It’s surprisingly easy for business travellers in Asia-Pacific to get a taste of flying with Dubai-based Emirates without having to travel all the way to the Middle East to do so.
Emirates operates a daily service between Bangkok and Hong Kong on the back of one of its non-stop services between Bangkok and Dubai. While you can stay on the aircraft and fly Hong Kong-Dubai with a short stopover in the Thai capital, the real benefit of this routing is that business travellers can take this relatively inexpensive Emirates “fifth-freedom” short-haul flight but still find themselves travelling in longer-haul seat products.
Indeed, Emirates prices are undoubtedly a key attraction for this routing. A quick internet search of return business class fares between Bangkok and Hong Kong in mid-June brings back prices starting from THB13,775/HK$3,403.7/US$433.5. This is noticeably cheaper than Cathay Pacific’s lowest fare on the route (THB17,730/HK$4,380.8/US$558) and Thai Airways’ (THB23,125/HK$5,713.3/US$727.8), for instance.
Considering Emirates only operates two types of aircraft, the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A380 (all right, technically three kinds as its 777-300ER and 777-200LR are outfitted slightly differently) this short hop also serves as a good gauge of whether or not the seat and service are worth revisiting for a longer journey.
I found myself flying round-trip from Hong Kong to Bangkok recently, and this is a review of the return Bangkok-Hong Kong leg on flight EK384.
Emirates’ check-in desks at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport are located towards the far end of the terminal through Entrance 9 and within Aisle T (this is something you’ll want to take note of, as walking the length of the terminal from Entrance 1 is no small feat in the Bangkok heat). I arrived at the airport by ride-sharing app Grab – a reasonably priced option in Bangkok – at 1200 for my 1345 departure.
Check-in was quick, perhaps aided by the time I’d arrived at the airport. The business class line had no one in the queue ahead of me, and I was swiftly checked-in by the amiable member of staff within a couple of minutes.
Along with your boarding pass, business class passengers are also given a Fast Track pass for getting through immigration and security, which is a major plus. The Fast Track entrance is directly at the end of Aisle T and I managed to get through both security screening and immigration by 1215.
From the Fast Track lane, you’ll need to take a right turn towards the G gates to reach the Emirates Lounge on Level 3. Emirates’ flight to Hong Kong doesn’t actually depart from one of the G gates – it goes from Gate E7 – but fortunately both G and E gates are in a similar direction.
The lounge isn’t far, nor especially difficult to locate, though the signage is a bit bizarre. Bangkok airport has a fair few lounges and each seems to have its own collection of retractable banners scattered throughout the terminal indicating where it is. If you weren’t already aware of where your airline’s lounge is located, you’d have to simply hope to run into a banner offering some sort of guidance – little wonder, then, that the member of staff had helpfully written down the location of the lounge in red pen on my boarding pass. If you find yourself getting lost, follow the signs to the Cathay Pacific or Miracle lounges, as they’re both nearby.
The Emirates Lounge is quite a nice, calm affair – the airline’s signature light brown colour scheme is present, and the whole space is well lit with natural light thanks to the windows that offer views out over an adjacent park area. It’s a little old-fashioned in its design, truth be told, but not to the extent that it feels tired.
Seating options are generally a standard armchair affair, though there are dining tables and chairs by the buffet section. There are also plenty of universal power sockets by the armchairs, though no USB ports.
The lounge is separated into two main areas with a quiet space immediately upon entering and a much livelier dining space located next to it. Partitions help separate the spaces and generally I found the quiet zone to be free of distraction.
On the F&B front, Emirates does quite a good job. While it is just a buffet rather than table service, the dishes are varied and rather flavourful presenting a good mix of South East Asian and Middle Eastern options – go for the Penang Curry, which was pleasantly spicy. For vegetarians, the choices are more limited comprising just some of the cold salads.
There isn’t a manned bar, but guests do have access to two spirits tables and coffee machines – one in each of the two aforementioned spaces. Though don’t expect a great deal of assistance here – when I went to make a coffee, two blasé members of staff who were chatting by the machine merely shuffled away when I approached. I wasn’t expecting assistance, but it would have been nice if it had at least been offered.
Bathrooms are located at the very far end of the lounge, though there are also shower rooms with their own toilets and sinks located slightly closer.
The Emirates Lounge has both information screens and announcements. Plus, when I attempted to leave the lounge for when I had thought was supposed to be boarding time, I was advised by someone at the desk that the flight was delayed and that I may wish to remain at the lounge until the announcement was made. It turns out I’d misheard the announcement, and was certainly grateful for the suggestion to return to my comfy seat.
The eventual boarding announcement came at 1322 and seven minutes later I’d reached Gate E7. That being said, when I arrived it turned out boarding hadn’t yet begun and I’d still need to wait a minute or two. Fortunately, Emirates does cordon off a section of seats specifically for premium class passengers and loyalty members, so you’re at least not at risk of going without a seat. Boarding began shortly after though, and I was on the plane by 1330.
The elephant in the room with Emirates’ 777-300ER business class cabin is its layout – it’s in a 2-3-2 configuration. Among airlines in Asia-Pacific, this is pretty unheard of nowadays, and it’s undeniable that the cabin has a less spacious and exclusive feel compared to those offered by other airlines with a 1-2-1 or even 2-2-2 set up. Fortunately, Emirates has seemingly recognised this and its 777-200LRs are being outfitted with 2-2-2 seating plans.
