Review: Emirates Airbus A380 business class: Sydney-Dubai

Overall Rating

By Chris C., March 19 2015
Emirates Airbus A380 business class: Sydney-Dubai

Sydney - Dubai

Aircraft Type

Airbus A380-800




EK413 / QF8413

Cabin Class




The Good
  • Free chauffeur-driven airport transfers
  • Fully-flat beds, direct aisle access
  • Moët & Chandon practically on tap
The Bad
  • No pyjamas in business class
  • Head to the inflight bar and lounge for a cocktail and a little socialising


Step aboard the upper deck of Emirates' flagship Airbus A380 aircraft, where business class travellers can unwind in private mini-suites before hitting the on-board bar and lounge for a cocktail with their fellow passengers.

As Qantas' main alliance partner on flights to the Middle East and Europe, most Emirates services can also be booked as a Qantas codeshare: serving up both frequent flyer points and status credits for Aussie travellers.

Whether you're bound for Dubai and Europe or are merely heading across the pond to Auckland, here's what you'll find upstairs in Emirates' Airbus A380 business class.


  • Frequent flyer scheme: Emirates Skywards, or Aussies can instead earn points with Qantas Frequent Flyer.
  • Chauffeur-drive: Complimentary for all business class passengers at both ends of the journey.
  • Priority check-in and boarding: Yes, dedicated lanes for business class guests. Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers can also use the first class queues.
  • Checked baggage allowance: 40kg, plus 12kg for Silver, 16kg for Gold and 20kg for Platinum frequent flyers with Emirates or Qantas.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x113cm bag plus either a 100cm briefcase/laptop bag or a garment bag, each weighing up to 7kg.
  • Express Path access (Australia departures): Yes, Express cards are provided at check-in for passport control and security screening.
  • Fast Track access (Dubai arrivals): Yes, or Australian passport holders may also use the e-Gates at Dubai Airport.


Emirates passengers can unwind in the airline's own lounge at Sydney Airport, located directly underneath the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge and adjacent to the temporary Air New Zealand facility.

If your journey began in Auckland and you're heading onwards to Dubai with Emirates on the same flight number, you'll also find the lounge located immediately to your right after clearing transit security screening in Sydney.

Bottles of Veuve Clicquot Champagne are abundant, and there's a good selection of hot food, snacks and desserts if you'd prefer to assemble a meal before going straight to sleep after take-off.

Read our review: The Emirates Lounge, Sydney

Additionally, business class passengers have the option of using the Qantas Business Lounge, while Platinum-grade Skywards members and Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers can instead visit the superb Qantas First Lounge.


Unlike the seven-across (2-3-2) layout you'd find on Emirates' Boeing 777s, A380 business class comes in a 1-2-1 layout and provides each passenger with direct access to the aisle.

Also a one-up over the angled lie-flat beds on the airline's 777s: its A380 business class seats go fully-flat...

... and transform into a bed with a comfortable padded mattress and a full-sized pillow on overnight flights, along with a blanket if required – although pyjamas are sadly absent.

The bed extends to a tight 178cms in the B, D, G and J seats, but we'd suggest that taller travellers aim for the more spacious 200cm-long beds in the A, E, F and K seats.

Wherever you plant yourself, you'll find more of a mini-suite than a typical business class seat: complete with a sizeable side table and also a room temperature mini-bar.

It's a definite step up from the lone water bottle you'd find at your seat when travelling to the UAE with Qantas, Virgin Australia and Etihad, and allows you to enjoy a glass of water – rather than a swig from the bottle – without touching the call bell.

However, the mini-bar also packs in juices and soft drinks which are best enjoyed chilled, so you'll still need to flag down a member of the crew for some ice, which takes just as long as ordering a complete drink and having it land on your tray table already chilled and prepared.

The other eye-catching aspect of the space is the near abundance of faux wood, mimicking the feel of a luxury car and visually breaking up the otherwise all-plastic surrounds of the seat.

Some travellers naturally prefer the 'opulent bling' of Emirates, while others lean towards 'understated elegance' – we'll leave you to make the call.

Nonetheless, getting comfortable is an easy task with three quick-access keys to the side of the seat for sleeping, lounging and landing, joined by an adjustable reading light and easy-reach light switches.

