When I think back to when I first began my pursuit of Miles & Points, I can distinctly remember that nothing had been a greater motivation for me to commit to the cause than the prospect of eventually getting to fly Emirates First Class on the Airbus A380.
The product is one of the most instantly recognizable First Class cabins in the world: a bedazzling interior with 14 individual suites, an onboard bar and lounge, and of course, the oversized restrooms with the famous shower in the sky.
My eyes were set on one day flying Emirates First Class since the very beginning, and in my mind, all of my other First Class experiences so far had all been leading up to this very moment in the wee hours of the morning in Dubai.
The excitement was palpable as we descended the elevator from the Emirates First Class Lounge down to the jet bridge, and I felt slightly on edge with the kind of heart-pounding that one feels when the culmination of multiple years’ worth of effort is imminent.
Emirates | EK241
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Cabin: First Class
Route: Dubai (DXB) to Toronto (YYZ)
Date: Monday, June 3, 2019
Time: Departing 3:30am and arriving 9:30am
Duration: 14 hours
Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the Airbus A380, so all of the gates at Dubai International Airport’s Concourse A are equipped to serve the massive double-decker aircraft. The First Class boarding walkway therefore directed us straight onto the upper deck of the A380 that would be flying us to Toronto, and upon boarding, we were directed to our left to enter the First Class cabin.
It was love at first sight. The golden Emirates logo on the forward wall, the gleaming golden walls of the suites, the unparalleled ostentatiousness that was on show no matter where you looked.
Sure, it wasn’t quite the cutting-edge luxury spectacle that is Emirates 777 New First Class, which I had flown just about 24 hours earlier, but there was a certain timelessness about Emirates’s A380 First Class, particularly as someone who had admired it from afar over so many years.
At once, all the photos and videos I had seen of Emirates First Class had suddenly become reality, and I was stunned and amazed as I settled into Suite 3F at the back end of the cabin.
First Class on the Airbus A380 features 14 suites in total, arranged across four rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. There are eight window seats in total, spread across the left and right side of the aircraft; on top of that, there are six suites spread across three rows down the middle.
The seat selection process is therefore pretty straightforward: solo travellers would be best served by one of the window seats for maximum privacy, while couples travelling together would most likely prefer to share the twin middle seats, as Jessy and I did in choosing Seats 3D and 3F as our respective homes for the next 14 hours.
Like most of Emirates’s long-haul flights, the Dubai–Toronto service departs in the early hours of the morning at around 3:30am, so the pillows and blankets had already been left at our seats by the time we boarded.
I swiftly took my seat and set out to inspect the many bells and whistles on all sides. But before that, of course, the crew were on hand to pour out the first glass of 2009 Dom Perignon Vintage of the night.
Looking straight ahead, the front part of the suite is about as glamorous as it can get. The star attraction is the 27’’ entertainment monitor, which isn’t quite as large nor as high-resolution as the one you’d find on 777 New First Class, but still features Emirates’s signature ICE entertainment system.
In front of the entertainment screen is a fold-out vanity mirror, with a handful of Byredo skincare amenities, to help you keep your First Class game-face in perfect condition.
There’s also a snack basket that forms one part of the in-suite minibar. Of course, there are several much more appetizing options for on-demand dining during the First Class flight, so these are mostly here for decoration or in case you just want to munch on something quickly, and you also have the option of bringing all the snacks with you when you disembark.
Sliding out from the edge of the surface is a small tray that contains the pen and writing pad, for your personal use.
Then, looking beneath the surface, we have a storage rack that’s set into the wall of the suite, which contains the in-flight magazines and other reading material, as well as the Bowers & Wilkins headphones.
The remainder of the space below the front part of the suite is used to store your personal belongings. There are no overhead bins here in the First Class cabin, so any carry-on luggage you have would be placed here for the duration of the flight. Even if you had a decent-sized carry-on, though, you’d still have more than enough legroom down here.
Let’s follow the decadent suede walls to the left side of the seat, where you’ll find the next part of the in-suite minibar: a non-alcoholic drinks cabinet that can be raised or lowered with the push of a button, consisting of Evian still water, Perrier sparkling water, a few cans of pop, and a drinking glass.
