THE FLIGHT: I flew with Emirates from London-Gatwick to Dubai (flight EK016) on an Airbus A380, in the Business Class cabin
THE CHECK-IN: It was a busy flight but multiple check-in desks were open, with First Class and Business Class passengers also directed to the first available Economy check-in desks. Within 15 minutes of arriving at check in Zone A, I was heading to Security. I was grateful for the Premium Security channel (£6 if not flying Business and you want to pay for it).
BOARDING: Emirates’ lounge was just a short walk from W.H. Smith and easy to find. It was very spacious, with the seats and tables well spaced out. The Wi-Fi was speedy, there were plenty of power sockets and USB ports and a wide range of lunchtime food options included aubergine masala, vegan pasta, Moroccan spiced beef, roasted chicken with sauté potatoes, leeks and peas and a prawn and fennel salad. An announcement that the flight was boarding came about 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time. It was a short walk to the gate and access to the plane was via a dedicated Business Class walkway. I walked straight onto the plane and was welcomed aboard with the words: “We are so pleased you are flying with us today”.
THE SEAT: Business Class on Emirate’s A380 is ‘upstairs’, in a 1 X 2 X 1 configuration with direct aisle access for every seat. I was in 23K, a forward-facing window seat. It was super comfortable and felt very ‘private’. It was kitted out with premium-looking fittings, including leather covers, and the walnut-coloured, mock-wood panelling reminded me of the one time I flew on an executive jet.
There was ample storage and a personal ‘mini-bar’ was stocked with waters, and a single can of Seven Up and Pepsi. Particularly useful was the personal reading light that shone a beam over my left shoulder. The seat was fully reclining and, once prone, had none of the bumps and ridges of some other business seats. Slightly odd was the thin ‘popper’ mattress that couldn’t be affixed to the bed. On the in-flight entertainment side, a personal fixed (but removable) tablet was synced with the large screen in front, which allowed easy and convenient access to the wide range of ICE channels on offer. These were accessed by either touching the screens or by buttons underneath. The options in ‘recent movies’ section really were recent and I watched Belfast with the excellent noise-cancelling headphones provided. I did find it a bit odd that this and a couple of other movies I watched was occasionally interrupted by a short Dubai tourism advert.
THE SERVICE: Before take-off I was greeted with a “Welcome Mr Steve” and was offered the usual choice of Champagne (Veuve Clicquot), orange juice or water. I was handed a face mask in a plastic wrapper and a tube of hand sanitiser. I wasn’t given an amenity kit but think this was an oversight as this was handed to me on my next flight from Dubai to Mauritius.
The cabin was full and the drinks service was (understandably) slow but many passengers filled up their glasses by visiting the on-board lounge at the back of the upper deck, which is for the exclusive use of First and Business Class passengers. Here a cheerful barman was struggling to keep up with requests for express martinis and gin and tonics. People mingled here without face masks, which seemed a little incongruous with the various screen displays asking you to keep all masks on at all time except when eating and drinking – but it struck me that the issue of mask wearing, particularly as we come out of the pandemic and the rules on the ground are either relaxed or abandoned, is a difficult one for airlines.
Lunch was very impressive. The tray was presented with spotless cutlery wrapped in a white cloth napkin. I was disappointed that, although I was among the first rows of passengers to be served, the ‘traditional Arabic mezze’ starter was already unavailable – but the charred sea bass, potatoes and asparagus was sensationally good.
I don’t do sweet desserts but the cheese board was plentiful. However, as is often the case, the cheeses long outlasted the number of crackers provided.
The impressive drinks list seemed like something you would expect in First Class rather than Business: for example, it included a 15-year-old Glenfiddich, Belvedere vodka and a Chateau Trimoulet 2012 from Saint Emilion (red) – and who wouldn’t be impressed by Veuve Clicquot on tap?
One other impressive note onboard: the spacious bathrooms offered small bottles of Bvlgari perfume, hand cream and toothbrushes (that didn’t disintegrate in your mouth) and sizeable tubes of toothpaste.
THE VERDICT: A full cabin posed challenges at times, in terms of speed of delivery, but there’s no real rush on a seven-hour flight. Plus, the on-board lounge stayed open throughout the flight, serving drinks, cocktails and snacks. This was an ultra-relaxed and highly enjoyable flight, with the type of food, entertainment and general comfort levels that you would hope – but don’t always find – at a five-star hotel. But to wear face masks or not? Despite plenty of notices to keep these on, many passengers chose not to and, as I far as I could see, were not challenged by the flight crew. Perhaps easier for everyone just to ditch them completely now.
THE DETAILS: One-Way Business Class flights from Gatwick to Dubai start from £2,494.95.
Reviewed by Steve Hartridge (April 7, 2022)