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Bernie Reviews Emirates First (+Photos)

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Bernie Reviews Emirates First (+Photos)

Bernie Reviews Emirates First (+Photos)
December 22
08:28 2019

I’m ten years or more behind the times.


I think literally everyone has reviewed Emirates first, especially on the A380 – because of OMFGBBQ11111! They have a shower!

That doesn’t make it bad or pointless for me to cover


Because I am awesome. Also, like – c’mon I’m a boss. Just because I was off flying on weird airlines or engaging in self-flagellation (though you can do that in an EK shower) flying KLM doesn’t mean I wasn’t curious about what the Dubai dudes did.

Now, because I play credit card voodoo and love an obscure song by a band that should be called Martha(s) and the Muffins – and I started my voyage in Toronto.

Ground Experience in Toronto


I was picked up by the Emirates-contracted chauffeur Suburban and things were wonderful. I love when transport to the airport is included in the cost of my ticket.

Then I actually got to the often sung about Lester B. Pearson International.

Hopeless.

Emirates’ lounge in Toronto is one of those horrifying “Plaza Premium” contract lounges of which the only worse lounge in their system is “the Club” in Seattle.

Emirates, at least, knows this. They gave me a $50 food voucher and recommended Susur Lee’s airport dining experience – “Lee’s Kitchen.” It just so happens the two Code-F gates that Emirates can use are right across from it.

Hey, the onion rings weren’t bad! Photo: Bernie Leighton

Don’t get your hopes up for your retro Food Channel love of the pony-tailed chef. It was, okay, I guess. Weirdly, despite the fifty dollar credit, it didn’t work for tips. Awkwardly, I had to grab some U.S. currency out of my wallet. Canada’s GDP grew by 5% that day.

If nothing else, the remaining credit could contribute to the purchase of a one-litre bottle of Fiji Water. It’s not about the money, it’s just that in the lounge – I’d have had to pay nothing. At the restaurant, I should not have either. Just a weird little distraction from the already degraded premium ground experience.

I guess it’s nice to sit in the twelfth largest airport terminal, though even outside of the admittedly terrible and overcrowded lounge – the views of the aircraft are lacking at best.

The whole ground experience provided by the GTAA Airports Authority and Dnata’s contracted partners is all a pile of burning tyres and if I didn’t know what I was getting into with the onboard product, I’d probably have been mildly miffed.

The Aircraft


Eurowhite, or is it? Photo: Bernie Leighton

A6-EEV was recently repainted into a livery celebrating fifty years of Dubai Rugby. Cool! A special scheme! Thing is, from the gate, I could not see any of it. How did I know it was a special scheme? Flightradar24, like any good nerd.

EEV is MSN150 of the A380 program and roughly six years old. A young-looking six.

One thing about Emirates that I admire is that the flight crew give relatively detailed announcements about the aircraft and the flight itself. For instance, the captain told us we’d be departing via Runway 33R. Logical, it’s the longest runway.

They failed to tell us tyre-speed and similar variables. But in today’s era where the crew more or less says “this is an aeroplane, don’t do anything stupid on it, the bathrooms are too small!” It’s nice they try. About the lavatory mention, the Russian internet said a couple got stuck trying in a lav. That way you know it’s true!

Our takeoff roll was ~47 seconds, your standard A380-861 departure profile when going out on the heavier end of “Super.”

I always wish the A380 was a better ride on the top deck. Somehow the force of turbulence transmits along a weird axis and makes the plane feel weirdly pitchy and yawy.

The 787 and A350 ECLIPSE the ride quality and if they had super firsts with showers, I would seek them out. Even the A330, generally, feels more comfortable in the pointy end.

When it’s smooth air, it does feel stately. But really, that’s the seat – you can’t tell what a plane handles like in straight and level flight with no upsets.

Onboard


Whilst I find the decor to be on the same level as that of a whore’s palace – there is something to be said about that level of over the top abbondanza.

It’s comfortable.

Duh. Bernie, be insightful.