The neighbouring wireless tablet can also be used and detached for more precise adjustments to the seating position, to control the massage feature and to operate the lights and inflight entertainment.

You'll find dual USB ports and an AC power outlet underneath the screen in front to power-up your smartphone, tablet and laptop, although on today's flight, the AC outlet accepted neither angled Australian pins nor UK/UAE-style adaptors: instead preferring those from the USA, Japan and Europe.

Don't have one of those cables? Just ask to borrow a multi-country adaptor that works with both Aussie and UK plugs – not as convenient as being able to plug straight in, but a real non-issue when the adaptor is loaned to you for the entire flight.

There's also a small hidey-hole to stash your phone while it's charging...

... an adjustable footrest and a 'secret' compartment for your shoes – doubling as a good spot to hide your valuables while you're sleeping.

The tray table emerges from the side of the seat in cocktail form and folds open to double in size:

It can also slide forward and away from the seat, allowing you to have it closer during meal times and further away when working on your laptop for a more comfortable typing position.

Extra storage compartments line the sides of the A380's upper deck and can be used by passengers in the window seats, although they're quite deep and rather difficult to reach from the B and J seats where the passenger is positioned closer to the aisle than the window.

That's another reason to choose the A and K seats and their longer beds as a solo traveller, or the E and F pair if being joined by your partner.

Only four restrooms are available in business class – all located down the very back of the large cabin and behind the inflight bar and lounge area – so the further you are from the front, the more traffic you'll notice in the aisle.

The best seats for privacy and a good night's sleep? 7A and 7K – they're against the window with easy access to the side storage bin, are positioned away from the aisle and are only passed by crew coming and going from the first class galley in front.

There's also a small, five-row mini-cabin at the rear of business class, but as these seats experience significantly more aisle traffic and are directly in front of the bar, it's a spot to avoid for lighter sleepers.

Jackets are hung by the crew as you board and are returned prior to landing, which is where you'll notice the surprising absence of a coat hook as you nurse your garment to the gate.


We're greeted before take-off with a glass of Moët & Chandon Champagne, the inflight menu and a wine list – the latter of which includes remarks on the wines' composition, suggested pairings and tasting notes.

That's followed by warmed nuts and an apéritif in the air: in this case a Cointreau and lemonade, with the mixer served on the side.

Next up: bread, a seasonal salad with balsamic and olive oil dressing and a choice of appetisers – either a smoked salmon parcel with crabmeat filling or a Peking Duck salad. I'd chosen the latter and wasn't left wanting.

Then, a choice of braised beef, chilli chicken or Sayadieh (fish and rice) for the main course, but we'd also noticed a fourth, familiar option: the signature Neil Perry chicken schnitzel sandwich, "from the menu of our partner Qantas".

Having 'sampled' many a schnitzel sandwich aboard flights with the Red Roo, I can confirm that the chicken was exactly on-par with Qantas – and of course, it tastes even better when you scoop the coleslaw onto the bread.

Then it's time for cheese, fruit and cakes to appease that sweet tooth... and the only thing better than dessert? Two desserts...

Scratch that. Three.

Disturbing what was an otherwise solid rest, I was woken for breakfast 2hr 45m before landing, or at 2:30am local time in Dubai – that's incredibly early for a pre-arrival bite, especially if you've paid a premium to travel in business class and maximise your sleep.

Timing aside, there's a seasonal fruit plate; a warmed croissant and other bread with butter and strawberry jam; and a fruit yoghurt to begin, plus a choice of juices, tea, and both filtered and espresso coffee.

To finish up was a choice of a cheese and chive omelette, scrambled eggs, waffles and a meat and cheese plate, although I passed on the second course in favour of a touch more beauty sleep.

Entertainment & Service

Each seat comes with a 17-inch touchscreen, packed with over 2,000 'channels' of movies, TV shows and audio.

Among the options on today's flight: Foxcatcher, 22 Jump Street, The Imitation Game, and a personal French favourite from 2004 that I was impressed to find aboard: Les Choristes.

Emirates counts every movie, TV episode and music track as a 'channel' and assigns each its own channel number (a la Foxtel) – even though you can pause, fast-forward and rewind – although you can still select your content as normal via the touchscreen....

