Review: the Emirates “Night of the Comet” First Class Terminal in Dubai

In 1984, Night of the Comet depicted a world where a natural disaster wipes out nearly all of the people but leaves structures intact. There are just a few people left on earth.

Emirates has recreated that effect almost perfectly with their first class lounge in Dubai’s A concourse, which supports Airbus A380 operates, and spans an entire floor of the terminal.

There’s a floor for economy passengers, a floor for business class passengers, and an entire floor for first class — during much of the time I was there… both of them.

Previous installments:

  1. Introduction, overview, and costs
  2. Star Alliance first class and business class lounges, LAX
  3. Etihad First Class, Los Angles – Abu Dhabi.. the 3rd Longest Flight in the World!
  4. Premier Inn, Abu Dhabi International Airport
  5. Etihad’s new business class lounge, Abu Dhabi
  6. Etihad Business Class, Abu Dhabi – Male
  7. Male Domestic Lounge and Maldivian, Male – Kooddoo, plus boat transfer to the Park Hyatt
  8. Park Hyatt Hadahaa, Maldives
  9. Park Hyatt Maldives Menus and Pricing
  10. Boat Transfer and Maldivian Domestic Flight from the Park Hyatt Maldives to Male
  11. Male Airport Lounge and (Alone In) Emirates First Class, Male – Colombo
  12. Hilton Colombo
  13. Food Tour of Colombo, Sri Lanka
  14. Emirates First and Business Class Lounge in Colombo and First Class, Colombo – Dubai

It was a long walk up and down escalators and a ride with the airport’s train system to get out to the A concourse where my Dubai – Dallas A380 flight would depart from. No matter, I had all the time in the world with a nearly six hour connection.

Once you finally reach an entrance to the lounges, you’re really just taking an elevator up to the correct floor of the terminal.

Upon getting out of the elevator, one floor up at the first class level, I was facing the lounge entrance.

I walked inside to the desk, we showed our boarding passes, and there was a bit of delay while the agent researched whether we’d have access. Apparently traveling on a first class boarding pass isn’t sufficient in all cases (certain non-revenue tickets do not qualify). There’s been some confusion over Alaska Airlines-issued awards reported in some cases before, I knew that, but didn’t have any sort of argument. Once the agent made a call to verify our eligibility, we were welcomed inside.

I walked through the entry doors and into the lounge and was confronted with a long, vast terminal. It was quite sterile in some ways. Mostly, it was empty.

There are basically two sides of the terminal, with a hollow center, that allows you to look up towards business class and down towards economy levels. The two sides are connected by frequent walkways across.

Here’s a map: (Click on to expand)

Throughout the terminal are a variety of seating areas of different kinds.

And then there are several key features of the lounge. The terminal is so vast they need directional signs throughout.


    (Click to enlarge)

There’s duty free. This is where I first encountered people, as duty free is clustered at the entrance into the lounge, at the middle of the terminal level. The people I encountered were staff, mostly standing around playing on their phones, in case anyone wanted to come by and look or purchase something.

There’s sit down dining, with both a buffet and menu service cooked-to-order from an open kitchen. It’s got plenty of seating of every kind and configuration, with tables set for a variety of sized-groups.

Here’s the menu: (Click to enlarge each image)

We enjoyed a nice meal, of course.

Of course that’s not the only place you’d go for food. Since the terminal covers the entire level of the terminal, there are ‘gates’ for each flight… desks where an agent will accommodate a flight’s boarding, with an elevator down to the aircraft. And each cluster of gates has a staffed buffet area.

There’s a business center, a kids room, and a spa. There’s also a cigar bar.

The one thing there wasn’t? Any people. In fact, when we first arrived I’m pretty sure there weren’t more than 2 other passengers on the entire first class level of the terminal.

I walked around for awhile, just getting my bearings and realizing that the two sides of the terminal were very similar, split in the middle by the lounge entrance. So I wasn’t missing much. I scouted out the dining possibilities, sat around for a bit and just took in the sensory overload of it all.

My wife and I sat down in the restaurant for some food.

Then we went over to the nap room. This is the part of the lounge that shocks me for how bad it is, considering the supposed exclusivity of the lounge and the sheer amount of space they’re working with. There are no private sleeping rooms.

What they have is a large room full of nap chairs. The lighting is kept low. But it’s a big room where you go to sleep with a sea of other beds, where other people could be napping beside you more or less (with separation inside the room between the beds to create different ‘spaces’).

With no one there in the terminal as a whole, I was fine taking a short nap. I’d been up since around 4am in Colombo, and it was now after 10pm in Dubai.

The other thing that struck me is that the nap area is completely unattended. While the lounge is cavernous, and there are orders of magnitude more staff than people, there’s really no personalized service as such. Everyone was friendly, but they weren’t looking after you and watching to make sure you made your flight the way they would in the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt or Thai First Class lounge in Bangkok. If you go to sleep, you’re on your own to wake up for your flight. Since no one else was in the nap room I set my phone’s alarm just in case.

I slept for almost an hour, and was up before my alarm went off — and I was glad for it because by the time I woke up there had to be 6 or 8 people taking naps in the room with me. They were all asleep, so I’m glad my alarm didn’t go off.

The terminal does get busier as the night goes on, with 1am a peak. Here’s the departures board around 9:30pm.

We found another set of comfortable chairs and worked for awhile. Then about 20 minutes before scheduled boarding we made our way to the buffet and lounge nearest to our gate. We sat there for awhile, tried a snack, and waited.

Boarding time passed, and no one was at the ‘gate’ yet. No word of a delay, we just waited about 20 minutes and then someone showed up. I asked about boarding time, and she said she had to wait until security showed up. Ten more minutes and they were ready to board the flight (all four of us).

We all walked up to the gate, had our boarding passes scanned, and walked right past the ‘security’ staff member standing there. He didn’t actually check any of us in any way. We took an elevator down to the jetway, and were on our way.

At the end of the day, there must be 100 employees here and 1000 chairs, for between 2 and 30 people at any given time. You’d think that would create an environment of over the top personal service, yet it doesn’t.

The lounge, or is it terminal (?), is sterile. It’s gigantic. I suppose Emirates does this because they can. You’ll never run into an overcrowded first class lounge here, so there’s that. You won’t go hungry. It’s great to board directly from the ‘lounge’. And yet beyond the ‘wow’ factor I can’t say I really enjoyed my time here.

I’m glad I finally experienced it, but it’s not a place I’d want to hang out. It was too big, you really did just feel like you were in a large deserted terminal rather than an exclusive space.

It was as though an entire airport, an international gateway, continued in full operation without any passengers. As though it was the Night of the Comet.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I’ve been 5 times in the last few months. I hate the angled nap room chairs. I always feel like I am sliding down. You missed the pleasure of the showers, apparently. It’s like being in a sauna with no fan or ventilation. For all the time and money spent, I feel like they missed it with this fabled lounge…I guess it is better than waiting in the terminal. I’ve seen the lounge “full” before with both nap rooms full and a ten minute wait for both shower facilities. That said, there was still plenty of seating. When it’s “full” one has less patience for the shortfalls. There is also a big increase in numbers from 7-9AM with numerous flights heading out.

  2. I really hate waste. Thanks for the report, I’m fascinated, but this whole thing repulses me. When oil is $10 per barrel and water is $200…

  3. You can also get a complimentary massage at the spa, and complimentary shoeshine. For those of us who don’t drink alcohol, the lounge is great, as the staff will make great smoothies and “mocktails”.

    Having spent time in the fabled Private Room at Changi, Lufthansa’s First Class lounge in Frankfurt, Etihad’s F lounge in Abu Dhabi and Thai’s F lounge in Bangkok, among others, this is my all-time favorite lounge.

    To each his own, and obviously it’s different strokes for different folks, but honestly the food, the surroundings, just everything is over the top! But if you don’t like over the top, then maybe it’s not for you.

  4. Agree with Preacher’s overall remarks and in particular about the smoothies. The Emirates steak sandwich was also delicious.

    Also, on such a long journey, (2 A380 flights plus DXB layover) it was quite a luxury to take 3 showers!

  5. This place would bug me. Why with all that space is there not private cabanas with proper beds. Do not really have any desire to visit this lounge.

  6. Kinda like Dubai in general, big buildings, lotsa space, no people. It’s a mirage built on oil with no character whatsoever. I’m going to enjoy it turning back into desert in 30 years

  7. Can you elaborate on the Alaska Air award restrictions on Emirates lounges? I will be flying Emirates first class SFO-DXB-SIN: will I have access to lounges and chauffeurs, or do they restrict that for “paying guests”? Should I just ask Emirates this question (where the easy answer is “no”) or just proceed as if? I’d be pretty bummed to be sitting around DXB in plastic folding chairs for six hours or whatever.

  8. @christian krogstad there are no restrictions on alaska passengers using emirates lounges. You do not get chauffeur service on tickets issued by partners, only their own, so no chauffeur service. But you get lounge access.

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