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In the wash-up of the Qantas-Emirates alliance we've taken a close look at Emirates first class, business class and economy class compared with Qantas;' own offerings in each cabin, and also presented a bit of a 'Skywards 101' on Emirates' frequent flyer reward program.
In this final part of the series we scope out the Emirates lounges, which Qantas travellers will be spending more time in from April next year when the Qantas-Emirates hookup begins.
Emirates' lounges in Australia
Qantas business class passengers flying Emirates for the first time are unlikely to be disappointed.
However, first class travellers and Qantas Platinum card-holders heading out from Sydney and Melbourne will want to ensure they make the most of their trip by visiting the Qantas First lounges at Kingsford Smith and Tullamarine, which remain among the best lounges in the world.
As a general rule, the Emirates lounges we've visited around the world are remarkably impressive, including the Emirates lounge at Sydney International Airport.
With the signature buffet islands, a top-notch selection of local and world wine, free-flowing quality champagne and comfortable chairs that work well for an hour or two of laptop-on-knees working, it's a well thought through space.
The colour palette won't be to everyone's taste, but it's a laudably consistent lounge product that lets business travellers know what to expect whether they're in Sydney, Melbourne, Paris or London.
Emirates' hub lounges in Dubai
It's not quite as rosy a picture in Emirates' Dubai lounges. They're incredibly busy, so access is restricted more than you'd think, with Skywards Silver frequent flyers having to change terminal completely if they want to visit the lounge.
Here's the list of who gets in where.
- First class passengers: Emirates First Class Lounge, Terminal 3
- Business Class passengers: Emirates Business Class Lounge, Terminal 3
- Skywards Gold members in Economy: Emirates Business Class Lounge, Terminal 3
- Skywards Silver members in Economy: Emirates Lounge, Terminal 1
Qantas Frequent Flyer and Qantas Club access
The airline tells us that Qantas Club members will be able to use the Emirates Lounge at Dubai, while Qantas Gold and Platinum members will enjoy entry to all Emirates business lounges worldwide.
The Dubai T3 First Class Lounge
Since the First Class Lounge in Dubai is restricted only to passengers actually travelling First Class, it's not as packed as the Business Class lounge can get.
Fountains dot the welcome area, where staff are also on hand to make sure your connection goes swimmingly.
Stop off at the a la carte sit-down restaurant if you're feeling hungry...
...or head for the wine cellar if you're more thirsty than peckish.
You can take some time out in the spa -- where the first treatment is complimentary -- and have your shoes shined. Or, just relax in one of the comfortable chairs.
A more business-like area is good option if you're a laptop-toter, or there's a full business centre too.
Or just perch your laptop on your knees and relax in the architecturally-fascinating Dubai airport terminal.
Kudos to Emirates for ensuring that the First Class lounge seating is usefully spaced and created with laptop users in mind:
The Dubai T3 Business Class Lounge
Emirates' massive Dubai Terminal 3 business class lounge covers a swathe of the airline's main terminal at DXB, with a large amount of seating space across four element-themed zones.
There's a business centre if you need to catch up on work during your transit, while there's blessedly also a children's area to keep the little darlings from disturbing everyone else while they work off some steam.
A spa and shoe-shine service are also available for an extra charge, but of course all the food and drinks -- including world-class wines -- are complimentary.
(Frequent travellers through Dubai know that the far end of the area that you'd think would be used for dining is actually a great place for impromptu meetings if you don't feel like snagging a meeting room.)
Pleasingly, there's a wide range of seating in the lounge, but be warned: it does get busy. Emirates' flight expansion hasn't been matched by an expansion of the business class lounge.
During busy periods, the "wave" pattern of connecting flights means that the lounges are crammed with passengers arriving and departing at exactly the same time.
It's a challenge to get the food, drink and shower facilities right (a challenge that Qantas hasn't managed yet either at its Singapore lounge), and it's one that we keep hearing hasn't yet been solved, especially in the Terminal 3 business lounge.
Have you travelled recently through Dubai? Share your experiences in a comment below and help your fellow travellers know what to expect.
Things should get better once Emirates launches its all-A380 terminal at Dubai in January to release the pressure, but business travellers can expect Dubai to be something of a pinch point.
(Compared with the Qantas and British Airways joint facility in Singapore, however, Dubai doesn't look all that bad.)
Emirates lounges at other airports
Emirates' own overseas lounges -- which are branded simply as "The Emirates Lounge" -- are combined business and first class facilities. The quality is a bonus for passengers travelling in business class, but first class passengers may miss a separate, quieter first class lounge.
But further afield, one of the benefits of flying Emirates into Europe, Asia and Africa -- the smaller airports closer to many business destinations -- is spoilt somewhat by the lack of decent lounge facilities in some locations.
With Emirates' previous go-it-alone approach to airline alliance partnerships, it has to negotiate separately for lounge access with airports.
Using the UK as an example, large airports like London's Heathrow and Gatwick find Emirates' excellent "own-build" facilities on a par with Sydney's, while Glasgow has the dire airport-operated lounge that's full of sticky children flying off to Disney World.
As a general rule: if it's one of Emirates own lounges, it'll be great; if it's in Dubai, it'll be busy; and if it's a contract lounge run by a third party, don't get your hopes up.
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