MARK HARADA reports from Emirates' A380 upper deck, and finds the line between business and pleasure very blurred.
Date: 28 April 2015
Scheduled duration: 13 hours 50 minutes
Seat: 23A (window)
The airport: The Emirates business class service begins well before you arrive at the airport, with a luxury car transfer available for all departing passengers (also available for arriving passengers). Just be sure to pre-book the service online, where you’ll be able to tailor your booking as well as find other useful information such as movie guides for your particular flight, and baggage allowances, which for this flight are a generous 40kgs per business flyer plus the usual carry-on.
The Lounge: After a smooth check-in at Emirates’ exclusive business and first class Dubai check-in terminal, I make a dash for the Emirates Business Lounge in Terminal 3, which is located a short ride away via the DXB train. Given this is Emirates’ flagship business lounge, it’s predictably huge. Taking up what seems like an entire floor of this part of T3 (incidentally, the largest airport terminal in the world), there are more than enough sofas, armchairs and seats to go around, and plenty of hot and cold food from Chinese dim sum and Arabic specialties to Western pastries. There's even popcorn and movie-style hot dogs to consume with your champagne or before your spa service, which is also available at the lounge.
On board: So you don’t need to be at the very pointy end of the plane to have your own suite – of sorts. My seat towards the back of the upper deck business cabin feels almost as private as the carrier’s luxury first-class suites, thanks to its position behind a large bulkhead and another compartment that separates the seat from the aisle. The seat itself, which reclines to a lie-flat bed, is super comfy and offers plenty of width, and there’s storage space seemingly at every turn. There’s another compartment now…
In the air: Emirates’ food and beverage service is usually very good, and dining on this flight is no exception. With almost every diet catered for, I choose the Asian Vegetarian menu, which is essentially Indian; there’s a lot of paneer (cheese), a lot of biryani (Indian fried rice) and a lot of flavour. If you’re the sort of person who can eat curry for breakfast, this is for you.
If you’d rather the standard menu, there’s an Arabic mezza or a choice of gourmet mains including Thai yellow chicken curry and a seafood machbous. Dessert is equally good, with a passionfruit tart really hitting the spot. Throughout the flight, still-hungry passengers (if that’s possible) can choose from the Light Bites menu, which includes a Nasi goreng and minestrone, among other tasty treats, or head to the A380’s excellent onboard bar, which along with a good selection of beverages keeps its snacks well stocked.
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The entertainment: The downside to Emirates’ industry-leading entertainment system (EK has won the gong for Best Inflight Entertainment for 11 straight years at the World Airline Awards) is that it’ll encourage you stay awake. The upside is … well … your choice of over 2,500 channels of new release and old films, television programmes of almost every genre and music from across the globe, as well as live news and sport headlines all aired on a huge 23-inch touchscreen or personal tablet. If that’s not enough, there’s also 500MB of wifi for just US$1 (or 10MB free).
The service: Within five minutes of boarding, I’m seen to more often than I have been on entire flights on low cost carriers. But this is Emirates, and Emirates business class, where service comes frequently and always with a smile. My almost personal flight attendant reminds me of Mark Ruffalo, and commends me on my drink selection, a simple orange juice. “Excellent choice,” he says with a grin. Sometimes you get a good feeling about a person straightaway, and this guy is one of them.
Later I meet another affable bloke, an Aussie serving drinks in the onboard bar. He used to work at Qantas, but is full of praise for his new employer, who delivers a “better product” and “newer jets”. In short, the service on this flight is the warm, friendly edge to the cool, slick Emirates business product. A necessity, and delivered well.
On arrival: The captain tells us before take-off that we have to wait on the ground at DXB so as not to break Sydney’s curfew, which bodes well for an on-time arrival. And sure enough, we touch down in Sydney just five minutes behind schedule, at an early 6.10am.
Favourite thing: The almost-private suite. Very sweet indeed. Followed closely by the service.
Travel tip: On a long haul flight, the easiest way to stay hydrated is to avoid alcohol. But if the allure of a glass of Moet, shiraz or a cocktail, is too strong, the bar is a great place to enjoy a drink (and kill time) with some fellow flyers.
The writer was a guest of Emirates, and flew to Dubai to attend ATM 2016.
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