After a wonderful ten days traveling through the Middle East and checking off a few bucket experiences like Qatar Airways QSuites and Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa, it was time to begin the journey back home. And what could be a more fitting way to wrap things up than by a flight on Emirates, aboard the iconic A380 superjumbo?
Emirates and the A380 are essentially synonymous with each other now, when I think of one, I naturally think of the other. As by far the world largest A380 operator, Emirates has taken a unique stance in regards to the A380. While many other airlines operating the A380 have expressed their desire to phase out the aircraft sooner rather than later, Emirates remains firm in its commitment to continue using the A380 for many years to come.
So much so that Emirates announced a $2 billion retrofit to many of the A380s in their fleet. The first of these refurbished planes began re-entering service this past summer. Luckily for me, the Dubai to San Francisco route was among the initial routes to be equipped with these updated cabins.
The newly installed A380 cabins exuded a stunning but familiar aesthetic, complemented by a crew well-versed in making the journey a fun and memorable affair. This all contributed to one of the most enjoyable flights I’ve taken in several years.
Booking Emirates A380 Business Class
|Dubai to San Francisco
Back in early December 2023, Air Canada and Emirates expanded their strategic partnership by introducing reciprocal points redemptions. This provided Aeroplan members with the chance to redeem their points for Emirates flights with minimal surcharges. Furthermore, there was a brief period during which it was possible to redeem for Emirates flights using Aeroplan’s standard award chart, rather than the current Emirates-specific award chart.
Since I already had a trip to the Middle East planned, I quickly seized the opportunity to make a redemption that worked with my travel dates.
The total cost for the redemption came to 110,000 Aeroplan points and $138 in taxes and fees for an itinerary of Dubai to Vancouver via San Fransisco in business class.
While this redemption comes with a higher cost than some other programs, I felt it presented an excellent chance to experience an ultra long-haul flight with Emirates. Booking such flights with Emirates’ own Skywards program can often be challenging due to steep surcharges. Plus, I’m not sure how many more opportunities I’ll have to fly on the A380, so I was willing to bite the bullet for this one. Especially now that Emirates flights are subject to their own dynamically priced Aeroplan award chart. It’s not uncommon to now see the Emirates Dubai to San Francisco route priced at 200,000+ Aeroplan points. Given the relative ease with which we can earn Aeroplan points in Canada, this was an easy decision.
The business class cabin on the Emirates A380 takes up the entirety of the upper deck except for the 14 first class seats at the front of the plane. There are 76 business class seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, each with direct aisle access. Each row alternates the seats between being positioned closer to the aisle or further from the aisle. Seats positioned further from the aisle offer superior privacy, with the window seats further from the aisle (A and K) being ideal for solo travelers. Conversely, the middle seats that are situated closer together (E and F) are more suitable for couples. The onboard bar and lounge area is located at the back of the business class cabin.
Ground Experience – Emirates Lounge
Before my flight, I visited the Emirates Business Class Lounge located in Concourse B of Dubai International Airport. The lounge is open 24 hours a day to accommodate Emirates’ round-the-clock departure schedule. The lounge is accessible to all Emirates business class passengers.
Entry to the lounge is via a set of e-gates. With just a quick swipe of my boarding pass I was in.
An absolutely massive lounge is required to accommodate the volume of business class passengers traveling with Emirates each day. The business class lounge is directly above the main floor at Dubai International and runs the entire length of the terminal. While the lounge itself was nice, it didn’t feel like a quiet and private place to escape the bustle of a busy airport like Dubai International. In fact, the lounge was so massive it even required a directory!
The lounge offered a range of seating options for dining, working, and unwinding, providing a comfortable place to spend time while awaiting your flight.
Food options were plentiful, featuring dedicated Asian, Middle Eastern and Western buffet areas. Even though I was hungry, I was rather uninspired by the food at the lounge. I just couldn’t shake the noisy cafeteria vibes I was getting due to its overwhelming size and sheer number of people milling about.
I did manage to find a quiet area in the very back of the lounge near the Moët & Chandon Champagne bar where there was a nice selection of spirits and wines available. I grabbed a few bites from this area and figured I’d just try my luck with the breakfast on board the plane.
The best feature of the lounge is the ability to board directly onto the upper deck of the A380 from a boarding area adjacent to the lounge. This alone made a visit to the lounge worth it; I could only imagine the chaos that ensues on the main level of the terminal while boarding the nearly 400 passengers onto the lower deck of the superjumbo.
I was immediately impressed with the nearly brand new A380 cabin. There is still the Emirates signature faux wood paneling plastered on every surface, but I found myself more partial to the airline’s choice of some darker tones in comparison to the previous aesthetic. Emirates has also chosen to only install overhead bins in the middle of the cabin. This, combined with the massive fuselage of the A380, created an airy and spacious atmosphere in the upper deck cabin.
