Flight Date: 08SEP13—If my EK flight from Tunis to Dubai had arrived on time, I would have had nearly three hours to explore and enjoy Emirates’ recently introduced first class terminal. Alas, this was not to be and after the trek from my arrival gate I had a measly 45 minutes before my Tokyo bound flight.
The Emirates’ first and business class lounges are located above the main passenger Concourse ‘A’ at Dubai’s terminal 3. The first and business class lounges occupy entire floors respectively and for those of you familiar with the ‘old’ lounges at Concourse ‘B’ will now think those spaces tiny in comparison. To say the EK first class terminal is massive is an understatement. With the introduction of their first and business class lounges at Dubai’s Terminal 3: Emirates have rendered most, if not all, of their competitors’ lounge spaces obsolete. I’m even hesitant to use the word ‘lounge’ in this post.
I purposely hadn’t viewed any photos of the new lounges prior to my flight today as I wanted to get an un-biased feel for the space. After entering through the impressive check-in area and veering to the right; I thought maybe I had made a mistake since all I could see were duty-free shops (and at 2:00 am eerily empty shops at that). This is definitely not your run-of-the-mill lounge! After proceeding through the duty-free shops I spotted a few interspersed seating areas so I knew I must be in the right place after all.
Due to the lousy meal service on my EK flight from Tunis I was starving and realized I had better grab something to eat or else. To my right I spotted what looked like the entrance to a fancy restaurant and asked the hostess what my dining options were. She said I would definitely not go hungry…she was right! The EK first class lounge comes equipped with three differently themed buffet areas: Arabic, Mughal and Asian as well as an à la carte restaurant overlooking the concourse below.
I chose the à la carte restaurant and due to the time of day, had the entire place to myself!
The Emirates first class terminal is all about space. It takes the concept of Cathay Pacific’s ‘The Wing’ at Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok Airport to a new level. Unfortunately, the scant 45 minutes I had weren’t nearly enough to review it properly. I ended up downing my nicely prepared meal in a few minutes and raced through the lounge snapping as many photos as I could on the way to my gate. I hope you enjoy the few shots, but please check back in the coming months as I will be flying on the EK A380 from DXB to BKK and will make sure to complete a review worthy of the space.
Instead of exiting the lounge and lining up at the boarding gate, the new first class terminal design means you simply take an elevator down to where you find yourself right at first class boarding. Great idea!
Instead of using one A380 to service the entire Tokyo market; Emirates decided to go with a daily B777-300 to Narita Airport coupled with a daily B777-200 service to Haneda Airport instead. Although the Emirates B777-300 does not have the showers and extra-spacious restrooms like the EK A380; the seats are exactly the same. The B777-300 seats are more spacious, better appointed and offer a much larger storage area compared to EKs A340-500.
Wow! What a difference between the fiasco that was my boarding experience on the Emirates TUN-DXB leg compared to this in-flight crew. Boarding was a breeze, flight attendants were all smiles and greeted everyone warmly. After getting settled into seat 1A a friendly flight attendant came by to say hello and offer me a drink. Although I was no longer hungry or thirsty I thought one glass of Dom Perignon couldn’t hurt.
When designing the first class cabins on their B777-300s; Emirates chose to forgo overhead bins. This makes for a spacious cabin space and although there are only eight seats; the cabin feels much more inviting than the A340-500.
With all the passengers boarded we pushed back and we were on our way to Tokyo. Since I had eaten already at the lounge I opted to delay the meal service for later as my main goal was to get some sleep.
Design-wise the Emirates B777-300 seats are bit over-the-top what with all the faux gold plating, shiny wood paneling and in-seat personal mini-bar. Comfort-wise they are hard to beat though: just the right amount of padding, more than ample storage space and who can find fault with the privacy doors? Unlike Singapore Airlines A380 and B777 first class seats; there is no need for the seats to be flipped over to get to the bed mode on Emirates—which I prefer.
Another area where Emirates scores high marks is their amenities: slippers, pajamas, eye shades, dental kit, writing kit, lotion kit, his and hers amenity kit, snack basket, mini-bar. And boy did they not miss the Branding 101 course either! The Emirates logo is ubiquitous to say the least. It can be found on everything from the hand towels in the restroom to the embossed stationary inside your writing kit…even on the disposable razor.
The Emirates entertainment system or ‘ICE’ is legendary and has won the coveted Skytrax airline award for best in-flight entertainment system for nine years in a row! I was just too sleepy though to watch anything and got nestled in for some much-needed shut-eye instead.
The DXB-NRT flight is 9.5 hours in duration and I slept like a baby for 8 hours and awoke to the smell of freshly brewed coffee.
I opted for the Japanese meal and although not at the same level of JAL, Lufthansa or Malaysia; the meal hit the spot nevertheless. I had almost forgotten about the awful food on the EK TUN-DXB leg. Puzzling how there can be such huge quality issues within the same airline and definitely an area where Emirates needs to streamline their offerings, regardless of departure city.
Final Thoughts— The differences between my experience on the Emirates B777-300 flight from Dubai to Narita compared to my EK A340-500 flight from Tunis to Dubai are too many to list. Suffice to say it was almost like traveling on two different airline carriers. From check-in to arrival the EK B777-300 service is the hands-down winner in so many ways. The first class lounge at Dubai’s Terminal 3, boarding procedure, in-flight crew, seat product and amenities were all aspects that made this flight one of the more enjoyable I’ve taken recently. With what Emirates brings to air travel with all its bells and whistles, it lacks in finesse. The flight attendants were all friendly and helpful but EK’s in-flight service is not quite up to the likes of SQ, LH or MH. In-flight meals are another area where Emirates doesn’t quite stack-up with their more established competitors. A lot of these issues can be tied to EKs explosive growth in the past 10 years—just simply not enough experience. I look forward to traveling with Emirates again though and can definitely say flights departing DXB rather than terminating there are the flights to relish.
Emirates First Class Photo Gallery A340-500 & B777-300