... the wireless tablet (above), or a more traditional remote control found in front of the seat.

Tapping the screen during playback conveniently reveals the time remaining on the flight without disturbing your viewing...

... and if you click that downward arrow, the aircraft's exterior cameras and the flight number appears – useful for completing the obligatory arrival cards on your return to Australia.

There's also inflight Internet access with 10MB of free data and a further 500MB for US$1, which was functional if not a little sluggish.

Bvlgari amenity kits are distributed early in the flight with a Colgate dental set, a fold-out hairbrush and comb, tissues and Bvlgari body lotion/moisturiser in the male version, plus what you'd normally find only in first class on other airlines: a razor from Truefitt & Hill (the oldest barber shop in the world), Gillette shaving cream, Bvlgari aftershave and cologne, and Rexona roll-on deodorant.

Female travellers receive a separate kit with similar contents, naturally sans the facial razor.

Aside from the early wake-up call, the service on today's flight was excellent: the crew noticed my Qantas Frequent Flyer status on the manifest and stopped by to deliver a personal welcome (as I've always found with Emirates, even when stuck in economy), and were helpful without being intrusive.

But with partner Qantas and competitors Virgin Australia and Etihad all providing pyjamas in business class on flights to Dubai and neighbouring Abu Dhabi, Emirates needs something special to set it apart from the rest – we'll raise you an inflight cocktail bar and lounge for business and first class passengers, which bridges the gap nicely.

Found at the rear of the upper deck, we stopped by to assess the cocktails and were met with a mean Mojito to rival the best on the ground.

Emirates' A380s fly from Auckland to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, non-stop from Australia to Dubai and then onwards to over 30 other destinations including London, Paris, New York and Milan.

Perth also joins the superjumbo map from May 1 with one of Emirates' three daily Perth-Dubai flights served by the A380.

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Dubai as a guest of Emirates.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

The only thing I'm not fond of with EK's business seats (much like CX's) is that the console does cause one arm to be somewhat restricted (you get that cut-out elbow area). An improvement from the 777's seats is that the headphones connector is further away from that space, so you don't knock it as much.

I'm not so fussed about being handed an airline set of PJs - most of them are pretty cheap and not all that nice. It's less important than seat comfort, F&B, ICE etc to me.

All in all, it's a decent product, even if you do have to submit your hand luggage for LAG check before boarding the return flight at DXB.


27 May 2014

Total posts 8

Chris, you're a lucky fellow mate!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

This is an interesting article on being a travel writer (AusBT contributes to Traveller from time to time)

Makes sense. I did the odd travel report for a airline trip report website, but I found trying to document a trip (taking photos, writing notes, etc) interferes with actually relaxing and enjoying the experience. In a lot of ways it's like being a flight attendant, where the image is more than the reality.

19 Mar 2015

Total posts 9

I find it amusing that the seat width issue is not mentioned. The actual seat is the same width as an economy sea - . 18 Inches. I would happily forgo the useless plastic filled in cubby holes and minibars for the seat to be actually a decent width.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

Hi chrisrad,

The width of the base seat is 18.5 inches and there's also a cutout in the side area around your shoulders (visible in photos 1-5 under the 'Seat' heading), so I didn't personally find it a problem as you can rest your arm on the side table when upright and there's that little bit of extra room when in 'bed mode'.

Economy seats on EK's A380s are 18.1 inches wide but don't give you the extra space to stretch out around the shoulders (and are in a 3-4-3 layout rather than 1-2-1 in business class), but it's interesting that you've flagged that – the business class seats certainly feel more specious than economy!

19 Mar 2015

Total posts 9

Hi Chris,

Yes but the physical seat you are sitting in is basically an economy seat that can lie flat in a bulky plastic shell. It's a far cry for example SQ's seat which is 30 inches, NZ 22 inches, QF A380 21.5 QF A330 23, QR 22 inches. etc etc. EK's biggest negative also that there is no consistency of their product across the fleet. 77W flights have sloping lie flat seats? Something I would have expected 10+ years ago. Not to mention EK is not exactly the cheapest option.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 784

+1 this. Just not wide enough. It's ok if you're super thin with broad shoulders however the base needs to be wider. All that TV, booze and dessert doesn't negate the pinchy feeling of a narrow seat base. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

Seat width requirements vary from person to person based on their own dimensions, but there is a certain point where too much width is either wasted space or even uncomfortable (SQ for example). 

