"I want the middle seat!" exclaimed no business class passenger ever, so Emirates is finally removing it from its Boeing 777-200LR (long-range) jets, while also ditching its old 'sloping sleepers' in favour of much-needed fully-flat beds.
The upgrades also provide larger inflight entertainment screens and introduce personal minibar facilities at every seat, and there's a new snack bar and social area in the centre of the business class cabin where you can stretch your legs.
But despite the upgrade, you won't find seating in a 1-2-1 layout, as many business travellers have come to expect: instead, a six-across, 2-2-2 configuration: certainly better than the old 2-3-2 arrangement, but not as favourable as having direct aisle access at every seat, such as Emirates' Airbus A380s already provide.
Currently serving selected flights between Adelaide and Dubai and longer routes to places like Fort Lauderdale (USA), Brazil and Chile, Australian Business Traveller stepped aboard a return Dubai-São Paulo flight to put Emirates' newest seat through its paces.
- Frequent flyer program: Emirates Skywards by default, although Australian travellers can choose to earn Qantas Points by attaching their Qantas Frequent Flyer number to the booking instead. Just note, Qantas status credits are only earned with Emirates on QF codeshare flight numbers, and Qantas doesn't codeshare from Dubai to Brazil.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x113cm bag, plus either a 100cm briefcase or a garment bag of up to 20cm in depth when folded, with each item weighing no more than 7kg.
- Checked baggage allowance: Unlike the normal 'weight allowance' of 40kg for business class as you'd get with Emirates on journeys between Australia and Europe, those venturing to South America can instead pack 2x32kg bags, including on any connecting flights between Dubai and other places like Australia.
- Extra baggage for frequent flyers: Whether you're an entry-level Blue or Bronze frequent flyer or hold an elusive Qantas Chairman's Lounge card, the baggage allowance on these flights remains the same for all travellers, so you'll need to pay excess baggage fees if bringing three (or more) suitcases.
- Priority airport services: In Dubai, you can either make use of the dedicated business class check-in hall or the fast-track transit line, and as you'd expect, priority boarding and baggage delivery comes as standard. There's no priority channel for the formalities in São Paulo, but with no queues to 'skip', there was no need.
- Complimentary airport chauffeur: Included with most paid business class fares. Also available on flights booked using Skywards miles or Qantas Points until February 28 2019. In Dubai, I was collected from my hotel in a BMW 520i Touring, while in São Paulo, the car was a beautiful Mercedes-Benz C180 in both directions.
- Inflight Internet access: Complimentary for the entire flight for all business class passengers who are also Emirates Skywards members of any tier, when the Skywards membership number is attached to the booking. However, there's limited coverage over the Atlantic Ocean after passing over the African continent until getting much closer to Brazil.
An Emirates business class ticket grants you access to the airline's business class lounges in Dubai's Concourse A, Concourse B and Concourse C, and to the separate combined business class and first class lounge at the end of Concourse C, branded as 'The Emirates Lounge'.
You don't have to use the lounge closest to your departure gate, so while the food and beverage service is similar across all four options, if you're trying to find the one and only Moët & Chandon Champagne bar, it's in the far right corner of the Concourse B business class lounge:
On the other hand, if you're a Qantas Platinum, Platinum One or Chairman's Lounge frequent flyer or an Emirates Skywards Platinum or iO member, you can also visit Emirates' first class lounges in Concourse A, Concourse B and Concourse C: all feature à la carte dining, while complimentary day spa treatments are offered in the A and B lounges.
Departing São Paulo, all lounge-eligible passengers are invited to visit the spacious Executive Lounge at Guarulhos Airport, where my early morning visit found machine-made espresso coffee, fresh orange juice and other beverages, along with a limited range of hot food – although breakfast is served not long after take-off anyway:
If you're feeling peckish before the flight and have a Priority Pass membership, you can also visit Bleriot Bar & Lounge in the same terminal, where one 'lounge visit' charged to your Priority Pass account unlocks US$27 (approximately R$100) of food and beverage, similar to the program's airport dining concept in Australia.
Currently, Emirates serves São Paulo with a mix of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777-200LR aircraft, with the superjumbo taking the daily return EK261/262 service, and the Boeing 777-200LR serving an extra four flights per week, as EK263/264.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, EK263 takes wing from Dubai at 9:05am, touching down in Brazil's financial capital at 6:20pm local time the same calendar day after a journey of 15hr 15min.
Returning on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, EK264 departs Brazil at 8:40am, reaching Dubai at 4:40am local time the next day, 14 hours later.
