Review: Emirates A380 first & business class Sydney-Christchurch
The superjumbo is once again the best way to travel across the pond. First class for just three hours..? Well, why not!
Quick quiz: would you rather make the the quick three-hour dash between Sydney to Christchurch in
- a Qantas Boeing 737, with the same business class seats as any domestic Australian flight; or
- the Emirates A380 superjumbo, with international-grade business class seats (and that upper deck cocktail lounge) and even the option of flying in a private first class suite with your own shower?
We’re pretty sure we know your answer. After all, it’s barely a contest – especially when the Qantas and Emirates fares are almost the same.
Plus there’s the sheer ‘wow’ factor of making this little three-hour jaunt across the Tasman in this amazing double-decker jet usually seen on globe-spanning treks of up to 14 hours.
Emirates runs daily A380 superjumbo flights from Sydney to Christchurch and back as an add-on leg to its Dubai-Sydney-Dubai service.
Rather than have the plane sitting all day at Sydney Airport after its early morning arrival from Dubai as flight EK412, Emirates sends the superjumbo off to Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island.
After a few hours on the ground, the Emirates A380 heads back across the pond to Sydney in time for its evening departure to Dubai as flight EK413.
A unique trans-Tasman experience
This unlocks a wonderful opportunity to make that Sydney-Christchurch trip in Emirates business class or, even better, treat yourself to the luxury of first class.
And we’ve done both – flying from Sydney to Christchurch in Emirates A380 first class, and returning in business class.
(This particular A380 also features Emirates premium economy, so it can be a good opportunity for you to assess the new seat if you’re thinking of making an Emirates premium economy booking for a much longer trip such as through to the UK or Europe.)
So if you’ve already got a Sydney-Christchurch trip on your to-do list, or are looking for an indulgent long weekend getaway, this could be just the ticket.
Based on a prices for early October 2023, a one-way business class fare on the Emirates A380 from Sydney to Christchurch costs around $920 (compared to just over $800 on the Qantas Boeing 737) while a one-way first class fare on the Emirates A380 from Sydney to Christchurch costs around $1600.
Note that if you book these Emirates flights under their Qantas codeshare flight numbers of QF8766 and QF8765 (through the Qantas website or app, or via a travel agent) you’ll earn a full serve of Qantas Points and status credits (compared to fewer Qantas Points and no status credits if you book these as Emirates flights EK412 and EK413).
Just to make all this even more tempting: these Emirates A380 flights can also be booked via the Qantas website as Classic Reward flights using Qantas Points, and there’s plenty of availability.
One-way in Emirates A380 business class will set you back just 43,800 Qantas Points, with first class at 64,500 Qantas Points (with $182 in fees and charges for either ticket).
Finally, Emirates’ schedule lends itself to making the most of your time in Christchurch:
- EK412 departs Sydney at 7.50am to reach Christchurch at 12.55pm
- EK413 is wheels up from Christchurch at 5.45pm, getting you back into Sydney around 7pm
Emirates A380 lounge access
Ahead of the A380 flight from Sydney, Emirates directs all lounge-eligible passengers – primarily first and business class passengers, Skywards Gold and Platinum members and their Qantas Frequent Flyer equivalents – to the Emirates lounge located next to gate 58.
It’s a spacious if unspectacular airport lounge offering a solid variety of dishes at the self-serve buffet and, if you’re in the mood for an early morning tipple, a glass or two of Moët champagne.
But if you’re flying in Emirates first class, or hold Skywards or Qantas Platinum status, the famed Qantas First Lounge is by far the better choice for its exceptional à la carte menu, wider range of wines and Champagnes and stunning design.
(Don’t rush to the airport ahead of your return leg from Christchurch – with neither Emirates or Qantas having their own lounges, the independent Manaia Lounge is at best a tick-the-boxes exercise.)
Emirates A380 first class
Emirates was among the first airlines to put private suites on the A380, with motorised sliding doors that wrap up around the suite and transfer it into something like a cocoon above the clouds.
While the are 14 first class suites nestled at the front of the A380’s upper deck, the cabin has no overhead lockers – a decision made to emphasise the sense of space and perhaps enhance that ‘private jet’ vibe.
Instead, your cabin bag slides neatly under the 32” HD video screen or can nestle in a small space next to your seat.
As I settled into my Emirates first class suite (2K, located on the right side of the A380’s upper deck), the cabin crew were quick to offer a pre-flight drink from an extensive menu, the highlight of which was vintage Dom Pérignon 2013, alongside a selection of red and whites from France, Australia (including Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2018) and New Zealand (a 2014 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir).
A tall and topped-up glass of Dom in hand, I explored the suite that would be my high-flying home for the next three hours.
There’s an undeniable elegance in the design of Emirates first class, even if all the gold trim seems excessive by Western standards.
A half-moon cutout on the table in front of the video screen pops up to reveal a mirror framed by LED lights and Byredo amenities ranging from eye cream and facial toner to pillow mist.
A concealed drawer to the left of this contains a notepad and pen, in a nod to the travel diaries of old and perhaps an encouragement that first class travellers pick up the habit once again.
Under the generously wide armrest and in front of the heavy tablet-like IFE controller lurks a personal mini-bar with soft drinks, although as it’s not chilled the drinks are at room cabin temperature.
