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Review: Emirates A380 Business Class (DXB-LGW)

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Review Overview

I was harassed by the purser who made up his own photography policies, though I haven't let that affect the rating. Emirates offers a solid experience on their A380 with some over-the-top elements, though the product is aging.


With all the glamour that Emirates’ A380 has boasted over the past decade, I knew I had to try it out at some point. Emirates introduced their A380 in 2008, and it started the innovation of inflight amenities such as onboard showers and bars that we see on quite a few different airlines today. Over time, though, the actual hard product on Emirates’ A380 became slightly less competitive, especially as it competed with newer revolutionary products such as Qatar Airways’ QSuite, so I was curious how it would fare in the grand scheme of things in 2019.

Now, I need to note that my flight experience was hindered by a purser who accused me of taking photos that were against the rules (he had the rules mixed up, and I’m still trying to sort things out with Emirates to see how this never happens to other airline bloggers out there). I’ll obviously mention it in the report below, though I’m going to strive to make this report as objective as possible, as my experience – prior to my interaction with the purser, of course – was stellar.

Booking Emirates A380 Business Class

While there are many opportunities to redeem miles for Emirates’ A380 business class, in this case I had to pay a full-fare one-way cash ticket due to a lack of award space for the dates we needed. I paid HK$23,000 for a one-way ticket from Hong Kong to London Gatwick via Dubai (including change fees), which would allow me to sample Emirates’ 777 and A380 business class.

I don’t recommend you pay one-way for an Asia-Europe ticket at this price, though Emirates does some cheap point-to-point roundtrip business class fares (which my dad originally purchased before we had to change our flight last-minute). Additionally, there are many opportunities to earn Skywards miles, which you can redeem Emirates business class tickets with.

Emirates A380 Business Class Boarding

Anyway, my Emirates A380 experience began at the boarding gate B17, where boarding started at around 2:10 PM. It’s worth mentioning that as a business class passenger I could board this flight through a separate entrance for premium passengers, right outside the lounge – however, boarding starts a few minutes later for the upper deck, so boarding from the main gate area afforded me a couple of extra minutes to photograph Emirates’ beautiful A380 cabin.

a plane on the runway
Emirates Airbus A380 Dubai Airport

I was one of the first onboard the Emirates A380, and boarded through the lower deck.

Emirates Flight EK9
Saturday, September 21, 2019
Origin: Dubai (DXB) Gate: B17 Dep: 14:55 (15:05)
Destination: London (LGW) Gate: 110 Arr: 19:45 (19:30)
Duration: 7 h 50 min (7 h 25 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A380 Reg: A6-EUT
Seat: 25K (Business Class)

Since I boarded from the lower deck, I walked into Emirates’ A380 economy cabin, which looked quite spacious. I’ve heard great things about Emirates’ A380 economy class, as they’ve customised their own seat (instead of taking an off-the-shelf version from Recaro or something).

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Emirates Airbus A380 Economy Class

Emirates’ A380 features a lower deck that exclusively fits 427 economy seats. The upper deck features 14 first class seats followed by 76 business class seats, and behind that is the bar at the back of the upper deck. Since I was in business class, I walked up the stairs to reach my seat.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Stairs to Upper Deck

This meant that I got to walk through Emirates’ gaudy first class cabin, equipped in a 1-2-1 configuration. These first class cabins have also been around for 10+ years, so they’ve gone from being the best out there to being somewhat above average. Despite that, what makes Emirates’ A380 first class experience so special is the onboard shower spa, which I couldn’t check out on this flight.