It has to be said that the drinks cabinet doesn’t really serve much of a functional purpose, since you can always request any of these items from the crew at any time. But that’s arguably one of the hallmarks of Emirates First Class: sure nobody needs an open bar or a shower on a plane, but the very fact that these features are so brazenly over-the-top is what makes the whole experience so special.
Adjacent to the button that moves the drinks cabinet up-and-down, you’ll find another button that pops the tray table out of its holder.
It’s a real hunk of a table, dressed up unapologetically in that same faux golden marble pattern as the rest of the cabin.
Moving a little closer to the seat, you’ll find the control tablet that serves as your central touchpoint for customizing your First Class suite to your exact liking, as well as getting the attention of the crew for anything you may need.
The call button and in-suite lighting controls are found underneath the tablet, while the “Press” button in the middle allows you to unlatch the tablet from its holder. An individual air nozzle, for ventilation, is found adjacent to the buttons.
The cabin lights dimmed slightly as most First Class passengers completed their boarding, and the crew members came by with champagne in their hands, ready to top-up my drink for Round 2.
They also poured out some Arabic coffee and offered a selection of dates as part of the pre-departure welcome rituals.
Continuing with our tour of the suite, the entertainment controller is housed within the left-side armrest, as is a tiny storage nook that’s probably only large enough to store a pair of glasses or something like that.
Beyond the armrest, you have a little bit of surface space to put your knick-knacks during the flight, but the surface can also be pushed open to reveal a larger storage unit to keep your belongings more secure.
On the opposite side, lifting up the right-side armrest cover reveals another tiny storage nook, as well as the life vest in case of emergencies.
Then, at the very front of the armrest, you’ll find a simplified set of seat controls that allows you to put the seat into upright, dining, or lie-flat modes, as well as electronically open and close the sliding door to your suite.
Up top, there are two individual lights that can be adjusted to varying levels of brightness, which combine with the ambient lights at the front of the suite to give you a great deal of customization over the lighting situation in your suite.
Unlike the fully-enclosed 777 New First Class suites, though, the A380 suites remain relatively open to the surrounding cabin, so it’s still going to be relatively dark in your suite if the cabin lights are turned off completely (as they were throughout most of this flight).
In terms of connectivity, you’ll find the power ports located at the edge of the countertop at the front of the suite…
…with the USB charging ports embedded into the side of the suite just underneath that.
It’s also worth noting that the seats in the middle of the Emirates First Class cabin have a privacy divider that can be raised or lowered with the push of a button. Couples travelling together would probably prefer to keep it down, but if you find yourself seated in the middle as a solo traveller, you can always put up the divider to give yourself some more privacy.
Finally, a few additional features are found on the outside of the suite. These include the illuminated seat sign, complete with a Do Not Disturb indicator should you choose to make use of it, as well as the individual closet where you can hang up your garments.
Sitting back with my bubbly and taking in my surroundings as a whole, I took a moment to revel in the satisfaction of finally finding myself seated snugly in one of Emirates’s First Class suites, something I had only dreamed of for so long.
It must also be said that there was no hint of subtlety at all about Emirates’s brand of opulence: everything was glossy and gold-laden everywhere you looked, and the in-your-face, “nouveau riche” air of the cabin’s visuals came very close to traversing the line between the true refinement and downright tackiness.
As I polished off my second glass of Dom, we began our pushback and the safety video began to play. The crew had to come around to remove the snack basket for takeoff, replacing it after we reached cruising altitude. I actually took this opportunity to doze off for around half an hour, my circadian rhythms having been thrown into complete disarray by our frivolous Emirates adventures over the past few days.
Once we were airborne, I was lightly awoken by one of the crew members, who asked me if I wanted to get some rest immediately (in which case she’d help me prepare my bed), or otherwise if I wanted to take the meal or have a shower first.
Emirates offers dine-on-demand for First Class passengers, which means that I could choose to take my meals at any time I wanted. I decided to stay awake for a few more hours, have some dinner, take my shower, and then finally get some proper rest for a good portion of the remainder of the flight.
