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I wasn’t sure what to expect for the Emirates A380 first class experience. Emirates has a great reputation so I generally expected good things but I didn’t know how it would stack up to some of the best first class experiences like the Etihad Apartment and Singapore Suites. After trying it out myself, I have to admit that Emirates first class is a superb product that I believe can compete with any first class product.
We used 85,000 Emirates Skywards transferred over from Amex Membership Rewards to book our Emirates flights and paid close to $300 USD in total fees for each ticket (which isn’t that bad for Emirates). There are several ways that you can use miles and points to book Emirates first class tickets and you can read more about those here.
Emirates chauffeur service
We finished up our stay at the Park Hyatt Milan and were picked up in a Mercedes-Benz mini-van by the chauffeur service arranged by Emirates. He was running a little late but he did what he had to do to get us to the airport quickly even though we were still several hours from departure time.
The Lounge at Milan (MXP)
After arriving to the airport, we made our way to the Emirates Business/First Class Lounge in Milan. This was a very nice lounge with great food, good drink selections, and a unique boarding method. You get to board the plane directly from the lounge so you can kick back and fully relax and not worry about having to time your travel to the gate.
We were among the first to board the the A380. The first class cabin on the A380 has 14 suites configured in rows of 1-2-1. With 14 suites, it’s one of the more crowded first class cabins especially since the upper deck on the A380 doesn’t have as much room as some wide body planes like the 777 (the new Emirates first class cabin only has six suites so it fixes this issue).
Upon entering, we were greeted by the flight attendants and shown to our suites. We chose to share interior suites 2E and 2F. I think the interior suites are well designed to be shared. It’s very easy to communicate with your travel companion when the middle partition is lowered and it still feels pretty private with the doors closed.
Although it was nice sharing the space, I think we both finally realized that we prefer window suites. The suites along the windows always just feel more private and I’m all about the views and aerial photos, so I think this might be our last flight in conjoined middle suites barring availability.
The Emirates first class suite on the A380 is tricked out with many features, some of which are very useful while others are really there just for show.
The seat is 23 inches wide which isn’t very wide compared to some other products but still plenty of space for me. I liked the look and feel of the grey leather seat and thought this was overall a very comfortable seat.
The suite is not nearly as spacious as some other first class suites like the Singapore Airlines Suites or the Etihad Apartment. In those suites you can actually get up and walk around inside your suite, but in these the suite walls pretty much just wrap around the seat and TV.
To me, the compactness of the Emirates suite made it feel a bit cozy, though it does come a little close to being confining and the walls did feel lower than other suites I’ve flown in.
I’d also probably prefer to have more counter space to work with but overall it isn’t a major issue since you can clear off the desk in front of you and you do have a bit of counter space on the side. Plus, you can always pull our your tray if you need to set up an actual work station.
There’s a mini-bar in your suite which pops up via electronic controls. I have to admit this is a fun feature even though it’s usually more practical to request a cold beverage with a glass from the crew since these are not refrigerated (or at least mine wasn’t).
The suites have a 27 inch TV screen, mini-vanity mirror with amenities, snacks, writing kit, lamps, and a floral touch (not to mention a lot of shiny gold trimming and faux wood).
The 27 inch TV screen (which is touch screen) is large but newer generations of first class suites have moved on to 32 inch screens, which is crazy but also 100% okay with me.
The mini-vanity mirror is quite small but still can be practical if you need it. I didn’t try any of the lotions but they have various types of Temple Spa products and even products for focus and aromatherapy.
The bowl on the desk is full of delicious snacks including some very good chocolate.
There’s a writing kit with a writing pad, envelopes, and a pen.
At first, it seemed like a bit much to have all of those items in the suite, but I really enjoyed the bowl of snacks. They can get you into trouble though because the crew will replace your snacks almost instantly. If it’s too tempting (probably just a personal problem for me) or you just don’t want them, you can always ask the flight attendants to remove them (which they do for take-off anyway).
The suites feel remarkably private.
Even though there are 14 suites on the A380, it’s still pretty easy to avoid eye contact with your neighbor even with the door open since the suites are staggered. As mentioned, the only slight issue is that the walls are bit short.
