Review of Emirates Airlines Airbus A380 Business Class LGW to DXB and Emirates Boeing 777 Business Class Dubai to Kuala Lumpur
There are 6 flights a day to Dubai from Heathrow, 3 from Gatwick and 1 from Stansted, making a total of 10 flights a day on Emirates from London to Dubai. I recently flew the Gatwick to Dubai route in Business Class as the first leg of my journey to Kuala Lumpur and then onwards to Kuala Lumpur on the Boeing 777.
The two products are quite different from each other so I wanted to compare them in this post rather than write two separate flight reports. In doing so I’ll try to keep my feelings about the aircraft themselves to one side, although I am a complete sucker for an A380.
The Emirates Lounges: Gatwick, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai
The Emirates Lounge Gatwick
My flight was at 10am so I headed to the Emirates Lounge in Gatwick for some breakfast and to get some work done before my flight. The Wifi was good enough to connect to some rather clunky remote software so that was a bonus.
The décor had a kind of ‘conference centre chic’ vibe about it…felt a bit drab and not quite as glitzy as you might expect from an Emirates lounges; I’m guessing they pull out all the stops in their bigger hubs like Heathrow.
I’m not a lounge connoisseur and tend to use them to make sure I get a seat, some peace and quiet and nicer toilets…sometimes a shower depending how long I’ve been travelling. I am in awe at the number of people who can stomach champagne at 8am; one couple had no less than 3 glasses during their half hour stay. I’m not really about the ‘free’ lounge food and drinks.
That said, I did sample the food which was fairly disappointing although there were some nice smoothies and juices which I enjoyed and it’s good to get a cup of tea in a proper sized mug instead of a coffee cup- well done, Emirates! There also appeared to be the option to order some a la carte options if the buffet didn’t grab you but I didn’t investigate this.
Toilets were very clean and smart and there’s a shower with towels already supplied so you don’t need to ask to use it, you can just hop in.
Boarding from the lounge was a bit of a nuisance as the gate was miles away (about a 10 minute walk), presumably as it’s the only stand big enough to leave an A380 and because Emirates don’t operate many flights out of Gatwick. There was a queue to get the lift out of the lounge back to the departure floor so leave early or just nip up the stairs if you don’t have too much luggage.
I prefer the BA lounge in Gatwick as I think the food was better (and obviously not Halal if you’re a bacon sarnie person in the morning).
The Emirates Lounge Kuala Lumpur
This was my favourite of the three Emirates lounges I used on my trip because it was both roomy and cosy feeling and also had great views out onto the gates and runway. It had the added bonus of being extremely close to the gate, which is especially helpful in the sometimes confusing maze that is KLIA.
The food selection looked pretty decent, although I didn’t eat. They had fresh eggs cooked to order alongside a selection of breads, pastries and a hot food on the buffet. Similar to the Gatwick lounge there was also a selection of yoghurts, smoothies and juices and a great selection of teas, once again from a proper tea mug, not a tiny cup (yay!).
The toilets were especially nice and there appeared to be staff positioned in the hallway outside the toilets as permanent toilet attendants (or at least they were there welcoming and opening doors for me each time I came in and out).
The nice thing about the toilets was that there were two showers so it was super unlikely you would ever need to queue and one of them was basically a whole, good-sized bathroom with a shower and toilet. Since the shower was just there and towels ready to go I treated myself to a spur of the moment shower since I got slightly sweaty rushing onto the KLIA Ekpres.
They provide shower packs on request but I have no idea what’s in them. I know they don’t contain deodorant because I asked at the front desk for deodorant after my shower and they didn’t have any! So that remains a mystery…especially as shower gel, a towel and a bath mat were already provided.
The lounge itself is elegantly designed in muted shades with a choice of different chairs. At one end a large tv played the news and at the other they were showing sports. The central chairs in lounge each have a socket for charging electronics but the less formal chairs near the window don’t.
There was a business centre of sorts with good sized computer screens but it was out in the open of the lounge so there wasn’t any privacy. The atmosphere was pretty quiet except for the relaxing trickle of water feature. The staff were very welcoming and attentive so it was overall a pretty good experience even though I didn’t try the food.
