2017 began with a bang for me. I took 10+ flights in January itself, followed by a few more flights. By March I had already done 30+ flights across both domestic & international sectors. I had a few business class trips but on most others, I had to be crammed up in the economy.
I got to fly Emirates First Class on the NYC to DXB leg for my trip back home earlier this month. And I must say that has been the highlight of this year. The last First Class flight I remember taking was from Zurich to Christchurch, a couple of years back. And of course, it wasn’t in an A380 around that time. So buckle up, this is going to be a pretty detailed review. Afteral it was by far the best flying experience I have ever had.
The Emirates First Class experience begins before you even step into the airport. Their complimentary chauffer-drive service is available in over 70 cities around the globe (NYC include of course). They make sure you are picked up from the city and arrive at the airport in style & perfect timing. Whether you wanna arrive just in time for boarding or you would want to spend some time in their exclusive lounges or indulge in some duty-free shopping, their chauffer-drive service will take care of it.
P.S. Emirates Chauffer-drive is also available to Business Class fliers. You will have to reserve your ride at least 48 hours prior.
Owing to the heavy rain in New York and subway delays I had to take to Uber to get me to the JFK (there goes $75 for a ride in another substandard Camry. Think of the feeling when you are matched with an Indica instead of an Etios in India).
Plus I forgot to reserve my chauffeur-drive 48 hours prior. :p
Meet & Greet, dedicated check-in
The best part of being on an Emirates chauffeur-drive car is the personal meet & greet you receive from the staff when you reach the airport. I have availed their chauffeur service in Dubai & Paris earlier on Business Class flights and they drop you off at a dedicated gate at the airport; away from the crowds and the ruckus that comes with international airports like JFK. I would presume it wouldn’t be different for First-Class drop off as well; if not better!
As for me, my Meet & Greet happened after I had checked in, upgraded myself and collected my boarding pass. I was escorted by their lovely staff (sorry didn’t manage to catch her name), who helped me breeze through security & immigration and finally checked me into the Exclusive Emirates Lounge in JFK.
Accessible to both Business Class & First Class fliers, the Emirates Lounge at JFK is better than most lounges that I have seen in international airports. And I must say, it is way above what Priority Pass would get you access to
(you can gain access to WingTips Lounge using your Priority Pass at JFK but beware they close access to pass holders to accommodate airline loyalty member during rush hours).
To my surprise, the Emirates Lounge at JFK is pretty huge which is rare for most airlines outside their hubs (A few others which come close according to me include Etihad’s First Class Lounge in Paris and Cathay Pacific’s Business Class Lounge at Haneda Airport; both of them are simply amazing for a stop before hopping onto the plane).
The place wasn’t really crowded with only a few souls around. To start with, it had a fully functional business center with access to workstations, printers, phone lines (for both local & national calls). And as you would expect, yes everything is on-the-house.
To follow this, were a couple of showers at the Emirates Lounge. Nothing fancy but they were spotlessly clean and came with fresh towels and toiletries. Just the thing you would wish for before jumping onto your 14 hour leg to Dubai.
(unless of course you are flying first class and would want to shower at 40K feet)
And finally, the food spread at this place. So you’ve got a pretty wide range of choices on the buffet spread. You have got ample choices for all-day breakfast, cold foods, juices, and desserts. Not to forget the pretty wide spread of hot foods covering most international cuisines. And to complete the package, you do get access to a variety of mid-shelf liquor as well as a few top-shelf options including Veuve Clicquot.
I spent about two hours in the lounge before they were ready for boarding. Most of it was spent either answering work emails or hogging on the big spread I mentioned above.
To add the cherry on top, you can access your flight right from the lounge itself. Your dedicated access to the aerobridge through the lounge just makes the entire experience a bit more elite. It’s pretty amazing actually. So there goes the Emirates Lounge at JFK International, New York.