It’s definitely more comfortable than the Air France A380 pseudo-suite. I’d say, as a chair, it’s more comfortable than the one you can find in the Etihad Apartment. Unsurprisingly, it is lightyears ahead of the suite on Lufthansa’s 388s as well. We’re not even going to talk about BA.

I have, oddly, never flown SQ or QF A380s in First – so I cannot make a statement there. The same goes for KE and OZ. Meh. I can keep listing random airline codes if you need me to.

Thing is, I’ve done the majority of the A380 “luxury” cabins and Emirates has the most comfortable chair. Despite the fact I am pretty sure somewhere a Russian lady is wondering how she can convince Emirates to add leopard print to the suite.

The storage is fantastic. I’ve given up, permanently, on expecting airlines to understand that premium cabins need overhead bins and passengers, regardless of what they can pay, don’t want to look up and see contours of a ceiling – they want to see the contours of the ceiling, or stars, or whatever, knowing their bags are firmly above them!

Emirates, wonderfully, gets around this problem of limited storage so many airlines face by giving you what feels like an entire closet under the credenza in front of the television. It even has straps to secure things, should you desire.

It’s good. It’s huge. I did not for one second have to worry about the fate of my over-sized camera bag. Even better, the storage area forces you to look at the floor, which also has a little star on it when the lights are off. Well, not real stars – just LEDs – but I love the effect.

Yes, I know – were there real stars, sustaining a fusion reaction and density required for their existence would result in the Earth aflame and consumed to fuel them.

Overall, there are some issues with seat design that have – of course – changed on the new 77Ws so the feedback that has been given by those who were not late to the party like me has been well noted.

The doors are slow and not floor-to-ceiling. The in-seat tablet is prone to error. Countless times did I accidentally fast forward to the end of an episode just trying to unpause.

Also, the tablet feels like it’s running software too new for its tiny little ARM-based brain – it’s very unresponsive. We’ll get back to the IFE later, but because the tablet is part of the seat, I figured I should mention it.

The seat has something more premium seats need. Air vents. Yes, of course, they at least appear gilded – but they’re there and they are strategically placed in a manner that allows them to actually have a wonderful effect.

I was not crazy about the grey leather covering the seat, but it’s reasonably soft. It just looks a little basic compared to the rest of the seat. Clearly, either due to Emirates exceptional maintenance department or material choice – it wears well.

Really, I prefer the Air France look – or the Etihad look. Emirates is all wonderful walnut and gold – it’s comfortable and private – just, again, and as seen with the new 77W that went from Golden Girls to Rasputin… It’s all a bit too reminiscent of a place where someone who doesn’t speak Russian can spend a lot of money very quickly.

If I’m spending that kind of money, I want it to be more Armani inside, not Burj al Arab. Though that’s another article.

ICE


I’m not an Atwood fan, but Elizabeth Moss is > Kate Moss. Photo: Bernie Leighton

Oh wait, I can’t say those letters any more without a trigger warning.

Information, Communication, Entertainment. Live with it. What would happen if it were winter, do we have to call it frozen water now?

The I and the E part are fantastic. Just utterly fantastic. Everything everyone says about Emirate’s exterior cameras, resolution of content and selection of content is 100% true. I am now spoiled and respect no other IFE than my computer loaded with questionable films and a wonderful series about the GRU in Afghanistan, that weirdly, I didn’t write. Though, I promise, mine is coming and has a lot better music. P.S this one is called Krepost Baradber.

A friend of mine says it’s not realistic as it paints the CIA as stupid, rather than vindictive. I say he’s wrong – and the CIA was both stupid and vindictive. Speaking of the complete lack of Bangles music in Krepost, there’s a very large and notable gap in Emirates Music selection.

No decent American music what so ever for those of us over the age of 60. Even 50, really. “Alternative,” is not Panic at the Disco! It’s Garbage, it’s NiN. Where’s the “Cranky old Depressive” section? Where is my 80’s? Also, even worse for those of us who speak Russian.

Also, why is this in Roman letters? Photo: Bernie Leighton?


