A Trip with Friends
This trip was a lot more fun than usual. While many reviewers fly first class by themselves, we travelled as a group of three and had a blast!
Flying first class as a group is difficult, especially with limited award space, but if you have flexibility, I recommend giving it a shot. After all, what’s good food and wine if not enjoyed in good company?
On this trip it was Lauren, Wojciech and yours truly. We met in San Francisco, played tourist for a day, drove the coast route to LAX, plane-spotted at In-N-Out Burger, then hopped aboard one of the longest first-class flights in the world. Yeehaa!
We planned this trip well in advance making sure we didn’t repeat old mistakes. For instance, we wanted the longest route possible so we could sample everything, including the bed. We also wanted Emirates’ best overall product, which meant the A380 (onboard showers and bar) rather than the 77W or A340.
The three of us spent many hours building and sharing the best possible combinations. We agreed on the following:
Los Angeles (LAX) - Dubai (DXB) - Bangkok (BKK) - Hong Kong (HKG)
Emirates allows stopovers, so we spent the night in Dubai and a few nights in Bangkok. All flights were on an A380, but the latter, shorter flights were on the older version. The older fit-outs still have the showers and bar, but the seats are a little different, which I’ll describe in more detail later.
In Dubai we visited the Burj Khalifa, then slept overnight in the Emirates first-class lounge. That’s right, we flew first class, then slept at the airport :)
The lounge is open 24/7 and has round-the-clock dining. It also has a serviced cigar room, individual shower suites, and of course a spa. I’ve never really cared for airport lounges, but wow, this one’s in a different category.
Let’s start with a few FAQs:
Q. How does Emirates compare to Singapore?
Singapore has a double bed and attentive service, but I prefer Emirates. I went into this trip convinced I’d prefer Singapore, but first class is about the sense of occasion, and that’s where I discovered Emirates wins. Singapore’s more polished product just can’t compete with taking a shower at 10,000 meters, eating wild Iranian caviar in your pajamas, or drinking Paradis with interesting folk at the J-class bar.
Q. Is the Emirates decor as gaudy as the photos?
Not as gaudy, but definitely over-the-top. Like Thai’s suites, Emirates suites look better in the flesh, especially once you close the mirror, collapse the mini-bar, and remove the basket of junk food. On that note, ask an attendant to whisk that basket away immediately; a caviar course and Arabic mezze await, so don’t spoil your appetite with Mars Bars. Anyway, back to the decor; no, it’s not as bad as the photos, but it’s not reserved by any definition.
Q. What differentiates Emirates first class the most?
The onboard showers and bar standout the most, but less obvious is the vast number of first-class routes offered. At the time of writing, all A380s have first class, and Emirates has 60 A380s. That means you can fly EK F-class almost anywhere on the planet. We count more than 200 first-class routes (103 on A380s) compared to 30–40 on SQ and TG. The first-class lounge in Dubai is also a standout, but more on that later.
As mentioned, we flew the newer A380 suites on the LAX-DXB segment, then the older A380 suites on the DXB-BKK and BKK-HKG segments. The are a few differences with the hard product, especially the entertainment system.
To watch a movie in the older cabin, I had to increase the brightness and contrast to their maximum settings (similar to my experience on Thai). Prior to this, I could only see faint outlines on the screens. This was on both segments and for people sitting around me too. With poor sound quality too, I found it difficult to watch a movie in the older cabin, which is a shame since Emirates has one of the widest new release selections.
However, as Wojciech reminded me, you don’t fly first to watch movies, so it wasn’t much of an issue once the drinks started flowing (I actually fell asleep while the Blue Label was en route, but that’s a story for when we meet in person).
Wojciech travelled in seat 1A, while Lauren and I took the middle seats next to him. In retrospect, this was a mistake; sure, it’s nice to sit together, but the window seat is prime real estate, especially when traveling over the Arctic Circle. On that note, the LAX-DXB segment travels over the top (or bottom, depending who you ask) of the globe, which is pretty cool.
Once we got settled, we were offered water, introduced to the purser and attendants, but the Dom didn’t start flowing until after takeoff (something about higher taxes on the ground).
The seat was as you’d expect, superb. The mirror, mini-bar and basket of junk food are just distractions, but no problem, I stowed everything away quickly. While still on the ground I flicked through the movie selection and was surprised by so many pages of new flicks.
There are two standout amenities on Emirates’ A380s:
- the business-class bar, and
- the first-class showers.
I mention the business-class bar because it’s much larger that the first-class bar. It includes a lounge area and a full-time attendant, whereas the first-class bar is just a small nook where you can serve yourself. The business-class bar is where you spend time with old friends and make new friends. On this trip, we shared multiple drinks with a famous jockey on her way to host the World Cup in Dubai.