What's more, EK263 continues onward from São Paulo to Santiago, while EK264 begins its route in Santiago and jets through São Paulo on the way back to Dubai – similar to how Emirates offers Melbourne-Singapore-Dubai flights – although you can just book the Dubai-Brazil part of the journey without travelling to Chile.
From June 2019, Emirates will move the Brazil base of its Dubai-Brazil-Chile service from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, which will see Boeing 777-200LR flights discontinued to São Paulo (the daily A380 remains), but start running between Dubai and Rio instead, on which passengers can still experience this updated business class seat.
In both cases, if you're flying straight through from Dubai to Chile, you'll remain on the plane during the transit period in Brazil, so generally won't need a Brazilian visa: but will need one if entering Brazil using an Australian passport.
Australian Business Traveller has previously reviewed Emirates' new Boeing 777-200LR business class seat in detail, so here's a quick recap of what to expect, and how the seat compares with the airline's other business class experiences that you may have flown before.
Unlike Emirates' Boeing 777-300ERs which most commonly feature angled-flat beds in a less-favourable 2-3-2 layout, these jets get rid of that business class middle seat in favour of a 2-2-2 configuration...
... and also go fully-flat: two very welcome improvements for the business traveller.
These seats (and beds) are also approximately four inches wider than the business class pods found on Emirates' Airbus A380s, so there's a bit more elbow room...
... although in the A380's favour, the superjumbo provides direct and uninterrupted aisle access for every passenger – which the Boeing 777-200LR does not – courtesy of the A380's 1-2-1 seating layout.
Choose a window seat on this Boeing 777, and you'll still need to step past your seatmate to reach the aisle...
... which gets trickier when that passenger has their bed made up:
With a bed length of approximately 180cms, that's 2cm longer than found in the aisle seats on Emirates' A380s, but 20cm shorter than the generous 200cm beds offered in the A380's window seats, just to give some context.
On board the Boeing 777-200LR, this padded shelf forms the tail end of your bed, and otherwise serves as a foot rest during the flight...
... and you (or the crew) can easily move the seat between being totally upright or fully-flat, thanks to handy shortcut keys up high in the seat's shell...
... although the main control panel is built into your arm rest to the side:
You'll find all the connection points below that, including for headphones, regular and high-powered USB charging, an international AC outlet, and also an HDMI socket if you want to display the output from your laptop or tablet on the entertainment screen:
The centre console between each pair of seats also houses a cocktail table, together with an extra retractable shelf for each passenger...
... a storage pocket large enough for laptops and other similar devices...
... a separate literature pocket in front of you, and also a mini bar – although as it's not refrigerated, I only ever seem to have the water, as cabin crew aren't in short supply to provide a chilled drink:
The seat's outer shell provides some privacy, and a partition can be raised (as pictured) between each pair of seats if you don't know – or want to escape – your seatmate:
But for all its whiz-bang features, as a taller traveller, I didn't find the seat particularly comfortable when sitting in the upright position for take-off and landing, because unlike Emirates' other aircraft, the padded headrest doesn't slide up to meet the back of your head: instead, stuck in place and pressing firmly against my neck and upper back.
That wasn't a problem throughout the journey as reclining the seat allowed me to adjust my pose and get more comfortable, but does mean beginning and ending the flight in less comfort than expected.
For a closer look at the seat, read our separate in-depth review.
AusBT review: Emirates' new Boeing 777-200LR business class seat
The service from Dubai to São Paulo begins with a glass of Champagne on board – Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial being available on flights departing Dubai...
... while after take-off, the full bar opens, from which I selected the fitting Breakfast Martini: blending Sipsmith London Dry Gin with marmalade, Cointreau, orange and lemon juice.
Breakfast itself follows soon after, offering fresh fruit, yoghurt, a selection of breads and pastries and your choice of one of the following main dishes:
- Scrambled eggs with chives, sautéed mushrooms, potato rosti and butter beans in tomato sauce
- Gruyère omelette with pan-fried chicken sausages, lyonnaise potatoes, sautéed spinach and mushrooms
- French toast with caramelised banana and chocolate hazelnut sauce
- Continental cold plate with sliced grilled chicken, bresaola, Red Leicester and Gruyère, with cucumber and tomato
Personally, I'll often pick the most adventurous option on the menu, but in this case I just wanted something nice and simple, so went with the omelette dish which was perfectly acceptable and as expected, and a latte:
With a flying time of over 15 hours on this leg alone, that provided ample opportunity to get some work done after breakfast, and later kick back with a good movie (or three) with a glass of Champagne in-hand: not just any Champagne, however – on this route, it's Veuve Clicquot Extra Brut Extra Old...
