Business Class on the Emirates A380 Back to the US (Trip Report)

Emirates, Trip Reports

It’s time for part 3 of Nate’s Dubai trip on Emirates. After flying the 777 out to Dubai and spending time in the Dubai Airport, it was time for him to fly back. This time, it was on the A380 to JFK.

After getting wrapped up in Dubai Airport, I realized it was 8a and it was time to board. Since I was on the A380, I could board from the lounge level rather than the main concourse level. The gate was 201, directly outside the business class lounge.

Second Level Boarding in Dubai

October 17, 2011
Emirates 201 Lv Dubai 830a Arr New York/JFK 215p
Dubai (DXB): Gate 201, Runway 12R, Depart 15m Late
New York/JFK (JFK): Gate A6, Runway 31L, Arrive 5m Late
A6-EDC, Airbus A380-861, Standard Emirates livery, ~50% Full in First, 66% in Biz, 75% in Coach
Seat 23A
Flight Time 14h14m

I was expecting a massive line, so I was stunned to see only 5 people in the queue. After a few folks checked my boarding pass and ID (I should have just left it on my forehead), I was directed to an elevator that would take me down a level to board the aircraft. Everything was glass encased, so I could see the line for coach, and it was moving quite fast. I was the only one in the jet bridge, which was also glass encased, providing for some great views of my airplane and the A380 at the adjacent gate.

A380 Next to Us

I was greeted by three flight attendants and was pointed toward the rear business class cabin to take my seat, 23A. After reading FlyerTalk and some of the comments on SeatGuru, people seem to give this seat high marks. The cabin was bustling with activities as FA’s were passing out champagne or juice as passengers were getting settled in. I was surprised to find out we were two-thirds full in Business.

When I got to my seat, the first thing that struck me was the level of privacy it provided. Since the seats have a mini-bar and are fully flat, there is no one sitting next to you. My seat was inwards near the window with my bar/storage area/tv remote jutting out towards the aisle.

A380 Business Class

My seat had the customary pillow, blanket, and noise-cancelling headsets. The eye shades and socks were in a small pouch above the bar. I also had 2 storage units between my seat and the window – which could fit a nicely-loaded backpack (I would later notice the aging on this airplane as it was difficult to keep them closed) or the pillow and blanket when not in use.

As I sat down, I was disappointed to not see electronic window shades, but this massive window pane. The window was almost 8 inches or so from the inner plastic window which made viewing a bit, well, unusual. I was then offered champagne and some dates by the flight crew before departure, and had a short chat with Hetzel, the business class purser.

In-seat Bar 2

My mini-bar was well stocked with a variety of sodas and juices. There weren’t many announcements. Most of them were in Arabic and perfect English. The lengthy safety video was done on the TVs – first in Arabic then again in English.

I was still a bit euphoric about flying in the A380 when we pushed back – at 845a. During the engine start-up, I could not hear a thing. I wasn’t even sure the engines were running until I noticed us taxiing towards the runway. After about 15 minutes we were in queue.

Take off was very smooth – couldn’t even hear the engines spool up. After what seemed to be a long take-off roll, we finally lifted off and proceeded to do a slow climb towards Iran. It was a very stable departure thanks to the design of the A380 control surfaces. Our flight attendants then did a greeting in Arabic, then English, alerting the passengers to the many languages spoken by the flight crew (14). You can hear the entire announcement on the takeoff video towards the end of this video:

Thirty minutes after takeoff, service began with a glass of champagne and warm nuts. I was then given a tray with fresh fruit and yogurt in advance of breakfast, which I unfortunately never got to taste.

I was given a tour by the purser, ‘Apple’. She would not let me in any other cabin, citing TSA regulations (which isn’t an actual regulation at all). We sat at the full-size bar in back and she showed me many highlights of the A380, including the couches (2), large screen TV, bar food and options, and a new feature – pub tables that are placed over the doors, so people can stand and talk.