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Emirates Airbus A380 First Class

Emirates A380 Business Class Cabin and Seat

So I schlepped my way back to the business class cabin. Emirates’ A380 business class cabin features a Solstys-style staggered configuration, where seats alternate between being near the window/middle and near the aisle. There’s a massive forward cabin that features 58 business class seats spread across 15 rows (row 6 only features two middle seats). I was welcomed by crewmember Rachel, and asked her if I could take a few pictures of the cabin – she obliged.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Forward Cabin

Then there’s a rear business class cabin, which features 18 seats spread across five rows (row 22 only features two middle seats as well). Conventionally on most airlines I’d recommend sitting in the mini-cabin, as it’s got less foot traffic; this is especially true on the A380, since in most cases economy passengers don’t walk past you to get to their own seat. However, Emirates’ highly regarded A380 bar is situated right behind the mini-cabin, as well as all four bathrooms; for that reason, I’d recommend against choosing the mini-cabin on Emirates’ A380.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Rear Cabin

In my case I booked my flight around two weeks prior to departure, so the only windowside seats left were in the rear mini-cabin. I’d selected seat 25K, a windowside seat in the second last row of the mini-cabin. As you can see, due to the console separating my seat from the aisle, I had quite a bit of privacy.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Seat 25K

I’d selected a similar seat for my dad, but put him in the bulkhead in 23K. This seat featured a slightly bigger ottoman due to a lack of a seat in front, but otherwise wasn’t much different from the seat I’d picked for myself.

a window in an airplane
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Seat 23K

Below is a picture of one of the seats closer to the aisle. As you can see below, the console is located between the seat and the window, as opposed to between the seat and the aisle. This means that there’s no separation between the seat and the aisle, making for a much less private seat. I’d do anything in my power to avoid one of these seats, even if it means sitting further back in the cabin.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Seat 24J

Meanwhile in the center, seats alternated between “honeymoon” seats, and those closer to the aisle. “Honeymoon” seats are seats that are positioned right next to each other (pictured below, by the left); they’re ideal if you’re next to someone you want to snuggle up to, but otherwise I’d avoid these seats, as you’re basically seated as close to your seatmate as you would be in economy. In Emirates’ case, being seated next to a stranger isn’t too much of a problem, since there is a substantial privacy divider (pushed up in the picture below).

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Honeymoon Seats

Meanwhile some seats are further from each other and closer to the aisle. If you’re not a fan of privacy and have a fear of heights, maybe this would be a seat for you – otherwise I’m not sure why you’d pick one of these seats.

a seat with a pillow and a screen on it
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Seat 26G

In fact, the seat pictured below is 26G, less than a foot from the bar – it’s probably one of the least desirable in the cabin, due to noise pollution from the bar and the lack of privacy. The other of these seats are 26B, 26D and 26J – all of these seats are close to the aisle, and are also less than a foot from the bar, which may potentially lead to a very noisy flight.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Seats by Bar

I was very happy at my seat, 25K. I found the huge A380 storage bins to my right – all A380s feature storage bins on the upper deck due to the plane’s curvature, and they’re super handy. These storage bins are easily big enough to fit a backpack or a camera bag, and almost completely eliminate the need to retrieve items from the overhead bins. Do note that only the window seats (including those closer to the aisle, but not the center seats) feature these storage bins, however.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Storage Bin

In fact, for the same reason, Emirates scrapped the overhead bins by the windows, making for an open, airy feel. This generally works well, but the side storage bins are slightly too small for bigger backpacks or roller bags, which means some passengers seated in window seats might have to use up some storage space in the center bins.

a plane with a television screen
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Overhead Bins

To the left of my seat by the console was a minibar with a sliding partition of sorts for opening and closing. This bar was created as more of a novelty feature, since you can easily get a cold drink from a flight attendant. Regardless, I appreciated having easy access to bottled water. Above this area was a small storage space, fit for a phone or a pencil case.

a shelf with bottles and glass on it
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Minibar

Beside the minibar were the power ports. There was a 110V power port, two USB ports, a headphone jack, and an HDMI port. Beside that was a reading light.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Seat-side Power Ports

To the left of me was a “mode controller” which served as a TV remote. This was wirelessly connected to the TV, and I could take it out of its dock if I so desired (this was an issue on the 777). It was touchscreen-responsive enough to operate, though nowhere near as responsive as an iPad.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Mode Controller

To the left where some basic seat controls, though more extensive seat controls were accessible on the TV (and also with the mode controller).