... and as Emirates claims to be the only airline in the world to offer this special drop on board, indulging in a glass was an easy decision:
Although lunch is served approximately two hours before landing – that's around 13 hours after take-off – there's a Light Bites menu to tide you over in between, as follows:
- Bresaola served with cheese-filled red pepper, olives and focaccia
- Lamb pie filled with braised free-range New Zealand lamb and rosemary
- Prawn radiatore: pasta with creamy prawn sauce and parmesan
- Barley risotto with pumpkin and Yarra Valley feta
Again wanting something simple yet tasty, I went for the lamb pie (delicious), and as my strategy for beating jet lag on this flight was to stay awake for the entire journey and sleep well on the ground after landing, paired the meal with another latte:
Later, lunch is a three-course affair, beginning with your choice of appetiser from the list below, served with bread and a moghrabieh and feta salad:
- Creamy mushroom soup served with chives
- Traditional Arabic mezze: Al rahib salad, stuffed vine leaves, hummus and sautéed spinach with chickpeas
- Smoked salmon tartare with citrus salad and a poached prawn
I opted for the airline's most 'local' dish, the mezze...
... followed by a grilled veal loin with mushroom sauce, potato gratin, green beans and veal rashers (other options were a roasted chicken fillet or pan-fried cod):
As I often do these days on long-haul flights, I skipped dessert, but there were plenty of choices if I'd wanted to indulge:
- Raspberry yoghurt delice with white chocolate
- Chocolate cheesecake topped with fresh raspberries
- Seasonal fruit
- Cheese board with an Isle of Man Mature Cheddar, Pave d'Affinois, and a Cropwell Bishop Stilton
A small duo of Godiva chocolates completes the flight, and beyond what's available through the inflight menu, there's also a self-serve snack area in the middle of the cabin which doubles as a place to stretch your legs on these long flights, although the inflight cocktail bar and lounge area aboard Emirates' Airbus A380s will be preferred by many travellers.
On the return leg from São Paulo to Dubai, the journey again begins with a simple, single-tray breakfast service, with the following main dishes:
- Egg white omelette with roasted chicken, potato wedges, sautéed mushrooms, herb-roasted tomato and panko crumbs
- Scrambled eggs with chives, seared beef, lyonnaise potatoes, creamy spinach and roasted tomato
- Churros served with chocolate sauce and dulce de leche
- Continental cold plate with sliced smoked chicken, roasted beef, grilled chicken, Emmental and feta, served with crudités
With a 3am wake-up call that day and having eaten a quick breakfast at the airport courtesy of my Priority Pass membership, I chose the smallest-sounding option in the churros, which were nice and tasty, but I would have preferred the sauces to be in pots for dipping rather than swimming around the plate.
On the side, a Mimosa mixing Champagne and orange juice, a less-alcoholic drink than a full glass of pure bubbles:
Later during the flight, I put an old favourite to the test – an Espresso Martini – and can confirm it was up to scratch!
While the outbound flight from Dubai saves the second meal until closer to landing, on this leg, it's served approximately seven hours into the 14-hour journey: essentially a late lunch for those still on São Paulo time, or dinner for travellers already adjusting their body clock to Dubai time.
Before or after that lunch service, travellers can again order a range of Light Bites at any time:
- Continental cold plate: similar to the breakfast option but with varied accompaniments
- Carne na moranga: sautéed jerk beef with onions served in a baby pumpkin
- Sea bass with roasted coconut crust, served with mango and papaya salsa
- Vegetable empanada, served with roasted tomato
- Quindim: Brazilian coconut custard pudding, served with acai sauce
The sea bass sounded tempting, as did the jerk beef, but not wanting to spoil my lunch and given I was flying from South America after all, I went for the tasty empanada:
Fast-forward to that lunch, and appetiser selections were as below:
- Cream of sweetcorn soup with toasted coconut flakes
- Cod salad with black-eyed peas topped with a marinated prawn, garnished with palm hearts, biquinho pepper and lime
- Jerked beef salad on courgette carpaccio with coriander pesto
The beef salad sounded most appetising and came fresh and well-presented, but while I'd have liked a separate pot for the sauce with breakfast, here, I'd have preferred the coriander pesto drizzled over the dish, or if served on the side, in a ceramic cup rather than a plastic take-away container:
For the main course:
- Seared beef tenderloin with sugarcane molasses, yuca gratin and grilled vegetables
- Chicken with queijo coalho: breast fillet filled with coalho cheese and sorrel, served with creamed corn, roasted carrots and pumpkin
- Seared salmon with passionfruit sauce, sautéed potatoes, roasted yuca and carrots
As with the mid-flight snack, I stuck with the South American food theme and enjoyed the meal.
