Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

Flying first class with Emirates: like a mini room in a five-star hotel

A big armchair of a seat that becomes a flat-bed at the press of a button, your own mini-bar and personal wardrobe, a work station and sliding doors for maximum privacy. The height of luxury in first class makes economy seem Dickensian.
The first class section of an Emirates A380 aircraft. Tobias Schwarz / Reuters
The first class section of an Emirates A380 aircraft. Tobias Schwarz / Reuters

As the old song goes: “How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?”

Once you’ve flown first class on Emirates Airline, it is hard to see airplane travel in quite the same way again.

Economy seems Dickensian; even business class, itself luxurious, seems pretty spartan in comparison to first. It is, quite simply, the only way to fly.

Emirates pioneered the concept of the first class suite back in 2003, when it introduced private cabins on ultra long haul flights out of Dubai, to New York and Sydney. Now the airline says it is the “gold standard” for international carriers competing in this top end of the market.

The experience begins long before you board the plane. At Dubai International, the dedicated check-in whisks you through to the first class lounge, an experience in itself, with a wide choice of restaurants and cuisine, from sushi to Italian to Arabic.

It has the clubby feel of a luxury hotel, especially in the cigar bar, decked out in leather and oak.

On the plane, you are shown to your suite by the team of dedicated first class cabin staff, all long-serving Emirates employees for whom first class is a career reward. They look after you perfectly.

The suite itself is quite simply a masterpiece of design. A big armchair of a seat that of course becomes a flat-bed at the press of a button; its own mini-bar and personal wardrobe; a work station that doubles as a make-up table; sliding doors, again at the push of a switch, to give you maximum privacy.

It was like a mini-room in a five-star hotel at 35,000 feet.

The food and beverage fully justified the “excellent” and “exquisite” terms used in the menus. A perfect virgin Mary was accompanied by caviar, canapés and mezze, followed by fresh-cooked seafood biryani. Delicious, and quite unlike traditional airline food.

On the A380, first class also boasts individual shower and spa facilities. I travelled on a Boeing 777 to Zurich, so had to do without. But I think honestly that another layer of luxury would have been wasted on me by then. I had already been well and truly pampered.

Unspoken rule of seat 1A

How much does it cost?

Not cheap, but if you can afford to fly first class, you probably won’t notice the cost. A return flight to Zurich in first class on Emirates Airline costs around Dh27,000, compared with Dh15,000 for business and Dh3,500 for economy. Included are use of facilities in Emirates lounges at either end, and a limo service.

How does it differ from business class?

Privacy and pampering are the watchwords. The cabin lets you sleep, or work, or enjoy the in-flight service, according to your wishes. The cabin staff are attentive and on call for your every whim. There are little extras that prove you are a premium traveller: fresh flowers, a leather seat, acres of walnut trim, Bulgari fragrances.

What does “dine on demand” mean?

It’s the in-flight equivalent of 24-hour room service. You do not have to wait for the trolley to reach you, nor will you find that the dish you requested is no longer available. The attendants will serve your meal whenever you wish, cooked to order.

Who flies first class?

Captains of industry, business executives, royalty and film stars. There is an unspoken rule in the aviation business that the plane has to wait for whichever passenger is seated in cabin 1A in first. It is the ultimate in scheduled airline service; the next step up is a private jet.


Updated: February 16, 2014 04:00 AM