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For the infrequent flyer, Emirates A380 business class or first class seem like the pinnacle of flying. You’ve probably seen that Jennifer Aniston commercial with the onboard shower and bar, and figured that kind of luxury travel was only for the rich and famous.
That’s what I thought, too. Until I found a way to fly in Emirates A380 business class using travel credit cards.
Emirates A380 Business Class with Credit Card Points
I booked award tickets in Emirates A380 business class by redeeming 82,500 Alaska Airlines miles. I had only flown Alaska Airlines one time, so I accrued most of the miles through two credit cards: the Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit card and the card formerly known as the AMEX SPG Preferred credit card. Now that SPG is a part of Marriott, you would need to transfer Marriott points into your Alaska Airlines account in order to combine all of the points together. Since Alaska Airlines is a partner with Emirates, you can redeem your Alaska Airlines miles for travel with Emirates.
The flight I booked (Washington to Dubai to the Maldives) is currently valued at $5,230. That means that the redemption was worth an impressive 6.3 cents/point. Much better than getting 1% cash back!
However, redeeming Alaska Airlines miles is not the only way to book an Emirates A380 business class flight. In fact, Emirates now partners with the major credit card points currencies (Chase, AMEX, Citi, and Capital One), which means you can transfer any of these points into an Emirates frequent flyer account. Note that the redemption costs will be higher. Roughly 120,000 Emirates miles will be required each way, and you’ll also need to pay a couple hundred dollars in taxes and fees. Still, since you can use ANY of the major credit card points programs to transfer into Emirates, it can be a very valuable program to use.
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Our flight was scheduled to leave Washington-Dulles airport at 10:25am and had a scheduled arrival time into Dubai of 8:10am the next day. The total flight time was slated for 12 hours and 45 minutes, and Dubai was eight hours ahead of DC time.
That’s a great time to arrive in order to make transfer connections at the Dubai airport, but an “overnight” flight at 10:25am isn’t exactly conducive to catching sleep on the plane. So to help us A) get tired, and B) ease into “Dubai time,” we woke up at 3:00am that morning.
We arrived at the airport at 8:00am. There was already a long line at the Emirates counter, which is why we always try to carry on our luggage instead of checking bags.
However, since we were business class passengers, we bypassed the long line and were immediately helped at our dedicated business class counter. The friendly gate agent verified our passports, handed us our boarding passes, and directed us to the Air France lounge. Smooth sailing.
We typically try to spend as little time at the airport as possible, but flying in business class also means complimentary entry to airport lounges. While Emirates does not have its own lounge at Dulles, it partners with Air France to allow Emirates business and first class passengers to use the Air France lounge as they waiting for the morning flight. Air France flights didn’t leave until the evening, so the lounge wasn’t too crowded.
We each had a macchiato and some light bites in the lounge, since we were really looking forward to the meals on our flight.
Emirates A380 Business Class Boarding Experience
We had roughly two hours before our flight, and surprisingly our boarding passes said that we wouldn’t board until 9:55am, only 30 minute prior to departure. The Airbus A380 is a HUGE plane (literally the largest passenger airplane in the world), but I knew it had a couple of different entrances, which probably is how they could board 600+ passengers in 30 minutes.
After flipping through the newspapers in the lounge, we headed out of the lounge around 9:45am, 10 minutes before our scheduling boarding. Then we realized that all of the economy passengers were already actively boarding the plane. Business and first class passengers had a completely separate entrance gate, which was conveniently directly across from the Air France lounge.
While the line for economy class was 50+ people deep, our special entrance only had about a dozen passengers. Business and first class passengers also had a separate jetway to the upper deck of the airplane. We were completely separated from those flying in economy, which is exactly how Emirates wants its premium class experience to be.
After an exciting hike up the jetway, we were greeted by the cabin crew and led to our seats.
Our flight attendant, Katrina, stopped by to introduce herself and asked if we wanted a pre-departure glass of champagne. The answer was obviously yes.
We didn’t have to wait long for Katrina to bring us our glasses of Veuve Clicquot champagne as we waited for the rest of the passengers to board.
Emirates A380 Business Class Amenity Kits
Each seat came with a complimentary amenity kit. Men and women receive different kits, and both kits came with Bulgari toiletry items.
