Step aboard the upper deck of Emirates' flagship Airbus A380 aircraft, where business class travellers can unwind in private mini-suites before hitting the on-board bar and lounge for a cocktail with their fellow passengers.
As Qantas' main alliance partner on flights to the Middle East and Europe, most Emirates services can also be booked as a Qantas codeshare: serving up both frequent flyer points and status credits for Aussie travellers.
Whether you're bound for Dubai and Europe or are merely heading across the pond to Auckland, here's what you'll find upstairs in Emirates' Airbus A380 business class.
- Frequent flyer scheme: Emirates Skywards, or Aussies can instead earn points with Qantas Frequent Flyer.
- Chauffeur-drive: Complimentary for all business class passengers at both ends of the journey.
- Priority check-in and boarding: Yes, dedicated lanes for business class guests. Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers can also use the first class queues.
- Checked baggage allowance: 40kg, plus 12kg for Silver, 16kg for Gold and 20kg for Platinum frequent flyers with Emirates or Qantas.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x113cm bag plus either a 100cm briefcase/laptop bag or a garment bag, each weighing up to 7kg.
- Express Path access (Australia departures): Yes, Express cards are provided at check-in for passport control and security screening.
- Fast Track access (Dubai arrivals): Yes, or Australian passport holders may also use the e-Gates at Dubai Airport.
Emirates passengers can unwind in the airline's own lounge at Sydney Airport, located directly underneath the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge and adjacent to the temporary Air New Zealand facility.
If your journey began in Auckland and you're heading onwards to Dubai with Emirates on the same flight number, you'll also find the lounge located immediately to your right after clearing transit security screening in Sydney.
Bottles of Veuve Clicquot Champagne are abundant, and there's a good selection of hot food, snacks and desserts if you'd prefer to assemble a meal before going straight to sleep after take-off.
Read our review: The Emirates Lounge, Sydney
Additionally, business class passengers have the option of using the Qantas Business Lounge, while Platinum-grade Skywards members and Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers can instead visit the superb Qantas First Lounge.
Unlike the seven-across (2-3-2) layout you'd find on Emirates' Boeing 777s, A380 business class comes in a 1-2-1 layout and provides each passenger with direct access to the aisle.
Also a one-up over the angled lie-flat beds on the airline's 777s: its A380 business class seats go fully-flat...
... and transform into a bed with a comfortable padded mattress and a full-sized pillow on overnight flights, along with a blanket if required – although pyjamas are sadly absent.
The bed extends to a tight 178cms in the B, D, G and J seats, but we'd suggest that taller travellers aim for the more spacious 200cm-long beds in the A, E, F and K seats.
Wherever you plant yourself, you'll find more of a mini-suite than a typical business class seat: complete with a sizeable side table and also a room temperature mini-bar.
It's a definite step up from the lone water bottle you'd find at your seat when travelling to the UAE with Qantas, Virgin Australia and Etihad, and allows you to enjoy a glass of water – rather than a swig from the bottle – without touching the call bell.
However, the mini-bar also packs in juices and soft drinks which are best enjoyed chilled, so you'll still need to flag down a member of the crew for some ice, which takes just as long as ordering a complete drink and having it land on your tray table already chilled and prepared.
The other eye-catching aspect of the space is the near abundance of faux wood, mimicking the feel of a luxury car and visually breaking up the otherwise all-plastic surrounds of the seat.
Some travellers naturally prefer the 'opulent bling' of Emirates, while others lean towards 'understated elegance' – we'll leave you to make the call.
Nonetheless, getting comfortable is an easy task with three quick-access keys to the side of the seat for sleeping, lounging and landing, joined by an adjustable reading light and easy-reach light switches.
The neighbouring wireless tablet can also be used and detached for more precise adjustments to the seating position, to control the massage feature and to operate the lights and inflight entertainment.
You'll find dual USB ports and an AC power outlet underneath the screen in front to power-up your smartphone, tablet and laptop, although on today's flight, the AC outlet accepted neither angled Australian pins nor UK/UAE-style adaptors: instead preferring those from the USA, Japan and Europe.
Don't have one of those cables? Just ask to borrow a multi-country adaptor that works with both Aussie and UK plugs – not as convenient as being able to plug straight in, but a real non-issue when the adaptor is loaned to you for the entire flight.
There's also a small hidey-hole to stash your phone while it's charging...
... an adjustable footrest and a 'secret' compartment for your shoes – doubling as a good spot to hide your valuables while you're sleeping.
The tray table emerges from the side of the seat in cocktail form and folds open to double in size:
It can also slide forward and away from the seat, allowing you to have it closer during meal times and further away when working on your laptop for a more comfortable typing position.
Extra storage compartments line the sides of the A380's upper deck and can be used by passengers in the window seats, although they're quite deep and rather difficult to reach from the B and J seats where the passenger is positioned closer to the aisle than the window.
