Thursday, September 19, 2013

Emirates Trans Tasman First Class on the A380 : Auckland to Melbourne EK407

First Class is nothing new on the Melbourne - Auckland route with Emirates having flown it for some time on the Airbus A340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER, but in October 2012 the route was upgraded to the superjumbo Airbus A380. With this came the arrival of the First Class suite on trans tasman flights from Melbourne.  I had been wanting to sample it for a while and finally after 10 months of operations on the route I had a ticket for EK407 in First Class. I chose the Auckland-Melbourne route instead of the other way round as due to headwinds it is a longer flight time by about 30 mins. That means more time for champagne!
 
I arrived at the airport in my rental car as there is no chaffeur drive for trans-tasman only itineraries. Upon entering the terminal I made my way to the huge Emirates check-in zone which was still fairly quiet. I imagine it gets rather busy with 2 A380's and 1 B777 leaving within 30 minutes of eachother all bound for Dubai but going via Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane respectively.
 
EK435, EK407 and EK413 all checking in at Zone E

Emirates Check-in
Check-in for premium class passengers and elite frequent flyers was on the far left. My check-in was processed nice and quick and my hand baggage was weighed. I was then directed to a customs desk for 'pre-clearance'. This was a special service for Emirates premium passengers where your passport is checked in advance by NZ customs officials and you can then use the diplomatic lane at passport control, saving quite a bit of time! Very nice feature and not one I had ever seen before.

Head upstairs after check-in for the departure gates
Once through passport control and security I stopped by the dutyfree stores to take advantage of the cheaper liquor prices than those found at home in Melbourne. Bringing liquids purchased after security onto the plane for Australia bound flights is not a problem when departing Auckland. Duty free purchases in hand I headed for the Emirates lounge. I was very early but I was warmly welcomed and as I entrered a staff member suggested I head for the dining area as some hot food was available. I took her advice and found an empty table...


My selection - including a glass of Veuve Clicquot

Buffet

Buffet
The food selections are very good. There is a whole array of hot and cold dishes to choose from as well as many good wines including french champagne. Certainly it is the best spread I have seen at Auckland having visited both the Air New Zealand and Qantas lounges previously. Once I had finished my meal I proceeded to the general seating area to relax and have a few wines.


The 3 departing flights all within 25 minutes of eachother

Seating Area

Seating Area

White Wine Selection

Red Wine Selection

Extensive selection of spirits
As time wore on and the departure time was approaching the lounge actually got quite loud and busy. I saw a bunch of travelers who were standing around having a drink and chatting as if they were in a pub...

Pub Atmosphere
In the lead up to the flights departing there is potential for several hundred premium passengers to arrive at the lounge so I imagine it can get very loud and very busy! I decided to leave before the boarding announcement so that I would be among the first on board. Along the way I snapped a photo of my aircraft for today...

EK407 to Melbourne on the left - the Sydney flight on the right

The superjumbo!
The two A380 gates are a rather long walk from the lounge and when I arrived at gate 16 many of the seats were already taken with waiting passengers. Boarding was still about 10 minutes away....


Premium boarding lane
I was super keen to get on board and experience the A380 suite I had heard so much about so the 10 minute wait at the gate seemed to take forever! Eventually boarding was called and I was amongst the first 5 to be on the aircraft. Upon arrival on the upper deck entry I was warmly greeted and was immediately personally escorted to my seat 2A by a lovely female crew member.

First impression of the cabin.... glitzy!


With the popup minibar, lamp, personal mirror with lighting, large lcd screen showing the seat number along with route and forward camera, fresh flowers and wood panelling it was a lot to take in!  In the mirror compartment is a small beauty kit with various creams and lotions you might need inflight. If you don't use it you can take it home, it comes in a lovely little box with Emirates logo.

Within moments of being seated I was offered a glass of champagne. First the glas was placed on the table and shortly afterwards the bottle of Dom Perignon (2003) was presented and poured. I was also offered a tour of the suite and instruction on how to control it including opening and closing the doors (which are locked in open position during takeoff and landing).

My coat was stowed in the personal wardrobe and I was informed that the shower spa suites were available for my use during the flight and I was asked if I would like to book a time for a shower. I decided that 60 minutes before landing would suit me. The purser came and paid me a visit and welcomed me onboard as Qantas platinum frequent flyer. She seemed very interested to know what I thought of Emirates in comparison to Qantas. After a brief chat with her I was left to myself for a while whilst the rest of the passengers boarded.