You cannot call your Alla Pugacheva collection complete if it does not have Million Scarlet Roses or Позови меня с собой. You can’t! Also, ahem, Emirates – where was my Блестящие?

I can’t believe that they’re still going. With Ksenya Novikova no less. I mean, everyone who says the Zhanna Friske (Z”L) era was the best is totally wrong, but it’d have been nice to have some! P.S. The best era is Ksenya + Anna Semenovich!

You don’t have to get me very intoxicated do to Agent 007 on Karaoke. Really any song on that album.

Really, really, minor faults – but when everything else is so good; it has to be mentioned. Instead, I just listened to Alla on my computer. Which is a shame, as I think the B&W headphones EK provides may be better than my Sonys.

Then again, I didn’t really have a chance to give them a proper run down due to my lack of knowledge in how to get my personal content to play through their system. Oh well, next time.

The C, though… Whoa boy!

The WiFi is Terrible


Where is the free cheese?

In the mousetrap.

EK offers free WiFi for Skywards members. This means everyone flying is a Skywards member who wants free WiFi. They use a Panasonic Ku band system – but everyone wants it.

This means, sometimes, you can maybe see you have a new email – but you can’t see what it is. I suggest giving the F Pax a free code and charging everyone else. Free WiFi like that is not a selling point, it’s a failure. I’m old. I grew up without the Internet, but now that I have it.

I need it. It’s my jam. I mean, yes, on aeroplanes half the sites or more that I visit are blocked by content filtering – but I can still check Reddit, tweet, upload photos, and get put in Facebook jail! Or well, I should be able to be if it weren’t for the complete lack of bandwidth.

It’s just… outstandingly flawed. I don’t get it. If they used ViaSat and had some obscene amount of bandwidth, sure.

Totally. Make it free and I’ll love you. Even better, charge me to use a not free tier and let me watch Netflix or Curb. I mean, they have the greatest Scifi show HBO ever made on the system – but overall that show makes me either laugh so hard I cry or laugh until I cry.

The Union bled, and they tell a very biased story. Also, it’s the V.I. Lenin Power Plant on the Chernobyl River. So, uhh – yeah. Calling it Chernobyl is not Emirates’ fault, just… uzhas. UZHAS!

Overall, it is the clearest touchscreen I have ever seen on a plane. It’s phenomenal. Responsive, diverse… Why can’t the WiFi be like that?

Service


I’m not an alcoholic, you are! Photo: Bernie Leighton

Amazing.

2014-2016 Etihad at its peak could barely beat this. Air France comes close, but Emirates is Top Dog. Also, I think I might have Etihad nostalgia. Emirates is just incredibly attentive, personal, and exclusive.

Because of Canada’s obscene tax regime, they serve a reasonable Veuve on the ground. In the air, however, it’s 2002 Dom and I killed most of the bottle on my own. It’s good. Like, 2002 Dom should be good – but this is still great in the air.

What shocked me most, beyond how it wasn’t surprisingly leggy like some Dom vintages were the fact it had an apple start with a walnut finish. Do not worry, I was tasting it properly – I was inhaling while I swished. I ain’t no scrub. I’d say it had a surprisingly round and fruity terroir. This is champagne to remember.

There, also, is the traditional Arabic coffee. I am never sure why I take some. Sadly, I have a bizarre quinic acid sensitivity that makes coffee when not prepared in the absence of oxygen taste like poison. I think I just liked their serving ware so much I wanted to see it in action.

Really, the flight crew is incredible. All of them, both flights I took. Consistent despite being different people. Flawless. I put something down on the side table to move my phone, once my phone was moved, the crew member picked up my empty cup and put it back on a table cloth level of consistency.

Those little things are things few people notice, but they make me feel special and valued as a guest. I love touches like that. They stand out. I could do the thing myself and not feel bad, but they did it for me and it just… perfection.

Changing forks when I didn’t even use them level perfection too. Just an incredibly exclusive and thought out amount of both formality and professionalism.

The way I see it is that every other airline now has to be judged, at least in F, to Emirates. I wasn’t expecting to say that – but I am.

