- Excellent food, wine and service
- No seat for a companion, unless you head to the bar
- Shower at 40,000 feet
Tempting travellers with private suites, onboard showers and two social spaces for first class flyers to stretch their legs during the journey, Emirates' Airbus A380s take high-flying jetsetters from A to B in first class luxury.
- Frequent flyer program: Emirates Skywards, or other partner programs including Qantas Frequent Flyer.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x7kg bags, one measuring up to 113cm and the other up to 100cm – or 20cm thick when folded, for a garment bag.
- Checked baggage allowance (weight system) – 32kg limit per bag:
- 50kg: standard allowance on most itineraries
- 62kg: Skywards Silver, Qantas Silver
- 66kg: Skywards Gold, Qantas Gold
- 70kg: Skywards Platinum, Qantas Platinum & Platinum One
- 75kg: Qantas Chairman's Lounge
- Itineraries using the 'piece system' when connecting to the Americas instead provide a base allowance of 2x32kg.
- 50kg: standard allowance on most itineraries
- Priority airport services (Brisbane): Check-in and Express Path security screening are swift, although the boarding gate combined all 'priority boarding' guests into a single lane, spanning Silver frequent flyers booked in economy through to first class passengers, which made for a lengthy queue.
- Priority airport services (Dubai): Present your boarding pass for access to Fast Track immigration on arrival, or better yet, zip through Dubai's Smart Gates if you've already registered. Priority-tagged bags were the first to arrive on the belt.
- Chauffeur-drive: Complimentary airport transfers are provided for passengers booked on paid first class tickets and those who've upgraded from paid business class fares (but not on frequent flyer reward bookings). A Mercedes-Benz GLE 250 was the chariot in Brisbane, with a Mercedes-Benz S 450 greeting the arrival in Dubai.
Emirates operates a dedicated lounge at Brisbane Airport, offering buffet dining, shower facilities, and space to relax before departure.
Emirates also provides direct boarding from the lounge to the aircraft on selected flights, and while this is most often available for the airline's Airbus A380 departures, another aircraft was blocking the gate which made boarding via the terminal necessary.
As one of the oldest lounges in Emirates' network – and the first that the airline ever opened outside of Dubai – the space is due for a refurbishment, which Emirates has planned but not yet commenced.
Emirates operates daily Airbus A380 flights between Brisbane and Dubai, departing the Queensland capital at 8:55pm each evening to reach Dubai at 5:30am the next calendar day, after a journey of 14 hours 35 minutes.
The airline also has a daily non-stop Boeing 777 flight to Dubai – and until March 30 2020, a Brisbane-Singapore-Dubai route also served by the Boeing 777 – and whichever aircraft you take, you'll find similar first class suites at the very front.
However, only the Airbus A380 features shower spas in first class, giving you five minutes of running water at 40,000 feet to freshen up after dinner or closer to landing.
Out of Australia, Emirates also uses Airbus A380s on selected flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to Dubai, as well as from Sydney to Christchurch.
Nestled at the front of the upper deck, Emirates' superjumbos sport 14 first class suites in a 1-2-1 layout.
While there are no interconnected suites as some airlines offer in first class, passengers travelling with a companion may wish to select a pair of seats in the centre (the E+F duos), as a privacy divider can be lowered between them for conversation.
Wherever you're seated, the 1-2-1 layout provides direct access to the aisle for each passenger, with motorized privacy doors sliding closed at a press of a button.
The absence of overhead lockers in this part of the aircraft creates a bigger sense of space, with bags instead stored on the floor in front of you, beneath the TV screen.
Alternatively, laptop-sized bags can also be kept in the space next to your seat, with smaller items living underneath a fold-up hatch:
Separately, there's a nook down by your feet for thin items such as laptops and tablets, which is also where you'll find the supplied Bowers & Wilkins E1 noise-cancelling headphones.
That's not all: there's a writing kit in the drawer in front of you with a notebook and pen, both yours to keep.
Just above, a lighted mirror which tilts open or can be closed to create a flat surface. When open, you'll be able to access a few toiletries for the journey, with separate Bvlgari amenity kits also provided.
To your side sits a minibar, stocked with soft drinks and both still and sparkling water. However, as the contents aren't refrigerated, you'll still need to flag down a flight attendant for some ice: largely defeating the purpose when you could order the whole drink in the same interaction.
Last but not least, your aisle-side armrest folds open to reveal a small tray that's perfectly-sized for a watch, cufflinks and rings.
When it comes to controlling your seat – and those privacy doors – you'll find shortcut keys on the same armrest for the most commonly-used modes.
Further customisation can be achieved via the suite's touchscreen tablet – or 'mode controller', as Emirates calls it:
Below that tablet, you'll find your call bell, lighting and window controls, and as for the button labelled "press", it releases the tablet from its mounting, should you wish to control things wirelessly.
The window blinds can also be controlled via the up/down buttons at each window.
Looking for the inflight power? A combined AC and USB outlet sits in front of you, under the hatch. However, many laptop transformers won't fit into the socket by default, so you may need to reach into your bag for a travel adaptor to provide some extra spacing, or ask the crew to borrow one as these are also kept on board.