On my outbound journey from Hong Kong, I had been in a window seat, which I found was private but a little hemmed in. On this flight, I was by the aisle in seat 8J on the right-hand side of the cabin (apologies for the shadow on the photo below).
The business class cabin is divided into two sections – the first comprising rows 6 and 7, and the second rows 8 to 11. This means 8J is a bulkhead seat on Emirates’ three-class 777-300ER, giving you plenty of space in front of you for your legs, but there are some strange quirks with the seat as well.
For starters, 8J is positioned partway into the aisle such that you can actually see down through the galley and into the cabin ahead when looking straight forward. This does make the seat feel rather more exposed, and without any partition blocking off the aisle you are more out in the open than in the seat next to the window. This positioning also means that the admittedly huge in-flight entertainment screen is slightly off to the side rather than directly in front of you, as seen in the photo below.
Otherwise, this is quite a comfortable seat for a short hop. The width is slim, owing to the configuration, with just 20.5 inches, and while the seat does recline to a lie-flat position with a fold-out footrest, it’s not quite a fully flat offering. There’s not a huge amount of space within the seat itself, though one big plus is the space below the armrest by the universal socket, which is big enough to fit a small laptop and makes charging devices very straightforward. The seats also have large pockets in front of you below the screens, though on the bulkhead seats these are a bit difficult to access without getting up.
Adjusting the seat is straightforward with the controls having a number of pre-set options available. The in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens are also relatively easy to use courtesy of the two hand-held devices (one a cabled controller and the other a detachable tablet).
Having both seems a little redundant, but I suppose it’s good if you have a preference for one type of controller over the other.
Emirates’ headphones are also comfortable.
Which seat to choose?
Not E – for obvious reasons, avoid this middle seat in the 2-3-2 layout. Aside from that, I’d actually recommend one of the window seats (6A-11A/6K-11K). At 6 foot 5 inches, this isn’t something I typically recommend, but for such a short hop – and with the aisle seats being quite exposed – it’s easy to make peace with being a bit more hemmed in at the cost of getting more privacy. The bulkhead window seats (6A, 8A, 6K, 8K) are also good for that added space in front if you do need to get out and don’t wish to clamber over your neighbour. Their proximity to the galley and lavatories may deter some travellers, though I didn’t find it to be an issue.
The crew were immediately warm and welcoming when we stepped foot on the plane, and throughout the flight were without a doubt the most pleasant part of the experience lending a professional but light-hearted touch to their duties. I was offered a run-down of my seat’s functions, though declined having received something similar on my flight over from Hong Kong. Shortly after, we were offered a choice of orange juice, apple juice, or Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial NV Champagne – hardly a tough decision, even in the middle of the day – followed by our meal orders.
Departure was delayed slightly and we ended up taking off at 1414, about half an hour behind schedule.
Unfortunately, I did run into a problem with my IFE system almost immediately after take-off. The user interface kept popping up then disappearing every few seconds, with the screen even minimising and returning back to the main menu on a number of occasions. This was an issue I saw with a few other screens in the bulkhead row at least, though mine appeared to be the only one that continued to play up. I let the cabin crew know as soon as the seat-belt sign went off and they gave the system a hard reset, which temporarily fixed the issue, though it would return just as we were coming into land less than three hours later. I pity the person who may have had to endure this on the longer flight from Dubai before this one.
After take-off we were offered a drink, and having enjoyed the old fashioned on my initial flight over from Hong Kong the cocktail reprised its role on this flight.
Shortly after, our meals were served.
Impressed by the Penang Curry in the lounge, I again opted for the Penang Chicken Curry on the flight, which is served with steamed vegetables and jasmine rice. My alternatives were Stir-Fried Prawns with Chilli and Coriander, or Veal Emince. Here is the full menu:
The curry was definitely pleasant with a strong flavor, and set out nicely on tableware. You also get fresh fruit, bread and coconut and lime cheesecake with the meal, though I’ll admit the latter wasn’t as impressive as I’d thought it would be.
What I did enjoy was the Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2015 that was served along with my meal. Other options on the wine list include:
- Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Marlborough, New Zealand
- Chablis 1er Cru Montee de Tonnerre Jean-Marc Brocard 2016, Burgundy, France
- Chateau Meyney 2009, Saint-Estephe, France
- Graham’s Single Harvest Tawny Port 1994, Douro Valley, Portugal
Landing was bang on time at 1740 despite the 30-minute delay taking off, such that I suspect the schedule of the flight is designed in order to make allowances for this. Having not checked-in any baggage in Hong Kong, I was able to take the tram to the main part of the terminal and speed through immigration without a hitch.
Well worth it for the price of admission. The schedule is decent, though it will eat up most of your working day. But for the competitive price, reasonably sized seats, quality of service and lounge access, I’d be tempted to book this routing for future trips between Bangkok and Hong Kong.
- Price Online return fares in mid-June start at 13,775 THB (US$433.5)
- Flight No. EK384
- Configuration 2-3-2
- Seat width 20.5 inches
- Seat pitch 77.5 inches
- Seat recline Lie flat
- Departure 1345
- Flight duration 2 hours 55 minutes
- Contact emirates.com