I initially had some reservations about Emirates first class because I thought it was a bit too “blingy” for my liking. The cabin definitely is one of the most flashy products I’ve flown in and I could do without all the shiny stuff, but once I got settled in my suite, I didn’t really pay attention to any of it and didn’t feel like it detracted from the experience.
You can store your carry-ons underneath the TV where there is a lot of room. I easily fit my wide carry-on and my backpack under there. The only issue is that if you have a lot of luggage there you’ll probably have to move it when you pull out the bed. I was able to put my bags in an empty suite but I’m not sure where they would’ve gone if the suites were at capacity.
There’s also a wardrobe built into the front of the suite. It’s a big closet but it’s open to the area below the desk meaning that you need to be mindful of how far back you push your luggage since it could knock off or wrinkle your hanging garments.
As for storage compartments, there’s hardly any storage compartments and the ones they do have are quite small and shallow.
Too many airlines keep their cabins way too warm and don’t offer a way for passengers to remain cool. While the vents on the A380 aren’t as advanced as the climate controls in the new suites, they are still practical and allowed me to stay cool and comfortable in my suite.
There are vents located above your shoulder near the suite door and also just under the tablet.
There are two USB ports located just under the mini-bar.
There’s also a power outlet found right in front of you in the front of the desk, underneath a small flap.
Emirates first class amenities
The Emirates first class amenity kit is very high quality and comes stocked with Bvlgari products (pronounced BULL-gur-ee in case you were wondering). These products included lotion, lip balm, cologne, after shave, and also came with tissues, shaving products, and body spray. My packaging was a little roughed up which detracted from the presentation just a bit though.
The headphones came in an Emirates branded case, which was slightly tattered.
They aren’t Bose but they still felt high quality enough.
The seat controls are found on the armrest and are very easy to adjust into the standard pre-set positions. You can also control the suite doors with a push of a button which is a very cool feature that other suites don’t have.
You can also use the tablet to adjust your seat position and control the middle partition and suites doors. If you select privacy, you’ll activate a do not disturb light on the outside of your suite.
The tablet has a lot of other functions, such as viewing the airshow flight cameras and controlling in-flight entertainment. One other function it has is to control the massage functions.
I’ve tried a number of premium seats with built-in massagers. Many of them are very weak and subtle to the point where you’re not even sure if its your seat moving or the plane’s natural vibrations. But the massager in this seat was very noticeable and I actually enjoyed it.
The in-flight entertainment was pretty solid with plenty of choices and easy to navigate on the tablet. You can check here to see what’s on during your flight.
Emirates first class dining
Like many other first class products, you can request your meals at any time and you can check the menu ahead of time. Since this flight from Milan to New York was not super long, we got things started soon after we hit altitude.
We kicked off the dining experience with Dom Perignon 2009. Emirates changes up their champagnes from time to time, offering special vintage Dom but for this flight we had Dom Perignon 2009, which seems to be their standard on many flights.
We were first brought out canapé starters. These consisted of grilled venison with cranberries, smoked Scottish salmon, and Bleu d’Auvergne on gingerbread.
These were very tasty.
The crew member then came around to make my tray table, which was pretty wide.
A fresh selection of very tasty breads was then brought out.
And then the entire table was set.
Then it was caviar time.
The dish below was excellent and probably one of my favorite dishes I’ve tried on a first class flight. It was Sheikh el mashi, which consisted of roasted aubergines filled with minced lamb and vermicelli rice. The tomato sauce and pine nuts packed a ton of flavor and it was just an excellent dish.
I wasn’t crazy about the dessert, which was a chocolate and orange croissant pudding since the orange flavor was bit overpowering and I’m also not crazy about bread pudding texture.
Overall, I thought the dining ranked among my favorite and besides the dessert, all of the dishes were fantastic. Also, the service during the meal (and throughout the entire flight) was super attentive and on par with any other airline I’ve flown.
The menu for the main courses is below.
The Emirates A380 Bar
While I think that Qatar Airways probably has the best bar on their A380, the Emirates bar is a still great on-board bar. The circular bar is compact but the bar area is pretty wide open with space for quite a few people to congregate, chill, shoot the s**t, etc.
There’s a large TV screen at the bar where you can track the progress of your flight and grab some snacks.
When the mood lighting kicks in, the bar looks really good. It should be noted that Emirates has a new bar design that’s being introduced on their A380s.
