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Best Flights: Emirates Business Class Review, Sydney-Dubai

By: Joanna Hall
 
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The Airline: Emirates

 

The Flight: EK415 Sydney to Dubai

 

The Equipment: Boeing 777-300 ER

 

The Cabin: Business Class

 

Time & Date: 0605 on 21/2/10

 

Overview:

 

The old Kangaroo Route from Australia to Europe has never been more congested, and the days of Qantas and respected Asian carriers such as Singapore Airlines leading the way appears to be over - for now. In recent years, Middle Eastern airlines have set new benchmarks for service especially in business class, and at the top of queue, and growing its impressive network at a phenomenal rate, is Emirates, the airline of the UAE. Word of mouth from many travellers is they have the best business class in the air at the moment, and they're frequently rated as the best airline by travellers.

When it comes to flying to Europe, something else has changed. Dubai has emerged as a popular new stopover destination for anyone who wants to break up the long journey between Australia and Europe and they're running some of the best flights to European destinations. Many people who've repeatedly "done" Bangkok, Singapore and Tokyo are seeking new places to spend a few days between flights, and as a less traditional Moslem country, undoubtedly Dubai has a lot to offer.

There will be more on that for another article, but for now I will concentrate on the Emirates in-flight service in business class from Sydney to Dubai, and see how it rates against some of the other airlines I've flown in recent years, including Qantas and Korean Air.

Check In:

 

On Emirates, when you fly business class you can organise a lot of things connected with your reservation online, from seat selection and ordering any special meals, to checking-in. My flight to Dubai from Sydney departed at 6am, which is an ungodly hour requiring an early start before sunrise. However, when you are flying in business class or first class with Emirates, you qualify for a chauffeur driven limousine pick-up to and from the airport if you live within 40 kms of the airport (in Sydney). Also, as the first flight out of the blocks when Sydney's Kingsford Smith opens, you can be assured of an on-time departure!  

On arrival at the airport, check-in was quick and trouble free, and within minutes I was on my way through security and heading for the lounge. Airline lounges are sacred havens for frequent travellers before and in between flights, even as part of business class travel. When an airport is barely open, a lounge is even more important - at Sydney that morning, there wasn't a single outlet open, not even for a coffee at 4.30am. The Emirates lounge was modern, spacious, with a few flat screen TVs on low volume, plenty of newspapers and magazines, and a food and beverage service which included breakfast and some much-needed caffeine.

 

The Service:

 

The flight attendants are polite, polished and professional, and as soon as you are sitting down they are quick to check that you are comfortable, and start to hand out newspapers, drinks and additional pillows and so on, as you'd expect from a business class service on a premium airline. The inflight kit is equally as impressive and one of the nicest I have seen. It comes in a cream coloured pouch which you would actually use again, and is stocked with Bulgari essentials including hand cream and a mini bottle of fragrance, tissues, a comb, toothbrush and toothpaste and a handy vanity mirror.

 

The Food:

 

Given that my flight departed at 6am, and I had been awake since 2.30am, I wasn't really in the mood to eat and sleep was proving more of a priority. However, in order to avoid waking up in a few hours time with my stomach complaining of neglect, I decided to try some breakfast before putting the lie-flat business class seat to the test. Breakfast was comprehensive, with fresh juice, seasonal fruit and yoghurt, with no less than four main courses to choose from. They included cheese and chives scrambled eggs, and a toasted waffle with pear and lychee topped with vanilla sauce.

Later, before our arrival in Dubai, lunch was served. With a good sleep under my belt and an appetite, I had enjoyed some seriously good food. After a small dish of cold canapés, and a choice of two appetisers followed by a salad, there were four dishes to choose from: snapper curry with basmati rice, braised veal ballotine served on creamy mashed potato, pappardelle pasta with creamed spinach, and corn fed chicken breast with mixed wild rice. I opted for the latter, which was delicious, and left room for a chocolate fudge pudding for dessert.

The wine list was equally impressive, featuring Möet & Chandon Brut Imperial NV, and a good selection of wines including a nice 2008 Craggy Range Yacht Club Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, and a 2004 Château Meyney from the Northern Medoc commune of Saint Estephe.

 

emiratesbiz

 

The Seat & Entertainment

 

My flight wasn't on board the new A380, but a B777-300 ER with a three class configuration - economy, business class and first. In the business class cabin, the seats run 2-3-2 across; on this flight I sat in seat 11K, a window seat on the side. The decor in the cabin is bright and airy; the seat fabric is a regal plum colour, the cocoon grey and the interactive screen on the back of the seat in front is surrounded by a rich honey-coloured laminated wood.
 

 

Between breakfast and lunch, I opted to sleep and then be entertained; with 14-plus-hours on board, there was plenty of time for both. The primary reason why people spend big on a business class seat today is sleep, and on Emirates the seat converts to a fully lie-flat bed. Upright, the seat felt like it was sloping forward slightly, but when it was fully reclined there was no questioning its comfort. In business class you also have a lot more privacy which can be handy if you are travelling alone. The centre console is more pronounced than on some business class seats, and there's a privacy shield you can raise between them at head level.

Before you settle down, a flight attendant will attach a comforter to the seat and make sure you have enough pillows, then all you have to do is lie back, cover yourself with a blanket and relax. Emirates don't give you pyjamas to change into but they are usually too big for me anyway. As for the comfort factor, I think that a seamless nine hours of sleep says it all. True, I was pretty tired from the outset, but I have flown in business class many times before and haven't always enjoyed adequate shut-eye.

When I got to it, the entertainment system, called ICE, was enough to keep the most avid TV watcher or movie goer busy. An on demand system, it was packed with latest and classic movies, TV programming including documentaries, sport, news and comedy, a way to track your flight, and much more.

The Verdict:

 

This was an impressive flight and one of the best flights in this sector, and my return to Sydney proved to be exactly the same, from the level of service to the quality of food. Emirates has undoubtedly worked hard to carve themselves a niche among premium international carriers, and the praise many travellers have given the airline for its efforts is well deserved. The equipment was top notch, the crew were polished and professional, and for my part I arrived in Dubai in excellent shape.

 

 

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