Review: Flying First Class (and Showering) Onboard Emirates A380 First Class, Dubai – Dallas

It was after 2 o’clock in the morning, but I admit I was excited. I don’t remember the last time I was almost giddy to board an airline. I don’t know how circumstances colluded to keep me from flying Emirates first class onboard the A380 for so long, but I was finally going to get to experience this much vaunted product.

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
  15. Emirates First Class A380 Concourse Lounge in Dubai

We boarded from the first class lounge, which is to say that there’s a gate area inside the lounge and an agent staffs it.

Now, there were only going to be four of us in first class on this flight. But we had an agent for our own gate, and a security staffer beyond the gate who merely stood there and didn’t check any passengers at all.

Once our boarding passes were scanned we headed into the elevator and down to the departures level where we’d board the upper deck of the A380.

Soon enough I was onboard the upper deck of the Emirates A380. And the first thing that struck me? That’s a lot of first class seats in not that much space.

Granted these are suites, and plenty of personal space for a commercial airplane. And it’s not as though I’ve even yet flown the Etihad A380 ‘First Apartment’ that’s 2-across with a single aisle instead of 4-across on the A380 upper deck. (Though I will soon enough.)

The Singapore Airlines A380 suites are 4-across on the lower deck. The Qantas A380 first class seats, though densely packed, are more spacious on the aircraft’s lower deck.

By comparison Emirates’ suites, while more than ‘sufficient’ aren’t actually that ‘generous’.

What they are, though, is fully ‘tricked out’. And they make really good use of the space.

In fact, the closet you can put clothes into on the side of the suite just opens up into space in the suite itself, it’s not even really separate.

As a starting point, they have doors. The doors aren’t high enough that flight attendants can’t see in, but they create tremendous privacy from your neighboring passengers.

I found the suite itself well-provisioned, certainly, but also comfortable.

The seat has a minibar with non-alcoholic beverages. This is a feature I’ve never understood. If you’re a first class passenger, you shouldn’t need to get your own beverages. But there it is.

Etihad’s minibar, in contrast, just has sparkling and still water (which gets pretty warm) and a couple of packaged snacks. I’ve always assumed Etihad did this because Emirates has something like it.

The suite has a retractable lighted vanity mirror in front of a large video monitor. Beside it is a lamp, which is actually fairly classy (not something I associate with an otherwise ‘tricked out’ product).

There’s an orchid placed in the suite, and a snack basket provided pre-departure (which is then taken away for takeoff, and return afterward).

I began the flight with a glass of champagne.

Pajamas and slippers were distributed. And one important thing to note — there’s so much swag in first class on Emirates for long haul that they give you a branded bag for it all.

Amenity kits were provided as well.

That’s not all of the products you get, though, because the seat itself also comes with amenities stocked.

And booklets were distributed describing the shower spa.

I spent the entire time between boarding and takeoff exploring the suite and marveling at all of the goodies being handed out. It was almost sensory overload.

Before I knew it we were headed out to taxi and take off. Of course, once we were in the air I wanted to check out the shower spa as soon as possible.

During the ‘orientation process’ on the ground, a flight attendant explained that there would only be four of us in the cabin today so there’s be no difficulty having a shower at whatever time we wished. There are actually two shower rooms. And there are two shower attendants who keep the rooms clean throughout the flight.

The shower rooms double as lavatories for passenger use when they aren’t booked for showers. These are the nicest airplane lavatories I’ve ever seen, and I decided to check them out once we were airborne.

Each shower spa is on either side of the aircraft, with the stairs down to the lower deck in between.

I was ready to step inside. And wow.

It’s just gorgeous. It’s well stocked, too.

It even has a moving map screen inside to track the progress of the flight while using the facilities.

The little touches get attention.

What I love the most, aside from the shower aspect of it, is that the lavatory is spacious and spotless. There’s plenty of room to move around, to change into pajamas, you just don’t feel cramped. And it’s being cleaned between each use and kept up beautifully.

Of course, the shower itself is the centerpiece.

You get 5 minutes worth of water only. After all, water is heavy and takes fuel to carry. But 5 minutes of water is actually plenty. You get a color-coded meter, and can start and stop the water as you wish.

While the flight’s materials described the shower room as something you could have for 20 minutes, flight attendants were saying you could reserve it for 30. I suppose that’s a benefit of being one of only four passengers in first class for the flight.

The shower spa has a bench as well, though I’d probably only sit there in the buff in the worst of turbulence.