With that, the crew member returned with the menu and wine list, as well as my third glass of Dom Perignon and some mixed snacks.
As with the previous flight on the 777 New First Class, I had found a copy of the menu on the Emirates website beforehand, so didn’t bring the menu and wine list from the flight with me; however, the wine list wasn’t included with the online menu, so I do apologize for its omission.
The menu read as follows:
The crew also offered a set of pajamas for me to change into, as well as the Bulgari-branded men’s amenity kit, which was almost exactly the same as the one I had received previously, except this one had a strap on the bag as well.
The contents of the amenity kit were the same as before, including a few specialty items like shaving cream and Lynx body spray in addition to the Bulgari-branded premium toiletries.
I was also given a pair of fluffy slippers to go along with my pajamas.
Uniquely to this flight, the crew also further distributed a tote bag for me to store all of above mentioned items, which also happened to be extremely useful for bringing all the minibar snacks with us at the end of the flight.
The crew served my meal about 30 minutes after my order was taken. Having thoroughly enjoyed every bite of Emirates’s signature caviar course on my two previous flights onboard their 777 New First Class, I couldn’t help but choose it as my appetizer yet again, for what would be my third helping of caviar over the past 36 hours or so.
As before, the caviar was served with most of the usual trimmings – blinis, lemon juice, chopped onions, grated eggs, and sour cream – in an eloquently arranged spread.
Some more 2009 Dom Perignon to go with it? You bet. I’m a man of simple pleasures at the end of the day – give me some pearls and some bubbly, and I’m happy.
After savouring my caviar over the course of about 15 minutes, it was time for the main course, for which I had selected the lamb kofta. This was marked on the menu as a “healthier meal”, which I thought would probably serve me well given the unseemly quantities of food I had consumed over the past little while.
I quite enjoyed the dish, and thought it was executed better than the steak that I had ordered on my previous Emirates flight; however, I still wasn’t blown away by the quality of the food the same way that other First Class airlines have dazzled me in the past.
After three separate flights on Emirates First Class, I think it’s safe to conclude that while the onboard catering is obviously of a very high quality, it would be my first choice if I had to identify one weak link among the overall experience.
For dessert, I had chosen the chocolate ricotta pudding, which again, tasted pretty good but nothing spectacular, like the kind of dessert you might expect to be served at the end of a $40 prix-fixe menu.
Just like my previous flight, I ordered some sencha (Japanese green tea) to wash down the meal, and to give myself a break from all the Dom Perignon I had been consuming up until this point. The crew member also treated me to a bar of chocolate, and asked whether I’d like to rest now or perhaps reserve a shower (which does require a little bit of advance notice).
Jessy wanted to shower first so that she could go to sleep soon after that, so I let the flight attendant know that I planned to take my shower after Jessy was done hers.
Both of the shower suites at the front of the First Class cabin feature toilets and sinks as well, but since they were both occupied at the moment, I needed to visit one of the smaller restrooms at the rear of the cabin instead.
These are pretty much your standard-issue A380 restrooms: there’s a window that you can look out of, and a good amount of space compared to the restrooms on other aircraft.
As you’d expect, the First Class restrooms were decked out in that same signature gold marble print, and those Bulgari colognes and perfumes were starting to smell very familiar to me by now.
Upon returning to my seat, I connected to the wifi to get some work done for the next hour so while I waited for my shower. Emirates provides First Class passengers with complimentary wifi as long as you have your Emirates Skywards number attached to your reservation, which I took care of before the flight, so I was able to sneak in some productivity (read: update my Instagram stories with all the over-the-top luxury that was going on) over the course of the flight.
I also played around with the in-seat tablet to see what it could do. Since the ICE entertainment system was virtually the same as onboard Emirates 777 New First Class which I had already reviewed, I won’t be mentioning the movies and TV selection again.
The tablet’s electronic seat controls were obviously different here on the Airbus A380, though…
…and I also noticed that you could open and close the door electronically via the tablet as well, which wasn’t the case onboard the 777…
…as well as the fact that each of the suite’s four individual lights could be turned on or off with a touch of the screen.
