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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- Inflight degustation: sampling Etihad's first class tasting menu
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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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:
- Emirates launches 'self-moisturising' first class pyjamas
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- Emirates opens new Melbourne Airport business, first class lounge
- Tech Review: Emirates' free Airbus A380 inflight Internet
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).
- The best seats in first class on the Qantas Airbus A380
- Qantas First Class lounge review, Melbourne
- A Qantas degustation: sampling the A380 first class tasting menu
- Review: Qantas Chauffeur Drive service
- Qantas Sydney & Melbourne first class lounge menu, Summer 2016-17
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…
… 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.