Tried & Tested

Emirates A380-800 business class

9 Jul 2009 by Tom Otley

Check-in I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 at 1215 for my 1415 departure on EK0002 to Dubai. The chauffeur-drive option worked well, with a pick-up on time at 1100 (in fact, the driver arrived early in his Volvo V70). (The chauffeur service is available for passengers within a 50-mile radius of either London Heathrow or Gatwick.) From the drop-off point in front of Terminal 3, I made my way to check-in area C. There was a queue for economy class, but no queue at business or first, and having already checked in online and chosen my seat, I simply dropped off my luggage and took the escalators upstairs. Fast-track security was quick and I was in the new Emirates lounge by 1230.

The lounge Situated by Gate 7, the lounge is very large, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the airport. There is a food area with a good selection of snacks, drinks, and hot and cold food, including some delicious salads, as well as a business centre. It’s a well thought-out place. I was impressed they had standard size cans of Guinness, for instance, and not only pint glasses but pint glasses in the fridge. There is free wifi, with the password prominently displayed on a sign in the business centre, which I missed and so took an unnecessary journey down to reception to ask for the details.

Boarding Since we were flying on an A380, the aircraft was right in front of us with the two air bridges attached to the plane, one for each deck. I boarded directly from the lounge, from Gate 7, and then through Gate A just past the business centre. I was quickly in my seat, my jacket taken and promptly offered fruit juice and champagne. Since this was a daytime/evening flight, amenity bags were not handed out.

The seat On the upper deck there are 14 first class seats (A E-F K), then two cabins of business class (58 passengers/18 passengers). The larger front 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.

Which cabin? The rear cabin is smaller but it backs onto the bar and lounge. Obviously it depends, but on my flight this area gradually became busier, and when I went back there 90 minutes before landing, everyone seemed to be enjoying a very convivial atmosphere. The rear cabin is more intimate, but because it is behind the engines there may be some disturbance from them, as well as from people from the front business class cabin walking through to use the washrooms at the rear. On my flight, there seemed to be more families with children and babies at the back, so I would choose the one at the front. That said, if you are with colleagues and intend to socialise, the rear cabin is the place to be.For a seat plan of this aircraft click here.

Which seat? If you are travelling alone, choose a window seat. If travelling with a colleague or friend, relative or partner, choose one of the central pairs (it would be difficult to hold a conversation in any other combination). Avoid travelling in an aisle seat, since these are several inches shorter, both in terms of the bed and when seated – you can reach the large touchscreen in front, whereas you would have to lean well forward in a window seat to manage this.

Note that on this flight service in the main cabin began at row six and 17, so a seat in rows 6 or 7 or rows 17 and 18 might mean you get served before anyone else. Each seat area is self-contained and feels quite private, although this is at the expense of making them feel slightly claustrophobic. The preferred (by me, at least) window seats have storage containers down the side of the aircraft, which is very useful and also makes up for the fact that the overhead bin is smaller for these seats than the central ones.

The flight The Emirates in-flight entertainment system is called Ice, and there are a couple of different versions of it flying in its large fleet (some aircraft such as the A330 have a simple broadcast version which is nothing special). The modern version on the A380 and, increasingly, on the Boeing fleet is, in my opinion, the best in the world. The sheer range of films, music, and audio options is second to none, and for those who are using Emirates to fly on to other destinations though Dubai, it’s good to know that the choice is large enough that even on a multi-leg business trip you won’t ever be short of options. One tip – the list of films is available to see before you fly – click here to view it, and type in your flight details:

Emirates is also very strong on world cinema, and always has a couple of good Cantonese films, and once you’ve found what’s showing on your flight, you can read reviews here:

The system and the seat is controlled by a large handheld control that is a little complicated at first but which is easy to use once you’ve had an hour or two playing with it. For work, there is in-seat power and a good-size table that folds out of the arm. Mine provided reasonable support for typing on a laptop but did slope forwards slightly so I avoided placing any drinks on it.

The meal service began with a selection of cold canapés followed by an appetiser of Arabic meze or prawn ceviche. There were five main course to choose from including grilled veal medallions, chicken curry, artichoke tortellini, poached halibut or Caesar salad. Dessert was clotted cream cheesecake or chocolate and morello crisp. A selection of open sandwiches and pastries, as well as tea and coffee, were served before landing.

The champagne was Henriot Brut Souverain NV. The whites were Château de Tracy, 2007, Pouilly-Fumé, and Eroica Riesling, 2007, Washington State. And the reds were Château Beaumont, 2003, Haut Médoc or Esser Merlot, 2006, California.

Arrival The flight was only a short one and so there was no chance of sleeping, although I did recline the seat into its fully flat position – there was lots of room and it was extremely comfortable. We landed at 0015 and were quickly through security ready for the transferring flight.

Verdict Excellent. The A380 is a lovely, quiet aircraft, and if you are in one of the premium classes upstairs, the aircraft disguises its true size.


Tom Otley

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