Pub Table at A380 Bar

She then showed me the First Class galley and everything provided – including formal high-tea service, special beverages for passengers after they are done with the spa/shower, and the catering. I also met the spa attendant, who is NOT a flight attendant, and her sole role on the airplane is to assist passengers in the spa/shower and do a thorough clean after each use.

Emirates makes it a high priority to over-cater First Class to ensure every customer gets their first pick of food. I also found out they stock 3 bottles of Dom Perignon on the aircraft, 9 types of teas, and an espresso/cappuccino machine. First class passengers are given a large Emirates hand bag to take any items with them – slippers, pajamas, spa lotions, or just as a souvenir.

The Bar

One interesting feature was the purser controls. She said there are cameras near each flight attendant station so she can observe and manage her crew of 26. Apple said there have been flights where entire families have purchased every open seat in First to ensure privacy. With the new flights to America, they added cranberry juice and bagels with cream cheese (water served with ice should be on their list).

As our interview wound down, I headed back to my seat and noticed the makeup of our cabin. We had a significant number of people dressed up and couples occupying the middle seats that adjoin. For such a long flight not many passengers were dressed casually. I was only one of four Caucasian Americans in Business, and I’d later find out that 2 of them were from Atlanta but they purposely fly Emirates to India/Middle East via New York, despite Delta providing service from their hometown.

I noticed my tray was gone, but I was able to get some munchies at the bar, where I met another flight attendant who asked me for any criticisms about Emirates (apparently everyone knew who I was by now). I told her my main issue is that I haven’t seen a water service every 30/60 minutes, which is customary on U.S. long haul flights. She said “well, just use the call button.. we are here to serve you”.

The Atlanta passengers started to join in our conversation, and I told the flight attendant that as Americans, we are “trained” to never touch the call button. The Atlanta frequent fliers agreed, “yeah, even in Delta BusinessElite, they bark at you.” The Emirates flight attendant looked at us in horror.

After a very relaxing 3-hour nap, I woke up and watched a movie. I had to call a flight attendant over to ask for my “Lite Bites” (2nd meal) option. I really wish Emirates would put something in the menus alerting passengers that the 2nd meal is “on demand”. I ended up getting the Emirates club sandwich, and it was served warm. But they did have “hot bites” in the bar area at this point, in case a passenger didn’t like what was on the menu.

Pre-Dinner Appetizer

After a few movies and restful naps it was time for the dinner service. I opted for the Arab kabob meal, which included large chicken and beef chunks and served with rice and beans. It was amazingly tasty, and the salad was still fresh despite being 10 hours into the flight. The flight attendants told me that the galleys are packed 2 carts deep and everything is frozen and then thawed to ensure its safe to serve.

Beef and Chicken Kabob Dinner

I also noticed the flight attendant shook 22D awake for his meal, and he didn’t seem like a happy camper. I think Emirates needs to work on this, or come up with a way to communicate to passengers the meal service expectations and if they want to sleep or be woken up.

I asked the purser for access to coach earlier in the flight so I could at least get a photo of the coach meal service, but I was told TSA didn’t allow switching cabins. So I was taken aback when I saw a passenger from economy in the upstairs galley who even went down the stairs. One would think it would have been beneficial to show someone writing a story the main deck during the flight, but no.

Delta RJs at JFK

The landing was very smooth and we didn’t seem to use up much of the runway. As we taxied by the Delta terminal, I noticed how close our wingtip was to the smaller Delta CRJs and hoped we didn’t want to play “tag” with one of them, like the Air France A380 did this past summer. We eventually docked at the International terminal and deplaning was very fast.

I opted to stay and talk to the pilots and take a look at the coach cabin downstairs, and I was again rushed. I am still trying to figure out why Emirates flight crews didn’t want me to see or experience the economy cabin. Both times I had to wait until we were on the ground and the seats actually felt fairly comfortable, but I didn’t get to spend enough time to decide if they were really good or bad.

Coach on A380

The window seats felt cramped due to the curvature of the plane, but each seat had the customary ICE system, universal powerports, and only industry-standard legroom.