I was traveling alone on this flight, so I selected seat 14K on the right side of the plane, which is one of the window seats situated further from the aisle.
Awaiting me at my seat was a pillow, blanket, mattress pad, headphones, a pair of socks and an eye mask. The crew handed out amenity kits after the passengers were seated as part of their pre-departure service.
The freshly upholstered seats were finished in soft leather with an Alcantara pillow headrest. The seat was one of, if not the nicest and most comfortable business class seats I’ve ever had the chance of sitting in. Which would be essential on a flight like this, the longest non-stop flight I’ve ever been on, clocking in at 16 hours.
As passengers were taking their seats, the cabin crew were handing out pre-departure beverages such as water, orange juice and champagne.
There’s not a single other airline that can match the amount of storage space available on the Emirates A380. All of the window seats are equipped with two large storage bins located directly below the windows, along with an additional storage spot beneath the footrest for smaller bags. Something else I had never seen on another airline were the electronically controlled power window shades.
Next to my left shoulder was the seat’s connectivity panel, equipped with a USB port, HDMI port, headphone jack, and a universal power outlet. Also, there is an adjustable reading light and the handheld entertainment screen controller.
Each seat also has its own minibar stocked with water and soda. Additionally, the business class seats come equipped with its own detachable tablet. This tablet can be used to control the main entertainment screen or as a secondary screen to perform other tasks like bringing up the inflight map to check the progress of your flight or watching movies and playing games.
The mini bar and tablet are two of the many unique features of the Emirates A380 business class cabin. While I’d consider neither of these features to have much of any real practical use — both are more of a novelty than anything else — they both contribute to the over-the-top nature of flying Emirates business class. I’d imagine most other passengers will be indifferent to details like these, but for someone like me who loves all things related to flying and enjoys these little extras, it’s one of the many aspects that makes flying on the Emirates A380 so intriguing.
The seat controls were seamlessly incorporated in a convenient spot, just slightly above the armrest and right where the tray table slides out from the side.
Legroom is excellent in these seats. The footwell was quite wide, providing ample room to relax while watching some movies, and also when converted into bed mode.
Following the meal service, I got up and headed to the rear of the plane to check out the lounge and use the restroom. When I got back to my seat, the cabin crew had already dimmed the lights and placed mattress pads on all the seats.
Since this was a daytime flight, I wasn’t planning on getting any shut-eye during the flight. However, I did move the seat into lie-flat position and wrapped myself up in the provided blanket to watch a few movies.
If I needed to, I could easily see myself getting a solid sleep in this fully flat bed, as the mattress pad, pillow and blanket were all top-notch in terms of quality. The seat’s inner shell doesn’t limit movement in any sleeping position. I found there to be ample space around my shoulder area, and the footwell felt roomy.
The cabin crew handed out the amenity kits during the pre-departure service. Emirates offers two distinct amenity kits designed for either male or female passengers. The male amenity kit is designed by Italian fashion house Bulgari. The kit included a pack of tissues, dental kit, hair brush, shaving cream, razor, deodorant and various Bulgari lotions and perfumes.
This was one of more well-stocked business class amenity kits I’ve come across in my travels. Emirates appears to place quite the emphasis on their amenity kit, which sets them apart from many other airlines. This further illustrates Emirates’ commitment to providing a premium experience in their business class cabin.
Shortly after take off the cabin crew came around to take drink and breakfast orders.
I ordered a mint lemonade to sip on while I waited for the meal service to start.
The menu featured a blend of dishes inspired by North American, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines. Breakfast would be served shortly after takeoff, and lunch would be served just past the halfway point of the flight.
The beverage menu was quite extensive, offering a wide range of mocktails, cocktails, juices, coffee, tea, beer, wine and spirits.
Each meal had three different choices for the main as well as three choices of dessert. Items from the Light Bites section of the menu were available on-demand at any point during the flight.
Breakfast service began with a white tablecloth spread out over the table tray. I ordered the cheese omelette which came with sausages, hash brown and baked beans. On the side was a bowl of fruit and a croissant. The crew delivers all meals on a single tray at the same time.
I was glad I saved my appetite for the plane rather than eating much in the lounge. The omelette dish was very well executed and the fruit bowl was enjoyable.
Prior to the lunch service I ordered another mint lemonade which came with a small dish of olives.
Whenever I’m flying on a Middle Eastern airline, I always order the Arabic mezze if it’s an option. This starter came with a green salad along with some pita bread and stuffed vine leaves. I could have easily finished off the entire platter, but after making multiple trips to the onboard lounge for some snacks between breakfast and lunch, I decided to leave a bit of room for the upcoming main course.
For lunch, I opted for another classic Middle Eastern dish: the mixed grill.
