In order to get to Dubai for a conference, I had booked a one-way flight to Europe with a stopover in Dubai in Emirates First Class using Alaska Mileage Plan miles - luckily I did so just a couple of weeks prior to a big devaluation, which tripled the price for Emirates First Class redemptions. To maximize my experience in Emirates First, I booked the evening flight out of LAX in order to fly on one of Emirates' A380 aircraft, which feature an on-board bar and shower.
Day of Departure
I had to position to LAX from Dallas Fort Worth and had booked a flight on American Airlines - luckily my flight to LA left shortly before American suffered a short system outage and as I arrived on time, I had plenty of time to connect to my Emirates flight - disaster avoided. Would I have missed the flight, I would have been on my own, which is perhaps the biggest risk when traveling on separate tickets. With the new airside connector between Terminal 4 and Tom Bradley International Terminal open, it is no longer necessary to re-clear security when arriving at Terminals 4 through 8 at LAX - definitely a big improvement. It took me less than 15 minutes to walk over the the LAX international terminal, which I like a lot - it's just a stunning structure.
I made my way to the Emirates lounge and relaxed a bit before leaving for the boarding gate. Just as I arrived at the gate area, boarding was called for Business Class and First Class passengers.
LAX is probably one of the few airports in the U.S. equipped with dual bridge boarding - passengers traveling on the upper deck had to take an additional set of escalators to board after entering the gate - a very nice feature since it reduces or in this case, completely eliminates the need for coach passengers to walk through the premium cabins located on the upper deck.
Upon entering the aircraft, I was greeted and Maricel, a lovely flight attendant from the Philippines, who escorted me to my seat, 2K. The Emirates First Class cabin on the A380 is quite dense with 16 seats spread over four rows in a 1-2-1 layout (the last row is missing the two middle seats). Just for comarison, Etihad puts ten seats and Qatar only eight seats in the A380.
In stark contrast to Etihad's concept of understated elegance in its A380, Emirates goes "full out" in terms of bling - lot's of gold accents in this First Class cabin, topped off with a golden Emirates logo on the bulkhead. I guess they are catering to a certain kind of clientele - I definitely prefer Etihad's design approach.
As soon as I settled in, I requested a glass of champagne, which was promptly delivered to my seat.
I picked suite 2K, which is a single seat located on the right-hand side of the aircraft - while the seat offers a great deal of privacy with closing doors and goes completely flat, the amount of personal space for each passenger is a lot less than what you get on an Etihad A380 First Apartment seat.
I did like the sign on the outside of the "suite" - closing the suite doors and turning on the "Do not disturb" sign gives you all the privacy you can possibly get on a commercial aircraft.
The size of the IFE screen is immense - unfortunately, however, the content is not displayed in HD. A small mirror is located directly underneath the screen.
The seat has one power port, where you can charge your cell phone or any other device really - the area around the port was a bit damaged - while Emirates' First Class product is still excellent, it has been around for a while now.
The seat and the entertainment system is controlled via a detachable handheld device.
While I did like the device, I slightly prefer to have two separate remotes - one for seat controls and one for the IFE - I found myself switching between the two functions quite a lot and sometimes it was annoying having to go back and forth between the two functions.
Emirates also features an in-seat bar, which is a bit useless since pressing the call button will get you any drink within a couple of minutes. The drinks are also not chilled so unless you like lukewarm water, I'd just order drinks with the flight attendant.
Finally, each Emirates First Class Suite offers a table lamp - mostly for aesthetic purposes really.
While waiting for the plane to board, the amenities were delivered by Maricel, who escorted me to my seat earlier and Fanny, a flight attendant from France. Both flight attendants were lovely and I knew right then and there that it would be a wonderful flight. Maricel arrived with a nice Emirate beach bag, which contained an amenity kit, set of PJs and slippers.
The amenity kit had a nice assortment of contents and was Bulgari-branded.
I forgot to take a picture of the PJs that the flight attendant handed out. They were of OK-quality but unfortunately, they only had them in large, which was far too big for me.
It is customary on Emirates First Class flights to offer passengers dates and a cup of Arabic coffee shortly before departure. The dates are presented to passengers in a nice wooden box, while the Arabic coffee is poured from a golden coffee pot.
We pushed back just on time and I switched to my favorite view on the IFE system - the tailcam channel.
LAX is truly an amazing airport - there are so many different planes, flying to so many different places I want to explore. I am still amazed by the reach of air travel. The Tom Bradley International Terminal is particularly exciting.
Since I was seated on the right-hand side of the aircraft, I had a wonderful view of Venice Beach after take-off.
As it is the norm for Non-U.S. carriers, the seatbelt sign was switched off after only five minutes in the air. On-board service commenced promptly and Maricel, one of the two lovely flight attendants taking care of service on my side of the cabin, handed me a nice brown folder, which contained the menu for today's flight.LAX-DXB-Menu
As you can see, the menu is quite extensive and passengers basically can have lunch or dinner, followed by breakfast. In-between meals, light bits were available. Maricel let me know that I could also chose to have breakfast first, as Emirates has a dine-on-demand concept in its premium cabins.