The Emirates Lounge Dubai
This was my least favourite of the lounges even though I was looking forward to it given it’s Emirates’ base. In its defence it once again had a great selection of food and drink, probably the best selection of food I had seen in the lounges (although it was evening time and both the others I had visited during their breakfast service)
For me it had none of the intimacy of a lounge because it was just so vast with towering ceilings and I didn’t really interact without any of the staff, again because it was so huge. It felt like sitting in the main terminal of an especially nice airport. The furniture was on the tired side too.
One big upside is that it basically spans an entire floor of the airport so staff can direct you to the end nearest your gate and you board the plane via the lift directly out of the lounge. I love when the lounge is close to the gate because you can properly relax and then walk to your flight rather than relaxing for 90 minutes then panicking for the last 10 while you realise your gate is miles away.
Anyone who’s flown an A380 will know the familiar feeling of anxiety turning to excitement when barrelling down the runway for what seems like for an eternity wondering how the hell this heap of metal is going to take off. It takes nearly a minute of full thrust to finally lift an A380 into the sky at that moment of unreality when the pilot pulls back the side stick and it seems like you’re simultaneously in the air and on the ground for a split second before it shudders off the runway.
This feeling seems to be heightened on the upper deck where the two Business Class cabins sit and I frequently stare out the window at that point wondering whether we are airborne or still on the runway.
The A380s are obviously much newer planes in the Emirates fleet and you can tell this from the glossy interiors.
For me the downside on the A380 is the deep set windows with two sets of glass which make it a bit harder to look out or take decent photos. I frequently hit my face on the first piece of glass when trying to crane to see better out of the window!
The B777 was a bit shabbier although still with the Emirates characteristic glossy walnut finishes. The major difference is the cabin layout and seats which I’ll explain further on. The general feel of the cabin is similar with the characteristic mood lighting and pinspot stars on the ceiling but the A380 definitely had a fresher, brighter feel.
I’d comment on the differing noise levels of the two aircraft but, to be honest, I spent the whole flight wearing my Emirates noise cancelling headphones so I didn’t really notice.
The outbound flight: LGW to DBX to KUL
Route: London Gatwick (LGW) to Dubai (DBX)
Date: 30 September 2018
Aircraft type: Airbus A380-800
Aircraft registration number: A6 EOQ
Flight number: EK012
Route: Dubai (DBX) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Date: 30 September 2018
Aircraft type: Boeing B777-300ER
Aircraft registration number: unknown
Flight number: EK344
The inbound flight: KUL to DBX to LGW
Route: Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Dubai (DBX)
Date: 9 October 2018
Aircraft type: Boeing B777-300ER
Aircraft registration number: A6 ENU
Flight number: EK345
Route: Dubai (DBX) to London Gatwick (LGW)
Date: 9 October 2018
Aircraft type: Airbus A380-800
Aircraft registration number: A6 EUS
Flight number: EK009
Boarding is at the leisure of Business, First and Skywards Silver, Gold and Platinum members for both the A380 and B777 meaning, you can walk onto the plane as soon as it’s ready or wait in the lounge longer. I usually prefer to board and get myself settled so I can get through the menu and check out the entertainment on offer. This is one advantage of the larger planes over the business class products on, for example, the smaller A350 where the layout of cabins and doors may require economy to board first. This is the case for Malaysia Airlines Business Class (read my review here), for example, which I have to say I found a bit frustrating.
Staff were welcoming and pointed me to my seat. I found the staff on my final return leg DBX – LGW, flight EK009 to be the most friendly and helpful, the others were helpful enough but did not really do anything particularly proactive to improve the experience or engage with me in any way.
Staff bring round a choice of juices, champagne and sparkling rose before take off (other drinks available on request) and then the obligatory scolding towel (why do I always take this when I don’t really want it?!…right on cue as I write this a steward has handed me a towel with actual steam coming off it and I’ve willingly taken it from him…)
What are the layouts of the Emirates A380 and B777 Business Class cabins?
This is where there’s a major difference between the two products which is likely to impact your preference (assuming you have a choice!).
