I decided to hold the last Emirates post from Nate until I was on paternity leave. You can see his report on the flight out to Dubai, Dubai Airport, and the flight back if you haven’t seen them.
Probably the best thing about my trip to Dubai was building an itinerary that put me on the Boeing 777-300ER one way and the Airbus A380 the other. Not many travelers have a keen sense of their surroundings when they fly, so this presented a great opportunity to discuss the differences in the two aircraft as Emirates expands and offers both types on routes. I flew the 777 out of San Francisco for 15 hours to Dubai in Business and First Class, and then returned to New York JFK from Dubai on the A380 in Business Class. I found some fairly interesting differences in the two planes the way Emirates configures them.
The 777 was in a typical 2-3-2 layout while the A380 had a very interested staggered layout of 1-2-1. Some rows had window seats with a small walkway to the aisle and others had an aisle with no seat in the window. The middle section either had two seats next to each other or two sitting on the aisle separated. The seats then rotate their position, giving each customer access to the aisle. This was a very nice feature as the A380 gives customers much more overall “area” for their individual seat, whereas the 777 you still had a neighbor – and the privacy screen really didn’t block much.
I could still watch my neighbor’s TV for most of my flight. I did select the bulkhead on the 777 and I had more wiggle room to get in and out, but the A380 still wins hands down. The 777’s “traditional” layout is much better if you are traveling with a group of friends or family, as the A380 seems to be designed more for the solo traveler. The other downside to BOTH aircraft is the aisle seats – there is still traffic up and down the aisle, so there’s a risk of getting interrupted while trying to sleep.
One problem Emirates faces with the A380 is that there are a LOT of flight attendants . . . 26 to be exact. The Business Class galley is located in the back of the cabin, so you get a lot of foot traffic. While that can be nice (always someone going by that can you something) it did take time to do a full service for the 55 passengers (out of 76) in my cabin. I also can’t tell you the name of the flight attendant assigned to my section. The 777 provided excellent service as only 2 or 3 flight attendants worked my side of the airplane and I can remember their names. Overall, the 777 service seemed much more efficient.
One would think boarding 500 people on an A380 would take awhile, but Emirates seemed to have this one down pat. Most of us in Business Class were in the lounge up until about 30 minutes before departure and found a short line for the premium cabins versus economy. In the A380, I didn’t see a single economy class customer. On the 777, while we had separate lines, we boarded through the same jet bridge. There was a lot of foot traffic through the 777 cabin while boarding, but the flight attendants kept the economy customers moving through, and were able to serve a pre-departure champagne service without any issues. Deplaning was equally fast, as Emirates holds back each respective cabin until those passengers are clear, and in New York we deplaned by the 2nd level. Its hard to pick the 777 or the A380 has both were very efficient.
The A380 has a fully flat bed while it’s an angled lie flat bed on the 777. Both seats appear to be the same design and configuration except for the footrest on the A380. On the 777, your seat drops then extends out, and at 6’1″ I slept like a baby. I also really enjoyed the storage space/cut outs in the seat that also meant I had shoulder room. The A380 had a cubby hole for feet which probably helped keep rusty-sock smell from the cabin. But on the 777, it was hard to tell you weren’t lying completely flat. I’d also like to point out that I departed San Francisco at 5p and arrived in Dubai at 7p (next day) and did not feel jetlagged. I only preferred the A380 seat over the 777 because I didn’t have someone directly beside me.
Here’s where it can get painful.
The 777 was originally designed for 9 seats across the cabin, but Emirates has 10. So your butt and shoulders may be making contact with your seatmate for the next 13 hours. At least your knees and feet will be comfortable, as Emirates provides a few more inches of legroom. The A380 has standard seat width, but the legroom isn’t nearly as good as on the 777. In the row I tried out on the A380, the window felt a little more cramped. Both Economy cabins offer in seat video and universal and USB power ports, so even if you are stuck in the 777 in coach, you will still have plenty to keep you busy.
Here are some more pieces for comparison.
|Tray table||Fixed position, comes from under work area, or you can use the side table by the in-seat bar. I didn’t like the tray table so I kept it retracted.||Slides up from side, can adjust position to you (can slide up to a foot from the base) which is nice if you are “larger” or want to recline while you eat. I was able to function a lot easier with the movable tray.|
|Windows||Not the easiest to look out, had lots of space due to angled upper deck, unlike the 747-400, larger window.||standard 777 windows – had 3 of them – and electronic window shades, very nice. Windows also had side faux wood trim around each.|
|Storage||2 side compartments that could fit a backpack, and storage area above your personal bar. I also found the cut-out in front of my seat as a great place to put my tablet and phone while charging (USB ports/power port are below TV). Ample overhead bin space. I found the side units hard to keep closed; provided a nice area to store my pillow/blanket if/when not using.||None for larger items, but had small compartments for items like phones, tablets/laptops, etc. Powerports convenient when charging items as they are in one of the storage areas. Storage areas double as “cut outs” for shoulders when sleeping. Ample overhead bin space. Flight attendants put pillows and sleeping pads behind your seat in the “pod.”|
|Inflight amenities||Large bar in back of plane, 2 3-seat sofas (with seat belts) and multiple areas to stand and socialize, including small tables put over doors now, giving it a “pub” feel; large screen TV, munchies placed out, but not a consistent “bartender,” it happens to be whoever is walking by. Doesn’t seem to be a set schedule. Made to order drinks. Also a mini-bar in your seat with a variety of choices||No social area, but flight attendants didn’t kick you out of the galley area/doors if you were standing up and stretching. The First class “bar” is more of a wall display containing liquor, no seats, and you are pretty much in the First class galley.|
|Lavatories||2 in the rear have windows. Size was about the same as the 777. Faux wood trim and flowers. Inside 2 lavs can have the wall removed for handicap passengers.||No windows, but felt larger than lavatories on US domestic fleet. Had fresh flowers, toothpaste/brush and shaving kits, along with aftershave and perfume/cologne|
|Inflight Entertainment Differences||Camera in tail in addition to nose/down||Could push a button on remote and it will put the show/tv/movie your seat mate is watching on your screen.|
|Power ports||Below TV, and I could put my toys on the cabinet on the bulkhead while they charge, so they were all out of my way.||On the side of the seat along with a storage area for phones/laptop/tablets/iPads. I also had to play a balancing act with my tablet between the two seat remotes while it was charging.|
Interestingly enough, I really enjoyed the 777 flight over the A380 flight. The A380 bar really stands out, but the service was much more consistent on the 777. The foot traffic on the A380 can (and does) stand out, so if you want to avoid it, then try to sit in the forward section of business class. Anyone who pays for Business Class (or upgrades) will not be disappointed. This airline does an amazing job and if I had the budget, I’d gladly fork out $12,000 for this type of service.