Up Next: The real deal behind the $21K ticket. Emirates First Class experience aboard the Airbus A380
Flight Seating & Configuration
The first class suites in Emirates A380 are arranged in 1-2-1 configuration with each suite having access to the aisle. I picked the window suite 1K for this leg. I must say the cabin looks much spacious since there are no overhead bins.
The suites were pretty well placed I would say. Although they did feel a bit crowded in the beginning (14 suites in First Class isn’t a small number), but you soon realize they maintain your privacy very very well. The configuration is such that you don’t really see any other flier while you are in your suite.
The first thing to strike me as I entered the cabin was the opulence of the whole place. Detailed in shades of gold, coupled with lighted mirrors that welcome you in. Emirates indeed is against the idea of minimalism that one might see in Air France or Cathay Pacific’s premium classes. I mean, if you are up for a bit of bling and love detailed decors, you are in for a real treat.
Closing the two doors to my window suite created a truly private space complete with the most ergonomic seat at 40K feet. You can control all possible positions of your seat as well as work on its in-built massage system at the touch of a button right on your arm-rest. And the best part about this? You can turn it into a fully flat bed at the push of a button; a member of the cabin crew will help you with a mattress, pillows, and duvet to make sure you sleep like a baby at even 40K feet.
The First Class suites like on any other airline are always about over-the-top additions and amenities that are supposed to add a sense of exclusivity and eliteness into your flying experience. And Emirates has indeed done a fabulous job to make that happen. What would you want to know about? I am not going to run into details of every single nook and corner of the suite like every other blog out there. Here are some of the best additions in my opinion.
- In-seat minibar
This by far has to be the best feature topping all other business class and first class flights I have taken till date. The freedom of grabbing a drink whenever you want without having to wait for the crew is indeed pretty handy (they do make sure that it’s stocked up all through the flight).
- The night stand & fold-up mirror
Although I didn’t really have the need to fix my hair or makeup before heading out of my suite but in my opinion its an ingenious addition to enabling people to take care of small little fixes right within their suites. To complete the picture they had a night lamp on the counter (just made the whole set-up look pretty instead of letting it be one big empty space).
- The massive entertainment system
Well for in-flight standards, a 32 inch TV is pretty massive. We already know about Emirates’s ICE which boasts the largest collection of multimedia content in the air (1800+ channels, on-demand, and multi-language support). Complete with noise-cancellation headphones, it’s just as if you have your very own home theater system in your suite.
- From PJs to shaving kits
It’s just a different feeling when you get to slip into your PJs at the end of the day and snuggle into your bed. Imagine getting to do the same mid-flight. Emirates First Class comes with your very own set of PJs and amenities kit, complete with a razor, shaving cream, deodorant, and not to forget the lotions & cologne from Bulgari.
- Shower at 40K feet
(scroll down to read about this :p)
- Ample storage space
At first glimpse, the First Class does tend to confuse most people as I have read in many reviews out there. But rest assured there’s more than enough storage for your belongings. You have your own personal closet space to hang your coats and shirts. Then there’s the storage space next to your seat and finally, you have the huge space underneath the nightstand.
Rest assured, there a lot more I haven’t talked and let that be a surprise for when you hit First Class next time. (or you can always check out the scores of reviews out there describing the suite inch by inch).
Moving on, we get onto the best part of the entire First Class experience aboard the Emirates A380.
Dining in First Class
Countless online reviews and video blogs have touched upon this topic for quite some time now and I find no reason to disagree with them. The best part of this 14-hour ride is its food. In my opinion, that’s pretty much the highlight (of course not to forget the shower at 40K feet in the air).
Unlike every other review, I don’t really plan to show you many pictures of everything that I ate and describe how they tasted, rather I would let the menu speak for itself. Here’s the pretty extensive menu they serve in First Class. I must say, most mainstream restaurants on the ground have a shorter menu. Talk about ‘Living life king-size’, I guess this is where it starts!