Anyway, not too long after I was finished making my Instagram stories, the flight attendant came over to let me know that my shower was ready.
As the crew member showed me into the shower suite, she informed me that I’d been allocated a 30-minute block of time in the suite, and that I’d have five minutes of hot running water for my shower. And just like that, she shut the door, I locked it, and the occasion for checking off a major bucket list item – showering in the sky – was upon me.
The shower suites on the Emirates Airbus A380 are gigantic – almost certainly larger than the bathroom in my own apartment on the ground. The door is positioned at the corner of the suite, so when you enter, you have the sink in front of you, the shower on one side, and the toilet on the other.
The sink is set up with a mirror with LED lighting, a variety of soaps and hand creams (and of course, Bulgari cologne and perfume as well), and a neatly arranged stack of six hand towels.
Next to it, you have the toilet, which is only revealed when the bench on top of it is lifted into place; otherwise, it’s just a bench that you can sit on as you change your clothes or freshen up in the mirror.
Adjacent to the toilet seat is a little stockpile of all the toiletries and amenities you might need. Hey, you get 30 minutes in the shower suite, so you might as well make the most of it and practice some self-care while you’re in here!
Along the wall closer to the centre of the aircraft, you have several full-body mirrors, a hook and hanger for your clothes, and a television monitor to keep you updated on the flight’s progress.
And then, of course – of course – the famous shower in the sky, nestled in the corner of the suite right next to the doorway. When it’s your turn to shower, the attendant will have laid down a small, perfectly cut-out mat for you by the entrance to the shower, and there’ll also be a towel prepared for you.
All you have to do is step inside…
…stand underneath the shower head…
…and push the button to unleash the stream of water.
As I’m sure anyone who’s showered in the sky can relate to, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud the moment that the water hit my face, scarcely able to believe that this was real.
You’re limited to five minutes of hot water, and there’s a little indicator that tells you how much water you have left, although you’re free to push the button to stop and start the water as you wish. And naturally, I stopped the water flow every 30 seconds or so, simply to drag out the experience as long as I could.
At first, I stared down in amazement at the water flowing through my hands out of sheer disbelief.
Then I put my hands against the wall to feel the subtle hum of the plane, just to remind myself where I was.
After that, I simply stood there and let the water cascade around me.
And then I sat down on the little bench and pointed the shower head at me, so that the water was now cascading upon me as I was sitting.
And finally, I actually took a few seconds to use some shampoo and body wash to actually, you know, shower.
Eventually, I watched the indicator dwindle and dwindle until the water flow stopped for the final time. I stepped out of the shower unit, looking up in the mirror to see a massive grin on my face that I didn’t even know I was wearing.
Wow. Showering in the sky. What a truly bizarre, outlandish, and yet downright awesome thing to do.
On my way back to my seat, I stopped by the communal minibar that Emirates sets up at the front of the First Class cabin. There are self-serve snacks and drinks here that you’re welcome to take, as well as a few bottles of expensive liquor that are just sitting there out in the open, presumably allowing you to help yourself to a glass at any time as well. (Note that this is distinct from the main onboard bar, which is located behind the business class cabin, and which we’ll visit later.)
Most passengers in First Class were already fast asleep by this point, and indeed, my bed had been made for me by the time I returned to my seat.
Emirates customarily leaves a small tray of fruit at your table as a post-shower snack, so I polished that off before settling into my blankets.
I spoke to the flight attendant one last time, asking her to wake me up in five hours’ time. Yes, I needed some rest, but I also didn’t want to miss out on any more of the Emirates First Class experience than I had to – after all, I could always catch up on sleep when I arrived home in Toronto!
Similar to the lie-flat bed on the new 777s, Emirates’s A380 First Class beds aren’t the widest either, because a good chunk of the suite’s width is being occupied by the rather frivolous minibar on the side. I still slept like a baby because I was so tired at this point, but I didn’t have as much room for spreading out during my sleep as I’ve had on other First Class airlines.
