For Melbourne-based high flyers, Singapore Airlines isn't the only option for first class travel to the Lion City – Qantas partner Emirates also runs a daily flight with private first class suites and even a complimentary chauffeur service at each end of the journey.
Currently using a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft which continues onwards to Dubai, that's upgraded to the flagship Airbus A380 come March 2016: bringing with it on-board shower spas and an inflight cocktail bar and lounge.
Better yet, passengers can travel with Emirates solely between Australia and Singapore with no need to fly through Dubai, which Australian Business Traveller reviews.
- Frequent flyer scheme: Emirates Skywards. Australians can also choose to earn points via Qantas Frequent Flyer, plus status credits if booked on a QF flight number.
- Chauffeur-drive: Complimentary for first class passengers booked on EK flight numbers at both ends of the journey. Not offered to passengers on Asia-only itineraries booked on a QF flight number.
- Priority check-in and boarding: Dedicated lanes for first class flyers, and in this instance a private first-class-only aerobridge onto the aircraft.
- Checked baggage allowance: 50kg, plus 12kg for Silver, 16kg for Gold and 20kg for Platinum frequent flyers with Emirates or Qantas, and 25kg for Qantas Chairman's Lounge members.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x100cm briefcase/laptop bag plus either a 113cm bag or a garment bag, each weighing up to 7kg.
- Express Path access (Australia departures): Yes, Express cards help you zip through passport control and security screening.
- Fast track access (Singapore arrivals): Not offered by any airline, except to registered frequent travellers.
First class passengers on Emirates flights can stop by the airline's new business and first class lounge at Melbourne Airport, yet we opted for the adjacent Qantas first class lounge instead which also welcomes Emirates' first class flyers. Inside there are TV areas and comfy chairs for relaxing and computers for getting work done, plus a Rockpool-inspired dining area where waiters serve complimentary meals and drinks to your seat... ... and even an Aurora day spa where 20-minute treatments also come at no charge.
Unlike when flying in first class on a Qantas-painted aircraft, spa appointments here are offered on a first-come, first-served basis to Emirates passengers, so it's best to arrive early to maximise your chances.
Emirates offers eight first class seats on all Boeing 777 flights to Australia, which come in a 1-2-1 layout and provide direct aisle access to every passenger: expected of first class and increasingly common in business class, too.
The 'A' and 'K' seats are the most private with windows on one side and fully-closing doors on the other... ... with the centre 'E' and 'F' pairs ideal for couples but still catering to solo travellers with a large divider that can be electronically raised for privacy, joined again by sliding doors against the aisle. Each passenger has their own mini-bar with a selection of non-alcoholic beverages, but as there's no refrigeration you'll still need to flag down a flight attendant for some ice: by which time you could have ordered a drink in the more traditional way. You'll also find a small writing and storage shelf in front of you with an adjustable lamp and overhead light, joined by an also-lit make-up mirror... ... a snack basket, a writing kit with paper, envelopes and a pen... ... plus an AC power port and two USB outlets tucked away down the side. Unfortunately, neither USB port provided power and our Australian plug didn't fit in the aircraft's standard AC outlet, but loaning an Australian-compatible power adaptor from the crew got our smartphone connected and recharging. The seat itself reclines into a comfortable 201cm fully-flat bed complete with sheets, duvet, pillow and Emirates-branded pyjamas (yours to keep)... ... and can be controlled from a detachable wireless tablet which sits aside the seat... ... or via quick shortcut keys on the armrest: The arm also boasts a small storage pocket that's ideal for storing cufflinks and jewellery, provided you remember to empty it before arrival.
Finally, each suite has a small cupboard behind the inflight entertainment screen where the crew can hang your jacket, although a 'companion seat' as you'd find on some Qantas, Etihad and Singapore Airlines aircraft is absent.
The first class journey oddly begins with the crew serving business class Champagne before take-off (Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial, NV), with vintage Dom Pérignon 2005 available once airborne. That's swiftly followed by prawn and artichoke canapés, handily served to the entertainment shelf, rather than your meal tray, so that you're not confined to the seat from the moment you're in the air. The crew then lay the table for the meal courses, starting with a choice between seven appetisers of which we chose Emirates' traditional caviar plate with accompaniments... ... progressing to five main meal options where a more simple beef dish with seasonal vegetables emerged the winner, being tender and perfectly cooked. What we love about Emirates first class is that you can order what you like, when you like, with hot food served up until 1.5 hours before arrival.
That being the case, we 'paused' dessert until later in the flight when the crew then prepared a scrumptious sticky date pudding with a scoop of ice cream... ... and delivered Godiva-brand chocolates for that final touch. Ravenous travellers can also order-up a variety of sandwiches and entre-sized snacks like salmon en croûte and a lamb and rosemary pie, or could even venture to the self-serve counter at the front of the aircraft... ... where fresh fruit, snack rolls, tasty treats and beverages await.
Download: Sample Emirates first class menu [PDF, 103KB]
Unlike the Emirates A380 that takes over in March 2016, there's no inflight bar – or indeed, shower spas – although the crew aboard Boeing 777 flights can still prepare a variety of cocktails that you can enjoy in your suite or while socialising around the counter above.
Entertainment & Service
Most Emirates Boeing 777s provide 27-inch entertainment screens in first class... ... boosted to an impressive 32 inches on the airline's newest birds: Passengers can browse through over 2,000 movies, TV shows, games and audio tracks by touching the screen or using the wireless control tablet, or can switch to the aircraft cameras to watch their take-off or arrival: Noise-cancelling headphones are offered along with comprehensive Bvlgari amenity kits with everything needed for your flight, and then some: With three crew members tending to just three first class passengers on today's flight, assistance is never more than a moment away, our drinks never go empty and our 'dine on demand' meal requests are quickly actioned.
The purser also stops by to introduce himself during the flight, references this author's Qantas frequent flyer status during the conversation and gives his personal thanks for choosing to fly with Emirates, which is a nice touch.
Rounding out the comfortable journey is inflight Internet access where just US$1 gets you connected with 500MB of data... ... with speeds hovering around 1.5mbps down and 0.08mbps up – not 'fast' by any standard, but still usable enough.
More on Emirates first class:
- New Emirates business class, first class for Boeing 777s in 2016?
- Emirates uncorks Dom Pérignon Champagne pairing menu
- Emirates opens new business, first class lounge at Perth Airport
- Review: Emirates first class lounge, Dubai Airport Concourse A
- Emirates Airbus A380 first class 'shower spa' review
Chris Chamberlin travelled at his own expense using frequent flyer points.
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