Men’s amenity kit:
Women’s amenity kit:
Both amenity kits were great. But as we learned as we flew more business class flights, you end up throwing out most of these sample-size bottles anyway. If you are a frequent traveler, you probably already carry the toiletries that you want to use. Probably the most important item in any amenity kit: a toothbrush and toothpaste. After an overnight flight, brushing your teeth goes a long way to feeling refreshed the next day.
In-Flight Entertainment System
As soon as you sit down, it’s hard not to notice the 23 inch-wide screen for the in-flight entertainment system.
I was perfectly fine using the touchscreen on the TV, but the seat also offered a detachable tablet that you could use to control the TV as well.
And if that wasn’t enough, the seat also had a corded remote control located within easy reach.
Each business class seat also came with noise canceling headphones.
Emirates is known for it’s wide array of in-flight entertainment options. At the time, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was still in theaters and getting Oscar buzz, and it was one of the movie options along with dozens (maybe even 100s) of other choices. The IFE also included multiple episodes from a variety of different television shows as well.
What’s cool with Emirates’s IFE is that it’s the same system and show variety no matter what cabin your flying. So while we had the big screen in Emirates A380 business class, the passengers below us in economy could watch the exact same movies. Hat tip to Emirates for delivering great IFE for everyone on board.
Emirates A380 Business Class Seats
The seats in Emirates A380 business class are arranged in a 1-2-1 layout. This means that all seats have direct aisle access, including the window seats. Even though the middle seats are next to each other, my wife and I each took window seats.
Obviously, there was plenty of room to stretch out, a much appreciated luxury for such a long flight. There was also plenty of storage space for bags and personal items.
The window seats are slightly staggered, so my seat was closer to the aisle while the side table was closer to the window. To my right was the seat’s mini-bar pre-stocked with water and juice. There were also two USB ports, a power outlet, the charging stand for the tablet, and a sizable side table.
Near the side table are the buttons that control the seat itself. The seating position to the far right was for takeoff and landing, the middle position was for meals and watching TV, then the seating position to the left was to turn the seat into a fully-flat bed.
When it’s time to sleep, the seat quickly reclines completely flat with one touch of a button.
What’s especially nice with the lie-flat seats is that every Emirates A380 business class passenger receives a mattress pad to put on the seat after it’s completely flat. So rather than dealing with all the seat’s cracks and crevices, passengers can sleep on more solid surface. It makes it feel more like a “bed” rather than just a seat.
Each business class passenger also had a blanket.
Having all of that extra space made for a MUCH more comfortable flight, and the mattress pad was a nice touch, too. Foot traffic was nonexistent, so passengers were left to sleep in peace.
Emirates A380 Business Class Food
Both of us were really looking forward to our first business class meal. We skimped on the French croissants in the Air France lounge to save room for what was in store.
(Note: due to the coronavirus pandemic, current meal options may be drastically different).
Katrina gave us menus for the dining options onboard when she first greeted us. I’ve received menu notecards before in economy, but this Emirates menu was legit. One menu featured six pages of food and beverage options, and a separate menu featured the wines.
As you can see, there were A LOT of different drinks. Three full pages worth along with a dozen different cocktails, though I’m sure they would make any drink you wanted. I thought it was interesting that they also had a number of mocktails, likely to cater to those in the Gulf states who do not drink alcohol.
The food menu is unique to each route, and the options change each month. Lunch included a choice of three different appetizers, three different main courses, and four different desserts. I was tempted by the asparagus soup, but I’m a sucker for anything with scallops, so I went with the seafood duo as my first course. I figured I could sneak a spoonful of my wife’s soup, anyway. I picked the Atlantic striped bass for my main course, and then the vanilla bean cheesecake for my dessert. Taryn went with the grilled chicken and the cheesecake as well.
After the lunch menu, there’s also a light bites menu. These dishes can be ordered at any time after the first meal, since they don’t want to disturb the whole cabin with a separate meal service while many people would likely be sleeping. The Maryland crab cakes immediately jumped out at me.
Last is the breakfast menu, which would be offered roughly 1-2 hours before landing in Dubai. Nothing too out of the ordinary as far as choices, so I picked the scrambled eggs and chives. The cabin crew also asked while taking lunch menu orders if passengers instead wanted to skip breakfast altogether and catch a few more Zs. A nice option for actual business travelers who do this all the time, but we obviously wanted to try the food.
