First impressions: As with first class, Emirates' business class offers complimentary airport transfers when pre-booked, and mine was waiting outside my hotel ahead of me checking out. The journey to Terminal 2 of Sao Paulo's Guarulhos Airport took around 45 minutes – arriving for the night flight passengers are less likely to encounter heavy traffic on the city's notoriously busy highways. I arrived at 2235 for my 0125 flight, and headed for check-in zone D, since as yet Emirates does not offer online check-in on the Sao Paulo-Dubai leg of the route.
Check-in: There were three economy check-in desks, two for business, one for first class, and one for group check-ins. I was advised that the same 100ml limits on hand luggage liquids applied – ironically my first class amenity kit from the outward leg pushed me over the limit in this respect, so I checked one piece of luggage into the hold – business class passengers are allowed a total of 30kg of checked luggage (40kg for first class).
There were half a dozen passengers in the business class queue, and around the same for economy, but as the first class lane was empty this effectively became a third business class queue, so check-in was fairly swift. I couldn't see a fast track security lane, so joined the queue of around 30 people for a ten-minute wait for security checks. Laptops were required to be removed from hand luggage, and shoes passed through the scanner.
The lounge: Emirates uses Brazilian carrier Varig's executive lounge (up a flight of escalators from the departures level), which is also shared by South African Airways among others. It's a fairly tired looking space, but nevertheless has the required amenities (apart from showers), including hot and cold snacks, and complimentary wifi access, albeit a little slow.
Boarding: Boarding commenced around 0040, with premium passengers up first. I was sitting in the first section of business class seats (two rows of 2-3-2 configuration) just behind first class. From what I could see business class was around a third full, and economy was around the same for this Sunday night flight. Coats were taken and drinks offered before the captain said there would be a delay due to the rain meaning only one runway was in use at the airport. We eventually took off at 0155.
The seat: I was sitting in 6A, in the first row after first class. This new business class seat electronically converts into a 72-inch lie-flat bed – it's not quite horizontal to the ground, but it is definitely one of the more comfortable angled lie-flat beds I have tested. I often find with these type of seats that you tend to slide down the bed over time, which makes it harder to get a good night's sleep, but in this case when the seat is converted there is a small dip in the middle where two sections meet, effectively holding you in position when lying down. Pillows and blankets are provided, although the latter was made of a material that produced a lot of static, and was disappointing compared with the duvet in first class. The seat configuration means that those sitting in window seats, or in the middle of the row of three, have to climb over their neighbours to get out.
The IFE system is identical to what is offered in first class, with the exception of a slightly smaller TV screen at 17 inches. Other features included an electronically controlled wooden privacy screen, fold out table (which can either be half opened to include a drink holder, or fully opened for meals and work), smaller fold down drinks shelf, cup holder, reading light that can be adjusted for brightness and direction, and a couple of storage spaces for magazines, etc. The same washbag was offered as in first class, and an eye mask and socks were given out separately.
The flight: The food service isn't a la carte like in first class, but there is a snack menu available throughout the flight with sandwiches, crisps, fruit, etc. Soon after take off we were offered an "As you like it" menu which included Brazilian empanadas, Ipanema grilled chicken salad and smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches. By then it was around 3am, so I converted the bed and slept soundly under the ceiling stars (these are also present in first class although I hadn't noticed them) for around 6 hours until I was woken by the stewardess for breakfast – in first class there is the option to switch a light on outside your suite requesting that you are not disturbed. I opted for an omelette and fresh fruit, before plugging in the laptop and working for the next few hours. My wifi handset can't have been docked properly early on, as when I went to try out some of the massage functions it was out of power. The choice of films and music on the Ice system are excellent, from new releases to classic films and albums, all searchable either by category or from an A-Z list.
Around two hours before arrival we were served dinner, with choices including grilled Brazilian steak in a black pepper cream sauce, prawn biryani (which I opted for), and poached fillet of seabass with a fresh basil sauce and sauted fennel. Desserts included a tangy lime and lemon meringue, and warm chocolate apple betty.
Arrival: We arrived on time at Dubai International Airport, but were parked away from the terminal building, which meant we then had a 15 minute transfer by bus, first to the connecting flights section and then to arrivals. A recorded announcement apologised for this, saying that a "dedicated Emirates terminal' is currently being constructed. There were large queues for passport control, but as luck would have it another line was opened as our flight arrived, so there were only half a dozen people in front of me. By the time I was through to baggage claim my bag was already on the carousel, and I was outside the airport by around 2240. The chauffeur drive service at this end is available to anywhere in the emirate, with passengers checking in at the chauffeur drive lounge just past arrivals. My hotel had arranged a transfer for me though, so I didn't use this option this time round.
Verdict: An excellent service, with a comfortable lie-flat bed and superb in-flight entertainment facilties. My only gripes were the quality of the blanket and the long bus transfer from the plane, but overall this is a great business class, and one which we will see being extended through the Emirates fleet over time.
Price: A return flight in business class for the same route and dates as above cost from £3,155.