As the socket forms part of the fixed shelf in front, you can either charge your device while keeping it out of the way, or retrieve the seat's full tray table to use and charge simultaneously.
Without any lockers mounted to the ceiling above, you'll instead find a reading light and air vent over your shoulder, plus another vent near the tablet mount.
When it's time to doze, the crew will transform your seat into a fully-flat, 201cm (79-inch) bed, dressed with a mattress pad, linen and a plush pillow, along with pyjamas and slippers.
While seats 1A and 1K look nice on a boarding pass, lighter sleepers may prefer to sit mid-cabin to avoid being near the showers and snack counter, or the rear galleys – but once the curtain is closed to the shower lobby, and your own sliding doors are shut, most travellers won't notice a great deal of difference.
While Emirates' A380s do offer social spaces for travellers to mingle and stretch their legs, it's worth pointing out that these first class suites don't provide a separate bed and lounge chair inside each suite, as you'd find aboard the A380s of Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines on flights from Australia.
The food and beverage service in Emirates first class begins as soon as you board, with a snack basket taking care of any urgent nibbles, and a beverage of your choosing: even if it's a simple sparkling water with ice and lemon.
Of course, Champagne is Emirates' signature first class drink, with Dom Pérignon 2008 currently the default pour:
From time to time, that's joined by a second Champagne, such as the Dom Pérignon Rosé 2006, which is naturally a little sweeter.
When it comes to dining, you can order what you like, whenever you like, from the entire menu. That gives you the flexibility of sleeping, working, relaxing (and showering) when it suits you, rather than scheduling everything else around when food is being served.
That said, a flight such as this with an evening departure and an early morning arrival still lends itself well to the more traditional approach of dinner after take-off and breakfast before landing.
Pairing perfectly with the signature Champagne is Emirates' signature first class appetiser, caviar. You'll find this served on most flights, with the caviar presented with finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream, lemon, blinis, and melba toast in the bread basket.
As there's no need to follow the menu in order, the next course came from the 'hot snacks' list at the back of the menu, being porcini mushroom and fontina cheese arancini, served with red pepper pesto and green leaves: a flavourful yet light starter.
Back on the 'appetisers' page, the traditional Arabic mezze is no small plate, giving you the opportunity to mix and match a wide variety of flavours, getting a taste for the destination before touching down.
Among the many bites: moutabel, hummus, muhammara, baba ghanoush, stuffed vine leaves, tabouleh, labneh with zaatar and sumac, Kalamata olives, and lamb kibbeh. This paired nicely with the 1998 Château Léoville-Las Cases from The Emirates Vintage Collection.
With room for a main course, the lamb chops with lavender chimichurri were cooked perfectly – tricky to accomplish when served on an aircraft, yet pleasingly pink inside – plated with lamb jus, caramelised summer squash and roasted courgettes.
Desserts are available too, such as a chocolate clairefontaine, a white chocolate and green tea mousse, cheese, and seasonal fruit, with midnight snacks including sandwiches, profiteroles and soup on offer as well, as part of the complete menu.
After the meal, you can stretch your legs at the first-class-only bar, located at the front of the cabin in the shower lobby, where you'll find a selection of self-serve drinks and snacks – although the most premium picks like Hennessy Paradis Extra Rare Cognac and Dom Pérignon are now only served by the crew.
You can also mingle at the back of the upper deck, where a separate lounge area is shared between business class and first class flyers.
Fast-forward to breakfast, and the scrambled egg with truffle and hot-smoked salmon is a delightful way to begin the day, accompanied by potato scones, as well as juice and espresso coffee.
Don't overlook the bread basket, either. On many airlines, toast is served rock hard (and thus, inedible) as it's pre-toasted and reheated in an oven – but Emirates' Airbus A380s come equipped with actual toasters, keeping the bread as soft and fluffy as you'd expect on the ground.
Sometimes, the simplest of things can be a real winner!
Entertainment & Service
A vibrant, 32-inch high definition entertainment screen greets you in first class, serving up a wide variety of movies, TV shows, music, games and satellite-based live TV:
The screen responds to touch, but as it's located so far in front of you, that's mainly just useful for pausing a movie when you're standing up. It's otherwise much easier to navigate using this interactive remote control, found within your armrest.
Or, detach the 'mode controller' from its mount and use it like a tablet to browse through the same content. When you've found something of interest, send it to the big screen, then sit back and relax.
Complimentary unlimited WiFi is also available to all first class passengers with a Skywards frequent flyer number attached to their ticket – although the same privilege isn't extended to Qantas Frequent Flyer cardholders, who instead receive 20MB of complimentary data and must then purchase further access.
Once the laptop is packed away, it's worth switching on the aircraft's external camera for landing – particularly if you're flying on one of Emirates' newer superjumbos which have much better cameras than the oldest in the fleet.
All things considered, first class on the Emirates A380 is naturally the choice pick for Brisbane flyers, given Emirates is now the only airline with first class from Queensland, and the alternative to the A380 is Emirates' Boeing 777 sans shower suites.
Between other city pairs, however, the Emirates A380 has the upside of those showers and the sizeable onboard lounge, albeit with less floor space in each suite compared to the likes of Singapore Airlines and Etihad – and of course, Etihad's A380s also come with a first class shower suite and an onboard lounge.
Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Emirates.