Each side has a curved sofa with window views, which is a great place to sit down and enjoy your drink though many people enjoyed just standing around.
Like other in-flight bars, they supply you with a range of snacks you can pick up at the bar. Some sweet, some savory.
Something that’s really cool about Emirates bar is they serve Hennessy Paradis (in first class). You may not realize it but this bottle costs $800 and Emirates has brought in in a more premium version of this which runs for close to $3,000.
The bar tender asked us if we’d like to be served Dom (since that’s limited to first class passengers) and of course we obliged.
I will say that our bar experience was when I really saw how exceptional the crew was. They were a very diverse and well polished crew and were more personable than perhaps any airline I’ve flown.
Singapore Airlines sets the bar very high for service but Emirates is right there with them in my opinion and the diversity factor definitely distinguishes Emirates from Singapore. I had zero complaints regarding the service and couldn’t imagine them doing a better job on our flight. The service was definitely a highlight of the flight.
The Emirates A380 first class bar
There’s actually a much smaller first class bar in the front of the upper deck which is exclusively for first class passengers. There’s a good selection of spirits and even some snacks. And it’s a pretty cool feeling to be able to get up and serve yourself a glass of Dom at any moment. However, this is not an area where people socialize like the main bar.
I think Emirates does a great job with their bedding. I found the mattress pad, pillows, and duvet/comforter to be very comfy. I really don’t like it when airlines give you paper thin pillows but these were high quality, soft pillows.
And once again, the air vents played a major role in the comfort. I’m usually way too hot to really enjoy getting comfortable under blankets in pajamas on planes but with the vents set at the right strength and position, I was as comfortable as could be.
Speaking of pajamas, I was a big fan of the Emirates pajamas. They weren’t too heavy or baggy and I also liked the way they looked. I’m not sure if these had the Hydra Active Microcapsule Technology in them but they did feel very comfortable.
No complaints from me….
I did feel like the TV was a little far when in bed but the monitor is still big enough so that this isn’t a major issue. Also, there’s not a lot of room between the bed and the desk.
With the suite doors shut and in the lie-flat positions, it feels very private in the suite though I think the window suites would have felt even more private.
Emirates first class A380 shower
The shower experience is special on Emirates. Before departure or right after take-off, the crew should come around and take your request for your shower time. There are a total of two showers on board the A380.
You’ll be allowed a total of 30 minutes in the shower room but you’ll only get five minutes of water time. You can turn the water off when you’re lathering your body though so that you can prolong your shower. Note that the water will cut-off with one minute remaining to remind you to quickly rinse off (simply hit the button to kick the water back on). Also, the water will not turn on until the door is shut.
The shower is different from Etihad since Emirates provides a removable shower head. Also, the Emirates A380 has a bench in it in case of turbulence. We were experiencing a lot of turbulence as we approached the US due to winter storms, so I almost wasn’t even able to take a shower. Luckily it wasn’t a major issue though I did bounce around for a short while.
The shower room is very bright and spacious and has beautiful Dubai artwork on the wall.
There’s a large sink area with vanity mirrors and plenty of towels. There’a also a wide bench area that also covers the toilet making it easy to sit down and change if you need to.
There’s an entire collection of amenities that you can use at any given time. You can find just about anything in their from a loofah to cotton pads.
Emirates has a crew member working on the lavatories seemingly nonstop so they are always fresh and clean. When you enter for your shower, you’ll notice that the shower room is set up with towels and a special floral touch.
I was surprised when I exited the shower room and was led to the spa-like relaxation area. This is the same area where the first class bar was set up but they transform it into a relaxing spa setting complete with trickling waterfall fountain, candles, and stones.
You can also request a refreshing beverage like tea or juice.
When I made my back to the seat, there were a few slices of fresh fruit waiting on me, which was very refreshing.
Final word on Emirates A380 First Class
The Emirates first class experience exceeded my expectations. Aside from the suites being on the smaller side (and having 14 suites in first class), I don’t have any real complaints. The service was flawless, the dining was great, and we had a fantastic time at the bar chatting it up with the crew. It’s also always fun to take a shower in the sky, too. Even though this is the “old” Emirates first class, it easily ranks among my favorite first class experiences.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.