Breakfast soon arrived, and although Emirates first class typically offers an à la carte ‘dine on demand’ service where you can order anything from an extensive menu at any time during your flight, on the morning Sydney-Christchurch hop this is pared back to a selection from the breakfast menu:
- Gruvere omelette with parsley with grilled chicken sausages, peperonata and roasted plum tomato
- Scrambled eggs with corned beef hash, creamed kale and sautéed portobello mushrooms
- French toast served with mascarpone cream and spiced apple and date compote
- Coconut oat and chia pudding, served with mango and passion fruit compote
- Cornflakes, muesli or granola
Having already taken my breakfast in the Qantas First Lounge I opted for a lighter combination of the French toast (which proved delectably fluffy, sweet and tangy) followed by yogurt and a fruit salad.
Oddly enough, many of the same dishes appeared on the breakfast menu served in business class – again, this could be more a reflection on this unique route, as it would let Emirates streamline the catering.
Halfway through the flight, it was time for what is clearly the most unique aspect of Emirates A380 first class: a nice hot shower.
At the very start of the flight, a first class attendant will ask when you’d like to book your visit to open of the two roomy shower suites.
You can spend 30 minutes in this well-appointed ‘shower spa’ room, which has everything from VOYA organic toiletries to heated flooring – although once in the shower itself there’s only five minutes of running water available per passenger.
Endless Dom Pérignon, a private suite and the chance to freshen up with a shower before touchdown: Emirates A380 first class is a real ‘bucket list’ experience which you can easily cross off as part of a quick Sydney-Christchurch trip.
Emirates A380 business class
The other part of Emirates’ A380 premium travel play is of course business class, and it will be familiar to most globetrotters.
The seats are arranged in a ‘direct aisle access’ 1-2-1 configuration, and finished in plush Champagne leather upholstery with darker walnut trimmings in what’s a very busy and visually cluttered cabin.
While lacking sliding doors, the window seats are staggered slightly forward from the centre rows for an added degree of privacy.
Shortly after take-off on the Christchurch-Sydney leg, the cabin crew served up a dinner which shows how business class dining can be delivered without going to over-the-top extremes.
On my flight the appetiser consisted of smoked salmon accompanied by horseradish cream, pickled radish and a lemon dressing to enhance the flavours of the dish.
Next up was my choice of mains from the dinner menu: a perfectly-seared beef fillet served with mustard and tarragon jus, potato gratin and steamed broccoli. (The other choices includes roasted chicken and a pan-seared barramundi in Emirati spices.)
I rounded this out with a selection of cheeses served with crackers, dried fruits and nuts.
Perhaps due to the short duration of the flight, this all came on a single tray rather than being served as individual courses.
Emirates A380 bar and lounge
After dinner I had just enough time to head to the horseshoe-shaped bar tucked into the rear of the upper deck.
The A380 bar is very much a ‘signature’ element of Emirates’ business class experience, although it also welcomes first class flyers who want a break from their private suite.
And even on this quick trans-Tasman trip the bar is quickly buzzing with activity and conversation as passengers mingle over cocktails and snacks.
The Emirates A380 lounge has its own menu listing a variety of sandwiches, pastries and on this flight, a delightful hazelnut and apple cake.
In the era of ultra-long flights, there’s no argument that places like this bar provide a welcome change of scenery, a chance to stretch your legs and socialise rather than spending 16+ hours in your seat.
(You could also try connecting with the world below through Emirates’ WiFi, which is free to all first and business class passengers, but at least on this flight it was so incredibly slow as to be almost useless.)
The Executive Traveller take? There’s simply no better way to zip between Sydney and Christchurch, let alone a more fun way, and it doubles as a great way to sample Emirates’ world- class flights.
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Review: Emirates A380 first & business class Sydney-Christchurch
24 Jun 2020
Total posts 41
What a great way to spend 3 hours......
01 Feb 2013
Total posts 25
Prior to Covid it was the only way to do Mel to NZ. Why sit on an old 737 with QF. Once got a comp upgrade to First. Had a shower because I could!
Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer
27 Feb 2015
Total posts 11
The 65k points for $1600 fare should really only be an option for people with lots spare…
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
26 Feb 2020
Total posts 29
What a great way to get to NZ and the fares here are great value especially for F. Have flown with them often happily to Europe so will definitely be trying this.
04 Sep 2019
Total posts 39
great way to fly. but shame the old emirates product is looking tired now
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
06 Mar 2020
Total posts 7
Not when you get one of the refurbished planes or a new one. Flew to Christchurch a months ago and the plane has the new layout and was only a year old
09 Dec 2015
Total posts 13
It’s a pity they don’t do the Brisbane Auckland leg any more… I did it several times over all three classes, usually J or F on the slightly longer return afternoon/evening leg..
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
06 Mar 2020
Total posts 7
I travel Syd/ Chch several times a year and no comparison both in terms of service and also the time the flights go. For approx the same money 380 so much better than the 737
Great EK have started flying again to NZ
26 May 2022
Total posts 1
When I try to search on QFF to find an award seat the EK Flight number does not appear, only the QF codeshare one , and there seems to be no award seats at any time, in any class. (There are EK award seats on their own site). Does anyone have any ideas?
15 Mar 2018
Total posts 68
Makes my flight to and from CHC this week look totally prehistoric!
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
31 Jan 2016
Total posts 92
OK, I have flown both airlines in Bus to and from NZ from a regional base. EK wins the 'bling and wow' rating for the hard product, but their service and food, especially the food can be very average. Yes, I know this is a big call, but it is a lived experience. Maybe I just chose 'wrong' from the menu. When it comes to regional connections and flexibility QF wins, plus there is the access to the F lounge, which is a big plus. On the down side it appears I have paid too much for my tix, another contribution to airline recovery.