Although the sautéed spinach and roasted tomato didn’t offer the most thrilling pairing for this meal, the chicken and lamb were exceptional, perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection.
The diversity of the Emirates flight attendants and cabin crew is unlike any other airline operating today. Dubai attracts people from all four corners of the globe, and Emirates demonstrates a strong commitment to serving every passenger. Our flight was a perfect example of this, with the crew representing 21 countries, and offering service in 21 languages!
The service impressed me not only during meals but also in the downtime between them. The cabin crew were regularly passing by each seat to check-in on each passenger and top off any drinks. Though I will say, the meal service on the Emirates A380 does have somewhat of an assembly-line feel to it, a stark contrast to my outbound Qatar Airways QSuites flight, which featured a highly personalized service throughout. Nonetheless, this is understandable given the challenge of attending to nearly 80 business class passengers.
Business and First Class Bar and Lounge
I’ve had the opportunity to fly with other airlines and on other aircraft that have tried to replicate an onboard social space, such as the Virgin Atlantic A350. However, in my view, now having experienced it firsthand, Emirates is the only airline that fully nails the concept.
The onboard lounge is one of the coolest features on any aircraft in commercial aviation. On our flight, it wasn’t just me who felt this way — the lounge was consistently packed, with standing room only for most of the journey.
The bar and lounge on the A380 have undergone a full renovation, mirroring the elegant furnishings found across the entire cabin.
Directly across from the bar is a wall-mounted flatscreen TV displaying the in-flight map or live sporting event. Below the TV are a few snack baskets full of sandwiches, fruits, chips and candy.
At the bar were some bite size desserts such as cheesecake, tarts and baklava that passengers could help themselves to.
You can also order hot dishes at the bar if you’re looking for something more substantial beyond just sandwiches and snacks. The full list of items available in the lounge is below.
As for drinks, the bar is stocked full of beer, wine, champagne, and spirits. The member of the crew that was attending to the bar was happy to make any cocktail upon request.
The crew member tending to the lounge observed my interest in the bar and noticed that I was taking several pictures, so he offered to take a photo of me standing at the bar. He took a couple pictures with my phone, and then took out a Polaroid camera to take one more photo. He then slipped the Polaroid photo into a card and presented me with a very neat Emirates business class souvenir.
I spent several hours of the flight sitting in the bar and chatting with other business and first class passengers and the crew. The bartender was particularly engaging, recognizing what a special experience the lounge was for the passengers, he took the time to stop by and talk with nearly everyone.
Emirates prides themselves on having one of the best in-flight entertainment systems in the industry. Their ICE (Information, Connectivity, Entertainment) system boasts thousands of movies, TV shows, music stations and live TV in nearly two dozen languages.
I don’t think the entertainment screens were updated as part of the cabin refurbishment, yet the screen is large and responsive with excellent image quality.
The catalog of movies and TV shows is very impressive. Emirates offered a considerable variety of HBO series, which I always appreciate in an airline’s entertainment options.
The provided tablet was also capable of showing movies and TV shows, or acting as an alternate screen to check the in-flight map without interrupting whatever is playing on the main screen.
Emirates offers free Wi-Fi to all Skywards members for the full duration of the flight. The Wi-Fi was fast and reliable for the majority of the time. However, due to the polar route Emirates flies between the Middle East and North America, a significant portion of the flight was spent without any Wi-Fi service. The outage lasted for nearly 6 hours, so this is something to be aware of when flying this route.
I think $20 USD is a fair price for the entire flight. However, considering that an Emirates Skywards membership is completely free, just ensure your Skywards membership number is added to your booking prior to takeoff and you’ll be all set.
What a treat it was to fly on the Emirates A380. It remains the best aircraft for passenger comfort thanks to its whisper quiet engines and spacious interior. The newly refurbished cabin is a massive upgrade in terms of visual appeal and style. Everything felt and looked luxurious, exactly what one would expect from an airline such as Emirates.
The extensive range of food and drink choices definitely caught my attention. Whether it was the meal service, snack menu, or bar selections, the variety was quite impressive.
Things like the detachable tablet, in-seat minibar and power-operated window shades all are completely excessive and unnecessary, though I can’t help but admire how Emirates went all-in to create a unique and unforgettable experience.
The aircraft’s onboard bar and lounge is the most well-designed social space on any commercial flight, and I can’t emphasize how delightful it was to sit and chat with other travelers and the crew. Everyone appeared to share the same level of excitement as I did to experience it firsthand.
It’s no secret that the A380’s days are numbered. Despite this, it still remains a magnificent feat of engineering, and I’m thrilled that at least Emirates plans to keep flying it for many years to come. If you’ve never had the chance to fly business class on this aircraft, do so before this perfect pairing with Emirates is gone for good.
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