Now with three daily flights between Brisbane and Dubai, Emirates offers Queenslanders more flexibility when jetting to the Middle East and beyond, with this third-daily service the newest addition to the airline's Brisbane schedule.
Timed best for locals maximising their business day, but departing late enough in the evening for passengers to head home from work or even out to dinner before being driven to the airport, this Boeing 777-300ER flight could be a tempting alternative to the earlier-evening Airbus A380 departure based on schedule alone, although the two aircraft feature very different business class seats.
With Emirates also increasing the presence of Boeing 777s on flights to Sydney and Melbourne, including its Sydney-Bangkok and Melbourne-Singapore 'fifth freedom' routes, Australian Business Traveller put Emirates' Boeing 777-300ER business class to the test on a recent journey from Brisbane to Dubai, to see how it stacked up.
- Frequent flyer program: Emirates Skywards, although Australian travellers can earn Qantas Points by attaching their Qantas Frequent Flyer number instead, and status credits too if booked on a QF codeshare flight number.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x113cm bag, plus either a 100cm briefcase or a garment bag of up to 20cm in depth when folded, each weighing no more than 7kg.
- Checked baggage allowance: 40kg on most itineraries, plus 12kg for Silver, 16kg for Gold and 20kg for Platinum frequent flyers with Emirates or Qantas. If you're connecting to North or South America, the base allowance may instead be 2x32kg for your entire journey.
- Priority airport services: There's fast-track check-in and security screening in Brisbane, along with priority baggage delivery at your destination. You'll also receive a fast-track card for Dubai, providing speedier service either at transit security screening if connecting onto another flight, or immigration if entering the UAE.
Australian passport holders can also register for access to the Dubai Smart Gates for automated processing, and to save time – especially if travelling with only carry-on baggage – mobile check-in and digital boarding passes are supported on all Emirates flights from Brisbane.
In Brisbane, Emirates operates a dedicated lounge above Gate 75, with a familiar look and feel as adopted by many of the airline's other lounges around the globe, albeit an 'older' design than now seen in Melbourne and Perth:
In the evenings, there's a good selection of hot and cold buffet fare, along with a choice of Champagne – Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial NV, or my pick of the two, Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label.
Fun fact: Emirates' lounge in Brisbane was the first lounge the airline ever opened outside of Dubai, and like the Gulf mega-hub, the lounge here provides boarding facilities directly to the aircraft, without setting foot back in the terminal concourse:
That is, of course, unless you're booked on this flight, EK431. Emirates has two flights to Dubai departing within two hours of each other, so the earlier service – EK435, served by the Airbus A380 – generally gets the 'direct boarding' gate, while EK431 gets the gate next door, which is a quick walk from the lounge.
AusBT review: The Emirates Lounge, Brisbane
Running non-stop from Brisbane to Dubai, this Boeing 777-300ER flight clocks in at 14hrs 10min, departing at 10:50pm ahead of a 7am touchdown.
For most business class passengers – including those booking flights with Skywards miles or Qantas Points – the journey begins and concludes with complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers which can be booked in advance via the Emirates website.
In Brisbane, I was collected in a black Mercedes-Benz R350 CDI SUV, which, as always tends to be the case with professional drivers, arrived at my door five minutes early.
On arrival in Dubai, a third-generation Volvo V70 – the first car available from Emirates' expansive chauffeur drive pick-up zone – took me to my hotel.
AusBT review: Emirates Chauffeur Drive
Inflight Internet access is also complimentary with no time or download limits for business class travellers who are also members of the Emirates Skywards program, including base-level Blue cardholders, when their Skywards number is linked to their reservation.
This perk doesn't apply to travellers with a Qantas Frequent Flyer number or other partner airline frequent flyer number attached to their booking, who instead get 20MB of free WiFi or two hours online (whichever comes first), and can purchase further access for US$9.99 (150MB) or US$15.99 (500MB).
While the journey gets off to a good start, here's one part of the business class experience that Emirates can definitely improve upon – aboard most Boeing 777-300ERs, business class comes in a 2-3-2 layout, which means nobody has direct and uninterrupted access to the aisle.
Choose a seat by the windows (A/K), or a seat in the centre (E) and you'll need to step past or over somebody to get up. Select an aisle seat (B/D/F/J), and you become that somebody.
My strategy for flights like this is to choose an aisle seat in the centre group – in this case, 7F – because realistically, nobody wants to sit in a middle seat in business class, so unless the flight is completely full, you have a better-than-normal chance of having no seatmate: and fortunately, that's exactly what happened on this flight.
The trio of centre seats might also be appealing to couples travelling with a child, however, who could book all three and lower the privacy walls between them to have a conversation. Here, the privacy divider is raised on the left and lowered on the right, and as the headrests can also be raised for taller travellers, here's what that looks like in the middle:
The dividers are motorised, so the press of a button sends that wall up or down:
Each seat provides AC and USB power facilities with a small nook below that makes it easy to keep your smartphone out of the way while it's charging: although with a vacant seat next door, it was easiest to charge it over there...
... while nearby, you'll find a tablet, which Emirates calls a "mode controller". You can use this to adjust your seat, browse through the inflight entertainment catalogue and set movies to play, or even use it as a second screen, such as to display an external aircraft camera or the airshow while watching something else on the big screen.
After take-off, the controller can also be unlocked and released from its hub, using a mix of battery power and WiFi to display content and control your experience wirelessly. This can be particularly handy if you're adjusting your seat while standing up, but it works just fine when seated, too.
Of course, easy adjustments can also be made via pre-set keys in your arm rest, such as for lounging, sleeping, or preparing for landing without having to navigate through the tablet's menus:
Along with that nook near the charging ports, extra storage is provided in the seat pocket in front, where you'll find reading material and a bottle of water...