Seatback Video in Coach

Customs was very efficient, and I was able to recheck my bag with Emirates so they’d get put on my Delta flights. I opened my duffel to make sure everything was in there and repacked some items to prevent anything breaking and I was off to Delta. At some point between there and my arrival in Kansas City, my bag was ripped open and half my items were gone.

Emirates’s PR firm offered to replace all of my items, which I declined and said I’d rather pay for them. Within a week of filing my claim, Delta agreed to pay for my items.

Overall, my A380 experience was a memorable one. This was a big airplane that had a tremendous amount of amenities to keep passengers occupied for the entire journey. The one downside – lack of personalized service. I can’t tell you the name of the flight attendant assigned to my section, unlike on my San Francisco to Dubai flight).

You can see more of Nate’s photos here.

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39 comments on “Business Class on the Emirates A380 Back to the US (Trip Report)

  1. I’m just connecting between A380 flights in Changi, having done 4 flights in 7 days on them. Even at the back of the bus, these planes are great. Very loud undercarriage and flaps when you’re on the lower deck, though.

    Would be great to try the Emirates C-class – from what I see of C on SQ, it looks rather claustrophobic and more than a little hard (although I won’t complain if I get bumped up tonight…)

  2. Aging on an A380 LOL.

    Yes we are trained to never touch a call button, but on a flight with a US airline, you never need to really hit the call button because the airlines have set the expectation. Travelling US domestic is like travelling on a bus with wings (with some ginger ale and possibly Biscoff). However, this can be very different in Europe where for even 2 hour flights on airlines like Turkish and Aegean, you get full meals, towel service, little goodies in Y.

    Nate, let us know if you ever find out why you were not let into economy. It seems Emirates are hiding something even though there’s not really anything bad to hide.

    1. Sanjeev, my plane was A6-EDC, a 3 year old Airbus. There were some scratches & imperfections on board… and the stupid side bins would *not* stay closed…

      Re: Coach. I think I did send the youtube links to the Emirates PR folks showing numerous people who have taped all 3 cabins on a US bound flight, wondering why I was denied access to Y, after they explicitly told the crew to let me down there. In my last post, I touch on how “controlled” Emirates Group is on their staff & product, and I think this is just one of them. Most journalists are provided premium cabin on EK as I couldn’t find a single one highlighting coach.

    2. Written by Sanjeev M on November 23, 2011.
      Yes we are trained to never touch a call button, but on a flight with a US airline, you never need to really hit the call button because the airlines have set the expectation.

      I beg to differ. It’s the FLYING PUBLIC who has decided that a cheap ticket is more important. The airlines simply complied with that expectation.

  3. I wonder how those Atlanta travelers get up to New York? Does Emirates code-share or interline out of Atlanta? I know they’re not part of an alliance. Do they just fly up on Delta and then switch carriers? Seems like a hassle, but must be worth the service.

    1. They were also on my JFK-ATL flight up in First Class… Emirates has an interline ticket & baggage agreement with Delta. I did interview both travelers and they had nothing but praise for Emirates. Their company has a corporate contract with Delta, so they have to be careful about flying to Dubai and will book 2 separate tickets to NY so their itinerary doesn’t violate the DL corporate contract.

  4. I was given a tour by the purser, ‘Apple’. She would not let me in any other cabin, citing TSA regulations (which isn’t an actual regulation at all).

    UA does have the following with regards to toilet use:

    1) You ARE required to follow crew directions, this is listed on your saftey information card (Maybe they know something you don’t about this flight ie: maybe they are allowing someone to use the “F” class for medical reason. .Maybe there are FAMS onboard? )
    2) The TSA does require that passengers use the toilets, in their assigned cabin on Intl’ Flight.
    3) On flights within USA, it is a United policy that passengers must remain in their TICKETED cabin.
    4) When you are sitting in First, you do not expect to wait for a coach passenger to use the “F” class toilet.
    5) Common sense with the “F” class goes a long way.
    6) At no time should anyone be standing near the cockpit door.
    7) The TSA and United policy are in writing, in your Hemisphere magazine,towards the back with the BOB items.
    8) It is part of having a secure flight.

