The best Airbus A380 first class on Melbourne-Europe flights

By Chris C., January 25 2017
The best Airbus A380 first class on Melbourne-Europe flights

Melbourne high flyers have no shortage of options when jetting to the UK and Europe aboard an Airbus A380 with five airlines offering their flagship superjumbo first class service on what’s normally a 24-hour voyage across the globe.

Included on that list is Qantas, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and from June 2017, Qatar Airways. So which comes out first for first?

1. Etihad Airways

Leading the luxury line-up: Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380 ‘Apartments’, jetting daily from Melbourne to London Heathrow via Abu Dhabi.

On the ground, first class travellers enjoy complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers at each end of their journey and have access to the Etihad Premium lounges in Melbourne and London, complete with a la carte dining and cocktail bartender service…

… while in Abu Dhabi, a dedicated first class lounge awaits with a Emirati tasting menu developed by chefs from the city’s Emirates Palace Hotel…

… joined by an extensive bar, cigar lounge, fitness room, relaxation zone, Six Senses Spa and ‘Style & Shave’ facility, with treatments complimentary for Etihad first class flyers.

Step aboard the A380’s upper deck to find the Apartments arranged in a spacious 1-1 layout, boasting a separate seat and ottoman, and with the latter transforming into a 204cm fully-flat bed or serving as a companion seat for hosting guests during meetings or over a meal:

Selected adjoining apartments can also be connected via a central opening door to allow for easy access between them, while that same opening allows for a goodnight kiss when travelling with a partner:

Before you rest or after you wake, take a stroll to The Lobby: a bar and lounge area shared between first class and business class flyers...

… or to the inflight shower suite to freshen up before the busy day ahead:

Rounding out the five-star package, an on-board chef tailoring menus to your particular whims and preferences, a chilled minibar and vanity mirror in every Apartment, plus inflight WiFi (capped at US$21.95 for unlimited data), pyjamas, slippers and the expected amenity kit.

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2. Singapore Airlines

Offered from Melbourne to Singapore and then onwards to London, Paris, Frankfurt and Zurich, Singapore Airlines’ flagship Airbus A380 ‘Suites Class’.

While lacking complimentary airport transfers, inflight showers and an inflight bar and lounge area, SQ’s first class passengers can instead begin their journey in dedicated first class lounges for added privacy.

In Melbourne (above) and London, that’s the SilverKris First Class Lounge, and in Singapore, The Private Room: exclusively for Singapore Airlines' first class jetsetters – not shared by first class passengers of any other airline, or indeed, frequent flyers travelling further back.

On board, SQ’s Suites come in a 1-2-1 layout, again with a chair that’s separate to the 200cm bed, and when upright, a chaise lounge and a large table transform into a discussion or dining area.

The centre pairs of suites can also open in between to create a large room with a double bed for couples to share…

… but don’t get any ‘ideas’ – while these suites have closing doors and blinds for added privacy, those doors and their surrounding walls are just 1.5m high: allowing the cabin crew to peer over the top and check if you need anything without opening the doors to do so.

Singapore Airlines also provides a turndown service with pyjamas and amenity kits, while inflight WiFi is too available, but can prove costly on some older aircraft which charge for usage based on megabytes downloaded rather than time spent connected.

Finally, Suites Class flyers can dine on an extensive inflight menu, but can also pre-order a selection of other dishes via the Book the Cook service which wouldn’t otherwise be available inflight.

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3. Emirates

Look to Emirates for the largest range of Airbus A380 services to Europe with multiple daily flights from Melbourne to Dubai (some via Singapore) and then onward to 15 UK and European destinations in A380 first class, with chauffeured airport transfers at each end.

Among your choices, London, Paris, Frankfurt and Rome, plus Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Prague, Vienna and Zurich.

(Emirates also flies the Airbus A380 from Dubai to Birmingham and Copenhagen, but tends to use the two-class superjumbos on these routes, topping out at business class.)

On the ground, first class flyers can visit either the Emirates lounge or Qantas First Lounge in Melbourne, plus the Emirates first class lounges in Dubai – some of which span the entire length of the terminal to offer dining rooms and complimentary spa facilities.

Passengers can visit either an Emirates-branded lounge or a contracted facility in other cities, but once on board, all first class flyers will find the suites in a 1-2-1 layout with closing doors for added privacy, plus a small wardrobe, snack basket, (room temperature) minibar and a writing kit.

Self-moisturising pyjamas, slippers and amenity kits all come standard, with the crew happy to transform your seat into a 198cm bed when requested. Just note that the centre pair of suites can’t be transformed into a double bed or one large room, as is possible on Singapore Airlines.

Each suite also offers a make-up mirror and a fixed lamp, plus access to Emirates’ inflight Internet with 10MB of data for free and a further 500MB for just US$1, plus two private ‘shower spas’ with heated floors, hairdryers, and of course, shower facilities:

First class flyers are also welcome to visit the business class bar and lounge area – just alert the crew and they’ll send down a bottle of your preferred drink – but who may instead prefer a briefer visit to the smaller, self-service bar at the very front of first class:

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4. Qantas

With a less-elaborate first class seat in the air, Qantas instead ups the ante on the service front with complimentary chauffeured airport transfers, delivering you to a private kerbside entrance in Melbourne where you’re greeted and escorted into the secluded first class check-in zone.

From there, it’s straight to the Qantas First Lounge for a bite to eat and a spa treatment at a time chosen by you, with appointments secured the day before travel when passengers are telephoned by a Qantas First Host…

… and if you’re hungry, a light bite or a substantial meal at the in-lounge restaurant, with seasonal menus created by Neil Perry’s Rockpool Group.

