Tried & Tested

Emirates B777-300ER business class

1 Jun 2006 by Tom Otley

FIRST IMPRESSIONS I arrived at 1145 for my 1400 Sunday flight EK0002 from Terminal 3 at London Heathrow. Emirates has a total of 35 flights from London Heathrow weekly (five daily), and 21 flights from London Gatwick weekly (three daily), flying a mix of Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft. It also flies from Birmingham (twice daily), Manchester (twice daily) and Glasgow (daily) making a total of 91 non-stop flights per week.

For business and first class passengers, a complimentary chauffeur drive to and from the airport is available if prebooked. For business class the range is within 65 driven miles of Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham airports, and within 100 road miles of Manchester and Glasgow airports (you can go further, but there is a charge). There is no mileage limit for first class passengers.

The chauffeur dropped me off close to the departures area and I walked to Zone F. There was one desk for business class passengers and one for first class, with a queue of about a dozen people waiting to check in. After a few minutes it seemed that things were not moving, so when I noticed that there was another check-in desk for silver and gold Skywards members (Emirates’ loyalty programme), I thought

I’d try that queue with my silver card. Unfortunately, access to this desk was blocked by a crowd barrier, and after a brief conversation with a lady from United I found myself queuing with the economy passengers. I pointed out to a member of staff that this was hardly priority and he let me through to the desk. The check-in assistant advised me that if in future there was a queue, I should do exactly as I had done, requesting to queue jump. It’s one solution, but a little more organisation would save the hassle.

I was directed to fast-track security, where for the first time ever there was no queue, and then through to airside and the shops, which were extremely busy, as they always seem to be at Terminal 3. Within a few minutes I was heading towards the United lounge, which Emirates shares, close to Gate 12C.

THE LOUNGE This is large and well-equipped with plenty of workstations, T-Mobile internet access and a choice of drinks and snacks. For some reason I could not connect to the internet through T-Mobile or on any of the other wifi hotspots detected, but this may have been due to a problem with my computer. Reception staff announced the flights, and informed us there was a half-hour delay.

BOARDING This was effortless. We were called at 1400 and were straight on board, pushing back from the stand at 1430.

THE SEAT The flight was on one of Emirates’ new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with its new product. I’d flown on this when it was briefly used on the London to Dubai route over a year ago, but then it was moved onto longer sectors such as that from Dubai to Australia, and the UK had to make do with the older seats. The new Boeing 777-300ER planes have two configurations, either in two classes (42 business class and 385 economy class) or three class (12 first class, 42 business class and 310 economy).

Business class seats are in a 2-3-2 configuration with a seat pitch of 152cm and width of 50cm. It’s a comfortable seat without being lie-flat or horizontal – the reason being that these planes fly many different sector lengths, and fitting flat beds presumably doesn’t make financial sense. For a day flight they are perfectly comfortable; for an overnight flight, it would depend on whether a flat bed is a priority for you. If flying overnight, you receive an amenity kit, though as this was a day flight I made do with some slippers.

There is seat power for laptops, but I was unable to identify the correct charger, and the cabin attendant was also stumped. There is no wifi on board, though it is possible to send emails through the ICE system on board (for a charge).

THE FLIGHT The food selection was good, with Arabic mezze to start and then a choice of main courses. But most diverting was the in-flight entertainment (IFE), which is at the top of its class, offering a bewildering array of channels, and audio and video on demand (AVOD) which means you can stop, pause, fast forward and rewind whatever you are watching. I was impressed by the selection, and since I was flying on the last day of the month (April 30) I made sure to check the degree to which the selection changed with the month – the answer was considerably, with a whole new selection of new movies. As a result, I did far less work than I should have on the flight but at least it passed very quickly.

ARRIVAL We made up the lost time during the flight and, after a few initial inaudible announcements from the flight cabin, were kept admirably informed of our progress in both English and Arabic.

VERDICT An excellent service with good attention from the flight crew and a good product. There’s no lie-flat seat, though, so if you’re a passenger who has trouble sleeping on overnight flights without this sort of seat, you should bear this in mind.

PRICE A business class return fare from Heathrow to Dubai, booked through, costs £1,959.

Tom Otley

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