The A380 is vastly more spacious with just four seats across the width of the cabin in a 1 – 2 – 1 configuration. The ceilings are roomy with overhead bins high above the cabin. The ceiling is light with changing mood lighting throughout the flight and the standard pin spot ‘stars’ across the ceiling including in the curve of the cabin roof.
The cabin is spilt in two with a larger cabin to the front, a much smaller cabin behind the galley and then behind that the onboard bar (yep, a bar, I’m coming to that). Having only sat in the front half of the larger fore cabin, I can only speak for that section. I’ve read in other reviews that food options sometimes run out towards the back but have no way of knowing whether that’s true- worth bearing in mind, however.
Because the bar and toilets are to the rear, the foot traffic increases the further back you go in the cabin and also the closer you are to the galley which separates the two cabins. For that reason it makes sense to try to sit in the front half of the larger fore cabin. That said, you may want to trade off your position in the cabin for the seat as there is a big difference in the level of privacy afforded by the seating configuration, which I explain below, so you may well be better off getting a more private seat in a higher traffic area.
The B777 is a much more crowded cabin with a 2 – 3 – 2 configuration across its width, which brings its own problems, explained below. Beyond the poor configuration it also makes the cabin feel much more cramped, despite the high ceilings. Combined with the overall slightly drabber décor of the older B777 it lacks the clean, roomy feel of the A380 and doesn’t have a common area like the A380’s bar so there’s nowhere obvious to stretch your legs. The density of the cabin also meant that every time I went to the toilet there was a considerable wait, there just didn’t seem to be enough toilets for the size of the cabin. This could have just been a coincidence as I think it had 3 toilets to the A380’s 4 so I shouldn’t have noticed a difference, but I did.
Where should I sit in the Emirates A380 Business Class cabin?
I had to Google this after flying two legs on this aircraft because I realised the configurations were different and I couldn’t work out why. Emirates uses two different configurations in its business class which I didn’t know before choosing my seat, thankfully I got lucky and ended up in the ‘right’ seat on both legs. This is because it operates two versions of a three class and one version of a two class (with just economy and business) layout.
On the three class version the whole upper deck is first and business cabins, on the two class version there’s an additional economy class cabin on the upper deck.
If you want to see if for yourself then Seat Guru has all of the information which there’s no sense me repeating. Here’s the three class (there are two versions even of this but it doesn’t alter the first or business layouts, just economy) and this is the two class. The three class has 14 first and 76 business class seats, the two class 58 business class seats.
I’m sure there’s a way of working out which you’re on but it certainly wasn’t that clear to me when I looked at the seating layout on the Emirates’ website when booking my seat.
For single travellers the best Emirates A380 seats on the three class are the single seats A and K in odd rows, so 7A and 7K, 9A and 9K, etc. On the two class it’s the same single seats but in even rows, so 6A and 6K, 8A and 8K, etc. This is because the table, mini bar and stowage protects you from the aisle meaning you’re closest to the window and furthest from the aisle. The other seats are reversed so that your table, stowage etc. are next to the window and you have very little privacy from the aisle.
As explained above, the fore cabin is better in my opinion and the further forward you are in the three class, the less foot traffic. On the two class you may want to aim for mid cabin as the front is directly behind the economy cabin galley and toilets which may be noisier due to the much denser seater configuration.
For couples travelling together the ‘good’ seats follow the same pattern; in the three class version you want seats E and F in the odd rows which gives both of you privacy from the aisle and you get to sit close to each other in the centre. Single travellers may prefer the reverse but it depends if you’re likely to be more disturbed by aisle traffic or your neighbour. On the two class it’s the same as the ‘good’ single seats, the even rows in seats E and F.
Seat feel and functions
So there’s a big difference here as well with the A380 offering a fully flat bed while the B777 has only an angled flat bed. I had anticipated this would be a problem before my journey but in fact the angled flat bed goes near enough flat and I didn’t find it to be a problematic sleeping position, so I didn’t really find this to be a differentiator.
