EK204 ~ 12/3/2014
Airbus A380-800 JFK-DXB, Seats 2E and 2F
Best. Flight. Ever.
I’m writing up most of this trip report from the comfort of my personal suite on our Emirates flight from JFK to Dubai. As a point of reference, I have never flown international first class before, outside of a flight on United Global First, which hardly counts. This flight marks my second A380 ride, the first being a Lufthansa business class flight. I’ve flown a variety of international business class routes, but I have been aspiring to save up points and book my wife and I on an Emirates A380 First Class route, and it has definitely been worth the wait!
I’ll start from boarding. The Emirates lounge at JFK is really nice, and we had a great breakfast there. A full report will follow shortly. One of its neat features is that you can board directly from the lounge. They open up a single gate, and it’s quite convenient, and it does make you feel exclusive. This is available for both business class and first class passengers. The special jet bridge goes straight to the front of the plane so you literally never experience boarding with the “rest of the plane.” In fact, it boards right to the top floor of the A380, to the door which separates business and first class, so not only do you not board with the rest of the plane, you never even see the rest of the plane.
When we entered the plane, they checked boarding passes, helping people with their seat assignments. When we showed our first class boarding passes, they insisted on escorting us personally to our seats. My wife and I usually go for window seats, but this cabin is in a 1-2-1 configuration, and we chose the two middle seats, 2E and 2F, in order to be able to talk to each other during the flight.
The seat / suite is a pretty marvelous invention. I immediately picked up my roll-a-board suitcase to put it in the overhead bin, but I quickly realized that there were no overhead bins. In fact, they just want you to put your luggage on the floor in the front of your suite area. It may sound cramped, but it’s so roomy that I had no issue putting my suitcase, backpack, and amenity kit in front of me and still stretching my legs out fully. There’s a mini bar built into the seat, and while it’s cool for show, I don’t understand it. It doesn’t have any built-in refrigeration, so why would I drink that warm bottle of Perrier in there when the flight attendants can just bring me a chilled glass of it with a lime?
Next to the mini bar is a large touch screen tablet that allows you to access all of the controls for your seat, the media player, the lights. It’s locked into place during take off and landing, but you can pop it out after take off. All the communications happen wirelessly. Kinda neat to have a wireless tablet in your hand, make seat adjustments on the tablet, and watch your seat move.
I took a seat, and in front of me, I was somewhat overwhelmed by how large my personal screen was. I like big screens, but I’ve never had a problem with the size of the United business class screens. I’ve always thought that was big enough. Apparently I was wrong. These screens are HUGE. It’s almost funny having your own personal 27” monitor! It makes my 15″ MacBook Pro look tiny in comparison. To the left of the monitor is a rose, a real rose. I smelled it. A reading light is mounted there as well. To the right of the monitor is a lamp, and there is a snack basket filled with goodies. Note: don’t waste your time with these goodies. The food they bring is MUCH better… No need to fill up on this stuff! There’s also a pop-up vanity mirror with some lotions and a drawer with a writing kit. Yes… a writing kit…
The suite is stocked, and it’s beautiful, and it’s comfy. There are motorized doors that you can use to give privacy, and there’s also a motorized wall in between the two suites. Once I got over being so giddy about my flight, I kicked my feat up and relaxed. Oh speaking of kicking your feet up, I actually kicked them up on my suitcase. There’s not ottoman or anything like that in front of you, as the vast space is designed for your luggage. If I were being picky, I would say that’s a knock on the design. It seems like there has to be a better way to store my luggage… find a way to build in a foot rest for me! Well, the seat, which is extremely wide, contorts and moves around in many ways to give you a footrest, but I like ottomans.
I hope I’ve painted an accurate picture of the suite for you. I haven’t even gotten to the service yet. We were extremely well attended to. Flight attendants came and introduced themselves to us, and I was immediately served champagne. Part of the champagne service comes with an apology… They noted that they couldn’t open the Dom Perignon until we were up in the air, but they would be certain to get us started on that as soon as we got up there!
Then the purser came around, and he dropped off a leather bound menu and wine list. He introduced himself, and he explained the way the meal service would go. He let me know that I could dine at any time I wanted throughout the entire flight, that certain meals would take longer than others to prep, etc. He recommended that we eat soon after takeoff, as that coincided nicely with lunch time. That sounded like a plan to me.
I won’t waste all the screen real estate with the menu, but if you would like to see the wine list, you can click here: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, and page 5. If you want to see the full menu, click here: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8, and page 9.