That's another reason to choose the A and K seats and their longer beds as a solo traveller, or the E and F pair if being joined by your partner.
Only four restrooms are available in business class – all located down the very back of the large cabin and behind the inflight bar and lounge area – so the further you are from the front, the more traffic you'll notice in the aisle.
The best seats for privacy and a good night's sleep? 7A and 7K – they're against the window with easy access to the side storage bin, are positioned away from the aisle and are only passed by crew coming and going from the first class galley in front.
There's also a small, five-row mini-cabin at the rear of business class, but as these seats experience significantly more aisle traffic and are directly in front of the bar, it's a spot to avoid for lighter sleepers.
Jackets are hung by the crew as you board and are returned prior to landing, which is where you'll notice the surprising absence of a coat hook as you nurse your garment to the gate.
We're greeted before take-off with a glass of Moët & Chandon Champagne, the inflight menu and a wine list – the latter of which includes remarks on the wines' composition, suggested pairings and tasting notes.
That's followed by warmed nuts and an apéritif in the air: in this case a Cointreau and lemonade, with the mixer served on the side.
Next up: bread, a seasonal salad with balsamic and olive oil dressing and a choice of appetisers – either a smoked salmon parcel with crabmeat filling or a Peking Duck salad. I'd chosen the latter and wasn't left wanting.
Then, a choice of braised beef, chilli chicken or Sayadieh (fish and rice) for the main course, but we'd also noticed a fourth, familiar option: the signature Neil Perry chicken schnitzel sandwich, "from the menu of our partner Qantas".
Having 'sampled' many a schnitzel sandwich aboard flights with the Red Roo, I can confirm that the chicken was exactly on-par with Qantas – and of course, it tastes even better when you scoop the coleslaw onto the bread.
Then it's time for cheese, fruit and cakes to appease that sweet tooth... and the only thing better than dessert? Two desserts...Scratch that. Three.
Disturbing what was an otherwise solid rest, I was woken for breakfast 2hr 45m before landing, or at 2:30am local time in Dubai – that's incredibly early for a pre-arrival bite, especially if you've paid a premium to travel in business class and maximise your sleep.
Timing aside, there's a seasonal fruit plate; a warmed croissant and other bread with butter and strawberry jam; and a fruit yoghurt to begin, plus a choice of juices, tea, and both filtered and espresso coffee.
To finish up was a choice of a cheese and chive omelette, scrambled eggs, waffles and a meat and cheese plate, although I passed on the second course in favour of a touch more beauty sleep.
Download: Emirates' current business class menu, Auckland - Sydney - Dubai [79KB, PDF]
Entertainment & Service
Each seat comes with a 17-inch touchscreen, packed with over 2,000 'channels' of movies, TV shows and audio.
Among the options on today's flight: Foxcatcher, 22 Jump Street, The Imitation Game, and a personal French favourite from 2004 that I was impressed to find aboard: Les Choristes.
Emirates counts every movie, TV episode and music track as a 'channel' and assigns each its own channel number (a la Foxtel) – even though you can pause, fast-forward and rewind – although you can still select your content as normal via the touchscreen....
... the wireless tablet (above), or a more traditional remote control found in front of the seat.
Tapping the screen during playback conveniently reveals the time remaining on the flight without disturbing your viewing...
... and if you click that downward arrow, the aircraft's exterior cameras and the flight number appears – useful for completing the obligatory arrival cards on your return to Australia.
There's also inflight Internet access with 10MB of free data and a further 500MB for US$1, which was functional if not a little sluggish.
Bvlgari amenity kits are distributed early in the flight with a Colgate dental set, a fold-out hairbrush and comb, tissues and Bvlgari body lotion/moisturiser in the male version, plus what you'd normally find only in first class on other airlines: a razor from Truefitt & Hill (the oldest barber shop in the world), Gillette shaving cream, Bvlgari aftershave and cologne, and Rexona roll-on deodorant.
Female travellers receive a separate kit with similar contents, naturally sans the facial razor.
Aside from the early wake-up call, the service on today's flight was excellent: the crew noticed my Qantas Frequent Flyer status on the manifest and stopped by to deliver a personal welcome (as I've always found with Emirates, even when stuck in economy), and were helpful without being intrusive.
But with partner Qantas and competitors Virgin Australia and Etihad all providing pyjamas in business class on flights to Dubai and neighbouring Abu Dhabi, Emirates needs something special to set it apart from the rest – we'll raise you an inflight cocktail bar and lounge for business and first class passengers, which bridges the gap nicely.
Found at the rear of the upper deck, we stopped by to assess the cocktails and were met with a mean Mojito to rival the best on the ground.
Emirates' A380s fly from Auckland to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, non-stop from Australia to Dubai and then onwards to over 30 other destinations including London, Paris, New York and Milan.
Perth also joins the superjumbo map from May 1 with one of Emirates' three daily Perth-Dubai flights served by the A380.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Dubai as a guest of Emirates.
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