Separate from the food menu was the wine menu. Business class passengers can enjoy Veuve Clicquot champagne (first class passengers can have Dom Perignon), two different red wines, two different white wines, and a port.
While Katrina took our meal requests, she also delivered our pre-dinner drinks. I went with an Old Fashioned, which also came with a bowl of warmed nuts.
Since there’s so much room between the seat and the TV (nice problem to have), it would be difficult for the tray table to flip down from the seat in front. Instead, the tray table swung out from underneath the side table.
Katrina caught me playing with the tray table as she brought out the first course. She placed a white tablecloth over the tray table itself, then placed a table-clothed tray on top.
My first course included the seafood duo appetizer with scallops and prawns, a small side salad, and a hearty bread roll. I was impressed with the small details, including individual mini salt and pepper shakers, a ramekin of butter, and the napkin ring. The scallops and prawns came with a papaya salad and both were dressed in a ginger soy sauce. I didn’t know what to expect with shellfish on a plane, but both the scallops and prawns were fine and the sauce was fantastic. The salad was a nice departure from the usual carb-heavy airplane food, and the bread roll was also an upgrade.
Taryn was content with her asparagus soup, but wanted it to be more asparagus-y. Sadly, I forgot to sneak a spoonful.
After we finished the first course, Katrina picked up our dishes and returned with the main course. My Atlantic striped bass was well-cooked and the pesto kept the fish from becoming dry. The vegetables were a nice complement, too. Taryn enjoyed her grilled chicken and was apparently hungry since she forgot to take a picture of her dish.
Once we finished the main course, Katrina again cleared our plates and came back with the vanilla bean cheesecake. It was easily the best part of the meal.
Overall, we enjoyed the meal… but we had higher expectations. Maybe it’s because there were over 75 other business class passengers to serve. Maybe it’s because they’re having to cook (or heat up?) from 40,000+ feet in the air. I guess at the end of the day, it’s still airplane food. It was easily the best airplane food we had ever had, but not quite as good as we hoped.
Emirates A380 Business Class Onboard Bar & Lounge
Note: due to the coronavirus pandemic, the onboard bar and lounge may be limited and look drastically different.
After the meal, it was time for the experience we had been waiting for!
The Emirates A380 business class onboard bar/lounge is located at the rear of the business class cabin. Since we entered from the front, I didn’t have the chance to scope out the bar, so I figured we’d wait a reasonable amount of time after the meal before heading over. We walked all the way back, and we were greeted by the enthusiastic crew who were setting up the lounge area.
We were the first ones to the bar (go figure), but soon a few more passengers followed our lead and came back to join us in the lounge. The lounge area is a good size, and there are two seating areas on either side of the bar. There are also small cocktail tables near the emergency exits where passengers can place their drinks while they socialize.
THE BAR. IS. AMAZING. After ordering a round of drinks, we grabbed seats on one of the couches in the lounge.
After sipping our drinks and grabbing a few hors d’œuvres from the bar, the plane hit a bit of turbulence so the pilot turned on the seatbelt light. The couch was equipped with seatbelts, so we were able to stay in the lounge along with a handful of other passengers.
While we waited for the turbulence to subside, Katrina stopped by to casually chat. We learned that Katrina was our age and hailed from Edinburgh, Scotland. She was genuinely friendly, and it was fun to hear about her experience working for Emirates. She learned it was our first time in Dubai, so she wanted to provide us a few of her recommendations. Fifteen minutes later, she came back with handwritten notes for where we should go in Dubai. Incredibly nice.
After about 45 minutes, the pilot turned off the seatbelt light and we ordered another round at the bar.
The place started to get a little livelier at this point, and we chatted up a few other passengers. EVERYONE was flying for work. In other words, they didn’t pay $8,000 out of pocket to fly in Emirates business class. When we said that we were flying for vacation to the Maldives, we received a few inquisitive looks. They probably thought we were heirs to the Vanderbilt fortune or something. I almost told them about our journey with credit card points, but I figured that would sound too crazy.
Our Serbian bartender, Marko, was quite the character. He entertained the group with his own Emirates stories, and then offered us the chance to take pictures behind the bar. Don’t mind if I do…
After taking pictures behind the bar, Marko brought out on an old school Polaroid camera. “We want to give you a keepsake,” he said. He snapped a photo, and placed the Polaroid in an Emirates picture frame and wrote a short message. It was a simple gift, but a very nice touch.