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Seat Controls

In front of me was an ottoman, which was a good size and sufficient for tossing and turning. Below the ottoman was a storage area to fit a small bag or even a laptop during meal services – there was definitely no shortage of storage here!

a small bed in a small room
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Ottoman

a carpeted stairs in a small room
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Ottoman Storage

The TV was located in front of the seat, and outlined with faux wood. Much like the mode controller, the screen was on the responsive side, though some revamps would definitely be appreciated.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class TV

The tray table folded out of the armrest, and was quite sturdy and thick. I quite liked it.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Tray Table

Overall, I was very glad to have snagged one of the window seats, and couldn’t wait to spend my flight in it.

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Seated in Emirates A380 Business Class

All seats featured power ports. This wasn’t a huge issue on this flight as the cabin was kept relatively cool, though I did appreciate that you had control over the temperature at your seat.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Air Nozzles

In addition, the blinds on this flight were also electronic, much like what I’d experienced on the 777.

While Emirates’ A380s have been around for a while, this particular aircraft was less than three years old, so I was quite sad that there was already a lot of wear and tear at the seat. Apart from the battered armrest shown below, the ottoman was worn, and there were scratches around the seat as well.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Wear and Tear at Seat

Speaking of decor, I’ve seen many reviews criticising Emirates’ decor on a whole to be overly gaudy and vomit-like. Maybe I’m just accustomed to the decor since I’ve seen it online so many times, though I didn’t mind it, and though it was quite nice when under mood lighting.

Emirates A380 Business Class Pre-Departure Service

Once I got in my seat I was offered a pre-departure beverage by crewmember Melinda. I selected champagne, which was Möet and Chandon Impérial Brut – crisp and fresh, though I preferred the champagne in the Möet and Chandon bar at the lounge.

a glass of champagne on a tray
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Champagne

Emirates A380 Business Class Lavatory

While the cabin continued to fill up, I used the lavatory, which was located behind the bar. The lavatory also featured the same blingy decor as the rest of the cabin, as well as a window. It also featured real towels, which I really appreciated – it got quite dry mid-flight and I ran out of facial moisturiser, so I used these to keep my face somewhat moist.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Lavatory

Takeoff from Dubai Airport

The cabin filled up at around 2:50 PM, and the safety video played.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Safety Video

After the safety video we began to push back, and captain Chris came on the PA. His announcement was very detailed – he mentioned our flight time of 7 hours and 4 minutes, our cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, and he also said that those on the left side would be able to catch some nice views over the city.

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Taxiing Dubai Airport

While we were taxiing, crewmember Rachel came over to introduce herself, informing me that the crewmembers on the flight came from 17 countries and spoke 15 languages – wow! She also explained some of the seat’s features, which I appreciated.

We had a bit of a lengthy taxi, but by 3:20 PM our gigantic A380 was rocketing into the air. It had been a while since I’d last flown an A380, so I once again marvelled at how quiet the aircraft was; while we weren’t on the left side, we still caught some decent views over Dubai.

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Takeoff Dubai Airport

Emirates A380 Business Class Bed

Shortly after takeoff, male crewmember Issam came and asked if I wanted to have my bed made. I didn’t mind some extra padding, so asked for a mattress – the mattress itself was thick and plush, and added substantial comfort in bed mode.

a seat in an airplane
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Bedding

I ended up making my own bed later in the flight, pictured below. The bed was long enough for me, and I thought the padding was very good, especially helped by the substantial mattress pad.

a bottle of water on a bed
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Bed

Emirates A380 Business Class Bar

Around that point, the bartender Olga finished setting up, so I went over and took a picture. Olga made sure that I didn’t take any pictures of the bar until she had finished setting up, which I understood.

While this route (EK 9) is usually run by an Emirates A380 featuring their refurbished bar, which they introduced last year, today we were flying one of the last Emirates aircraft delivered with an old bar. Still, though, it was nice to have a place to sit and socialise, and despite its age, Emirates’ A380 features the most well-equipped inflight bar I’ve experienced so far.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Bar

I had the chance to briefly talk to Olga and a couple of passengers, including a mechanical engineer (that’s the degree I’m taking at Imperial College, so it was especially interesting to talk to him). I also met a guy who was flying back to London after proposing in the Maldives, which was so cool.

