Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Route: Sydney to Dubai
Seating: First Class
Fare: A$11,935 one-way
Flight time: 14 hours and 30 minutes
Being in an individual suite in the Emirates first class cabin is a little like being in an immense amenity kit, surrounded by treats. Most of them are high-tech, but the table lamp with a traditional shade and the box of stationery suggest a posh hotel more than a space capsule. It’s completely private although the partitions don’t go all the way up to the cabin ceiling. When everyone withdraws into their personal suite you get a cosy feeling like there’s no one on board except you and the crew.
Not the widest first class seat in the sky, but perfectly restful and easy to operate. When required, a crew member brings a mattress and linens, and prepares a comfortable bed measuring 27 x 78 inches (69 x 198 centimetres). Best of all you can freshen up in the elegant, generously-sized shower spa. The expansive tranquillity of this retreat is a real tonic. You also have the option to stretch your legs by visiting the lively bar shared with business class.
Impressive because the total efficiency is combined with an ability to make all communication seem like a genial social chat. This begins at check-in, encouraging relaxation from the start.
Dining is very flexible – essentially you eat what you want when you want it. Vegetables are the test of good airline food, and on Emirates, they show all the signs of having recently been alive. Menus tend more toward safe classics than anything very adventurous, but I anticipated the arrival of each course with interest and enthusiasm.
The screen is big, 23 inches (58.4 centimetres). The choice of programs is enormous (there are about 1,800 channels). Even the choice of how you operate the system (with touch-screen, a standard push-button remote or a tablet device) can be bewildering. I found the music excellent and the movies good but not great. The noise-cancelling headphones (what noise? the cabin is blissfully silent) remain comfortable after 12 hours use.
First class passengers are allowed 50kg (110lbs) checked baggage and two pieces of cabin baggage each weighing up to 7kg (15lbs).
Membership of Skywards, the Emirates loyalty program, is free. Aside from accruing miles on flights with Emirates and partner airlines (which include Qantas) members also gain miles from Emirates partners in hospitality, car hire, finance, lifestyle and retail. The unique Miles Accelerator feature enables passengers to find flights that give bonus Skywards miles.
You can’t just saunter along to the spa when you feel like it. Sessions have to be booked. This allows the cabin crew to schedule the elaborate task of restoring the room to its pristine state for the next guest.
There’s a complimentary chauffeur service to ensure you get to the airport on time (and there’s also a car and driver waiting for you when you arrive at your destination). Our departure was delayed by the highly responsible way in which the crew handled a passenger’s medical emergency.