Emirates first class seats (and suites) compared with Qantas

By John Walton, September 7 2012
Emirates first class seats (and suites) compared with Qantas

Following the historic Qantas-Emirates hookup we took a tour of Emirates business class to bring Qantas regulars and loyalists a look at the business class they'll experience when flying on the red Roos' new chum.

Today we're upgrading to Emirates first class

The Dubai-based carrier has a stellar first class offering, although the aesthetic isn't to everyone's taste and the seating can vary across the fleet.

Emirates First Class Suite

All Emirates flights to and from Australian feature the airline's swanky First Class Suite, with its personal minibar, coat rack, fold-up mirror, heaps of storage, and all the faux-effect wood, brass and lighting that you could desire.

The "wow" factor is there -- but so's the "bling" factor.

There's a 23-inch (58cm) screen with Emirates' world-beating ICE entertainment system (featuring a number of particularly interesting introductions to various periods of classical music) -- and noise-cancelling headphones to boot.

Your wide seat reclines back into a 6'7" (2m) bed, which the crew dress with a mattress for maximum comfort.

Centre seats have a divider that raises and lowers so that passengers travelling together can easily chat over dinner or sort out the final parts of a presentation, while window seats are completely blocked off from every other seat.

Compared with Qantas, it's more private, with more nifty gizmos and more flash -- but aesthetics are a deeply personal thing, and first class passengers will naturally gravitate towards either the simpler Qantas style or the glitzier Emirates design.

Extra first class perks on the Airbus A380

A380 first class passengers (that's one daily Sydney flight and, soon, a daily Melbourne flight) also get a first class social area at the front of the A380's upper deck, to match the business class bar all the way at the back -- to which they also have access.

(Our advice: the business class bar is much more lively than the first class social area. Head back there with a glass of first class something in your hand if you fancy a chat.)

And -- something of a pièce de resistance -- there's a full shower and changing room for first class passengers on the A380, so you can spruce up limp hair and get yourself looking first-class fabulous before you arrive.

The water runs on a timer system (showing you how much you have left) and there are upmarket toiletries awaiting you. 

Pick your plane carefully to get the best seats

When choosing your connecting flights from Dubai, note that Emirates offers three types of first class to its passengers: the glitzy suite with doors, a relatively similar seat without doors called Skycruiser, and a sleeper seat.

These sometimes vary even on the same route, so you'll need to pick on a plane-by-plane basis (or instruct your travel booker to do so).

Image: fersolieslava
Image: fersolieslava

The Skycruiser "doorless suite" is fitted to the soon-to-be-replaced Boeing 777-200, Boeing 777-300 and a subset of the Boeing 777-300ER fleet, while the less glamorous sleeper seat is on A330 and A340-300 planes.

As a general rule, you're most likely to find Suites on long-haul routes with a higher proportion of first class passengers, while the other options are on shorter flights where the lack of a full suite experience isn't as much of a drawback.

First class food and first class wine

On all first class services, Emirates' food is designed to tempt even the most refined palate, with Arabic and international cuisine.

And there's a fantastic wine list, currently headed up by vintage 2000 Dom Pérignon Champagne, with top-notch local drops and big name international labels on Australian flights.

On Emirates' sample wine lists you'd see the Yabby Lake Pinot from the Mornington Peninsula, or the Staate Landt Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in NZ. You might also enjoy a Domaine Bouchard Père Meursault, or a Château La Lagune Haut-Médoc, on routes where French wine is served. 

Dow's vintage port -- most recently the 1985 -- is also on offer, and with Emirates' fantastic cheese selection that's a bottle not to miss.

First Class passengers: would you rather fly Qantas or Emirates first class? Share your thoughts on the relative merits of each first class option with fellow travellers in a comment at the bottom of this article.

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John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2012

Total posts 580

I'd like to try the A380 first class, but ultimately would prefer the Qantas offering.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

Having flown EK and QF a few times in First from Europe to Australia, here are my thoughts:

Emirates product is great, private, big screen, A380 has fantastic facilities in terms of shower (but moreover the mere space in the bathroom is a blessing when trying to change in and out of pyjama’s). Mind you, the experience starts on the ground when you are picked up by a limo and driven to the airport at no cost (in the Nethrlands I drove almost 80km for free). Lounges out of UAE are mostly shared business and First and this is a plus for business passengers as the offerings are more F than C (Veuve Clicquot champagne, several hot meal options etc). I do miss a dedicated F zone however (which QF tends to have in their hubs). Food on EK is good, but nothing beats QF meal servings esp ex Australia with degustation meals and matching wines. Sure, EK serves caviar and I happen to love it, but overall their food is of lesser quality in my opinion. Service is good, although you can have a bit of  miss sometimes depending on what crew you have. DXB transit is easy and their lounge is fantastic, table service, huge choice, I was disappointed with the shower facilities which were very basic and below par with what is onboard of the A380.

QF offers a very decent and consistent product (both hard and soft). It is almost understated luxury. I love their food in F, more focussed on quality, very refined, rather than bling and the service from dedicated trained A380 crew is very good, they have knowledge of food and wine and are very courteous. Seat is comfortable and semi-private (less comfortable in take-off and landing position but once swivelled very good). I like the semi open plan, although have nothing against suites either. QF turn down service is better as they use a proper mattress on top of the seat, better than EK. Entertainment is plenty (not such a big screen as EK and less selection, but what they have is good) and again, meals are superb and so are the wines. Yes, EK serves Dom Perignon but I prefer Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc des Blanc. I must say  that my last flight on EK they had a revamped wine list and offered a Yarra Yering No 2 red wine which is a top drop, but I heard QF is getting that one as well. QF lacks in terms of pick up and drop off service but their lounges in Australia are unparalleled.

Almost forgot, the amenity kit is a win for EK. Leather and Bulgari stocked as opposed to polyester and Payot (which are actually quite nice products). Pyjama’s are of similar quality and comfort. I do think EK does not serve amenity kits nor pyjama’s on daytime flight, QF always hands them out.

All in all a tough call. Does the EK shower (only aboard A380) and pick up and drop off service (and perhaps caviar) weigh up against a constant product with in my opnion better food and beverage (and sometimes better service, otherwise on par)? I am not sure. What I do know is that QF almost flies nowhere anymore with their A380 and with EK you can reach the world (beware of different aircraft configurations thought). That just might make me edge to EK, esp if you will be able to earn SC’s on EK flightnumbers.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 116

KG: I flew QF First to Hong Kong in April this year and was served the Yarra Yering Dry Red No 2 - and have to agree - it's excellent!


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 732

180mis: Good to hear the girl at the Yarra Yering winery was right! interestingly enough I flew QF in F from LHR to SYD in the beginning of May and they did not have it. At least there is something to look forward to my next flight!

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 180

You forgot to mention the heated shower floor, the hair dryer and the selection of soaps/toiletteries provided on EK. 
EK calls it spa by the way. 

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