I tend to find about 19 inch between the armrests is quite comfortable, EK's didn't cause me any feeling of being cramped other than the hard shell console - it's helped by the recesses in the molding of the arms.

19 Mar 2015

Total posts 9

Of course they vary, but the point is, the seat can be made wider. The rubbish surrounding the seat is basically robbing those extra inches. If you are of slighly larger the average build, you can't even sleep on your back in these seats as your shoulders barely fit into the shell, even sleeping on your side and wanting to turn creates problems.

I'll put it out there that even Starclass on Jetstar are more comfortable to sit in (on a day flight) than some of these staggered config business classes. Purely for the fact the seat is wider and not surronded by plastic shells. Sure these seats are horrible for sleeping on and don't have privacy, but sitting on a day flight to Asia it's another story.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

I think you just had to go with what suits you best, even if it differs from person to person. It's such a subjective thing that declaring an airline or a seat as world's best can only really be a personal perspective (you can use it as a guide of course to determine which airline to try, but ultimately it only matters what it means to you after you've given it a test yourself).

18 Jan 2012

Total posts 13

To me the experience looks great, but it also looks like there is definitely room for improvement. I would have been quite annoyed and severely marked down the service score if I was woken nearly three hours prior to arrival for breakfast. 

Great review though as always Chris!

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

Cheers lsal0106. We'd have removed a star from the service rating if the journey were a shorter one – particularly something like Asia to Australia where 3hrs gets close to half the flying time – but it's around 14hrs 30m from Sydney to Dubai.

Setting aside the first three hours for take-off, dinner and a cocktail at the bar, 30 mins for settling into bed and then eight hours of sleep, that brings you to three hours prior to arrival, or breakfast.

I'm the type to get as much sleep in the air as I can because I know that I'll be busy when I land, so would have preferred to make that nine or even 9.5hrs of solid shut-eye, but it wouldn't be fair to deduct a whole star when the 'standard' 8hrs of sleep is still possible on the flight in between the meals.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

In fairness, across a full cabin, something does have to give. You either get a truncated breakfast lite service shortly before landing, or a proper full service one sometime earlier.

What is more interesting is did you ask them not to wake you, or to serve you a late breakfast, before they commenced final meal service (because that would then be a service fault). But if you don't let them know beforehand, they'll just go according to their SOP as it's not the sort of thing one can mindread.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

I didn't make any special requests for breakfast - I just went with the flow this time around.

18 Jan 2012

Total posts 13

Then the service score seems fair in that case.

I had a bad experience once on EK BKK-SYD in J, where on a 9 hour overnight flight, Dinner took over four hours to complete, and the crew insisted that if we wanted (Continental) Breakfast we would be woken three hours prior to arrival. I thought it may have been a similar situation to that.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

This is where I think the stylish idea of no trolleys in the J cabin end up being a pain sometimes. To individually plate up and serve piece by piece just drags out meal service times (as cabin crew constantly go back and forth to the galley). Sometimes it's just easier to put it all on a service cart, let people see what's on offer and just pick what they want (some airlines mix and match individual plating and service cart like that in J).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 May 2014

Total posts 14

Hi Chris,

Have you done a review or flown on emirates first class on either 777-300ER or A380?

I've booked myself in first class using points on Emirates,  Brisbane to Dubai via Singapore on B777, and Dubai to London on A380, is it much better or marginally better in all areas than the A380 business class you reviewed here? Any insight would be much appreciated.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

Hi Asubsk,

I've flown with Emirates in first class on both, although don't have a review to link you to unfortunately.

The main difference between business and first class are the closing doors that make the first class seat a proper suite, plus a wider bed, more space in front and around you, a make-up mirror with built-in lighting, a larger entertainment monitor, a writing kit and the ability to have anything on the menu at any time during the flight (until around 1hr 30m before landing when they start to wind things down).

There's also Dom Perignon 2004 on most routes rather than Moet NV, plus caviar and more elaborate versions of any dishes that are shared with business class– e.g. the 'Arabic mezze' is one nice plate in business class, whereas in first class there's a central plate and three additional plates on the side (one at 12 o'clock, one at 3 o'clock and one at 9 o'clock), one hell of a bread basket, and each dish can be customised to your liking (adding or subtracting ingredients etc.).

