The Emirates business class and first class lounge at Auckland Airport offers travellers many of the airline's signature basics including real Champagne, comfy seating and an upscale buffet catering to both sweet and savoury tastes.
Better yet, you don't need to fly to Dubai to experience it – a shiny frequent flyer card gets you through the door when paired with an onward Qantas or Emirates boarding pass, even if that's just home to Australia.
Join Australian Business Traveller as we put Emirates' flagship New Zealand lounge to the test.
Location & Impressions
After clearing passport control and security screening in Auckland, follow the clear signage to the airline lounges. Proceed up the 'lounge escalator' and you'll spot Emirates' facility to your right.
Signature Rolex clocks are front and centre... ... yet Australian cities are surprisingly forgotten, odd when Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane is the next stop for every Emirates passenger in the lounge.
... and offering partial views of the tarmac.
- Business class passengers on Emirates and Qantas flights, whether booked on a QF or EK flight number
- First class guests of Emirates, again with a QF or EK flight number on their ticket
- Emirates Skywards Gold and Platinum members when travelling onwards with Emirates or Qantas
- Qantas Gold, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers when their next flight is with Qantas or Emirates
That said, we witnessed a Skywards Gold member being turned away and directed to the neighbouring Qantas lounge when presenting a Qantas boarding pass, with the lounge staff noting that they "wouldn't have room for Qantas passengers this evening as all three Emirates A380 flights are full". (We checked, and this proved to be accurate.)
Regardless of flight loads, Qantas Club members don't have access to this lounge, nor do Jetstar Business Max passengers and frequent flyers of either Qantas or Emirates when travelling with other airlines.
Peckish? Head straight to the dining area in the far corner of the lounge and pull up a chair. Here you're greeted by a number of healthy snacks... ... tasty hot dishes such as gourmet pies, rice, chicken and beef mains, and a selection of scrumptious desserts: As everything under the dome is individually plated, dishes are quick and easy to grab for travellers who have little time to dine, and are also progressively replaced by the staff as they disappear.
That keeps everything as fresh as can be without offering full table service, unlike a more traditional buffet where all food is served in bulk and the serving trays replenished far less frequently.
On the beverage side, spirits, mixers, beers, wines and juices are plentiful... ... with the house Champagne the very acceptable Veuve Clicquot – a drop we'd normally expect to find only in a dedicated first class lounge: Pairing that with the creamy chocolate mousse is sheer bliss... ... or you'll instead find a handy selection of digestifs in the dining area, with chocolates and dates to boot. Saving yourself for the 2005 Dom Pérignon in Emirates' first class? There's also drinkable espresso coffee with respectable crema... ... but which is machine-produced rather than hand-crafted.
A business centre marks the middle of the lounge – distanced from the humming of the espresso machines and from the noise of TVs... ... with 10 desktop computers for travellers without their own tech.
Packed a laptop? This row of high chairs is the most practical place to plonk it... ... although affords little privacy from prying eyes when every spot is occupied, as we found closer to boarding time when it was the only remaining seat.
While the dining tables are also at a perfect height for laptop work, they're at a premium come chow time. Instead, consider resting the laptop on your lap in the more comfy leather chairs... ... many of which offer power points nearby.
Free Wi-Fi blankets the lounge, but topped out with miserable download speeds of just 0.22mbps and uploads at 0.27mbps.
That's actually slower than most inflight Internet, and that which Australian Business Traveller reviewed on the subsequent Auckland-Sydney-Dubai journey on the Emirates A380.
With everyone fighting for such limited bandwidth, we took the opportunity to pair our laptop to our smartphone, taking advantage of Vodafone's $5/day roaming in New Zealand.
If Champagne and dessert don't cut the proverbial mustard, you could instead unwind in a massage chair or with a magazine or newspaper... ... or head to the lounge's central seating area and perch yourself in front of a TV: An indoor waterfall feature keeps this space segregated from the nearby corridor... ... while the bathrooms pack in private shower suites with adjoining restrooms.
Yet there's no formal queuing process – you can't leave your boarding pass at reception or with a shower attendant, nor is priority given to first class passengers over their business class counterparts or frequent flyers downstairs in economy.
With the shower doors positioned directly behind the men's urinals, there's really nowhere else to stand for the 15 or so minutes you'll be waiting: far from ideal when such simple options exist.
Overall, we'd peg Emirates' lounge as Auckland's best option for both Emirates and Qantas passengers, but would be even better if you could simply leave your boarding pass with the staff, relax with another glass of Veuve and be summoned to the bathroom when there's a shower free.
Chris Chamberlin was travelling as a guest of Emirates.
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