Five hours later, the flight attendant dutifully patted me on the shoulder to wake me up, but it must have been the Dom Perignon or something, because I continued to snooze for another 40 minutes or so. By the time I was able to rouse myself into wakefulness, there were only about two and a half hours of the flight left.
I was quite upset at myself for oversleeping, but instead of dwelling on that, I decided to seek the immediate satisfaction of ordering my second meal of the flight, and in particular by kicking things off with yet another round of caviar.
Hey, it’s dine on demand, right?
After Round #4 of caviar on Emirates was polished off, I ordered the fish cakes as my breakfast, and this dish was probably the tastiest one out of all the dishes I tried on Emirates First Class. It was delightfully crispy and salty, and it was topped with a mango chutney that I really enjoyed.
To drink, I had some orange juice, as well as a cappuccino to really fire me up for the final stretch of this incredible journey.
Jessy had also awoken from her sleep by this point, and she ordered a quick breakfast of Eggs Benedict with some fresh fruit on the side.
Then, with about an hour and a half of the flight left to go, it was finally time to go check out the onboard bar. To get there, we had to exit the First Class cabin via the rear and walk through the massive business class cabin, before arriving at the bar at the back of the A380’s upper deck.
(Speaking of which, Emirates business class on the Airbus A380 features staggered forward-facing seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, which isn’t the most cutting-edge product, but is certainly leaps and bounds ahead of the 2-3-2 business class seats they offer on some of their other planes. I’d love to try out their A380 business class one day, although I don’t know if I’d be able to stomach the feeling of “missing out” on First Class!)
The bar and lounge is a truly gorgeous space. There are a few couches and seats on either side for guests to sit down and mingle with each other, but of course, the star attraction is the circular bar counter in the middle of it all.
There’s usually a crew member who works at the bar and offers guests something to drink, although of course it’s also a popular spot for guests to grab a photo, so they’re happy to vacate their spot when needed.
Seeing that we were so enthusiastic about taking pictures, one of the crew members – just like they did on my previous flight – offered to take some Polaroid pictures of the two of us together at the bar!
I didn’t manage to get a photograph of the photograph, but it was a fantastic keepsake to bring with us – and unlike last time, Jessy’s actually in this one as well!
At the behest of the bartender, Jessy and I treated ourselves to one final glass of 2009 Dom Perignon, this time combined with some orange juice to make some mimosas. It was a new morning outside now that we were flying over North America, and as we sat by the windows sipping our mimosas and looking outside, I couldn’t help but wonder in that moment how on earth this was all possible.
And then, before too long, the captain came on the PA to announce that we were beginning our descent into Toronto. Jessy and I shuffled back through the business class cabin into our newly-refreshed First Class suites, which were now looking absolutely glorious with the daylight streaming through the windows.
The crew had left a Canadian customs form at our seat, so we filled that out…
…and then it was time to put the tail camera feed on the screen…
…so that we could watch our descent all the way into Toronto Pearson, bringing everything – this 14-hour flight, this 27-hour-and-20-minute epic journey on Emirates First Class, and indeed, this month-long adventure through the Mediterranean and the Middle East – to an end.
First Class on the Emirates Airbus A380 holds legendary status among aspirational travel circles, and I feel immensely privileged to have had the opportunity to spend 14 hours among its extravagantly flashy interiors.
Looking at the basics, the First Class suite is visually stunning and jam-packed with an excessive number of in-seat features, but it isn’t quite as cutting-edge of a product as many of its peers, and certainly pales in comparison to Emirates’s brand-new 777 New First Class suites.
However, any shortcomings you might notice on Emirates A380 First Class are more than outweighed by the fact that no other First Class product in the world could possibly compare in terms of the sheer fun factor, between the two incredibly unique experiences of showering in the sky and sipping on a drink at the onboard bar.
There is no way you can possibly fly on Emirates First Class and walk away without a huge grin on your face and feeling like you’re on top of the world. It’s very much a life-changing experience in its own right, far more than it is simply a comfortable way to travel from Point A to Point B. If you have the possibility of making it happen for yourself, don’t even think twice about it: just book it.
Until next time, Emirates First Class, whenever that may be.