Katy and I were pretty giddy with excitement. We’re total frequent flier geeks. We have used our miles and points for so many cool things in the past, but flying Emirates A380 first class was one aspiration that was high on my list, and we were finally doing it, and it was just as awesome as we hoped. We each settled down to watch some movies. I went for 22 Jump Street, a classic. She watched a documentary. I hope that shows who the brains are in the family… :-).
Before we took off, I had to use the restroom. It’s worth mentioning this, as the lavatory situation in Emirates A380 first class is truly something special. There are three bathrooms we had access to – two in the front of the plane and one in the galley behind us. The one in the galley behind us was nice, but it’s the two in the front that are the shower spa suites. Okay. Wow. They are huge, and there’s a shower in there! The hand towels were cloth, there were amenities like shave kits, shower caps, etc everywhere. The toilet itself is actually built into a large, long bench, and the room was very spacious. I also later came to realize that there’s a heated floor! I’ll dig into the bathroom a bit more later, but just taking a quick pee before the flight further opened my eyes to how special this A380 configuration was.
Before take off, we were brought our amenity kits, pajamas, and slippers. Emirates gives you not only a nice bag for the amenity kit, but also a bag for the pajamas and slippers. The latter is actually a pretty high quality bag, and I think it will make a great beach bag for my wife and I.
Our plane started maneuvering about JFK, but I was relatively oblivious, having settled into a movie. Once airborne, Stefania, our amazing flight attendant, came by and introduced herself again to us. She took my order for lunch, and it’s almost funny how long it takes to order in comparison to telling a United flight attendant whether or not you want chicken or steak. Here, I was prompted with so many questions… Would I like to sample some canapés? The cold ones? Warm ones? Both? How about some Dom Perignon and nuts? Which appetizer would I like? All of them? Some? Caviar? Arab mezze? Would I like the soup? Which soup would I like? Which of four entrees sounded best to me? I was somewhat overwhelmed with all of the decisions, and in the end, I wonder if my order was more customized than it should have been, but I watched our flight attendant write every detail of my order down. I glanced at her folio of paper, and it seemed like other passengers’ orders were just as long, so I felt less bad.
Speaking of other passengers, our cabin was about half full. The Emirates A380 first class cabin holds 14 passengers.
Meal service began, and while I’ll of course walk through the whole experience, the short piece of advice is DONT FILL UP BEFOREHAND. There is a lot of food! Every passenger’s meal experience will be customized to their order. For example, I had canapés, but Katy opted to go straight to her appetizer. She had soup. I chose to skip the soup, etc.
The tray table is huge. Massive. Just like everything else in the suite. I was frustrated at first that my seat seemed kind of far away from the table, but there’s a button that moves the seat closer. Stefania came to neatly set the table, and I started with a glass of Dom Perignon with some warm nuts. There’s no better snack for watching 22 Jump Street. I was brought a selection of both hot and cold canapés.
Everything was delicious, and the presentation was impeccable. Before I ever got on the flight, I decided I was going to get the Arab mezze platter to start, but the purser really put a sell on how good their caviar selection was. Okay… fine… if you’re going to twist my arm, bring it on! So I had the caviar platter, complete with blinis and fixings. I have to stress that not only did it taste amazing, but really the amount of care Stefania took to set my table beautifully for each course surpassed what I have had at even some of the highest end restaurants I have been to.
After polishing off the caviar, a warm bread basket was placed on my table along with a seared ahi tuna appetizer. It was delicious, but I didn’t eat the whole thing as I was starting to fill up, and I knew I still had a main course AND dessert coming.
For my main course, I selected the goat cheese ravioli. I’m a sucker for goat cheese anything. After having a blackened piece of meat on United previously the night before, Katy decided to challenge Emirates’s ability to properly cook a filet, and she ordered the steak. Her first move was to cut into it and check. Medium rare. Nicely done, Emirates! I tried some of her steak. It was very nice, and I really enjoyed my goat cheese ravioli.
For desert, I was wavering between a few options, but I ended up going with the chocolate and salted caramel drum. No regrets! This was a pretty epic way to finish off my meal. DELICIOUS.
Between not getting a great sleep the prior night and drinking copious amounts of Dom Perignon, I started to get tired. I forced myself to stay up a bit and played some Zelda on my Nintendo 3DS. When I was ready for bed, I grabbed the pajamas, headed to the spa shower suite, and put on my new PJs. Normally when I change clothes on international long haul planes, I do everything in my power to not let my feet touch the bathroom floors. I wasn’t so concerned on this plane. Emirates has two dedicated bathroom attendants that do nothing but go in the shower suites after they’re used, clean them up, and make them look like they have never been used before prior to anyone entering. Going to the bathroom on an airplane has never been so good…
Speaking of service, by the time I returned back to my suite, it had already been turned into a bed for me. One of the flight attendants noticed I went to go put on pajamas, and the seat had been flattened, the bedding had been neatly lined, and the bed looked ripe for napping. I went to bed immediately. The bed was really comfy, and I love how Emirates makes the ceiling starry when they darken the cabin. I slept for a solid 5 hours uninterrupted.