... with cubby holes for your shoes between each seat – although with large size 11s, I could only fit one shoe in each space, so was glad to have the adjacent seat vacant on this flight:
For dining or working, a sturdy tray table folds out from the middle...
... while the seat itself measures at 20.5 inches (52cm) wide – that's two inches (~5cm) wider than Emirates' Airbus A380 business class – and transforms into an angled-flat bed, which accommodated my 6ft frame:
As I had the trio of seats to myself, I put the middle seat to the test at nap time, and although the bed wasn't fully-flat, the supplied pillow and mattress pad, combined with the presence of adjustable air vents at every seat (which many other airlines remove at the expense of comfort), allowed me to get a solid eight-hour sleep on this 14-hour journey.
The later arrival time of this flight into Dubai of 7am, compared to the more eye-watering 5:10am of Brisbane's earlier Airbus A380 service, also meant being better-adjusted to the local time zone ahead of a busy day of work and an important meeting.
Naturally, I'd still prefer a fully-flat bed with direct aisle access, as is increasingly standard (and now, expected) on long international flights – including every Brisbane flight from Emirates' neighbour and competitor, Etihad Airways – although as far as angled-flat beds go, I found this more comfortable than EVA Air to Brisbane a few months prior.
Aside from the full meal table, the seat also features a small fold-down beverage shelf: useful to nurse your Champagne (Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial NV) before take-off...
... with bar service continuing in the sky. I began with a nice glass of Grosset Springvale Riesling 2017 from Clare Valley, South Australia, served with warmed nuts.
Dinner follows, with a seasonal side salad and warm bread joining one of the following appetisers:
- Roasted tomato soup with sun-dried tomato ravioli
- Smoked salmon with green gazpacho
- Japanese seven-spiced beef with cucumber ribbons and ponzu sauce
I went for the beef, which was tasty and fresh...
... and for mains, these were the choices:
- Seared beef tenderloin with mushroom jus, colcannon potatoes and buttered green beans
- Steamed salmon with coriander pesto, fingerling potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, almonds and macadamia nuts
- Lemon and herb chicken with cauliflower purée, grilled asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes
Salmon is a tricky dish to serve well in the air, so I tried that, and found it perfectly cooked:
Something I've come to like about business class on Emirates' Boeing 777s is that unlike on the A380s, when you order a glass of wine with your meal, it comes delivered with your meal.
Aboard the superjumbos, because the business class cabin is so big, the crew otherwise just leave an empty glass and walk through the aisles to pour the wines – and you can sometimes get through two plates of food before the wine you'd like actually passes your seat, by which time there's no point pairing it with your meal, as it's already been eaten.
On these Boeing 777 flights, however, your drink preference is taken in advance, allowing you to match wines with each course, if you'd like to.
When it comes to dessert, I often skip it, but in this case was tempted by the cheesecake from the following list, paired with a glass of Sandeman 20-year Tawny Port.
- Cookies and cream cheesecake with raspberry compote
- Coconut cake with lime curd cream and raspberry coulis
- Seasonal fruit
- Cheese board with crackers and accompaniments
Godiva chocolates follow, and if you get peckish throughout the night, you can order the following meals at any time:
- Smoked chicken panini with potato salad
- Boscastle wagyu beef pie with tomato relish
- Pan-fried chicken gyoza with soy sauce
- Tandoori tofu kebabs with green pea pilaf and mint raita.
Instead, I slept through until a few hours before landing, so began my day with a cappuccino (which you can also order at any time)...
... before continuing with breakfast from the following options, paired with fresh fruit and yoghurt:
- Cheese and chive omelette with rosti, grilled asparagus and sautéed cherry tomatoes
- Gingerbread French toast with raspberry compote and lemon curd butter
- Vanilla yoghurt and granola with mango purée, coconut granola and pomegranate seeds
- Arabic cold plate: sliced bresaola, hard-boiled egg and zaatar labneh with tomato relish and Kalamata olives
While the cold plate sounded tempting, it's hard to go past French toast, which does look a little 'plain' in the photograph but was nice and soft, and went well with the accompaniments:
During breakfast, the crew come past to offer tea, brewed coffee, orange juice or Champagne, but if you'd like anything else and you don't mind a brief wait – such as a cappuccino – don't be afraid to ask.
Entertainment & Service
Seatback screens serve up a variety of movies and TV shows, together with a range of music, games, satellite TV channels, two different 'moving maps', and also provide access to the aircraft's external cameras...
... which don't show much during the bulk of this overnight flight, but closer to landing in Dubai, can provide some good views when flying over the desert, as the plane has both a downward-facing camera (shown below) and one that's forward-facing:
These are touch screens, although you can also use the mode controller (tablet device), or this traditional remote control, depending on what's most convenient:
Gents are offered one of the following four Bvlgari amenity kits, which come well-stocked...
... while ladies have four Bvlgari bags of their own to collect:
Cabin crew on this flight were friendly and personable, with on-board announcements made in Arabic and English.
The smaller footprint of Emirates' Boeing 777 business class cabin – being just six rows, as opposed to almost the entire upper deck on the Airbus A380 – also made the service feel more personal, without the 'production line' vibe as can sometimes be experienced on the superjumbo.
That said, with angled-flat seating that doesn't provide direct (and uninterrupted) aisle access for anyone, and still places a middle seat in business class in 2018, many travellers would be justified in preferencing Emirates' Airbus A380 flights over the Boeing 777-300ER where possible, but having managed eight hours of sleep on this flight, it's not a plane I'd go out of my way to avoid, either.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Dubai as a guest of Emirates.