This time around I said 'yes' to dessert, picking the flan from the options below, and was most happy with my decision:
- Caramel custard pudding
- Dulche de leche flan served with Chantilly cream
- Seasonal fruit
- Cheese with crackers and accompaniments
Later to conclude the meal, I went for a Classic Martini with warmed nuts, and slept through until landing in Dubai:
Entertainment & Service
In front of each passenger sits a glistening 23-inch high definition monitor, loaded with endless hours of movies, TV shows, games and music...
... and compared to most other inflight entertainment systems, it can do some pretty nifty things – for starters, you can pair your own Bluetooth headphones to enjoy content wirelessly, which avoids having to pack your airline adaptor and plug in a cable:
Want to wake up at a certain time? Leave your headphones switched on, whether your own pair or the noise-cancelling set Emirates provides, and you'll hear an audio alarm at the time you specify, while switching all other sounds off:
If you're travelling with a companion, you can also watch the same movie 'together' – each on your own screen – or, if you've seen something interesting on your neighbour's monitor, you can see what they're watching without asking them:
The system is a touchscreen, but can also be controlled via a separate, iPad-like tablet, found to your side...
... which can be detached from its mount and used as a second, battery-powered wireless screen in its own right, such as to check on the progress of your flight or take a peek at the aircraft's external cameras, in case you're flying over something exciting (which I unfortunately wasn't)...
... or even just to watch the more traditional airshow, without interrupting your main screen:
Further to that, there's a third touchscreen as well, located within the more traditional remote control, providing many of the same options:
While you probably wouldn't make good use of all three controllers during the flight – that is, the remote, the tablet and touching the inflight entertainment screen itself – the trio's advantage is that if one, or even two, of the control methods happen to break while the plane is in the sky, passengers flying in the affected seat until the problem is fixed would still be able to watch their chosen movie, rather than having no entertainment at all.
Another new feature to the Boeing 777-200LRs is the revamped cabin ceiling, which introduces LED mood lighting and removes the central overhead lockers to create a more spacious environment, as you might expect to find in business class on newer aircraft like the Boeing 787 or the Airbus A350:
On this plus side, this allows crews to more effectively adjust the cabin feeling to match the time of the flight, such as for relaxation above or a morning sunrise below...
... but limiting the overhead locker space on this particular jet is problematic, for two main reasons.
Firstly, when other airlines choose to skip the central overhead lockers in business class – such Qatar Airways does on its Airbus A350s, for example – larger-than-normal lockers are installed above the window-side seats to compensate, which allow passengers to store bags on their sides and fit more luggage into each compartment, because passengers flying in the middle still have to store their bags somewhere.
Here's an example of what we're talking about, albeit from a different aircraft type:
But Emirates hasn't done that: instead, removing the lockers in the middle while retaining only the standard – and relatively small – Boeing 777 lockers down the sides, in which bags can only be stored lying flat.
Secondly, with a 2-2-2 (six-across) seating arrangement on its Boeing 777-200LRs compared to the more typical 1-2-1 (four-across) layout as featured on most other airlines that nix the central storage, Emirates essentially has more passengers in the cabin competing for less storage space, which isn't an ideal combination.
On the other side of the coin, the biggest advantage of the Boeing 777-200LRs for business class travellers is that there's no first class cabin in front of you, which means that rather than working in first class as they normally would, the Purser and other senior flight attendants work in business class on these flights.
Having taken many Emirates flights over the years and across a variety of routes and aircraft types, the service given on these Boeing 777-200LR legs was among the best I've had in business class in a long time, and closer to what I'd expect of first class: and that explains why.
All things considered, Emirates' new long-range Boeing 777 business class seat is a marked improvement compared to the 'regular' Boeing 777 business class experience that often appears on flights to Australia, given the presence of fully-flat beds and that there's no more middle seat in business class.
The huge (and very crisp) inflight entertainment screen is also up there with the best, and if I were planning to stay awake and watch movies on a flight, that'd be reason enough for me to choose the Boeing 777-200LR over Emirates' Airbus A380, on which I didn't find the screen too impressive on my onward connecting flight.
Missing is direct aisle access from every seat, as provided by Emirates' Airbus A380s in business class, but if you do find yourself aboard the Boeing 777-200LR, pre-selecting one of the centre seats has that covered, and without anybody stepping over you.
- Emirates Boeing 777-300ER business class review (Brisbane-Dubai)
- Emirates Airbus A380 business class review (Dubai-Singapore)
- Emirates Boeing 777-300ER first class review (Singapore-Brisbane)
- Behind the Emirates business class, first class wine lists
Chris Chamberlin travelled to São Paulo as a guest of Emirates.