Once on board, Qantas’ Airbus A380 first class seats come in a 1-1-1 layout, with each suite featuring a second companion seat for hosting meetings or meals with other first class passengers…

… and following a turndown service with a duvet, sheepskin mattress, pyjamas, slippers and an amenity kit, transforms into a 212cm fully-flat bed:

Missing are closing doors at each suite, although the seats do angle away from the aisles for added privacy during the flight, with the exception of take-off and landing when passengers face forward.

Also absent is inflight Internet access.

Throughout the journey, first class passengers also enjoy access to the Emirates First Class Lounges in Dubai, plus the Emirates lounge at London Heathrow by special arrangement (Platinum-grade flyers booked in other classes can instead visit the British Airways Galleries First Lounge).

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5. Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways will join the fold with Airbus A380 flights planned for Melbourne from June 30 2017, bringing with them eight first class suites in a cosy two-row, 1-2-1 layout.

That’s good news for high-flying couples who can snap up a pair of seats in the centre, although the layout doesn’t afford sliding doors for privacy and places each seat (and bed) parallel to the aisle, rather than angled against it.

Even so, those beds stretch to a generous 220cm, with 26-inch entertainment screens operated via a 3.8-inch touchscreen controller joined by a small wardrobe at each seat, a bench that doubles as a companion dining seat and access to an array of lounges on the ground.

In Melbourne, the journey begins at the Qantas First Lounge with complimentary spa appointments secured based on availability upon arrival (rather than pre-arranged as for Qantas first class passengers), followed by the Qatar Airways Al Sawfa Lounge in Doha and the Qatar Airways Premium Lounge in London when returning home.

Back on the A380, there's an inflight bar and lounge area shared with business class flyers…

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 inflight lounge
Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 inflight lounge

… plus access to inflight Internet with 10MB or 15 minutes offered free-of-charge and further access available for purchase (plans priced at up to US$20 (A$27.75) for either 200MB or the duration of the flight).

However, the slightly less private first class suites and lack of chauffeur-driven airport transfer help give Qantas a slightly lead over its Oneworld sibling.

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 14

I'd agree with this, Etihad really can't be beat for first class. I was surprised to see Qantas rated ahead of Qatar but after considering the points you make, Chris, I agree that the 'extras' give Qantas an edge here.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2016

Total posts 169

Can't beat EY and SQ for their suites. In personal experience, I much prefer QF to EK in F but that's just me. I find the EK seats really claustrophobic, the food not quite as good and the staff that bit less friendly. Everyone has their own preferences though.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 133

I agree about QF feeling spacious and just generally better than EK.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2016

Total posts 55

good post, 

would be great to see similar posts for a sydney-london comparison as well

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2016

Total posts 55

would be even better if you included china southern, asiana, korean and thai as well.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2511

Hi freshthoughts. None of the airlines you've mentioned fly Airbus A380s to Melbourne, so given the topic of the article, these weren't included here. We can consider a similar article for Sydney-Europe in the future, however. :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2016

Total posts 55

I'm sorry, my comments were intended to be joined as the same. as in it would be great to see a Sydney-Europa article that would be even better if it included china southern, asiana, etc...

sorry for the confusion. 
PS: is there any way to delete or edit comments once there made?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 314

Is Eithiad's The Residence classified as First class?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2016

Total posts 169

I think it's technically it's own class. 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2511

Correct: Etihad first class is 'first class' while The Residence is a class above (particularly with a sticker price of $87k return to London!).


Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 16

Good Morning, does anyone know if EY will be changing their 777 to A380 for the afternoon flight from Melbourne?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2016

Total posts 169

Don't think they have an A380 to spare but from memory EY have a couple more on order so maybe then?

25 Jan 2017

Total posts 1

If paying, I find the difference in cost between Qantas Business and First....comfort, meals, wine, service.....ridiculous! Leave QF First Class out of every First Class mix!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 177

Well done there Chris. two bob's worth.

Etihad by a country mile. It really is impressive. The new First Lounge is a bit of a let down in AUH but I imagine the new airport (not just a terminal) will fix that. In the air the EY A380 First is a step above and I did get a quiet tour of the Residence but understand that is generally a 'no-no'. SQ has always had the style but the SIN Private Room is pretty 2000. In the air the staff are great but the product has lapsed, yes First is tired  - although this will change in 2017.

Emirates is just tired sorry to say and not much chop for me. I did a round trip SYD/DXB/IAH last year and wasn't impressed. Qatar? haven't tasted this one yet as I haven't had business in DOH. Which leaves Qantas. I still have a soft spot here for the roo. Yes they could do a limo transfer and an Arrivals lounge (another plus for EY and EK won't even look at you here), but the First Lounge in SYD is just great and the service in the air is spot on.

As for the A380? I've just had a member of my team fly SQ Bus on the new A350 and said it was impressive. I think as we see the roll out of A350 and 787-9's more broadly we'll see some interesting product mixes. Ciao, Ciao

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

27 Mar 2013

Total posts 7

Good comments and largely agree all - but we also need to consider the scheduling - much as I wud prefer EY, the best timing (my opinion only) is SQ with mid arvo departure meaning plenty time for eat drink entertain etc and then, before it gets tooo late, a quick shuffle around Changi followed by the chance of 12 hrs sleep to Europe.

EK and QF are similar arvo dep time. Good for most of us mortals to have dinner/indulge etc, but it likely means a few hrs sleep will be interrupted by DBX stop, and only a short night thereafter to catch up.

EY departing late eve isn't ideal because that's too late to be enjoying all the delights of flying up the pointy end.

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