CHECK IN I arrived at Brisbane airport’s international terminal at 1515 for my 2045 flight EK435, having transferred from the domestic terminal using the shuttle bus, which costs AU$5 (£3) for the five-minute ride. Check-in didn’t open until 1615, at which point I headed to Emirates’ check-in zone at row ten, at the right-hand end of the terminal. A significant queue had already built up for the four economy lanes, and minimal ones for first and business. I was dealt with by a friendly member of staff, who gave me an immigration card to fill out, and I proceeded downstairs to security. There was a short queue in the standard lane (there was a premium one but you needed a particular invitation card to use that, which I didn’t have) and I was through to immigration quickly, where there were also short queues. I was airside by 1635.
THE LOUNGE The Emirates lounge is a ten-minute walk from security, at the far left-hand end of the terminal, opposite gate 75. It is a large, peaceful venue with friendly staff, free wifi (get the password from reception), runway views through floor-to-ceiling windows, a good range of hot and cold food, soft and alcoholic drinks, a business centre with about ten PCs, showers, newspapers and magazines (including Business Traveller) and a range of sofa, armchair and dining seating. It also has direct access to the aircraft so I boarded direct from here at 2020.
THE SEAT This three-class B777-300 had six rows of business class seating split by a galley and washrooms – rows six and seven are directly behind first class and you turn left on entry for those, and rows eight to 11 are in front of economy (turn right). The configuration is 2-3-2 (AB-DEF-JK). For a seat plan, click here).
I was in 8A. The business seat was a well thought-out fixed shell design in grey leather and a swirly patterned fabric. It reclines to a 69-length angled lie-flat seat (very comfortable, and I didn’t slide down when I was lying down). A touchscreen in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen is positioned either on the back of the seat in front, on the bulkhead in front, or folds out from the central dividing section, depending on where you are sitting. There is a removable control panel built into the seat that you can use to control the IFE, the seat and the privacy screen. There are three presets for the seat – upright, lounge and bed – and you can adjust the headrest, footrest and lumbar support. You can also save your preferred setting. There is a range of massage functions too. A large table folds out of the seat surround, as does a small drinks tray. There is also a small storage compartment, a reading light, another IFE/phone remote, in-seat power and USB port.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Rows six and eight, as they have bulkheads in front so have a bit more space in front of them. Within those, seats A and K feel more private because the compartment the TV is stowed in extends the middle dividing section, making you feel more tucked away (it is also easier to reach the touchscreen). Rows seven and eight are by the galley, though I didn’t suffer any disturbance. If you are in middle (E) or window seats you will have to climb over your neighbours’ legs if they are in fully reclined position (this isn’t so much of a problem in rows six or eight as you have slightly more space). Row 11 is in front of economy so you might be more likely to suffer disturbance from there.
THE FLIGHT On taking my seat, I was welcomed by name, offered a welcome drink of champagne or juice, given a wine list (the menu was in the magazine rack), a hot towel and an amenity kit containing Bulgari hand and face cream, refreshing towel and perfume, toothbrush and paste, tissues, a brush and mirror. Flight socks, an eye mask, blanket, pillow and noise-cancelling headphones were also provided. I was asked if I would like to order a drink for after take-off.
We pushed back right on time at 0845, took off ten minutes later. Three-quarters of an hour later we were served warm nuts and a drink, and half an hour after that the meal service started. To start the choices were salmon gravlax (I had this and it was tasty and plentiful), beef with shallot or truffle vinaigrette, or roasted tomato soup. It was served with a salad and three rolls; more bread was also offered later. The mains were smoked chicken breast with a tomato and chickpea casserole, rice and broccolini (very nice and again a generous portion), beef tenderloin or grilled barramundi fillet. I skipped dessert, which was lemon meringue pie, sticky date pudding, cheese or fruit, and also the wine (Moet and Chandon NV Brut Imperial; Chablis Premier Cru 2009 Domaine de Vaudon, Joseph Drouhin; Molly Dooker the Violinist 2010 Verdelho, Australia; Chateau de Sales 2003 Pomerol; d’Arry’s Original 2008 Shiraz-Grenache).
Crew set up my bed with a mattress and I settled down to several hours’ good sleep – one of the best I have ever had on a flight. When I woke up, I watched a film on the excellent ICE audio-video on-demand system, which has in the region of 300 films, more than 150 hours of TV, hundreds of audio channels and more than 100 games. Two hours before landing, hot towels were given out and breakfast was served – I had fruit, a warm croissant, brioche, yogurt and an omelette with tomato, mushroom, asparagus and potatoes. Another hot towel service followed. Throughout, service was excellent.
ARRIVAL We landed into Dubai International airport’s Terminal 3 45 minutes ahead of schedule at 0440 and were off the plane 15 minutes later. I headed through security, which didn’t take long, and proceeded to the lounge to wait for my connecting flight to London (for a review, click here).
VERDICT Excellent. A comfortable seat, good food, welcoming staff and punctual service.
PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Brisbane via Dubai in October started from £2,939.