Many passengers decided to go right to sleep but I went ahead with dinner service. To start off, I ordered another glass of Champagne - I usually try to avoid alcohol on planes but Emirates excellent liquor selection made me stray from my no-booze policy - after all, a bottle of 2006 Dom Perignon retails for about $150.
As it should be in First Class, my glass was poured at the seat. Along with the Champagne, I ordered a glass of sparkling water and I also received some nuts to go with the drinks.
Fanny, the French flight attendant serving my side of the first class cabin brought a table cloth and started to set-up my table for dinner service. Unlike my flight in American First Class a couple of weeks ago, Fanny set up the table meticulously - I did not change a thing. The bread basked contained a nice variety of breads. In addition to butter, Fanny also placed some olive oil and vinegar on my table.
The menu was really quite extensive, but I decided to go light since I was planning on having a nice big breakfast prior to arrival in Dubai. To start, I ordered a small serving of the Caviar with the typical garnishes - I ordered it mainly for the photo opportunity, since I am still not a big fan of Caviar - it's just too salty!
Dinner service continued with my main dish - I opted for the slow-braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes, glazed turnips and carrots.
The meat was very tender and I also liked the mashed potatoes served with the Thyme-reduction. The carrots were still crisp, which I liked. I wasn't a big fan of the turnips, probably since I usually don't eat turnips that often.
I had to finish dinner with something sweet, so I ordered the chocolate tart, served with vanilla bread and raspberry coulis. As you can see on the picture, by the time I got my dessert, the cabin lights were dimmed.
Maricel proactively brought out a hot towel and some toothpicks after clearing my table, which I thought was a very nice gesture.
After this extensive meal, I decided to take a rest. I asked Fanny to make up my bed while I changed into my (oversized) PJs, Although a bit small, the Emirates First Class seat is certainly one of the most private first class products out there.
I slept for a couple of hours and when I woke up, we still had about five hours to go to Dubai - I really love these ultra-long haul flights, which give you plenty of time to experience the on-board product - there is time to have dinner, watch movies, sleep, slowly get up, have breakfast or even visit the on-board bar and take a shower as in this case - pure bliss!
Since I wasn't able to sleep any longer, I changed into my regular clothes and wandered to the back to check-out Emirates' legendary on-board bar. The area was deserted and the food offerings looked like they had been raided - I was clearly too late to the game.
Moments after taking the picture, a flight attendant came out and asked me if I cared for a drink - since I had quite a lot of alcohol with dinner, I ordered a virgin Mojito, which was delicious and prepared with fresh mint - yum.
The entire cabin was pretty much dark but since the bar area is separated by thick curtains from the main business class cabin, I opened one of the window shades in the bar area - I think we were flying over Russia at that point.
I will say that Emirates' bar setup is far superior to Etihad's A380 "bar", which did not feel as inviting. After finishing my drink, I returned to my seat - it was nearly time to take my shower, which I had scheduled with Maricel shortly after take-off.
Taking a shower at 32,000 feet still feels very special - it is particularly nice for a long flight like this - you arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to start (or end) the day.
Emirates has two "Spa" areas for first class passengers, these spas are for all intents and purposes bathrooms when they are not being used for passengers to take a shower in. Maricel picked me up from my seat and escorted me to the spa, where a spa attendant briefed me on the procedures - you get five minutes of water, fair enough and plenty of time for me. I had about 20-25 minutes in the spa area since other passengers were scheduled after my slot.
The spa area is just gorgeous - nicely laid out and even the floors are heated and they even had a hair-dryer available. I took my shower and returned to my seat refreshed and ready for breakfast. It is customary on Emirates to offer a small fruit snack and some tea to passengers returning from the spa.
After the fruit snack plate was cleared, Fanny set my table for breakfast. I was also offered a basked of breakfast breads.
To start with, I had the scrambled eggs with chives, which was served with breakfast sausages, toast, hash browns and some baked beans. I also ordered a cappuccino to go with the eggs.
As second course, I had the french toast with poached peaches and vanilla mascarpone.
The french toast was simply delicious and easily one of the best french toast variations I have ever had - I have to remember adding mascarpone the next time I prepare french toast.
Shortly after breakfast, the pilot made a PA and announced that we had just commenced our descend into Dubai. Quite unexpectedly, Fanny appeared with a Polaroid camera and offered to take a picture with me wearing an Emirates hat - how could I say no? This nice commemorative card was the result - Fanny also wished my a pleasant journey back to Austria, which was my next stop after Dubai.
Finally, Fanny handed out Fast Track vouchers, which did save some time at immigration.
We landed shortly after and docked at a gate in Terminal 3 and it was time to bid farewell to Maricel and Fanny. Unfortunately, the gate wasn't equipped with a jet bridge for the upper deck so first and business class passengers had to walk down the stairs near the cockpit area to disembark.
With a blocked flight time of sixteen hours, this Los Angeles to Dubai flight can certainly be considered an ultra-long haul flight - short of using a private jet, I can think of very few better ways to travel then in Emirates First Class. Yes, the cabin interior is a bit over the top, but the excellent hard product, the amazing soft product and in my case, the excellent crew made this very long flight very enjoyable. Emirates current first class product has been around for nearly 10 years, but they do everything right - if you can find a great fare in Emirates First, go for it, as you will surely enjoy your flight!