Book your flights on Emirates here.
Emirates has built a reputation for ultimate luxury over the years and I was curious excited to experience the only airplane with a working shower combined with the Emirates First Class service.
Believe it or not, but I wasn't able to use the shower at all!
Of course my expectations were built up for this flight, given the other airlines that have impressed me (especially Cathay Pacific First Class on my latest flight but also Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Asiana) so I was expecting Emirates to easily match or shame them. I did not happen…
My chauffeur driver showed up at my hotel 15 minutes early. That was perfect, since I wasn't sure if he would find the hotel as it was not in the list when booking the chauffeur service through the Emirates website.
The black Mercedes was well-cooled and the driver was friendly, cheerful and fluent in English. This was a good start to the day!
Things started to come apart when checking-in – the drop-off area for Premium cabin passengers was crowded and once I made my way to the lines for First Class check-in, they were 10-person deep. There were only 3 counters open for a seemingly endless stream of people. Business Class had a dozen counters open, but even more people in each line.
The wait was about 20 minutes – not crazy, but for international First Class that's pretty bad 🙁 The agent seemed to have had a rough night and brushed off my (friendly!!) comment with, "That's normal here in the morning; always crowded". I understand Emirates does not have control over staff at remote outstations, but under-staffing the First and Business Class counters with overworked agents seems not too good an idea at their own hub, which they have full control over.
Immigration and security had no wait, which was a bit of a surprise, but security was VERY light. I fully expected a secondary security (like they do in Abu Dhabi) but it never happened for me on my flight to LAX.
There were no signs for the lounges, so I proceeded to the crowded train that takes all passengers to the gates. Once disembarked, I realized that the Business and First Class lounges are basically a whole airport floor.
Since the elevator would not work, I could not use the upper air bridge, but the lower one wasn't too crowded and neither was this flight. Economy and Business Class cabins were just half full (it was Black Friday and much fewer Americans probably want to travel on that day). Just 90% of First Class was full – never seen that before.
The suite was very similar to my flight a couple of days earlier with Emirates First Class on the A340.
In comparison, the new suite on the A380 is bigger, with a huge bright screen and more advanced controls. There is so much color and gold that it's a little hard to focus initially.
Again, the Emirates seat has no ottoman and if you are tall your feet keep dangling. It is wide and spacious enough, though not as wide as Cathay Pacific. Emirates puts 4 suites across in the A 380 upper deck.
I'm still not sure why you need a non-alcoholic mini bar in First Class – there is always a call button and flight attendants are ready to serve you a drink. Plus the drinks are NOT chilled in the minibar so it's a bit strange.
There is a snack basket with chocolate bars placed in your suite and left until arrival. Again, I feel that isn't necessary with the a la carte menu. It just clutters the space.
I did try the Indian food for breakfast and it wasn't any good. I also tried one of the desserts and it barely had any taste.
Since I started taking my own movies, I usually watch movies on my laptop with my headset, so I did not get to use the ice entertainment system much. The screen is bright, the controls respond well and there are many movies and TV shows. There aren't as many TV shows as I remember – maybe Emirates cut down on the size of the hard drives?
Lunch service was true a highlight and my flight began to shine. I tried several options including Indian and Italian and they were all fantastic. The Paso Robles Syrah I chose was equally great. Lunch certainly ranks as one of the best airline meals I've ever had! The flight attendants also seemed to be less hurried and service was perfect from here on.
After watching yet another movie, we were approaching the North Pole and I was hoping for some sleep. The seat reclines to an almost flat position and the flight attendants added a mattress pad and duvet to my seat. It looks fully-flat but the seat back is a couple of degrees up. Since planes fly a bit tilted upwards, this comes down to almost 180 degrees. However, since there is no ottoman, I felt my feet slightly dangling off the seat (I'm 6'3). It was comfortable, but not as good as Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines First Class seats.
I had planned to shower 2 hours before landing and reserved a slot with the flight attendant. However, when the time came, I was still sound asleep and although I was woken up, I thought I'd give away the slot and gamble for a later slot. With 14 passengers all wanting to have a 25-minute shower in the two on-board spas 2 hours before landing, something needs to give; unfortunately, it was my shower time 🙁 40 minutes before landing, everyone was done and I inquired for a shower, but since the flight attendants need to prep it, they refused to allow me a quick shower.
We landed in Los Angeles right on time after almost 17 hours in the air. Tom Bradley International Terminal showed its bright side this day. The Global Entry kiosks were deserted, the customs agents were very friendly and the luggage belt was quick to bring out my bag. I was through all of immigration in less than 10 minutes.
This was an excellent flight and I can't imagine doing 17 hours in Economy. But on the other hand, I'm not sure Emirates First Class is my favorite. I wasn't happy with the ground experience and the initial service. Plus the seat isn't my favorite. The food was great, as was most of the service during this really long flight. I'm glad I tried it out, but Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific will stay my favorites (each with their own strengths).
Book your flights on Emirates here.