Tuesday, 8 July 2014

In the lap of luxury: travelling business class with Emirates

It is the travel equivalent of winning the lottery, or getting a date with a Hollywood movie star.

It's unlikely, unusual and very much appreciated. 

Like most readers of this blog I travel almost exclusively in economy class, so I've learnt to live with restricted leg space, sleeping while sitting upright, picking at dubious meals and sipping on second-rate wines. 

To be fair, Emirates' economy class is one of the best around - I even managed to enjoy a packed leg from Melbourne to Dubai en route to a recent assignment in Europe.

But being handed a business class boarding pass for the Dubai-Sydney leg when I checked in at chaotic Venice airport for the return was manna from heaven after a two-week trip away. 

How good is it to have a fully flat bed in which to sleep for as much of the 13 1/2-hour journey as possible? How good to have your own minibar with soft drinks and waters. How good to have a little bag with eye shades and travel socks? 

But is it really worth the extra money you pay (a considerable sum, or a whole lot of frequent flier points) to sit at the pointy end of the plane? 

I think it depends on your reason for flying. If you are on holiday with two or three weeks to wind down and relax after the flight, probably not. But if you are a businessman with an appointment a few hours after you arrive then it would be somewhere between tempting and essential. 

Business class customers on Emirates (those paying full freight, not freeloading journalists) get chauffeur-driven limousines to take them to their airport and meet them at the other end. 

Their baggage (and you get 40kg a head in Emirates business) gets express tags and, theoretically at least, comes out first at the other end. They are given fast-track coupons so so they can skip the immigration and customs queues - and get to use the luxurious business class lounges, which feature a choice of meals, spa facilities and even a shoe-shine stand. 

And on Emirates Airbus A380s, the aircraft that fly from Australian ports to the Middle East, the cabins could not be more luxurious (unless you stump up for first class, of course, where there is even a shower you can use at 30,000-feet).
There's a bar at the rear of the business class cabin, where you can enjoy a beer, wine, cocktails or finger food throughout the flight - and toilets where you probably could swing a cat. 

You can sign-up for in-flight wi-fi if you need to work during your flight, or you can choose from literally thousands of movie, TV and music choices - including first-run films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Nelson Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. A total of 1500 channels.

And unlike the folk in economy you can eat and drink when you want - before or after a movie, or during. Before or after you catch a nap stretching flat out.

There's a good choice of meals on Emirates, a selection of appetisers followed by either roast lemon chicken, green Thai curry seafood, lamb shank with spinach or a Reuben Sandwich (which was very good), as was the chocolate cheesecake for dessert.

Wine choices range from familiar names like Moet & Chandon, Craggy Range and Voyager Estate to a very good 2005 Les Fiefs de Lagrange Bordeaux. 

You can select from "light bites" like a deli selection, steak and mushroom pie, or fried udon noodles with prawns, at any time - and there are copious amounts of hot towels to make sure no one overheats amid the excess. 

And there are even four main course choices for breakfast and extremely solicitous service from very attractive people throughout the journey. 

Did I love it? Yes. Did I feel ridiculously pampered? Yes. Would I use points to upgrade to business? Yes. Would I pay? Maybe. 

Emirates flies from Australia to Dubai 84 times per week, with daily onward connections to 35 European destinations. Emirates provides 30kg of checked luggage per passenger in economy class and 40kg in business class. 1300 303 777 or www.emirates.com/au


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