You’re given a mattress to cover both seats on the A380 and B777 but I actually found the A380 seat to be less comfy when fully flat as it had a kind of weird bump in the middle when extended all the way. I also preferred the way the B777 seat had a foot rest that came up which is missing on the A380 as the seat simply slides forward to meet the padded footwell which forms the end of the flat bed. This means in a reclined position your legs aren’t really supported.
Both seats allow various combinations of recline and I found neither of which to be particularly comfortable in a bolt upright position. In addition to the recline functions, the B777 has a range of massage options for different parts of the chair. I didn’t find these to be particularly good as I couldn’t feel them very strongly. That said, I’m quite short so I often find that massage functions are poorly positioned for me.
How much storage space is there in Emirates A380 Business Class seats?
For me this was another major con of the B777 as there was a maddening lack of storage space or even just available surfaces to put things on. You get the central cup holder and then a tiny little side table that flips out, also meant for drinks, one tiny side pocket which would only really hold an iPad or Kindle and then just the standard tray table for dining.
I find it frustrating when I’m forced to stow bags in the overhead locker for take off and landing meaning I have to keep getting out of my seat. Additionally, I usually travel with a smaller handbag for my passport, phone etc. and even this wouldn’t really fit anywhere and it’s not the kind of thing you want to put into a huge overhead bin. I had to resort to jamming it into the side pocket or armrest area during the whole flight. Once you’ve received a perfect storm of drinks, hot towels and dinner you really are out of any space to put anything.
I actually got given nothing on either leg on the A380, perhaps they handed it out while I was sleeping? To be honest, you don’t need an amenity kit because everything is available somewhere in the cabin. The toilets were constantly topped up with toothbrush sets and combs, there’s hand cream and perfume in the toilets too and socks and an eye mask are left in a packet at your seat. As I’ve already mentioned, a scolding hot towel is never far away, so you don’t really need a refreshing wipe either.
I did get one on the 777 on the outbound leg (maybe I refused it on the inbound? I actually can’t remember). The set is by Bulgari and includes a small mirrors, toothpaste set, wet towel, hairbrush, body lotion, perfume and something else I can’t remember!
I’m really not about the amenity kit life and typically leave them if given them. Does anyone use them?!
Frankly, I don’t want yet another amenity bag, so not being given one suited me fine. There are two exceptions to this; I always feel the need to use loads of lip balm on a flight because of the drying air- I brought some with me but would have been peeved if I hadn’t and had discovered there wasn’t any in the amenity kit, that would have been a nice addition.
For me the only thing that was missing was a pair of slippers. Malaysia Airlines give out slippers (the type you get in hotels) and that was really convenient for moving around the plane. Emirates just have a really thing pair of socks- not the type of thing you’d necessarily want to wander around the plane in and certainly not go to the loo in. So every time I went to the loo I had to put my trainers back on, which was a bit annoying.
If I had a complaint about the entertainment selection, it would be that there was too much. The B777 had a slightly slimmed down selection compared to the A380 where it was an almost maddening choice. Just swiping through my options must have taken me 20 mins.
Entertainment includes TV series, radio, films and music. One odd quirk was that there had been some attempt to censor some (but not all) of the music; trying to listen to 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Trying without any swearing or references to violence, guns, sex or drugs was interesting. It’s basically like listening to someone beat box.
The usual additional features are available on both the B777 and A380; gate and connecting information, journey maps and information and cameras.
Both flights feature the same noise cancelling headphones with snazzy walnut trim that matches the Emirates brand. I more or less spent the whole of all legs of my outbound and inbound journey wearing these and they were super comfortable, cancelled most background noise and delivered a good quality sound.
Entertainment looks and feels a bit overboard when you first see all the controllers. When I first came on board I couldn’t understand why I needed a controller, touch screen and a tablet to control the entertainment system but I came to absolutely love the separate tablet and not even because I could undock it and lie back it so I didn’t have to keep sitting forward to reach the screen (this is especially a problem if you’re in a seat at the front of the B777 cabin where it’s an uncomfortably long reach).
The major advantage is to have a film playing on the screen while still being able to access other information about the flight including the flight status, cameras and route map without having to flick back and forth constantly. I thought this was a great feature of both Business Class products.
Food and Drinks
What food will I be served in Emirates A380 Business Class?
