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Business Class – What is it Really Like?

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For most people, business class remains a bit of a mystery. I know I used to wonder exactly what went on up the pointy end, and whether it was worth all of that fuss.

Long story short? For long haul travel, it really is.

I won’t get into the details, but I am one of those lucky folks that get to fly in business class. This means, about 90% of the time when traveling, on Emirate or FlyDubai, I’m able to fly business class. On flights over five hours, this is brilliant. Admittedly, you get used to it. But if you haven’t flown business class, you might actually wonder what happens when you’re parked up the front (or up top, on the A380). I’m here to reveal the world behind the curtain.

I flew on the Emirates A380 from Auckland, New Zealand to Dubai, United Arab Emirates in September 2018.

Boarding

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Yes, first and business class passengers do board first. Depending on which airline you fly on, you might see non-business and first class passengers sent back into the line if they try and cut in while priority boarding occurs. Naughty. Shoo. Anyway, you may wonder why you want to board early for a 17 hour flight. Surely, you want to maximize your time off the plane before the flight?

Ah. But in business class, you want to get started on the free champagne. And it’s usually Veuve Clicquot.

Pre-takeoff and first impressions

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Once you make your way to your seat, you can get settled in. The Emirates A380 seat is fantastic. The best ones are the window seats, which have a handy storage bin underneath the window. Depending on where you are seated, you’ll have up to three windows to view the world from.

This time, I was seated in the middle row. My seat included a small mini-bar of soft drinks, fruit juice and water. There was a pair of noise cancelling headphones, plus socks and an eye shade, for me to use. As this flight was a longer flight, I also received a Bulgari toilet bag and associated products, to use. And of course, you are offered the ubiquitous hot towel. These are also offered to you at various other points during the flight

Before take off, you will usually be greeted by the a Customer Service Manager, and your applicable Flight Attendant. You’ll also be run through the menu for the flight, and your order will be taken.

The good thing about the A380 is that you aren’t going to have a bunch of people looking glum wandering past you on their way to economy. This is always a little awkward on the B777. Also, no economy class passenger is going to sit next to you in an empty seat in the hope that the cabin crew don’t notice. Handy hint: they always notice.

They’ll also kick you out mid-flight if you decide to sneak through from economy and park yourself in a spare business class seat. You look like a real spud when that happens.

The seat

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The seat itself it is in the upright position for take-off. Once you take off, you can recline it, which converts it into a complete lie flat bed.

A lot of people get straight to sleep, and a Flight Attendant will make up your bed with a thin mattress and a blanket on request.  They’re surprisingly comfortable. The seats aren’t that wide, but on the A380, everyone has aisle access. This is the best on a long flight – no clambering over anyone to get out.

I find the seat pretty comfortable to sleep on. I managed to get about nine hours of sleep on my flight to Dubai, which I think is good. If you’re really tall (or wide), it might be less comfortable, but it’s just great for my short stature.

You have both USB and universal outlet changing points, and there is plenty of room to stash your electronic gear while in flight.

Is the in flight entertainment any different?

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No, but you do have an extra removable iPad at your seat. You can use this to look at various things, and it effectively gives you two screens. It’s also used to navigate the TV and some of the seat features. Emirates generally offers a pretty good range of movies, TV and documentaries to view, along with some live TV. The movie selection isn’t quite what you might expect – though they boast that they offer thousands of titles, many are in Arabic or various Indian languages!

If you are travelling on a Skywards membership and have an appropriate membership level, you get free wi-fi. If you don’t have Skywards, you’ll get 20MB free. Turn off all your data except WhatsApp, and it will get you through most of the flight.

What’s the food like?

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I have to admit, business class food on Emirates is one of the low points of the flight for me. Yes, its served to you on china, with real utensils. However, its still airplane food. It is a rare occasion that I enjoy the main meal on offer on the flights, of which there are three choices.

You start with a drink of your choice and a sizable bowl of mixed nuts. I say sizable because I always remember Air New Zealand actually seemed to count out six cashew nuts onto the tray in Business Premier. Why even bother?

Following this, your table will be made up. Firstly, you are served a bread of some type, a side salad, and your entree. The entree is usually pretty good, and Arabic mezze, soup, or a cold meat dish usually feature. You’re served water with the meal, and copious amounts of champagne and wine are offered during the meal service.

