Whether or not to fly business class on your own dollar can be a polarising topic, no matter how much money you’ve got to burn. On one hand, it’s a helluva lot more expensive than it’s eponymously more economical counterpart. On another, flying can be a mega pain in the ass; even if you enjoy it, a long-haul with your knees tucked under your armpits in cattle class is generally pretty uncomfortable on any airline, and the creature comforts guaranteed by splashing the extra dosh on a posh ticket are palpable.
Emirates has long-been known as the benchmark for luxury at 33,000 feet, and one of the last remaining airlines to still treat flying as an occasion, and while the touches of luxury are a cut above the rest no matter what hierarchy your ticket, it’s the service that makes a flight in their A380 Business Class cabin a supremely pleasurable experience.
Emirates is well aware that the flying experience begins long before you step onto the plane, which is why they send a chauffeur to pick you up and deliver you to the airport in comfort with enough time to comfortably check in and head to the lounge (this is all included in the cost of your ticket). And enough time to comfortably check in isn’t much – there’s no queuing, no mucking about, no nonsense at the airport – everything (including security) is expedited with a smile, before you’re invited to the lounge, a comfortable and subdued space to relax before your flight. This is particularly pleasant – where other lounges are designed to get as many coldies past your lips as possible before takeoff (and there’s nothing wrong with that), the Emirates Lounge is more grown up. Expect real showers, leather chairs that’ll give you a hug and free-flowing Moet, as well as a magazine rack that would put most Newsagents to shame.
When it’s time for your flight, you’re ushered straight into the top deck of the enormous A380, to a large and very comfy seat (we’ll come to that in a second) and personally greeted by a team member, who offers hot towels and Champagne. This is where the difference between Emirates and the rest becomes evident, and why it’s worth the spend. The cabin crew make the difference between a good flight and a great one, and too often the service in a premium carriage class is uptight and stuffy. Yes, of course you want five star service for your money, but that shouldn’t mean it can’t be warm, personable, and dare I say: fun.
The team on Emirates Business Class are there to cater to your every whim, but there’s a sense that their presence runs far deeper than a decent pay packet and top-notch training: you genuinely get the impression that they want to be there, miles above the ocean, making you a martini or bringing you an omelette. Smiles are aplenty and the fact they take the time to learn your name and hold a proper conversation goes a long way for a weary traveller.
Your seat goes completely flat if you desire, and they offer a mattress service on long-haul flights for extra comfort. Each Business Class seat is more like a mini-cabin in and of itself – a mini bar, stow area, side table, large screen, blanket and noise-cancelling headphones are all at your disposal. A window seat is a little more private than a spot in the central row of seating, though this is perfect for couples (a sliding partition between the seats offers privacy if needed), so there’s an option to suit all needs and tastes. If you get sick of sitting, you can stand up without knocking your head on an overhead locker and head to the bar: the real highlight that sets the A380 Business Class cabin apart. A selection of premium spirits is on offer, all of which are happily turned into cocktails if that’s your thing.
And then there’s the food: real food. This might not be a revelation to anybody who’s had the pleasure, but a perfectly cooked eye fillet at 33,000 feet is a rare treat (quite literally). You can select a la carte from several options, all of them excellent, and relax. There’s no trolley; your server simply brings you a tray with everything you need and places it on a slide-out table that’s been set with white linen, yet another nice touch that complements the experience. Meals are three courses, generous, and there’s always more on offer if you’re somehow not yet sated.
Dining in your seat is about as comfortable as eating in the sky gets, but any other time you’re more than welcome to move about the cabin and socialise, unlike economy this is effortless thanks to the headroom and wide aisles. And the cabin is quiet – given the four jet turbines propelling the behemoth through the skies, it’s amazingly easy on the ears, in no small way thanks to the masses of soundproofing employed by Emirates in the design of their premium cabin classes.
Despite its Business Class badge, this experience is all pleasure, though it isn’t inconceivable that once you’ve polished off your food, had a few cocktails and settled in for a single malt, you might actually get some work done. Whatever your opinion on springing almost double the price (or more) for Business Class, this is something everybody should do at least once in their lives, if not to prove to even the least enthusiastic flyer that you can actually get off an airplane after several hours in the sky and be a little bit sad that you have to leave.