I can’t imagine a cooler flight amenity than an onboard bar/lounge. Marko kept us around the bar for awhile, and before we knew it, two hours had passed. The cabin lights had dimmed, so we figured it was time to catch some sleep on those lie-flat seats.
After two (or three) drinks at the bar, it was about 3:00pm DC time but we were already tired. That’s what waking up at 3:00am will do to you.
But first, a midnight snack. I saw those Maryland crab cakes on the menu, so I pressed the call button and asked Katrina for an order.
Again, Katrina brought out the tablecloth and napkin ring. The crab cakes were good, but not great. “A” for presentation. “B” for the crab cakes themselves.
Emirates A380 Business Class Bathroom
After about four hours, I woke up to use the restroom. All of the business seats have direct aisle access, so we were able to go into the aisle without having to climb over anybody else. I was curious how fancy the onboard restroom would be, though it wasn’t anything too special.
It was clean and serviceable. Maybe it was a tad bigger. But otherwise, nothing to write home about.
Landing in Dubai
Like the lunch service, out came the tablecloths, salt and pepper shakers, and napkin rings. We both chose the scrambled eggs with chives, and since it was all one course, the crew was able to quickly serve the whole cabin.
This breakfast hit the spot. It was a hearty meat-and-potatoes kind of meal, and it actually outshined my main course from lunch. The pastry was a little dry, though. Maybe I should have had that croissant at the Air France lounge after all.
I threw back a few cups of coffee, as our goal was to acclimate to our new time zone as quickly as possible. I was able to get some sleep… though the combination of the time change, excitement, and dehydration meant that I was still pretty groggy.
As we approached Dubai International Airport, I was able to catch my first glimpse of the Dubai skyline.
I turned on the tail camera to watch as the massive A380 nailed the landing.
After we touched down in Dubai, Taryn and I gathered our belongings and said one last goodbye to the cabin crew.
After we landed, Emirates yet again impressed. Business class passengers were shuttled in their own separate fancy buses to the main terminal, where we were able to bypass the main customs line. We waited at most five minutes for our bags to arrive, and before we knew it, we were in a taxi to our hotel.
What an awesome experience! It was our first business class flight of the trip, but it was definitely the best. The novelty of an onboard bar was obviously nice, but the service was what really made the flight so enjoyable. Props to Katrina and Marko for treating us like friends.
Check-in/Airport Experience: 9/10
The A380 is a huge plane with a lot of passengers. The ability to stroll up to the front of the check-in line, drop off our bags, and head to the lounge in five minutes was super convenient. And when we landed in Dubai, being whisked to customs on our own business class bus was also awesome. With that being said, while the Air France lounge was nice, it didn’t have that “wow” factor.
Seats/Inflight Entertainment: 9/10
The huge TV, the industry-leading selection of TV shows and movies, the three different ways to control the TV, the “mini bar” at each seat, the lie-flat seats, the mattress pad, all the storage areas… what’s not to like? Probably the gaudy gold fake wood.
I came in with high expectations, and Emirates exceeded them. The fact that I remembered two of the flight attendants by name speaks for itself. Katrina gave us sightseeing tips for Dubai and Marko took pictures of us behind the bar… it was like they were genuinely our friends rather than flight attendants. It pretty much sums up how Emirates goes above and beyond with their service without being obnoxious about it.
The food was fine… and that’s why we are disappointed. The multi-course menu with a plethora of options was nice, but because there are so many passengers in Emirates A380 business class, it all felt a bit rushed. Was it delicious airplane food? Sure was. Did it blow our minds? Not really. Sure beats a pack of peanuts in economy class, though.
Onboard Lounge/Bar: 10/10
The onboard lounge was easily the coolest feature on a plane I’ve ever experienced and exceeded out lofty expectations. The ability to “belly up” to a bar on a plane and talk to other passengers is something I’ll always remember. It was busy, but not full, and had a great selection of different types of alcohol to try. And our bartender Marko made it a lot of fun.
I want to give it a perfect ten, because it was an unforgettable flight. But since the food wasn’t mindblowingly good and I still can’t get over the tacky fake gold wood seats, I’ll dock a point and give it a 9. Still, I’d fly Emirates A380 business class in a heartbeat.
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