Mini bar and lcd touchscreen seat control (not refrigerated though)

Dom Perignon please

Closer look at minibar
Soon after that the arabic coffee and dates came around and the coffee was poured from a beautiful silver pot. I had never had it before but it was actually rather delicious! I continued on the champagne with another glass poured and boarding still underway! (This is why I choose to board early)


Seat controls for easy conversion for takeoff/landing, eating, and sleeping

Ife Controller

Seat controls by touchscreen including massage functions

Moving map display

The First Class cabin

ICE Entertainment System
Eventually boarding was completed and we were pushing back and making our way to the runway. The load in first class today: 7 out of 12 seats. The captain advised a fairly lengthy flight time of almost 4 hours due to strong headwinds. I was happy with that, more time for drinking and enjoying the service.

The takeoff was nice and quick and amazingly quiet as anyone who has flown on the A380 knows.  We lumbered into the sky and it hardly felt like we were moving at all. It was a smooth night so the seatbelt sign was soon extinguished and service commenced. I decided on a Kir Royale (with Dom Perignon) to start with. This went nicely with my bowl of warmed mixed nuts.


 
 
A full dinner service was available on this flight. I was slightly surprised to be told that I could only choose to have the cheese plate OR the dessert and not both. This seems a little odd and I wondered if it was routine for this flight. I was also not offered  the soup course after the appetiser so perhaps I was required to order it, or maybe it was to be eaten instead of the appetiser? I'm not too sure but I was full by the end of the meal anyway. Here is the menu:
 

 
 
 
 
I had the lime and chilli prawn starter which came with the seasonal salad and bread. I opted for the garlic bread.




The 3 prawns were pretty tasty although it's a pretty small plate. For the main I had the beef fillet:


I really enjoyed the beef and the glazed carrots and potato puree were also delicious. It was probably the nicest piece of beef I have ever eaten on an aircraft. During the meal I was drinking the Leeuwin Estate 2008 Art Series chardonnay, one of the most expensive and most sought after Australian chardonnay's on the market. It did not disappoint! It goes for around $100 a bottle in the shops. Frequent topups were on offer throughout my meal.

Dessert soon arrived and to go with it I had a Graham's Tawny Port 1969 of which only a bit over 4000 bottles were ever produced. This goes for over $300 a bottle and was a very tasty port indeed. I felt rather 'first class' while sipping it! I had just finished my glass of port when the flight attendant was beside me with the bottle offering another glass. I politely declined as by this stage the alcohol consumption was affecting me somewhat! Time for a break.




Godiva chocolates after dinner
Once my meal was completed a small packet of Godiva chocolates was offered. I was so full at this point I decided to put them in my bag to take home. With the meal complete it was time to explore. First I decided to try out the seat in bed mode:


fully flat bed
Whilst I was playing with the seat a hot towel was delivered ...

'
I took a walk down towards business class. There is 76 flat bed seats in total and about 50 occupied tonight which was a decent load. At this point the business class meal service was still only halfway through.

A380 Business Class

The business class seat - looks comfortable albeit slightly narrow

Looking forward from the rear of business
Located at the back of the aircrafts upper deck is one of the most exciting areas on board. The communal bar area! Having this here took me back to another era of travel, something like what was experienced on the old flying boats, but with a more modern touch. It's so glamorous and a great way to socialise with passengers whether you know them or not. The bar was stocked with all kinds of drinks and a huge cocktail list. There are bar snacks available too and flight attendants walked around with hot snacks on trays.

Whilst I visited it was quiet due to the dinner service in business, but apparently it was a happening place for pre dinner drinks before I arrived. I ordered a champagne cocktail and took a seat and had a chat with one of the lovely crew members. She was incredibly enthusiastic and a real credit to Emirates, you could tell she was proud to be working for them. I even got to pose for some photos of me standing behind the bar holding a bottle of Moet!

The bar

Seating area

The lovely flight attendant serving me in the bar

Some of the business class wines

Normally a moving map display is showing at the bar- not working today
After a while I headed back up front to First Class and I decided I would take my shower early. Both were available and there is 2 dedicated spa attendants (totally separate to the flight attendants). It seems their sole job is to monitor the cleanliness of the first class spa/toilet suite and prepare the shower for first class passengers. The flight attendant provided me with a Bulgari amenity kit and a lovely Emirates cloth bag to place any of my dirty laundry in. That bag makes for a great shopping bag so be sure to keep it!

