I’ve got to admit I was as excited as a kid at Christmas at the thought of spending 13 odd hours on the Emirates A380 in First Class. The whole vacation kind of came together when I saw availability on AlaskaAir.com to go JFK-DXB-MLE with a short connection in Dubai and I quickly put together everything else around this flight. So anticipation levels were high…. did it live up???
The ride in to the airport was smooth in a very comfortable Lincoln Navigator courtesy of the Emirates free chauffeur service, which dropped us off at the First Class check in zone at JFK’s eclectic Terminal 4:
Emirates had some bell-boys to help out First Class passengers and they took care of taking our bags, which were quite hefty as we were brining along our own dive gear on this trip. The check in area was pandemonium which I had expected as the flight looked sold out in business and in coach and indeed I thought that was going to be the case in First as there was a big family ahead of us in the First class line, and I figured with the other classes sold out they might have a roll up.
Anyway the guy handling our bags waived the attention of one of the staff and got us moved up and checked in quickly, and then off we went to clear security and check out the lounge. There is just one general lounge for Emirates, in that there was no separation of First and Business class. But having not eaten and run nearly 5 miles in the morning, our first priority was to get some food. There is a sit down eating area with buffet style food and we got tucked in. The food was pretty bland to be honest but hey it at least filled a spot
The main section of the lounge was very busy, with some kids who were running around and fighting each other with light sabers, so we made our way into the quieter office/computer area for some peace and somewhere where we could keep our phones charged.
While the lounge itself was so-so, it being in JFK’s Terminal 4 meant it had some great plane spotting opportunities
We had gone to the airport as late as possible and before very long had passed it was time to board. One cool thing here is they do board directly from the lounge for Business and First class passengers (coach passengers in the lounge I presume through frequent flyer status had to do the walk of shame out of the lounge and downstairs to board with the riff-raff!)
So we boarded in a breeze and were shown to our suites for the flight to Dubai, 2 E and F which are the two suites right in the middle of the first class cabin. To be quite honest, I was very much like a pig in poop and spent a lot of time clicking away with the camera at all the amazingly gaudy and bling features of the cabin. It was just awesome!!!
Within a few minutes the cabin crew came to enthusiastically introduce themselves. They were very warm, friendly and welcoming and I just knew we were going to be in for a good ride. They told us that, despite my thoughts to the contrary, there were only four First Class passengers today… ourselves and another couple in the two suites in front of us. Which was great because it meant we could just jump out to the window suites for take off and landing and then huddle in the center for the flight – perfect!
We were offered drinks and even though it was early (around 11am for our 11:20am departure time) we could not resist the champagne. On the ground it was Veuve Clicquot which frankly was absolutely fine by me (I was well aware we could mix things up with Dom Perignon after take off!)
I took some time to snap up pictures of as many details of the suite as possible. It was very much as imagined – very bling, very gaudy and very fun!
After ploughing through a good amount of the Veuve the crew brought us our amenity kits which were very well stocked. I particularly liked that it came with a decent size set of Bvlgari products including a new after shave… I always like to get a new fragrance for a big vacation. I think I mentioned this before but smell is such a powerful way of bringing back memories so I find a new fragrance is a good way of “stamping” a given trip. So this trip was going to be the Emirates Bvlgari trip!
We had some funny posting pictures of our exploits to Facebook, no FA’s harassing us to switch off electronics here! Both my wife and I then jumped into the empty window suites to enjoy the takeoff, which I took a little video of, including me playing with the automated shades, which sorry I just could not resist:
After that smooth takeoff we switched back into the middle, and with an 11:20am takeoff the flight timing was just perfect to enjoy a good lunch on board, which I felt less guilty of after my morning run! First of all, of course, we got started with the Dom Perignon:
To help wash down the Dom Perignon, or possibly that’s meant to be the other way around, we were given some amuse-bouche to get us started, which were very nice
After that I decided I was going to change into my PJs before eating. And I wanted to start checking out the first class cabin. The cabin has a 1-4-1 layout with four rows on the outer single suites and three of the center pairs. In the front there are two “shower suites”, one on each side. I should note these are also the toilets, which I hadn’t realized before the flight. So anyway I used one to get changed, but more on the shower suite later… suffice to say they are AWESOME! In between the two shower suites the crew had set up a bar area stocked with all the drinks on the first class menu
So anyhow my wife and I both got changed in our his and her shower suites 🙂 And then headed back to the suites for our lunch. To start with we went with the caviar, of course, which again really helps wash down the DP. I know that we were already through a bottle by the time this arrived:
I made my way through the caviar in good order and made a clean plate just like my Mom always taught me, including wiping out all the delicious garlic bread in the bread basket. Then it was on to the soup, a very tasty watercress soup
This was also washed down with the very nice DP, but for the main course I wanted to go with the red wine selection of Chateau Cos d’Estournel 2000. Regular readers will know I have a deep interest in wine which was actually sparked by the 2000 Bordeaux vintage. So I was quite excited and indeed impressed to see Cos on the menu. Cos d’Estournel is one of the second growths, arguably a “super-second” that pushes the first growths in terms of quality, and the 2000 is a great vintage. While we are all used to the high end champagnes on board first class, with Krug and Dom Perignon regulars, I find the quality level of the red wine offerings a good notch below that. Typically I think carriers are quite smart in getting the cheaper but higher rated and popular low growths… I often see the likes of Lynch Bages or Pontet Canet, which are typically a third or quarter or less the price of the first growths. But this one is a top second growth in a top vintage, a bottle that would typically sell for $250-300 at good retailers. So long story short, I was having me some Cos and chose my main accordingly. And the obvious choice was a lamb shank main, and again it was fabulous. I have got to say I had read some reports of bad food on Emirates but for me this meal was absolutely top class, one of the best I have had in the sky:
It all worked perfectly. The lamb was beautifully cooked and tender, complemented beautifully by the Moroccan spiced cous-cous. And the Cos was a perfect match. It is from Saint-Estephe, a region known for it’s very gravelly soil which you can literally taste in the top wines … they have a very earthy, stony taste which I just love. While your nose and taste buds may not operate as well as they should at 35k feet, this wine was undoubtedly a bomb and definitely the best red wine I have ever had on a plane. Bravo Emirates!
