Many years ago now, Emirates paid Jennifer Aniston quite a lot of money to introduce the concept of never wanting a flight to end. In the ad, she famously wakes up from her first class Airbus A380 suite and asks if they can “keep flying this thing around a little bit longer”. Years later, and after 14 hours in the air, I felt the exact same way.
Emirates first class is an exceptional way to travel, and in terms of novelty, there’s no better way to experience it than onboard their flagship Airbus A380. Here’s what to expect…
Emirates First Class Experience At Dubai International Airport
If you’re flying first, chances are a chauffeur will be taking you to the airport. I certainly never mind. Pulling up at DXB, you’ll find a separate area for first and business class drop off at Terminal 3, and then quickly a huge check in facility. The privacy is great but it’s the scale that’s wowing. It’s not as design focused as one might expect, but you certainly won’t be waiting in any lines…
After a quick tram ride to A gates, where all A380 flights depart, you’ll find the sprawling first class lounge up a lift or elevator. When I say sprawling, it’s actually absurd. Think of it more like a private airport terminal for first class passengers than a lounge, because it takes up the entire length of the terminal.
You’ll find mini appetizer stations at every gate, as well as a stocked bar, and if you want a substantial sit down meal, spa treatment or nap room, they’re littered across the space. If there’s a complaint to make about this lounge, and I’m certainly not saying there is, it’s that it’s best enjoyed in running shoes.
Boarding takes place directly from the lounge, which means you really won’t have to see another soul, other than those also flying first class from the time you set foot in the lounge. It’s brilliant.
Emirates A380 First Class Experience
For curmudgeons like myself who have been on perhaps one too many flights, it’s rare to have that “omg” feeling upon boarding a plane anymore, but I can’t help but smile walking onto this aircraft. Boarding through the upper deck door, it’s a quick left with an escort from the crew to your suite.
It’s bold, it’s ornate, it’s even argued to be ostentatious, but it’s simply superb by any metric. The privacy door is as substantial as they come, the seat is almost too comfortable, the 27” screen is massive and the iPad like device which allows you to remotely control every element makes this an effortless cake walk.
Within seconds of settling in I was greeted by name and offered a welcome drink. Emirates has a great feature where you can look at the wine list and menu for the flight 30 days in advance using the app or website, and after seeing that they were serving Dom Perignon P2 2002 on this flight, I knew which option I’d be leaning toward…
Another fantastic feature of the Emirates A380 first cabin is the lack of overhead bins entirely. There’s enough room in each suite to put a full sized carry on and bag under the entertainment screen, and even in bed mode it’s untouchable for an NBA player. Having all your belongings in arms reach, or nearby is oddly comforting, and there’s plenty of other storage space too.
Of course, that comes in handy when Emirates hands over pyjamas, slippers, a huge amenity kit and everything else to line your pockets with.
The Meal Service And Drinks
Most take offs feel like a rumble, but the A380 is almost alarmingly quiet and graceful. Up in the skies, it was time to settle in for the dine on demand food and oh how lovely it was. Really, most airplane food sucks immensely, but this was a show.
Emirates shows superb variation between regional Arabic, Middle Eastern dishes and continental European and pan Asian favourites. And of course, caviar is universally accepted as the ultimate way to kick off a good time…
Pre caviar, Emirates partnered with Dom Perignon to create a signature canapé set to kick things off, and well, it paid off. The food really brought out the depth of the Plentitude 2002 and set the mood for a couple hours of dining indulgence.
Each dish was beautifully plated, with perfect temperature. Apart from the caviar, I was particularly impressed with the paneer and spinach dish, which was served with something along the lines of a biryani and some roasted vegetables. You need flavour in the sky and this was packed with buckets.
The wine list was expectedly fantastic, with a Petit Lafite, Moon Tsai and other welcome bottles. Hot tip: look for the wine in the middle of the list presented, which represents the sommeliers choice. It’s a special (generally 3x more expensive) bottle. You’ll find some absolutely wild stuff being poured.
Rest And Relaxation In The Emirates A380 Suite
The wireless remote control makes basically every element of the experience easy. The seat can be controlled via four easy “take off”, “dining”, “lounging” or “bed” modes, and each individual element can also be customized to your personal taste.
The iPad like remote also controls the screen and privacy doors and if I really had to nitpick, and I’d really f**king have to try, I wish that it was easier to switch between functions without having to tap back a few times, particularly when interacting with crew and trying to open doors, pause films etc.
I found the star of the show to really be the mattress topper, duvet and pillow set, which literally feel like sleeping in the clouds, which is appropriate when flying at 40,000 feet. We’re talking high thread count sheets, memory foam esque mattress topper and a lovely large pillow. I slept probably 7 hours completely undisturbed.
In lounging mode the seat is like the very best movie theatre seat you could imagine, and in fear of being outed on passenger shaming, I chose to prop my feet up with my carry on, rather than on the wood surface of the suite. It made for a nice relaxed way to enjoy the mellow drama of Succession on HBO. Shout-out to Emirates for having lots of box sets.
The Ultimate Experience: A Shower At 40,000 Feet
No matter what anyone tells you, there’s nothing like showering at 40,000 feet. And in Emirates A380 first class shower, it’s easy to forget you’re in a plane. The shower suite is huge and the plane offers a dedicated staff member to ensure it’s stocked with fresh towels, toiletries and luxury skincare and hair products.
Figure on about 5 minutes of shower time, so don’t dilly dally. A helpful gauge reminiscent of a car fuel gauge lets you know how much more water you’ve got and briefly stops just to make sure you take notice. Just tap the on button one more time to soak up those last few moments. There’s plenty of space to comfortably change into fresh gear and get paparazzi ready for arrival.
Even if you’re not a star, you kinda feel like one in Emirates A380 first class…
The Service, The Crew And The Big Picture
Business class is about maximizing sleep, comfort and business efficiency. First class is about the best, the best, and nothing but the best. Every time I got up from my seat, even just for a quick walk around or visit to the bathroom my suite was freshened with towels folded or a hot towel. When you think about this attention to detail over 14 hours, the service is exceptional.
Unlike some first class experiences, I really felt the proactive nature of the crew, ready, willing and able to assist. I had brief issues with the wifi (mostly due to flying over the North Pole) and within a minute of a brief grumble from my end, the head cabin crew member was over to let me know the deal and that he’d be happy to take care of it should it turn out not to get back in action shortly.
Putting this experience into perspective, you’d have to be a real piece of work not to enjoy this. You can’t ask for more in terms of seat comfort, food, service or champagne. What was most surprising to me was how well this experience stands up, even after years of new first class launches from other airlines.
There may be others with more square footage, but this is top 5 and it’s certainly not going anywhere anytime soon. If you can swing it with miles or money, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...
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