Another key element is that the floors are heated so when you step out of the shower it’s not onto a cold floor (you do get a bath mat as part of the shower amenities).

I’ll admit, I couldn’t resist this after changing into pajamas:

After returning to my seat I started flipping through the menu. I wasn’t actually hungry, I’d eaten my fill in the lounge and had a long flight ahead. So when asked I let a flight attendant know I wouldn’t be dining yet. Still, I was curious to see what they offered and it was quite extensive — and very customizable.

Click to enlarge:

Since I wasn’t going to eat yet I decided to head back to business class to check out the bar. This isn’t just a self-serve snack area, it’s an actual bar tended throughout the flight.

I chatted a bit with the flight attendant who was on duty, and asked if they had access to the first class liquors back at the business bar. They didn’t have them back there, but she was happy to get me anything I wished (she didn’t verify that I was a first class passenger as far as I can tell, so I wonder if that would have worked for the asking if I wasn’t…).

I asked for Hennessy Prive. I’m not a refined cognac drinker by any stretch. But I’d never tried it. So she went to first class for some, and opened a bottle.

It was good though I’m sure the $400 bottle version of cognac is lost on me compared to merely decent cognac. Still, when else was I going to sample it, right?

I enjoyed the drink, and then walked back through business class to the first class cabin.

I should note that there is a first class self-serve setup in the front of the first cabin, though you never really have to help yourself.

Since it was after 3am Dubai time at this point I asked to have my bed made.

I slept on and off for several hours, watched a bit of television on my laptop, and probably 8 hours into the flight decided to try some snacks.

Then it was more television for awhile, and then… a fateful email came.

I should say that my biggest complaint about the flight was the internet. Emirates’ inflight internet is unusable. That’s because it’s too cheap. They offer the ‘first 10 megs free’ then $1 for 500 megabytes. And at that (almost free) price everyone uses it, which means more or less no one can use it.

I received an email of a voicemail message I received from American Airlines that my onward connection Dallas – Austin had been cancelled. And it was of the ‘sorry, we cannot reschedule variety.’

So I tried my best to use the internet to figure out what was going on (weather-related cancellations across Dallas Fort-Worth knocking out all the Austin flights, and filling them all the next day) and looking for options (Southwest out of Love Field a day later, renting a car after I had been traveling 24 hours, or a car service — I even looked into bus options).

This took me the better part of 3 hours (instead of 10 minutes), to figure out how I’d get home, since the internet connectivity was just that bad.

By that time I was ready for a pre-arrival meal, so I ordered some more mix-and-match snack items.

Then I was ready for my shower. I had organized to take mine 90 minutes prior to arrival (they’ll let you book even an hour before, but I didn’t want to be rushed).

The shower spa is large enough to bring my carry on in with me, open it up. I had a nice shave, a shower, and changed into fresh clothes. I used most (but not all) of my five minutes of water, and most (but not all) of my allotted 30 minutes.

And I concluded that it really isn’t just a gimmick. There’s truly nothing as refreshing as a shower after a long flight. I used to think that meant one of the best things in travel was access to a shower during a layover once you land (and that’s pretty great). Truly, though, getting off the flight refreshed is a new kind of invigorating.

The entire time I was in the shower, of course, I couldn’t quite believe I was enjoying a shower. On an airplane. It was probably the coolest thing I’ve experienced in air travel.

When I returned to my seat there was a tray of fruit waiting for me, to cap off the ‘spa experience’.

The thing to know about the showers is that if your flight is even half full you’ll want to pre-book your shower time as soon as possible. The most popular shower times are going to be close to landing.

The water pressure in the shower was good. So were the temperature controls. You do have to get in the shower and close the door before the water works, so that’s important, you don’t want to stand there waiting inside for the water to adjust.

Having showered, I was refreshed and relaxed though naturally tired after a flight blocked at 16 hours.

We taxied to the gate quickly on arrival in Dallas, I was through Global Entry in little time and picked up my bags to walk through customers. And I couldn’t wait to do it again!

Emirates has one of the best first class products in the world onboard its Airbus A380.

  • The suite is good. It’s not as good, in my opinion, as Etihad’s — and I don’t even mean Etihad’s onboard the A380, but their other aircraft as well. It’s not as good as Singapore’s on the lower deck of their A380. It’s even a little cramped. But they make good use of space, and since there are 14 suites in the cabin they’re rarely all booked so award space is doable on most routes.