I probably could have slept even longer, but when my eyes first opened, I started thinking about showering on the plane, hanging out at the bar, ordering more food, etc. Still so many activities! I couldn’t fall back asleep.
After slowly waking up, I rang my flight attendant call button. I originally scheduled my shower time for 2 hours prior to landing, but as I was awake, I asked if I could move it up. They checked the schedule, and they said it would be no issue and that the spa suite just needed to be prepared for me. Ten or fifteen minutes later, I was escorted to the shower suite. I brought a fresh change of clothes with me.
I was told that in order for the shower to turn on, both the bathroom door as well as the shower door had to be latched shut. The water is limited to five minutes so I made sure to get the soap and shampoo ready. I didn’t want to risk finishing my shower still covered in soap with no water left! I got in the shower, pressed the button, and was pleased to feel that the water came out warm to start. No wasting water just to get the water hot! If my shower at home gave this kind of water pressure, I’d be a bit disappointed, but to get this quality of a shower on an airplane was really neat! The shower was pristinely clean, and to be able to shower after sleeping 5 hours really made me feel like a million bucks!
I stood in the shower and soaked for a bit. There’s a meter that shows how much water is remaining. I laughed to myself that some poor soul probably runs out of water still covered in soap once per flight. Then the water went down for a sec…. and then it came back on. This actually serves as a warning that your showering time is coming to an end. So actually, with that warning shot, most people can probably figure out to rinse off quickly.
Stepping out of the shower is a treat. The towels they give you are huge, and they’re plush and thick. I really did feel like I was in a spa. The floor of the bathroom is heated too. There’s space to walk around in there. It’s just such a refreshing experience. The toilet is actually covered up by a bench so if you need to take a seat, there’s plenty of room to do so.
I went back to my seat feeling VERY refreshed. I ate like a king. I drank like a fish (a high class one). I slept like a baby. And now I was showered and clean. My wife woke up around the same time, and she went for her shower as well. Stefania, our favorite flight attendant, came by and suggested that we should have breakfast, and then after breakfast, she would take us back to the business class bar to relax for a bit. I was hungry, but not starving, after having eatend really well only 6 hours earlier, so I placed an order for a mostly continental breakfast. I was urged to try the quiche or pancakes, but I just wasn’t hungry enough after my feast earlier in the flight. Katy opted for the full hot breakfast.
Breakfast was served, and while my meal was simple, it was delicious. After Katy and I finished the meal, Stefania asked us if we would like to go spend some time in the lounge in the back. Of course we would! We stopped in the gally to chat with some of the other flight attendants on the way back and to grab a bottle of Dom Perignon. Apparently the Dom is exclusive to the First Class passengers, but if you want to go back to the lounge, they’ll bring a bottle back for you. There was a half full bottle, but another attendant insisted that we get a fresh bottle to crack open in the back.
The lounge in the back of the plane is really nice. There’s a circular bar in the middle, plenty of standing room, and bench seating around the edge of the plane. We polished off the bottle of Dom Perignon and watched the sun rise over Iran. We really enjoyed the company of the flight attendants. The service was impeccable, and the individual attention was really special. It felt like we had a small staff dedicated to keeping us happy the entire time.
We eventually went back to our seat for landing. When we touched down, I felt satisfied to have finally flown Emirates A380 First Class. I wasn’t quite ready to let go, but it made it easier knowing that I would be flying the same product from Dubai to Bangkok again in just a week. After going through immigration, we went to the Emirates Chauffeur Service desk, and we got our complimentary ride to the JW Marriott Marquis, the tallest hotel in the world!
This was definitely the most special flight I have ever taken. Getting a couple award tickets on Emirates A380 First Class isn’t impossible, but it isn’t easy, and I feel like this is probably my best mileage redemption yet. I really recommend giving it a try. I can’t wait to get back on that plane one more time in a few days. Speaking of which, you can follow me on twitter for more updates througout the trip. Is there something about the Emirates A380 First Class experience you’re curious about that I haven’t answered? If so, just tweet at me or comment on this article, and I’ll do my best to get it figured out on my next flight on Tuesday!