On all my flights the selection was a mixture of western and middle eastern dishes with a main meal and a lighter snack menu for later in the flight.
On the A380 there’s an extra range of snacks available in the bar including sandwiches, pretzels and M&Ms. Below are the menus from each flight and the food I ate.
A380 food selection
I had a daytime flight to Dubai so was served a lunch menu on that flight with a lighter meal served later in the flight.
I chose the Portland crab involtini followed by the chicken Baharat. The meal was served with bread and a side salad, which comes with its own cute little bottle of oil / balsamic vinegar mix. Later on I had the sandwich selection and some champagne followed by an earl grey tea (still in a proper sized mug- hooray!)
The portions were pretty decent and the food was good, not amazing, but a good solid meal considering you’re eating it on a plane. I’ve seen more refined foods in different business class products and I’d say my experience on Malaysia Airlines was better (although quite a lot of that is down to the satay trolley!).
This was my Dubai to London return selection, a cold mezze platter followed by a sous-vide flat iron steak, which to be honest after a week eating myself to death in Malaysia was most unappetising but decent plane fare nonetheless.
B777 food selection
I had an evening flight Dubai to KL and a morning flight KL to Dubai on the B777 so I got dinner on the way out and lunch on the way back. On my way to Kuala Lumpur I had a roast beef carpaccio followed by roasted salmon and puy lentils.
On the way from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai I had a tandoori chicken salad followed by a chicken breast with potato and green beans.
Can I dine on demand on Emirates A380 Business Class?
You can get cheap cup noodles on demand on both the A380 and B777 and the A380 has a range of snacks in the bar throughout the flight but it’s not dine on demand and there’s no separate smaller menu for round the clock eating. That would be a nice addition to the product although to an extent it’s perhaps reflected in the price.
What drinks are available on Emirates A380 Business Class?
The onboard bar
I always felt that a bar on a plane was a bit gimmicky, and it kind of is, but at the same time it is nice on a longer flight to have somewhere else you can stretch your legs rather than trying to hang out in the aisle or galley and generally feeling awkward and getting in people’s way.
A fair few people did use it to stand around and have a chat with their fellow travellers. There’s a selection of light snacks and treats as well as the drinks and you can either stand at the bar or sit on the seats either side of the cabin and look out the window.
These seats have seatbelts so I assume there’s no need to return to your seat if there’s some turbulence. I hung out for a while for a change of a scene and a cup of tea then headed back to my seat.
The A380 drinks menu and B777 drinks menu
The drinks menu is fairly extensive including a good range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. For me the champagne was a disappointment, Veuve Clicquot on the A380 and Moet & Chandon on the B777, neither of which I’m a fan of. The beer selection is also pretty limited, but that’s more or less standard on all planes.
With the exception of the champagne, the rest of the list was the same for both the A380 and B777 and you’re able to check what’s available on the Emirates website by inputting your flight details.
How much is an Emirates Business Class Flight?
Emirates always seems to come in slightly cheaper than competitors on the London to Kuala Lumpur route which is why I ended up flying with them. I booked my ticket about 2.5 months before my flight and it came in at £2,084. A direct flight with BA or Malaysia on this route will typically set you back £3,500 so for the quality of the product an Emirates business ticket is pretty good value and won’t take you too much longer than a direct flight if you get a short enough layover (both of my journeys were around 16 – 17 hours vs. 13.5 hours direct).
It’s worth taking into consideration that Emirates includes a chauffeur service within 70 miles of the airport and depending on the time of your flight this will save you some money which makes the flight even better value.
For me the A380 is a clear winner and not just because I love the plane so much. The configuration is just so much better than the B777, especially travelling alone, I never ever want to sit in a business configuration where each seat doesn’t have aisle access. Once you couple that with the general roominess of the cabin, the general brighter, cleaner feel and the better entertainment system I couldn’t possibly pick the B777 over the A380.
Versus other products it’s a great looking cabin, good food selection and good service with their (almost) USP of the chauffeur service. A few tweaks would make it almost perfect (slippers, a better mattress and dine on demand being the main ones for me). But all in all I’d definitely book again for a long haul flight.