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Business class, Emirates style

Adam Bub
Friday, March 11, 2011
Business class, Emirates style
"At first it's a bit surreal seeing cocktails, canapes and — gasp — room to mingle — on a plane. I'm talking about the sky lounge available to business and first class travellers."
Adam Bub
When it comes to business travel, Emirates is a high flyer favourite. Adam Bub tests the airline's award-winning business class on an A380 as he travels to Europe and back.

The business traveller expects service, comfort and perks. With hi-tech sky-beds, super-quiet cabins and a lounge bar that could rival any of Sydney's small bars for cosiness, an Emirates business class flight can be almost as much fun as the destination. Let's take a test ride.

A380 anticipation
Watching the tarmac in anticipation from the plush business lounge (water feature and all), I'm struck by the sheer size of the A380. It's the first time I've seen one up close, and it's like a cruise liner of the skies (no doubt with the objective of leaving its guests on cloud nine — boom tish). Two decks, 650 seats, and more legroom in all class types than most of its competitors. Even economy travellers enjoy 33 inches of legroom (compared to the industry standard of around 31 inches); on Emirates' Boeing 777 it's 34 inches, christened as 'spacious economy'. It's little things like these that count on long-haul.

For a time in late 2010, A380 was a dirty word after a now-infamous Qantas engine failure that temporarily grounded the fleet. Emirates weren't affected — they used different engines to Qantas— nonetheless, the national carrier is back on track now. Indeed, Emirates have hedged their bets on the A380 by ordering more of the super-jumbos than any other airline — they currently have 15, 75 on order and a further 125 other aircraft on the way.

Creature comforts
Comfort begins before boarding — Emirates provides complimentary chauffeur pick-up from metro areas in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth for business and first class travellers. I get the blue-carpet treatment at priority check-in, just a step behind the red-carpet Hollywood sheen of first class. I have 40kg of baggage allowance, one of the most generous baggage limits of all airlines, and I'm pathetically underweight at 25kg. Pack light, shop heavy is my motto.

Speaking of weight, I board the plane carrying the extra weight of a coconut and pumpkin curry, pilaf rice, lamb cutlets and a few naughty cookies from the aforementioned lounge. Approaching my seat, I learn my business binge won't affect my comfort — seat 22G is huge.

The airline calls it a 'private shell'. This curvaceous, cushioned alcove is ripe for hibernation — the chair reclines deep into a complete flat bed, with a footstool and shoe stowage space to boot. One button press makes me a turtle, only coming up for meals, movies and my mini bar. Don't like people on planes? Forget about them — they can be blocked off by an up-down electronic screen. Genius. Turn on the inbuilt massage mechanism, and Bob's your uncle.

That's entertainment
When not gazing at the artificial stars on the cabin ceiling during designated 'nap time', I dig into the at-first baffling ICE entertainment system. The source of confusion is a mini touchscreen TV remote that's meant to help me navigate the 17-inch LCD widescreen. After a few false starts that lead me to relentless promotional ads for this month's movies, and somehow getting radio channels that don't match the screen, I master ICE.

With 1200 channels of Hollywood, world and kids' movies, TV series, documentaries, satellite phone services, SMS and email, live news headlines and games, ICE caters to the picky individualism of the business traveller. My heart almost skips a beat when I see one section: classics. If there's anyone I want to spend time with on a plane, it's Scarlett O'Hara (all 224 minutes of Gone with the Wind make for a perfect time-waster).

But I find myself inexplicably hypnotised by the airshow. Four or five channels of A380 euphoria. I feverishly check the downward, forward and tail cameras on the aeroplane (and the up-to-date flight paths) for a visceral thrill at seeing the stormclouds and wild winds we're flying through. I feel like the pilot, but also thank my lucky stars it's not me in the cockpit. Little do I know that later I'll be treated to a birds-eye-view of The World, the series of man-made islands, on the teal shores of Dubai.

The service
Like most international airlines, the more multicultural the better. Emirates' cabin crew hail from more than 140 nationalities, but the Arabic elan of the UAE is felt in the female hostesses' white-scarfed headgear, like they're forever heading to the races. Get-up aside, the cabin crew display the poise and geniality that have won Emirates worldwide acclaim. Most of the hosties are bilingual at least — on my inbound flight alone the pilot announces that his crew's dozen or so languages include French, Arabic, Singhalese, Burmese and Tagalog.

Useful as those languages must be, I appreciate smaller touches like the warm, scented towels, offers of blankets, and those ubiquitous beverage refills.

"Would you like another drink?"
"No thanks."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes."
"Not another Amstel Light?"
"No thanks."


And so on and so forth every couple of hours. A routine game of "let's get the passenger drunk", one that I'm not always up for playing. A minor gripe — I am guilty of caving in a few times to offers of chocolate, beer and champagne. Never altogether, of course.

Fine dining
Food is often the make-or-break when judging a flight. So, on a 21-hour flight to Amsterdam with a brisk stopover in Dubai, I feel well-nourished, perhaps to the point of spoilt, by the finesse of meals like an Arabic mezze plate, a grilled salmon with plum tomato sauce and grilled vegies, and a cappuccino brownie dome. Everything is halal, plus there's vegetarian, low-calorie, gluten-free, diabetic and low-sodium options. A week later on a return flight I revisit the olives, dips and spinach and chickpea kibbeh of the mezze plate.

The best perk of all
At first it's a bit surreal seeing cocktails, canapes and — gasp — room to mingle — on a plane. I'm talking about the sky lounge available to business and first class travellers. This futuristic Jetsons pod centres around a well-stocked bar manned by a perky bartender/hostie making friendly conversation with tipsy couples. I pick a French wine and take my place on one of the two wall-hugging lounges (which have seatbelts should turbulence interrupt your martini). Antipasto is always available at the bar — very handy for those nibbly moments between meals and movies.

First class benefits
After my flight I'm allowed a peek at first class. The private shells are 82 inches long (2.08m), creating a cocoon-like sense of seclusion. One good reason to get up are the shower spas, which amusingly contain a notice that there's a two-person-only limit per wash. A ready-made mile-high club? Not quite, it's a rule intended for mother and child only. As in business class, the amenity kits contain quality Bvlgari perfumes, body lotions and hand creams; you'd expect nothing less of Emirates.

Prices
For the latest prices on airfares to Europe find the latest deals on emirates.com/getaway

Take a trip through our gallery of Emirates business class pictures below:
View gallery

RELATED: Best airline beds

Have you flown Emirates business class? How does it compare to other business classes? Share with us below.

User comments
Emirates is the best airline in the world. I have travelled on a lot of different carriers and Singapore used to be my favourite but Emirates have outclassed them by far. I had the pleasure of travelling business class on the A380 to Sydney Australia and just loved the luxury and pampering. I normally travel to Brisbane and just wish the A380 would be on that route too. Keep up the great standard. Cheers
Emirates business class also includes arabs shouting at the top of their lungs on their cell-phones while everyone is sleeping - the cabin crew don't intervene. The terminal in Dubai was hard work with no instructions on where to go for connecting flights and the business class lounge is the new "cattle class". Want a shower? Queue for an hour. Want a table to eat? Queue. Terminal overall is standing room only in morning. Want to get to the aircraft? All gazillion business and first passengers have to spend ages queueing for 1 lift. I opted for gluten-free and their approach was to take the meal and remove things till it was gluten free, which left the plate a bit empty, but at least you were asked every time whether you would like bread with that. That being said, the A380 is a nice aircraft and the champagne and chocolate and bowls of nuts were all pretty good.

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