  • The food was good. I think Singapore’s entrees are better. Asiana’s, too. But the Emirates menu is extensive and flexible and so I’ll rate it among the better options for food.

  • The alcohol service is tough to beat, if that’s important to you. There’s high end champagne, wine, and liquor and plenty of choices.

  • The service is good. They switch out the displays for the self-service bar during the flight. They tend bar in business class. They proactively offer to make your bed, and are quick, flexible, and cheerful with meal service on demand. They seem much better organized than Etihad, though not as intuitive perhaps as Singapore.

  • The shower spa is amazing. That just makes the whole thing so much more special.

I’m not even sure I would want more spacious suites, since that would likely mean fewer suites and tougher award availability. So my only wish for the flight would have been better internet, since I turned out to really need it this trip and I wound up spending several hours of the flight working to get my travel rebooked instead of enjoying the experience or resting.

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 Milepoint.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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. Slight edit – your picture indicates you had the Hennessy Prive cognac, rather than Paradis. Merely a ~$400 bottle, rather than $1,000.

  2. As someone who plans to fly Emirates first class but has not yet done so, I found both this and your post on the first class lounge extremely useful. Thanks for sharing them, Gary.

  3. …and your flight to SFO is actually to Millbrae. And the one to DTW is actually to Romulus.

    Unless I’m missing something, Tom, is there a compelling reason for this hair-splitting?

  4. Just ask any resident of Ft. Worth whether this is hairsplitting.if you’re not a Texan, you probably can’t appreciate the issue.

  5. Not easy to see why only the Middle East airlines do this kind of thing. Because you could only offer this service if you weren’t worried about what it cost, and what people would pay for it.

  6. Gary: great write up–I flew their A380 last month and it truly is a unique and amazing experience, with very sincere service. My cabin was also one four passengers, and the other three appeared to never really leave their suite, so I spent a good portion of the time chatting with the FAs. When you walk back to the business bar I saw the first class attendant call back and I assume they told them I was coming back there, and of course the pajamas give it away. Sure enough, not a minutes after I got back there, one of the first class FAs brought back to the bar my bottle of Dom. Funniest part was watching the biz class passengers if they can have some…they were denied.
    One footnote: the in-suite mini bar on Etihad’s 787 is refrigerated–apparently they listened to the complaints about warm water.
    Emirates is a serious airline, and I can only hope they bring Delta to their knees.

  7. I agree with Tom! As a resident of Ft. Worth I’ll just say that life’s too short to live in Dallas….

  8. Flown this plane in F 3 times now. Super fun! The best time was DXB-JFK with 3 of us in F: me, George Clooney and his fiancée! Best plane memory I’ve had so far…

  9. So the in-seat amenities they stock are Templespa. The same brand found at my local Crowne Plaza that I wouldn’t touch. Classy.

  10. The un-chilled minibar onboard was something that was surprising to me as well. I mean, unless you want it warm, you need to have them bring a glass and ice anyway.
    Etihad’s A380 does have a chilled minibar and more than just water. Can’t remember exactly but there were soft drinks in there.

  11. @iahphx actually I’ve written on and you just ignore the ‘halo effect’ that this kind of offering brings, it creates a perception of a truly high quality airline even though Emirates and Qatar operate a big chunk of their fleet with angled business class seats and Emirates is 10 seats across in their 777 in economy. So they’re not investing as much as some US airlines across their entire product, but they get the perception that they are.

    And you’ve never responded to whether you think United and Delta having special rights in tokyo as a result of the spoils of war is a subsidy or not… 😛

  12. What sort of special rights do UA and DL have in Tokyo? I thought they had Asian hubs there because of the open skies agreement with Japan, but there was nothing stopping other airlines from doing the same.

  13. @Arcunum The agreements with Japan come out of US victory over the Japanese in World War II, the route authorities date back to that time, and were imposed on Japan by the US government.

  14. So what war did the Bedouin win that forces the US to allow one of their airlines to fly to the US, was it the attack on the Trade Center War?

  15. Hard to believe you are a journalist Gary, making the statement above “@Arcunum The agreements with Japan come out of US victory over the Japanese in World War II”. Proper term is “came” as it was an agreement made in the past with no expiration, or you could have used derive, flow, originate, emerge, issue, proceed, result, spring or stem…from. My personal favorite is stem from as stem is but a part of the tree that keeps the fruit alive. You should learn to writelike yo ar reaching millions not the handful you do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *