Tried & Tested

Emirates B777-300 business class

5 Apr 2011 by BusinessTraveller

First impressions Emirates offers a total of eight daily flights between Dubai and London – five to Heathrow and three to Gatwick, as well as departures to Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow. This flight EK015 departs the carrier’s dedicated Emirates Terminal 3 at 0820, using B777-300ER aircraft.

Business and first class customers departing Dubai can use Emirates’ complimentary chauffeur drive service (no mileage limit with the UAE) and on arrival at T3 there is a separate kerbside area for premium customers. The terminal opened around three years ago, and still feels modern and spacious – there are a total of 15 business class check-in desks, and a further 15 for first class.

The lounge The carrier’s business class lounge is located on the west side of the concourse on level 4 (with the first class lounge situated to the east). The main entrance to the lounge was closed when I visited as the area is being refurbished, so I headed for the temporary entrance by gate 202.

The near 7,000sqm lounge can accommodate up to 1,200 passengers, and you can see why such a large space is needed – despite a large choice of seating areas I struggled to find a spare table to sit down at without heading to one of the far corners of the lounge.

There are extensive facilities, with four seating areas designed around the concepts of fire, water, air and earth, including several self-service buffet areas, a juice bar and a children’s area with its own F&B choices.

There are also five TV viewing areas, two business centres, free wifi throughout the lounge, showers, shoe-shine facilities and a Timeless Spa offering treatments “at a nominal fee” (free for first class passengers).

The lounge is bright, modern and well equipped, but not exactly a relaxing haven – at times I felt that the space was so large that there were more people inside it than wandering about outside.

Boarding The flight was called in the lounge at 0740, which I had thought was quite early, but actually was about right as the flight was leaving from gate 136 which is towards the far end of the terminal, and a good 10-15 minutes' walk. From there it was then another ten minutes' bus ride to the remote stand, and, disappointingly, we were then made to wait another ten minutes on the bus with the doors closed before we were allowed to board, with no explanation given at the time. By the time I was actually on board the aircraft it was almost 0820, the scheduled departure time.

At this point the captain apologised for what would be a delayed departure, due to a passenger being “unable to join us”, and his / her luggage having to be removed. In the meantime socks and eyeshades were handed out, newspapers and magazines offered, and a choice of champagne, orange / apple juice or water offered. I was also able to start watching the in-flight entertainment (albeit with the occasional interruption for announcements). Once the luggage had been offloaded we finally took off just before 0900.

The seat I was sat in 10F, in the second of two business class cabins (split by the galley and toilets). The first cabin has two rows configured 2-3-2, and the second cabin has four rows in the same configuration, of which I was in the third row back by the aisle. The business class seat on this aircraft is angled lie-flat (rather than the fully flat bed on the carrier's A380s), with a bed length of 72 inches and width of 20.5 inches.

On this flight the aircraft was installed with Emirates’ Ice on-demand IFE system, with around 600 choices of movies, TV programmes, music, information and games. It's not quite as comprehensive as the carrier's newer IceDigital widescreen system, which was installed on my outbound aircraft (click here for the review), but nevertheless there was more than enough choice to keep my occupied on the flight.

Other seat 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. Amenities include a pillow and blanket, and noise-cancelling headphones.

Which seat to choose? Personally i would opt for the front of the two business class cabins as it has a more exclusive feel, and would avoid the middle of the three central seats. The front row of this first cabin feels more spacious as there is no seat in front, and it’s further away from the noise of the toilets and galley.

The flight Shortly after take-off a continental breakfast was served, consisting of fruit juice, sliced fruit, a yoghurt, choice of breads and pastries, and tea / coffee. Crew also offered to dress up the seat with a mattress, which I accepted even though I wasn't intending on sleeping, as I figured it would make the seat that bit more comfortable. Amenity kits are not offered on this daytime flight (see the outbound review for their content).

I watched the excellent True Grit (noise cancelling headphones were particularly useful as Jeff Bridge's character is pretty difficult to understand, and I think in economy it would have been impossible).

Around four hours into the flight the cabin crew took lunch orders. There was a choice of two starters - an Arabic mezze or Lobster medallions, served with a marinated avocado timbale and fresh micro cress herbs, which I opted for. This was served with a side salad and choice of bread.

For the main course I wanted something light so I chose the grilled salmon with plum tomato sauce, steamed new potatoes and grilled vegetable strips. Other choices were:

  • Kasoori chicken - a tomato based chicken curry, infused with fenugreek, served with steamed rice, Asian style corn and spinach
  • braised beef stuffed with vegetables, served with beef jus, accompanied with put lentils and fine garlic mashed potato
  • cream cheese capellini-filled pasta sheets tossed in a fresh pesto sauce, topped with a cherry tomato ragout and freshly drilled Mediterranean vegetables.

After the starter had been served an apologetic crew member came to tell me that they had run out of the salmon and asked if I would like any of the other choices, but I decided to pass. I must have been right on the cut off, as the passengers on either side of me (served by different crew) requested the salmon dish and received it.

Desert choices were a wild berry and orange frangipane served with grenadine flavoured custard, or elderflower jelly with shortbread wafer and a honey ricotta cream, followed by cheese and biscuits, fruit, chocolates and tea / coffee.

Wine and champagnes choices were identical to the outbound flight:

  • Champagne: Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut Non Vintage
  • White wine: Meursault Meix Chavaux 2008 from Domaine Vincent Latour and Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from Marlborough, New Zealand
  • Red wine: Chateau Olivier 2003 from Pessac Leognan and Calera Pinot Noir 2007 from California
  • Port: Quinta do Noval 2005 Late Bottled Vintage

After the meal I passed the remainder of the flight by watching a few TV programmes and flicking through the many music albums.

Arrival We touched down at Gatwick's North Terminal around 15 minutes late at 1205, and were quickly disembarked. With hand luggage only I was through immigration and landside by 1225, and was able to transfer to the South Terminal and catch the 1238 train to London.

Verdict Having to wait on the bus prior to boarding was a disappointing start to the journey, particularly for a premium passenger, but once we had taken off the onboard service was excellent, and Emirates' in-flight entertainment offering remains among the best available.


Mark Caswell

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