Review: What's it like to fly Emirates Business Class?
Emirates now flies twice a day from Dublin to Dubai. Pól Ó Conghaile reviews one of the best business classes available to Irish passengers.
I can’t remember how long it’s been since I looked forward to a flight.
I’m a travel writer – so it goes without saying that I love traveling. Getting there is another story, however. Flying is a privilege, but it can also be uncomfortable, involving endless hours spent folded up like a Swiss Army Knife in a world of knee defenders, crummy food and queues to join queues for queues.
So when the offer came to fly business class to Dubai, I jumped.
Emirates now operates double daily flights to Dubai, using Boeing 777-300s to carry up to 5,040 passengers a week from Dublin. The airline has a comfortable economy class, as well as several first-class berths, but for this review I’ll be focusing solely on the 28 business class seats.
First impressions are super. Arriving into the business class cabin, customers are met with a soothing range of golden, cream and walnut tones and finishes, by beaming cabin staff in customary headdresses, by 79-inch lie-flat seats with just enough partitioning and crafted nooks to allow you catch those Zs in peace.
Do they recline to fully flat?
That's an important question. Some Emirates 777-300s continue to use angle lie-flat beds, but most are fully flat, as is case with the aircraft serving Dublin-Dubai. The width is another matter – 20.5 inches falls far short of Singapore Airlines’ 777-300s, for example. Singapore offers 24 inches.
The Ice entertainment system features large touch screens embedded into the panel in front of you – at least four times the size of the economy offering – with some 1,800 programmes from TV to movies, audio books, games and so on.
Inflight communications include a seatback CMS, email and satellite phone.
I get a warm welcome, along with the customary offer of orange juice or champagne, from a gorgeously friendly and attentive senior cabin attendant.
Throughout the flight, she brings just the right amount of warmth and chat, drinks are regularly refreshed and staff are on hand quickly to assist with any queries – when I need help operating the entertainment system, for example.
Gourmet cuisine, champagne, single malt whiskeys and fine wine from Emirates’ own cellars all whet the appetite of potential business class customers.
My outbound leg lived up to expectations – with some velvety smoked salmon, a salad of snappy leaves, tomatoes and Parmesan shavings, warm breads and a juicy chicken breast streets ahead of most economy class fare. Lunch is served with Royal Doulton china, real cutlery and white linen, there’s an after-dinner chocolate by Godiva, and fresh OJ that tastes delicious in the air-conditioned cabin.
It can be a tricky business tickling taste buds at 35,000 feet, but I was more than happy here, and I’m not surprised to learn Emirates was awarded ‘Best Airline Food and Wine’ by readers of Frequent Business Traveler last year.
Lunch is very disappointing on the return leg, however.
It’s almost like flying with a different airline. My salad contains limp and bruised leaves, a veal dish is spoiled by a stodgy batter, carrots are undercooked, courgette over-salty, and the sauce is bland. The Arabic mezze features various tastings of hummus, baba ganoush, artichoke and mushroom salad and more, but it’s too large and stodgy a portion, and it doesn’t taste freshly prepared.
The cabin staff apologise when I complain, and offer to serve up alternatives, but I’m left with a sense of a lack of consistency across flights. That’s something that can obviously happen, but at prices like these, really shouldn’t.
Business class goes way beyond the cabin these days, and Emirates is no slouch in that regard, with a 40kg baggage allowance, chauffer pick-ups (NB. 70km mileage limits do apply) and access to the DAA lounge in Dublin for customers.
In Dubai, Emirates has a suite of lounges above the regular gates, where you can check in, help yourself to a free breakfast and Wi-Fi before getting a dedicated boarding call and proceeding direct to the air-bridge serving the business class section of the airplane.
It sure takes the edge off a 4.30am wake-up call... not even Singapore Airlines offers lounges and dedicated boarding facilities like these.
Some other nice touches in the cabin itself include fresh flowers in the bathroom, children’s activity packs, noise-cancelling headphones (fully cupping the ears), and a tablet PC for controlling the screen.
How much does it cost?
Going to press, business class fares from Dublin to Dubai were leading in at €1,999 (return), including taxes and charges. Economy fares start from €548 return.
Is it worth the money?
After a seven-hour flight with good food, warm service and lots of space to rest and snooze, I arrive in Dubai if not completely refreshed, then at least feeling normal. That will appeal not just to passengers visiting Dubai, but to anyone connecting to over 140 destinations served from the hub airport too... even if it does cost €2,000.
Emirates’ 777-300s lack the onboard lounge that’s such an attraction in its A380 business class, however, and its Dublin-Dubai business class falls short of the top offerings available from Qatar, Singapore Airlines and Korean Air.
None of those are available from Dublin, of course. Of the business class cabins that are, I’d rank Emirates on a par with the Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi, and a solid grade above the American airlines flying out of T2, as well as the transatlantic Aer Lingus planes (though they're getting a revamp in 2015).
Good value... to those that can afford it.
Travel Tips & Info:
Pól flew as a guest of Emirates. Contact 01 779-4777; www.emirates.ie