While at the bar, we were particularly eager to try the 800-dollar Hennessy Paradis, which Emirates is rumored to be phasing out. We asked the bar attendant to have it brought down from the forward cabin. She was discrete. She refilled our glasses under the bar, away from suspicious eyes. But when one of our new business-class friends caught an ever-so-slight glimpse of the bottles’ neck, he said:
“Wait, is that (gulp) Paradis?”
Busted! I looked away a little embarrassed, but without any subtlety, the attendant told him Paradis was reserved for first-class passengers. It turns out he was a connoisseur, so when the attendant wasn’t looking, I gave him my refilled glass.
We stayed at the bar for three hours with a group of about 10 business-class passengers. It was a lively bunch; we were told to keep the noise down a few times. If you ever fly Emirates business class, I recommend choosing a seat as far from the bar as possible. There’s no way you could sleep with the noise.
After the bar, we returned for a shower. You get 5 minutes of water, which you can turn on and off as you please. The shower automatically turns off at 4 minutes, but here’s the trick (for beginners like me): despite the red light, the water’s not finished. Press the button again for the remaining minute.
As I mentioned earlier, I like it when first class feels like a sense of occasion. Emirates nails this with the onboard showers and bar, but what about the food?
An airline can nail their first-class menu by serving food and wine you wouldn’t normally eat at home. They often do this by going the premium route (e.g. caviar), but some also go the national route (imagine if Air Canada served poutine). Emirates does a mix.
The course of wild Iranian caviar and Arabic mezze entree are standouts. We all enjoyed both, especially the caviar with a glass of Russian Imperial Vodka, neat. The mains aren’t nearly as interesting, but they do the job.
The cheese board was both very good and enough to feed a small army. It was smaller on the subsequent shorter legs, but still more than most airlines. Emirates gets extra points for including a couple of fairly pungent cheeses.
Overall, the food was very good, but not quite the standard of ANA first class. For me the standout was the caviar course, while the mezze and cheese courses tied for a distant second place.
By the time we reached DXB, 16 hours/drinks later, we were terribly tired. But we held our resolve, high-tailed it to the restaurant, enjoyed a three-course meal, and then groggily dragged ourselves to the cigar bar. Here’s the catch: the cigars aren’t free. They only sell cigars by the box, so be prepared for a hefty bill. We had a few drinks, puffed away, but were delaying the inevitable: sweet slumber.
There’s a sleeping room at the first-class lounge with divided sections and a variety of chaise lounges. They aren’t beds, so not super comfortable, but Emirates supplies blankets and lets you dim the lights. It's about as good as you'll get for airport sleeping.
After 16 hours for just the first segment, we drifted off quickly. Our experience so far had certainly lived up to the hype, so we rested easy knowing more was on the way.
Emirates First Class isn't just about making you feel special, it's about showing you a good time. This is in stark contrast to most airlines that opt for a more formal style of service. The only time I've experienced similar was on United First Class where I vividly remember:
"You only want one dessert, this is first class, why not try them all?!".
The seat isn't perfect, but it's top 3, so deserves 5 stars. The catering and service are pretty darn good, but they don't quite make the top 3, so both get 4 stars. The experience is where Emirates shines so it gets the top spot and 5 stars.
Not only wouldn't I hesitate to fly Emirates First Class again, but it would be my first choice, especially if enjoying the trip with friends.
Emirates operates private suites in first class on its A380s, A340s, and some 777s. You can check what plane you will be flying by entering your flight number here on the Emirates site.
The star of the show is the A380, with an onboard bar serving Hennessy Paradis, suites with fully-automatic doors, and of course the two showers in the sky.
Only some of the Boeing 777's have suites and none of the A340s have suites. Here's a quick guide:
- All 777-200ERs have quites
- Some 777-300ERs have quites
- No 777-300s or 777-200s have quites
Those without suites have lie-flat beds. If you want the best experience, not only do you want a flight with suites, but also the A380. The easiest way to check if your flight will have suites is with the link above, then click through to the seating chart and look for P for Private Suite.