Emirates A380 Business Class Meal Service

Around an hour after takeoff, we were served lunch.

The lunch menu for this flight read as follows:

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Menu

For the drinks menu/wine list, check out my review of Emirates’ 777, which featured an identical beverage selection. Orders for starters and mains were taken right after takeoff, though they didn’t come until around an hour after takeoff. This is because Emirates serves rows 6-16 first before moving on to rows 17-26, so it was quite a while before my seat in row 25 was served.

For my starter I ordered the roasted tomato soup. It was a touch on the salty side, though very flavourful – the side salad it came with was less so.

a bowl of soup and a bread on a table
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Appetiser – Roasted Tomato Soup

For my main course I ordered a very flavourful and well-executed seafood machbous.

a plate of rice and salad on a table
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Main Course – Seafood Machbous

I had the chance to talk to a guy my age who was travelling to London while living in Dubai. They were serving dessert while we were talking, so I asked if I could be served my dessert at the bar, to which Olga keenly obliged. The dessert was refreshing and quite delicious.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Dessert – Mango Mille-Feuille

We were somewhere over northern Iraq as the meal service finished, so we had views of some textured mountains on our way.

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View from Dubai to London

The lunch service was very good. I was mainly served by Issam, and he was a treat. He was incredibly nice and engaging, and I got to learn quite a bit about him later in the bar later on. However, I do have to say that the meal service was on the slow side – it was a good couple hours after it was done, and that’s to do with how huge the cabin was. It wasn’t a problem for me since I was having fun at the bar on a daytime flight, though I’d take a bit more issue with it on a short redeye to London.

Inflight in Emirates A380 Business Class

I checked out the forward cabin after the meal service. The crew turned on mood lighting after the meal service, which made the cabin look quite sleek, in my opinion.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Cabin After Meal Service

Olga set up some mini-snacks such as chocolate bars that we could take from the bar if we so desired.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Snacks at Bar

At this point Issam offered to take a Polaroid photo of me. Another gimmick onboard Emirates’ A380 is that they have a few Polaroid cameras onboard, so I took advantage of the opportunity to get my photo taken!

a man sitting at a bar
Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Polaroid Photo

At this point I wanted to check out economy class, and Melinda was glad to bring me through the cabin (though she did ask me not to take photos after I shot the below photo). While no one wants to be stuck in a 10-abreast economy class configuration, Emirates’ A380 economy seats looked quite pleasant, and quite wide, with massive TV screens.

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Emirates Airbus A380 Economy Class

Back at my seat I had a short nap, since I’d had a pretty long day of flying and wasn’t on very much sleep. I slept for around an hour and a half, though stopped myself from sleeping beyond that, as I wanted to get a good night of sleep once I reached London.

Emirates A380 Business Class WiFi

While I didn’t have much energy to work on this flight, I did stay connected throughout most of the flight, since I’d received free Emirates WiFi (as I’d attached my Skywards frequent flyer number to my reservation, and was flying in business class). The WiFi was quite patchy at times, especially near Iraq/Turkey, though it did work a majority of the time. Speeds clocked in at about 3.57 Mbps down and 0.20 Mbps up. WiFi is free for all Skywards members in first/business class, and Gold/Platinum members in economy; all other passengers received 20 MB of WiFi for free, and could pay 9.99 USD for 150 MB of WiFi or 15.99 USD for 500 MB of WiFi.

Clashing With Purser (And His Made-Up Rules) in Emirates Business Class

It was at around this point that purser Hatem came over and (wrongly) accused me of breaking rules by photographing my seat and services. Now, I won’t rehash the incident, rather than saying that it was very unfair of Hatem to stop me from reviewing the flight without having a look at the inflight rules himself. He was also quite rude about it, even though I tried my best to be nice (despite clearly knowing that he was in the wrong, and even using inflight WiFi to show him evidence). Hatem even tried to stop me from going online to search up Emirates’ photography policy, though I was connected to inflight WiFi, so knew better than he did. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do at this point – Rachel, Issam and Olga all came to me and asked if I was okay after I was confronted, and Issam even made the effort to specifically told me that I had express permission to post my footage of him.

