x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Executive travel: Bliss en route to Boston with Emirates Airline business class

Emirates Airlines launched its first direct flight to Boston last week amid a flurry of media attention. So what is it really like to fly business class on the new route?

All the business class seats on the Boeing 777-200s for the Boston route come with the ability to be turned into a fully lie-flat bed. Jeff Topping / The National
All the business class seats on the Boeing 777-200s for the Boston route come with the ability to be turned into a fully lie-flat bed. Jeff Topping / The National

Five hours into an Emirates direct flight to Boston, Massachusetts and you’ll find the decision to pay for a business class seat suddenly becomes justifiable.

After tucking into a freshly made Virgin Mary and nibbling at the cheese board placed in front of me, I headed to the bathroom, taking a peek through the curtain at the poor souls in economy. Watching the passengers trying to stretch their legs out makes the decision to splash out nearly Dh20,000 for a round-trip ticket on this 13-hour flight – as opposed to less than Dh5,000 in cattle class – seem worth it.

Because the pleasure comes with all the extra space you get.

You may still have to listen to the incessant wailing of a three-month-old child and the toilets may still resemble a Portaloo, (albeit one that stocks Paco Rabanne aftershave), but the real difference is that unlike those cooped up in coach, you get a good three feet of legroom. This means that there’s no awkward shuffling to the end of a row to let other passengers out to use the lavatory.

And the best thing is that all business class seats on the Boeing 777-200s Emirates uses on the Boston route come with the ability to be turned into a fully lie-flat bed – making all the difference for the executive flying overnight.

Just press one button on the armrest and your Jetsons-style bed whirrs down to stretch flat. And you get deluxe warm blankets, fuzzy socks and a comfortable mattress too so there’s none of the uncomfortable stickiness you get when trying to doze in coach.

Of course, as with all things on an aircraft, the experience isn’t quite as luxurious in reality as it sounds. With your feet supported on what is effectively an extended foot rest so that the rest of the seat can fold back into itself, the experience is perhaps a little more like sleeping on a high-tech camp bed or caravan bunk than one would have hoped.

But given the alternative of no sleep in economy and suffering that awkward moment when your neighbour falls asleep and leans his head on your shoulder, it’s an extravagance that leaves you feeling five times better at the end of the flight.

Q&A

What’s the seat like?

Much bigger than in economy. At 5’8” tall, I could stretch my legs out fully and still not touch the seat in front. The seat fits all of the functions into the side of the chair which joins the seat next to you, effectively screening you from your neighbour. There is a special privacy screen too which you can raise or lower at the touch of a button. And there is a massage function.

What about storage?

You can’t keep a bag under the seat in front of you so everything must be stowed in a tiny shelf in the seat which is large enough to hold spectacles and a novel but not much else. The seat pocket can hold an average sized laptop while everything else must go into overhead storage. There’s a shelf on the floor too for storing shoes so you don’t have to spend the final ten minutes of the flight fishing around under the seat in front for your sandals.

And the in flight entertainment?

As you would expect with Emirates there are literally thousands of channels of films, music and video games to explore. This is operated by an iPad-style device which pops out of the side of the seat. Annoyingly, mine wedged into the seat and no amount of yanking by the friendly cabin crew could release it. Also there is no Wi-Fi available on the Boston route – irritating if you want to work.

Anything else?

Book your complimentary chauffeur service to the airport later – especially Abu Dhabi residents. My flight left at 9.45am yet the Emirates chauffeur service insisted on picking me up in Abu Dhabi at 04.45am. Even taking the drive to Dubai into consideration and the two-hour processing time in the airport, I had an extra hour on my hands.

Top five best business class seats

1. Qatar Airways

2. Oman Air

3. Singapore Airlines

4. Cathay Pacific

5. Etihad Airways

Source: World Airline Awards 2013

lbarnard@thenational.ae

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