|A340-541||A6-ERE||13.7 Yrs||F12 J42 Y204||Old|
|A380-861||A6-EDA||9.6 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDB||9.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDC||9.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDD||9.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDE||8.8 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDF||8.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDG||8.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDH||8.1 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDI||7.8 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDJ||7.7 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDK||7.7 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDL||7.5 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDM||7.4 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDN||7.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDO||7.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDP||6.4 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDQ||6.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDR||6.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDT||6.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDS||6.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDU||6.0 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDV||5.6 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDW||5.5 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDX||5.4 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDY||5.4 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EDZ||5.4 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EEB||5.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EEC||5.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EEA||5.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EEE||5.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EED||5.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||Improved|
|A380-861||A6-EEF||4.8 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEG||4.8 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEH||4.7 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEI||4.7 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEK||4.5 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEJ||4.4 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEO||4.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEM||4.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEL||4.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEN||4.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEP||4.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EER||4.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EES||4.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEQ||4.0 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EET||3.9 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEU||3.9 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEV||3.8 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEW||3.7 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEX||3.6 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEZ||3.5 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EEY||3.5 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EOA||3.4 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EOB||3.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y427||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EOC||3.3 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EOD||3.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EOE||3.2 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EOF||3.1 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|A380-861||A6-EOG||3.0 Yrs||F14 C76 Y399||New/Best|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWA||10.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWB||10.4 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWC||10.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWD||10.1 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWE||9.7 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWF||9.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWG||9.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWH||9.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWI||9.1 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-21HLR||A6-EWJ||8.9 Yrs||F8 C42 Y216||Improved|
|B777-31HER||A6-EBK||12.0 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-31HER||A6-EBM||12.0 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-31HER||A6-EBR||11.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||Old|
|B777-31HER||A6-EBU||11.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||Old|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECE||10.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECF||10.1 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECG||9.9 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECH||9.8 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECI||9.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECJ||9.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECK||9.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECQ||8.8 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECR||8.7 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECS||8.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECT||8.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECU||8.4 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECV||8.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECW||8.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ECX||8.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGA||7.9 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGB||6.8 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGC||6.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGD||6.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Improved|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGE||6.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGF||6.4 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGG||6.4 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Improved|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGH||6.4 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGI||6.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGJ||6.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Improved|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGK||6.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Improved|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGM||6.1 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Improved|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGN||6.0 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Improved|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGO||5.9 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Improved|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGP||5.8 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGQ||5.8 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGR||5.7 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGS||5.7 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGT||5.7 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGU||5.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGV||5.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGW||5.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGX||5.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGY||5.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-EGZ||5.4 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENE||5.1 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENG||5.0 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENJ||4.8 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENK||4.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENL||4.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENM||4.1 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENN||4.0 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENP||3.8 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENQ||3.8 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENR||3.7 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENS||3.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENT||3.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENU||3.4 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENV||3.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-31HER||A6-ENX||3.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||New/Best|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBB||12.9 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBC||12.9 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBE||12.5 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBG||12.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBI||12.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBJ||12.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBN||11.9 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBO||11.8 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBQ||11.6 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBW||11.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-EBY||10.9 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||Old|
|B777-36NER||A6-ECA||10.7 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-36NER||A6-ECC||10.4 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-36NER||A6-ECD||10.3 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-36NER||A6-ECL||9.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-36NER||A6-ECM||9.1 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-36NER||A6-ECN||9.0 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-36NER||A6-ECO||9.0 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-36NER||A6-ECP||9.0 Yrs||F8 C42 Y304||New/Best|
|B777-36NER||A6-EGL||6.2 Yrs||F8 C42 Y310||Improved|
Recommended A380s with the latest cabin fit-out
The best seats on the A380 are the window seats as you have 2-3 windows all to yourself. As the seat map is staggered, those in the middle seats can't see out any windows. On one hand we preferred the window seats to see what's below, but on the other, it's fun to enjoy the experience sitting together. Either way, there's always the bar, which is where larger groups can meet.
|A380 First-Class Configuration|
There is no recommend seat for this configuration
We haven't included the 777 or A340 configurations because we believe it's just too risky to spend all of that money (or those miles) for a sub par product. You may have to fly a 777 given your route, but if you do not fly first class often, we'd suggest a short positioning flight to experience the A380.
Most airlines have few first-class routes so you have to be opportunistic. For example, if you're in the US and want to try Thai First Class, you're out of luck. Not so with Emirates; they fly first class to six continents (and a good spread of countries too).
However, to keep the analysis reasonable, we've limited our route analysis to the A380, which also has a materially better product. There are over 100 A380 routes in total.
Recommended routes that are longer than 12 hours on an A380
Our favourite direct routes are DXB-LAX/SFO/DFW/IAH for the following reasons:
- Depart from DXB, hence the DXB lounge and menu
- Serviced by an A380, hence shower, bar and better suite
- Longest direct routes available
Emirates allows stopovers, so you can put together even longer routes, such as:
- And many more
You can also combine 777 segments, such as with SIN-CMB-DXB-LAX or SYD-BKK-DXB-LAX. We wish we could have included all of these on the map, but it was getting out of hand. Emirates has over 100 777s, so the total first class routes is close to 300. If you're considering a trip with a mix of A380s and 777s, I highly suggest working with one of our experts because they do this each and every day.
- Lucky – Los Angeles to Dubai (2015)
- Lucky – Dubai to Singapore (2015)
- Telegraph – Dubai to London (2015)
- Airline Reporter – Sydney to Dubai (2014)
- Bart Lapers – Amsterdam to Dubai (2014)
At Flightfox, we help thousands of customers travel better for less every year. We do this with our marketplace of genuine travel experts. These experts have an extraordinarily deep understanding of flights, hotels and loyalty programs.
Todd hasn't just flown Emirates First Class Suites, but also helped many customers do the same. If you'd also like to fly the best route in the newest cabin for the lowest price, don't leave it to chance, work with Todd.