Talk about too many options to choose from! The best part is the whole on-demand service which lets you order anything off the menu anytime you want. Janice (if I remember correctly) was the chief stewardess in the cabin during my flight; I remember getting into a funny conversation with her trying to know if anybody has ordered the entire menu during the 14-hour flight. Turns out it hasn’t happened yet in any of her flights.
Talking about portions and accompaniments. The presentation and taste of every single choice I picked were indeed upto the promised fine dine standards. Emirates does take care of every single detail; from the choice of cutlery to the accompanying syrups/sauces. Everything is made & served to perfection. You would need to experience their ‘A La Carte’ service to truly appreciate what I am talking about. Trust me when I say this, it’s totally worth it!
I am sure you must have heard about the onboard bar in Emirates A380 flights. This is accessible to both business class & first class fliers and hosts a bartender throughout the duration of flight. Options here include rare spirits, exclusive wines, champagne, cocktails & beers along with hot and cold beverages.
The business class bar is pretty spacious with ample space to sit and enjoy a drink. One can find this place buzzing with life throughout the flight. But to be in First Class should mean exclusivity, right! Emirates has taken care of that again. You have a smaller walk-up bar exclusive to first class fliers where you can help yourself to a snack or enjoy a fine drink. One of the crew members will be happy to assist you should you need any help figuring out the options here.
Right before the descent begins, the bar is transformed into a lounge with a mini-waterfall and fake candles. Ask me why! Cause’ its EMIRATES!
Emirates A380 Shower Spa
Before we touchdown, it’s pretty essential that we talk about the Emirates Shower Spa. Afteral its one of a kind and does make your flying experience unique and truly exclusive.
The two showers are located within the First Class lavatories towards the front of the aircraft. Did I mention the showers are equipped with heated floors! With plush towels, Bulgari toiletries and Timeless Spa products to accompany you, it’s quite surreal to enjoy a refreshing shower at 40,000 feet. It’s truly remarkable.
You get 5 minutes of running water but surely you can switch it on and off as often you like during your allotted 30 minutes time. You can adjust the water temperature, flow as well as play around with the heated floors to bring it up to your fancy.
First Class Arrivals
When you travel like the 1%, the Emirates experience doesn’t end when the plane hits the tarmac. It goes beyond and once again helps you breeze through immigration, security and all the way to your destination in Dubai (JW Marriott Marquis in this case).
Although I didn’t get a chance to pre-book my chauffeur service while I was in New York, the airline crew was pretty helpful to get some strings pulled for me. I had requested if they could see that a car could pick me up at Dubai airport and that I didn’t have a reservation. Right before landing, they did inform me that they were able to get hold of a car and that I would be taken care of.
After my flight hit the parking brakes, I was escorted by the ground staff who helped me fast-track through immigration and into the chauffeur-drive lounge. It’s pretty basic none-the-less. You can grab a quick snack or a drink while you wait for your car to arrive. After hardly 15 minutes of wait, I was picked up in an almost new Mercedes E-Class. To make the trip worthwhile, you have an onboard entertainment system, some magazines and of course where would Emirates take you without a minibar with some snacks and drinks to give you company.
You might have already guessed it from my review above. I absolutely loved the First Class experience with Emirates. They made sure the crew went beyond simple customer service and did everything in their power to make my experience a true delight. I loved how they could hook me up with the chauffeur service in Dubai even though I had only informed them right before take-off. I loved the way how the crew would take care of all your requests throughout the 13-14 hour flight without fail. It truly showcases going beyond the call of simple duty. And it truly showcases a first class worthy service in my opinion.
Coming onto the money; well, a lot have argued over how much of a ‘value for money’ is the Emirates First Class experience. To be honest, it a pretty subjective matter. In my opinion shelling out $21K to travel like the ‘1 percenters’ is pretty worth it with Emirates. There only so much an airline can do at 40K feet and Emirates does more than expected.
Here’s to one amazing experience and look forward to flying Emirates First Class sometime soon again.