      1. Nick, the FA’s used “TSA” regulation. I handled TSA – technology for 2 airlines and worked with primary security inspectors and never once saw this in our AOSSP (security plan). I also spoke with friends who are Intl FAs at American, United, USAirways, and Delta – it may be a carrier rule, but certainly not TSA.

        Even “Aviation Queen” Benet Wilson said this has been used many times by crews with her and its not true.


          “While the FAA doesn’t have a policy requiring international passengers to use the restrooms in their own seating class, a Delta spokesman clarified, saying the carrier was following ‘TSA guidelines requiring passengers to use the lavatory in their class of service on flights arriving into the United States.’

          The TSA does indeed have such a directive, according to an e-mail from Lauren Gaches, a spokeswoman for the agency. She declined to elaborate on the TSA policy, writing ‘the security directive is sensitive security information. The directive was put in place in 2006 to address security concerns resulting from credible intelligence.’”

          The link to the complete article is here –…ing-tsa-rules/

          1. by David SF eastbay on November 23, 2011. All this use the lav in your own class sounds dumb. So blowing up the passengers in your own class first would make a difference?

            Actually, the LEAST RISK bomb location is near the back of the aircraft. The most damage would be NEAR THE COCKPIT.

        2. Why do you keep bringing up lav policy? Nate was trying to visit the other cabins. This had nothing to do with lav use.

          1. well, do SOME HOMEWORK then, Cranky. Check with EMIRATES to see if this is POLICY or not. I simply pointed out that one, UAL has a policy about ticketed cabins and that other airlines have policies that prohibit them from going into other cabins for lavatory use.

          2. You pointed out nothing of the sort. Your UAL policy is solely for travel within the USA, so that doesn’t apply. But it doesn’t matter what the policy is from an airline standpoint, and that’s why I have no reason to check with Emirates. Had the flight attendant said it was an Emirates-policy, then I’d ask Emirates. But the flight attendant said it was TSA policy, and that’s bull.

          3. Seriously, FRANK? That doesn’t make it a TSA policy. That makes it an airline policy. This is the kind of crap that makes people hate airlines. Making up excuses that are only potentially true thanks to a minor technicality is garbage. Emirates can’t blame the TSA for something that isn’t mandated by the TSA.

      2. Yes, I know, Nick. INFLIGHT announcements are tailored to remind passengers that due to heightened security, passengers must use the lavatory in their class of service! That announcement ISNT something some F/A or pilot thought up, it’s PROCEDURE. I’ve been reminded of this protocol by numerous pilots when operating intl flights. This procedure came about right after the underwear bomber on NW in a lavatory.

        1. The other question about which regulations apply in the air. AFAIK, Emirates’s cabin is subject to the regulations of the United Arab Emirates while in the air. I’m sure some TSA regulations come into play, but probably not until the plane is quite a bit closer to US Airspace.

          1. The AOSSP (airline security guidelines) can be designed however an airline wants, as TSA has minimums. The lavatory item is more of a ‘customer service’ item and reactionary to 9/11 (just like the curtain removal). Do a quick google search of Emirates Airlines inflight service (or cabins), there is one by kuwaitipilot (or similar name) who is in each of the cabins on a DXB-IAH flight.

      1. Martin,

        In all honesty the 12/13 hour flight went by really fast… EK really provides passengers with a lot to do on their flight, especially in the premium cabins. The bar area is nice as you can actually stretch your legs and not get pushed around by the flight attendants, or get scolded for hanging around in the galley. I really wish other airlines would consider having “rest” type areas on their aircraft.

  5. I’m surprised Emirates is allowed to put the little bar over the door by the aviation authorities. I’d figure that anything that impedes an exit is a no-no.

  6. Reference the comment about waking up the passenger for a meal service, I found on my several flights in EK that there are little stickers to put on the seats in J and Y (and a light in F) to inform the cabin crew not to disturb OR to wake one up for meal service. I guess the writer missed those in the very thick passenger information folder.