Water Feature at front of first class between the spa suites
So, with my amenities in hand and a briefing completed on what to do during turbulence and how to operate the shower I was left alone in the suite. This was it, my first SHOWER IN THE AIR! I was in a happy mood from all the drinking and I actually started laughing out loud about the situation. Fancy having a shower at 38,000 feet halfway across the Tasman sea! It was sort of surreal.
The Shower

My amenity kit and bag, plenty of other shampoos etc available too

My towel with an orchid on top!

In case you want to know where you are whilst in the shower
There is only 5 minutes of water but you can stop and start it as much as you like and a handy countdown type display shows you how many minutes are remaining.  I found the 5 minutes perfectly adequate. The water pressure is a little low (to be expected I think), but the temperature was perfect. When I stepped out and dried off I felt completely refreshed. All the usual bathroom amenties are at hand including a hair dryer. The shower would be absolutely teriffic after a long haul sector I imagine.

Once the shower was over there was a little under 2 hours left and I retreated to my suite and closed the door. I decided to watch The Croods for a while.

Door Closed - nice and private although the wall does not go to the ceiling

The windows can be closed electronically at the touch of a button
The crew dimmed the lights and the stars on the roof lit up:



Well, all good things must come to an end and we soon crossed the Australian coast and commenced a descent. Things were a little busy at Melbourne and a 20 minute hold was announced. I didn't mind as I was quite comfortable in the suite.



Eventually we touched down on Melbourne's Runway 16 and made our way to the gate. The crew thanked me for flying with Emirates and I was on my way. I was given an express card to use at immigration but it wasn't needed as the smart gates were empty anyway.

So, what did I think of the experience? Well I have to say it is probably in the top 3 or 4 flights I have ever experienced, which I think is great for what is really a short haul sector. The seat itself is fabulous, although it is significanly smaller than the Singapore Airlines suite. It does have good functionality though and I found it extremely comfortable. It is somewhere I could easily spend 16 hours on a long haul.  The entertainment system is incredible, wine list was superb, service was magnificent! However I was surprised that I could not eat both the dessert AND the cheese and also the soup was not offered even though it was on the menu. Perhaps they only want to serve you 3 out of the 5 courses on this flight but I did not see that mentioned on the menu. 

The shower and bar area are absolute standouts and no other airline has them, so Emirates has a real advantage there. I would love to fly the EK A380 again just to hang out in the bar and have a shower! Both amazing experiences in the air. It will be interesting to compare the Qantas A380 in First as I will be flying with them later in the year.

13 comments:

  1. Great review but interesting about the cheese plates and e
    Desserts. Looking forward to the QF review!

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    Replies
    1. Great review. The meal service on Emirates is a la carte, so you do have to specifically order items, unlike the degustation menu on Qantas

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  2. Sigh. One day.
    "a bunch of travelers who were standing around having a drink and chatting as if they were in a pub..." Ewww.
    Thanks for a great review that had me imagining myself in that remarkable piece of engineering.

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  3. Did you use points or pay for the flight?? And so you thought it was worth it?? I haven't flown in F yet on any flights so am thinking of doing this as a points redemption sometime soon so thanks for the review... But yes a longer leg would be good as well... Maybe one day when an EK A380 flies to Perth...

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    Replies
    1. On this occasion it was points. The paid ticket is around $1000-$1200 one way

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  4. Another fantastic review, i would be drinking a lot of champagne on that flight also. I still love the fact the Emirates A380 has a shower for first class.

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  5. OK...I have to know...What is the procedure if there is tubulence while you are in the shower???

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    Replies
    1. There is a small seat to sit on within the shower cubicle

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  6. Great review and fantastic to have First Class option trans-Tasman. I think you'd find that Chauffeur drive is available for First class itineraries between NZ and Au, not for Business doing the same run though.
    http://www.emirates.com/english/flying/chauffeur_drive/chauffeur-drive.aspx

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  7. Ahh D... Reminds me of my fantastic experience AKL-SYD which you so kindly organised for me... Good times! Although, I seem to recall them not having a problem with me having dessert and the cheese...
    Definitely doing this again if I win the lotto!
    All the best

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  8. Thank you, travelling Jan 2016 AKL MEL First class, under a QF flight number, which lounge is used in AKL - QF or EK

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  9. Great review, travelling Jan 2016 AKL to MEL (First), under a QF flight number, which lounge is used in AKL the QF or EK, thanks

    ReplyDelete