find the lounge ready for my onward flight to Hong Kong.
The seat is comfortable, the food tasty and the inflight entertainment extensive.
The service on this flight was impersonal and at times slapdash. It’s the first time I have ever seen a passenger chatting on his mobile phone during take-off, the cabin wasn’t tidied properly before landing, and passengers should be helped to make the most of the flat-bed with the bedding available.
I also find it odd that with the extensive amenity kits on offer, you have to ask for ear plugs separately.
In Emirates’ defence, this was my first of four flights in a few days to and from London to Hong Kong via Dubai, and the other three flights had much better service than this (those other flight reviews will be posted here shortly).