The (typically mediocre) main is served next. I usually skip this and only request the entree and dessert. The nicest main I have had to date was Nasi Goreng. Apparently, you can’t even mess that up on a plane! The place where Emirates really shines, though, is its desserts. They are delicious. Again, there are three to choose from. I have tried most of them. Following dessert, you’ll be given some luxury chocolates, and more wine if you are into it.

On this flight, we were served dinner and breakfast, with snacks available throughout the night. I always find plane breakfast a bit ho hum, so tend to opt for the scrambled eggs. I swore off airline poached plane eggs after finding out Air New Zealand used to inject oil into theirs. Shudder. You can also go for a light option, and if you do, they offer you some pretty tasty muffins.

The light meals, which you can order during the night, are actually pretty good. I love the sandwiches!

I heard there is a bar?

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Yes, there is a bar. I always thought it was a bit of a novelty, but I have actually hung out in the bar on my last few flights. If it’s not too turbulent, its a lovely place to sit. When Matt and I travel together, we often sit there.

You can order from a range of drinks, including a rather impressive cocktail list. The cocktails are surprisingly good. I usually opt for a classic Gin & Tonic. Once, I had three Old Fashioned’s during an eight hour flight, and I just about passed out. They’re all free, so yeah, my cheapskate instinct kicked in.

The best thing about the bar, though? It often has this really, really tasty almond and lemon cake on the counter. Yum. There is usually a handy supply of junk food down there too. If you get there early enough in the flight, you can stock up on Emirates branded M&Ms and Pringles. Sometimes, the Cabin Crew also randomly serve ice-cream in the middle of the night, if you happen to be awake!

Is the bathroom fancy?

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No. Sorry to disappoint. It’s just a bathroom. Airplane bathrooms are always gross. The only benefit is that you are sharing it with less people. And if you’re an absolute hoarder, you might be able to get yourself some free Voya hand moisturizer.

Whats the service like?

Service quality always varies a bit, but of the flights I’ve done with Emirates in business class, about 95% of them had brilliant service. Ok, it’s often not a ‘warm’ type of service – but its efficient. The staff are friendly enough, and most staff are willing to do whatever they can to help you out. You certainly never go lacking food or drink. I really rate Emirates on its service, and generally, in business class, its extremely good.

The thing is, ironically, the key elements that make business class more comfortable for me – apart from the obvious lie flat bed – are aisle access, being able to use the bathroom when needed, and ready access to water and drinks. They’re not really big, fancy service elements. But they are the factors that make air travel infinitely more comfortable.

What’s is like at the end of the flight?

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Just like priority boarding at the front end, you generally get let off first. However, on the A380, sometimes this results in dual disembarking – so the bottom deck gets off as you do! This isn’t ideal, because – dependent on which airport you visit – getting off first can be a real time saver. In Moscow, for example, it can make for a 15 minute wait instead of a two hour one.

If you’re disembarking in Dubai, you’ll get your own snazzy business class bus, which is nice and roomy. Even if there is just you in the business class cabin. It’s happened to me. You’ll also get a priority immigration card, but the service at Dubai International Airport is usually so fast moving, that it doesn’t make much of a difference. You’ll occasionally be given a priority immigration card in foreign countries – we recently received them when traveling to Nice.

How can I fly business class?

If you don’t want to spend your pennies, you might get lucky with an upgrade. Generally, however, the best way to get into business class is to gather up your air miles and look for upgrade options on quieter flights. This applies for just about all full service airlines. If you’re looking for some advice on the best credit card mile programmes around, take a look at The Points Guy.

Lastly, if you are going to spend your hard-earned miles on a flight, check which plane is operating it. There is a considerably higher level of quality in the products on offer on the A380 when compared to the B777 on Emirates. Choose wisely!


So, there you have it. A quick run through of what to expect on your flight in business class. It’s not quite as luxurious as it once was, but it’s still amazing to experience if you have the chance. What are you waiting for? Gather those miles and get flying!

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The 58th Floor is the travel and lifestyle blog of Belinda Birchall, based in Dubai. It provides advice and information on travel throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as useful information for living in Dubai - and anything else of interest!

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