Now, obviously I haven’t followed through with any of Hatem’s words, as this report is up in full; I’ve also emailed Emirates, who have apologised and granted me permission to post the photos I took, and I’m awaiting a reply on what consequences Hatem will have for treating a passenger the way he did. Regardless, I’m not too bummed about it, as I got most of the footage I wanted to and have clearly won my case against him. Even the new friends I’d met at the bar expressed shock over how I’d been treated. To clarify, I’d never taken photos of crewmembers without their permission; the confrontation specifically regarded pictures of my seat, which I paid for, and the amenities/soft product I was served, which I also paid for.

Emirates A380 Business Class Pre-Arrival Meal

This was the reason I couldn’t photograph the second meal service. I just had a few scones, which were served with jam and clotted cream. I wish the scones were heated up, though otherwise they were fine.

Landing into Gatwick Airport

Olga helped me ask Hatem if I could take pictures out of the window, as I knew we’d be able to see a sunset. Even Hatem’s made-up policies couldn’t stop me from enjoying the view out of the window as we slowly neared Gatwick. Even when I asked him for his business card, his demeanour continued to be rude, which I didn’t enjoy.

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Sunset Approaching London Gatwick

The cabin was readied for landing about 45 minutes before we descended into Gatwick, which I consider to be a little too long. I was busy trying to escalate the situation Hatem created with a couple of friends, as the inflight WiFi worked up until about 30 minutes before landing, so I wasn’t too bothered by the overly early pre-landing checks. In addition, I recognise that the A380 is a big plane, so takes a little longer to be checked for landing.

It was dusk as we landed into Gatwick, and we touched down at around 7:30 PM. We then had a short taxi to gate 110, Gatwick’s North Terminal A380 gate.

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Arriving at London Gatwick

I bid farewell to most of the crew before exiting the A380 (Hatem was nowhere to be found). Unfortunately I found Gatwick to be a bit of a mess, and would avoid flying into the airport in the future. There was also no priority lane at immigration for business class passengers, unlike at Heathrow Airport. The normal lane didn’t take too long though, and by 8:15 PM we’d retrieved our bags and made our way towards Emirates’ chauffeur service counter.

We’d arranged a chauffeur ride through Emirates’ chauffeur booking system, and I’d requested for an MPS van on Emirates’ Twitter website so my dad and I could get to the hotel together. Unfortunately, despite Emirates’ Twitter team confirming my request, the chauffeur team at Gatwick never received it; thankfully the chauffeur was nice enough to try and accommodate our three bags as well as the two of us in his five-seater vehicle.

Conclusion: Emirates A380 Business Class

Ah, this was a hard report to write. Despite Hatem’s antics, I can’t overlook the fact that the other crewmembers (Olga, Issam and Rachel in particular) were spectacular. Emirates’ A380 is starting to show its age, though it still has an objectively good hard product; the bar is a huge asset to the experience, and I understand why Emirates’ A380 is such a “fun” experience – the little investments, including the pointless minibar, the bar itself, the Polaroid camera, etc. add up to an experience worth looking forward to. In addition, the seat itself is comfortable, and they’ve got the amenities right; I also thought the food was good on this flight.

Service does get a bit slow on the A380, though, since there are so many people to feed during a single meal service. The bar’s a good place to pass that time during a day flight, though that might not be as good of an idea on a nighttime flight. Despite that, due to the infinitely superior hard product and the mini-investments Emirates put into the experience that are exclusive to this plane, I’d recommend Emirates’ A380 any day over the 777.

I wish I hadn’t left this flight with such a sour taste in my mouth, but…

Read more from this trip:

Have you flown Emirates’ A380 in business class before? How was your experience? Do you think I was in the wrong, regarding Hatem and his confrontation?

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