Add to that a 'do not disturb' light and self-service alcohol and snack bars exclusive to first class on both aircraft and you'll be set!

(And on the A380, you can wander back to the cocktail bar discussed above, and can freshen up in the shower spas – that one I can provide a link for.)

The suites are almost identical on both aircraft (minor differences in lighting), but to the untrained eye they're practically the same.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 May 2014

Total posts 14

Thanks for the break down, looking forward to the flights!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

While the A380 does have all the bells and whistles, service on the 777 can be a highlight thanks to the smaller First cabin (often better than on the A380 in my experience - where staff are a bit more widely spread).

I do love the huge bathrooms on the A380, but the shower is a bit of a gimmick (I did use it once, because well you have to don't you, but haven't bothered with it since).

04 Nov 2012

Total posts 213

We spent many a happy hour at the onboard bar, cabin service and food excellent, found the seat surroundings a bit guady though. Had the limo collection and the 1st lounge meal we had in DXB was awesome.

One must while in Doha fly the 380 simulator in the mall just 100 bucks for so much fun, did a movie of it too.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

25 Aug 2012

Total posts 21

The early wake up call is an irritation as are the endless PA announcements at the beginning of the flight. Just LMA!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Feb 2015

Total posts 34

Nice Review, I agree that they shoud have PJ's in Business Class. The food looks fantastic which does not surprise me. I do have a confession though. I have never travelled Emirates because when they have good fares,  I cannot travel at those times. :( I will definately travel with them though, if not work for them! 

23 Mar 2015

Total posts 4

I travelled Emirates business class recently for the first time and wasn't overly impressed, particularly on the SYD/DXB/SYD flights. The service was practically non-existent on the way over, ordering coffee & juice 4 hours before breakfast and never receiving it, not even at the breakfast service. I found Australian cabin crew giggling over the intercom twice when giving information, very unprofessional. The A380 on the return was the newer model as you've reviewed but going over it was an older model and I found the seat not as comfortable. I wasn't told about the mattress and skipping the dinner for sleep, I tossed & turned for 4 hours until I got up, only to notice other passengers with a mattress. The internet never worked on any of the 4 flights I took. Although the A380 seating plan is good with single seats, I liked the 777 in/out of Europe and the service both flights was fantastic, what I would have expected on the A380 flights. The bar area was noisy so I'd hate to sit in the back section of business and for the number of pax in business, I found the toilets were insufficient. Emirates is not my 1st choice for business class but I was hoping to enjoy the trip and use them more often, not now.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1205

I have never understood why EK has not put some sort of dividers splitting up the J class cabin on its A380s into a couple of sub-cabins.  Given it extends 2/3 of the length of an A380, the current J class looks like a dormitory.  Breaking it up a bit would improve it hugely.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 233

I have posted about the pitiful Business Class seats on EK before and now the 2015 Skytrax  survey confirms it . EK don't even make the list of the first 10  !!!!!!!!  SQ are better in every way.Best Business Class Airline Seats

1Qatar Airways
2Japan Airlines
3Singapore Airlines
4Cathay Pacific Airways
5ANA All Nippon Airways
6Oman Air
7EVA Air
8Korean Air
9Etihad Airways
10Garuda Indonesia


09 Sep 2012

Total posts 139

I realise that no one in your part of the world believes it, Chris, but it's only about a fifth of Australians are so crass as to live in Sin City.

How about reviewing Emirates Business class seats for the rest of us?

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

By Sin City I assume you're making a reference to Sydney rather than what would normally be Las Vegas?

If so, Emirates flies the A380 from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to Dubai with the same seats and service (varied by the time of day) from each city, so there's nothing to be gained by reviewing the exact same seat and airline out of a different port on flights of a similar length – that time would be better spent by reviewing a different aircraft or cabin (eg. A380 First or 777 Business) if flying with the same airline.

Where possible though we do try to mix things up, so you'll notice that we've also reviewed Virgin Australia and Thai Airways through Brisbane and Air China, United and Qatar Airways through Melbourne in recent times, plus many more you'll see soon enough. :)

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