    1. I checked for them after seeing this on Flyertalk and could not find them in the pouch under the TV.

      But to see this happen to 2 flyers on 2 different flights makes one wonder if EK should make them more prominent or place something in the menu “If you chose to rest during meal service & would like to be awaken or sleep thru meal service, privacy stickers are in your pouch and should be placed on your …..”

    1. no, they were warm. Had a coke, 7up, mango juice, perrier, and bottled water along with a glass. Was nice drinking from glassware and not plastic cups!

  7. Nick, several airlines have collapsable “tables” that can be put up to help add galley space for flight attendants. I’m sure this “pub table” is approved as well. They just need to be stowed for taxi, takeoff, turbulence and landing

  8. I think you’ll find that there are more than 3 bottles of Dom in F on this sector (more like 6+). I agree that the service is a bit sporadic in J on the A380. Many of the crew are still new (not really an excuse) and your flight wasn’t completely full in J, but I think the crews are still getting the hang of the new J meal service (ie no carts, all hand delivered on trays etc). You should have been allowed access to Y – the front section of Y (directly behind the cockpit) is the best area (as far as I am concerned). The Pursar also has a tiny office under the front staircase, which they should have shown you.

  9. I have been on EK economy class from the US to Dubai multiple times. It is nowhere near what Nate experienced, but not bad either. Seat pitch is standard and food is a notch above what you would get on a US-based carrier. Flight attendants are friendly and not cranky :)
    My guess is that Asian etiquette requires that they not show you the economy cabin in order to avoid leaving a bad taste in your mouth. They want to give you the best experience possible, not satisfy your curiosity.

    And I LOLed at your comment about being trained not to touch the call button. So true now that I think about it.

  10. I can see why they wouldn’t want you seeing coach/economy during a flight. While reporters tour new planes in all cabins, it makes a difference seeing a nice empty and clean coach/economy section compared to a full cabin during a flight. You would see how cramped it really is with people and how dirty a plane can become during a long flight.

    Knowing who you were in advance, they should have asked you if you wanted to board first and tour the plane.

  11. I’ve spoken directly to the ombudsman at TSA who researched this issue in detail and he assures me that there is not such regulation from their organization. This was later confirmed by the regional TSA administrator in my area.

    This is not to say the airlines don’t have such a regulation but my contract was adamant that it would be improper and potentially a violation of TSA rules, for an airline to represent the the requirement as a TSA regulation. In fact he specifically asked that I report any incidents of the airlines making this claim.

    1. Steve, before “retiring” from the airline business, I worked directly with the Director of Safety & Security for 2 airlines as my work group managed the computer system, so I became very intimate with TSA regulations during the Secure Flight and CAPS security requirements for airlines, and I never have seen this requirement in the AOSSP (airline’s security program). That’s why I was taken aback when the flight attendants claimed it was a TSA regulation for US-bound aircraft.

      I don’t mean to drag this thing out as it appears to have become a topic here, but too many flight attendants like to throw this around when its really NOT a rule. All i wanted to do was provide the readers of CrankyFlier (and the other sites where I am writing) with a full & complete review of Emirates service in all 3 cabins… to be honest, how many of us could afford $12,000 to fly to Dubai in business class? (that’s how much my ticket cost). If I get a nice bonus from work, I’d consider it, but more than likely my butt will be in coach where its $1,550 to fly to Dubai and just buy the seat next to me to keep it blocked.

  12. Just last week, my father-in-law flew Emirates Business HYD-DXB-Dallas on their B777-200LR and he was not happy with their config and comfort. On his way back JFK-DXB-HYD he took the EK A380 Business and he was not happy. Why?

    His comparison was with Qatar Airways Business…completely flat beds and more space. Sure, accessories and toys are good, but when you pay so much…you surely deserve space. This feedback seems to be consistent across several forums; I hope Emirates is listening…else it will soon become the Microsoft of Airlines!

    Personally, I am an Emirates Fan [always fly economy], but it pains me to hear such stories…lets hope it changes.

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