Of course after so much Dom Perignon and Cos d’Estournel and good food I was getting pretty full…. I had really wanted to do desert but frankly I was so full there was nothing on the menu tempting me enough, so instead I decided to get some coffee and play with the IFE
After that I kicked back to enjoy a couple of movies… watched Silver Linings Playbook which I had heard was great and found pretty entertaining, though annoyingly all the cussing was dubbed out making for some odd moments. And then I watched the Hobbit, which I had high hopes for but by goodness was it boring. I really wasn’t feeling sleepy at all and so decided to amble around and check out the rest of the upstairs. I went through the very large business class cabin all the way to the bar at the back which was actually completely packed at that time. I didn’t stay for a drink given it was a bit cramped and figured I would head back to First, but got a couple of snaps on the way
Sorry it was all a bit too dark for my trusty Canon. I did try out one of the biz seats and they seemed pretty nice. The seat itself is rather narrow but it’s fully flat and pretty comfortable. I would certainly be happy to fly that product, especially if we were bringing the kids along where you really don’t need all the extra fanfare of first class.
Anyway once I got back I decided I was going to lose my mile-high virginity – my shower virginity that is!!!! We had already been asked when we wanted to “book” the shower but I just asked if I could move it up (we were still about 3 hours or so away from Dubai and I had initially asked for 1.5 hours before landing). They asked for 20 minutes to get the suite ready, and came back in 10 saying it was ready to go. And so excitedly off I went to test out the flying shower…
So before getting in the shower here’s the details of the rest of the room. As I say these shower suites are also the bathroom, and it really is a huge room
I decided to have a shave to make myself presentable and then on to the main course of the shower, which as I am sure you have read before allows for 5 minutes of water. Which I will say is more than enough. In fact by the time I was finished I still had a quarter of a tank left and frankly that was after standing there longer than I normally would just because… well because I was up in the air!
These guys at Emirates have thought of everything… even putting in a TV in the room so you can see exactly where in the world you are when you lose your mile-high shower virginity. I was somewhere over Iraq!
Even the floor is heated so when you come out of the shower it’s all warm and fuzzy. I mean seriously this is ridiculous pampering!!! So anyway I got dried up and dressed up and then when I came out I see the bar area has been transformed into a spa! I’m not making this up. More crazy pampering. So I got to hang out sipping tea after my nice shower:
And then the final touch was when I got back to my seat, some nice fruit to welcome me back:
In fact I was feeling a bit peckish at this point so decided to get some more food and went for a barbecue chicken sandwich, which was served promptly and was pretty good.
There was maybe just over a couple of hours left at this point and we were actually offered breakfast, but for us it felt like early evening so we decided we’d go and check out the bar, this time my wife coming along. It was kind of funny because they were serving breakfast full on in business class, so we were the only two alcoholics at the bar! But it was great fun. We spent a lot of time chatting with the crew, initially a really nice young lady from Korea who was very happy to keep pouring us Veuve. A British male FA saw us drinking that and offered to go get us DP, but frankly I thought that was just a little too pretentious and besides we liked the variety! A couple of other crew members who appeared “off duty” came to chit chat and it was all very hospitable and they offered to take some pictures which was great. What I did not expect is they came with a Polaroid style camera (you young people can Google it!) and took some instant snaps which were later delivered to us in signed cards before leaving! Really nice souvenir! Anyway if you made it this far here is one of myself and Mrs Milesabound propping up the bar while everyone else is drinking their OJ and coffee!
It was soon within 45 minutes of landing and so we went back to our suites in First Class and again jumped to the window suites to enjoy the views on landing and taxiing. We had a very smooth landing and then taxied for what seemed like ages to our final gate, of course seeing lots and lots and lots and lots of Emirates birds on the way
And so concluded an absolutely FANTASTIC flight. Truly First Class. Now interestingly on our return trip we took the other UAE carrier Etihad and I am going to say there are a few areas they nudge ahead (mostly in the comfort of the seat itself) but overall I’d be back with these guys in a heartbeat. The crew were fun, young and enthusiastic from the get go. The plane itself is just ridiculously decked out from the suite itself to the showers to the fun bar in business class. In fact we have another trip booked next year, this time where we are taking the kids too, and I am thinking of rebooking from Etihad to Emirates. The business class product would be ideal for the family and we can leave the kids hooked on the IFE while we go raid that bar again 🙂 So to anyone thinking about trying out the Emirates A380 product… my advice… like Nike… JUST DO IT!
You can subscribe to Miles Abound by email by signing up here. Keep up to date on ideas and experiences around miles and travel!