Catering


Yes, I know it’s blurry – you try eating with turbulence! Let alone reviewing! That’s the duck starter, btw. Photo: Bernie Leighton

It’s all over the place. In other words, my hero Air France will not be taking a fall. (I will give you a cookie if you got that joke, seriously, if you can find me and tell me why that’s funny – I will give you a slice of pie.

Granted that will probably be three people so consider this one of those things you read in my article, don’t get, move on and understand I am sending a message to someone who is not you using very unsubtle steganography.)

Vintners from around the globe, or it’d seem mostly LVMH made up the audacious wine list. I’m not an alcoholic, I just play one on TV. Moreover, I might be more than a little effete. It seems they enjoy their pomposity too.
Port from 1978.

Though on flights from Dubai, you can get Royal Salute. Indeed, it’s all a bit much. This whole alcohol thing is entirely halo-effect, rudimentary, marketing. There are a lot of bottles on board, such as the ephemeral Royal Salute Twenty-One-year-old Chiva’s Regal that are prodigious.

On paper, they look amazing – they’re not cheap bottles. Ordinarily, I’d drink it. But you have to ask because it’s in the bar. I’m recalcitrant – I’m not going to get up and bug someone. I hate talking to people!

For the longest time, even pushing the call button made me feel oafish! Put that stuff on the wine list so that when it’s 0300Z and intoxication is a necessity to maintain either my creative process or soporifics are a “nice to have.” Don’t make me find it!

Everything about the meal choices reminds me of a luxury hotel lobby cafeteria, in India, from the late 1970s! Beef Wellington, ostentatious. Obligatory: Palak Paneer, a necessity for the rich vegetarian industrial mogul you are discussing the heroin trade with under the guise of Export/Import banking chat.

What I’m saying is that the menu needs some innovation, rather than items from the past 20 years. It needs to be updated, needs to be note-worthy, memorable! Right now, I can imagine a LeCarre character with an overly French last name sitting at the Taj Palace doing exactly what I said above, down to the glass of Chivas.

It’s stuffy! Stuffy food is never going to amaze me, and at FL360+ chances are it’s going to be even more of a challenge to really move the needle beyond “This is what I’d expect, but I’d really like them to have done more.”

There’s nothing wrong with the food, and it’s all “great” but it’s not MEMORABLE. Air France, memorable. Etihad back in the Hogan-era, memorable. Emirates.

I remember the flaws more than the strengths. For what it’s worth. Now, the LVMH-owned alcohol I had with my meal. That stuff, that stuff stood out.

The smoked-duck starter was delicious, but… had zero depth of flavour and very poor balance. It was all duck! Nothing to compliment it. The dish needed some editing.

It’s nice they do Caviar, but I still don’t really like it. Photo: Bernie Leighton

Its great Emirates does caviar, but… meh. Meh… In the words of Dr Zoidberg. “Rich people eat the garbage parts of the animal!”

A steak with onions and couscous.

Why can no airline but Etihad do steak? Thin, tough, weirdly gamey. Delicious sides, though.

Some sort of chocolate-orange croissant bread pudding. Photo: Bernie Leighton

This was the highlight of the first meal, a chocolate-orange croissant bread pudding. Buttery, soft, chocolatey. Really awesome and paired very well with the dessert wines!

Let’s talk about wine. The reds are feisty and buttery. The real stand-outs are the dessert wines. They offer a 1978 port from _____ and an amazing 2007 Sauternes.

The Sauternes is apparently not popular, passengers are missing out. It’s delicious, sweet and subtle. The port is great, but if sipped after eating a complex flavour – it can be a little medicinal.

Tagliatelle with enoki mushrooms, now that beats a soggy airline pancake with weird fruit! Photo: Bernie Leighton

The best thing about the Emirates dine on-demand menu and their service is that you don’t have to have “breakfast” for breakfast. Which is great, none of the breakfast options on either flight with them I took look truly appealing.

The closest thing I had to breakfast on my flight from Toronto was some butter chicken followed by a lovely tagliatelle primavera with enoki mushrooms.

They also offer the weirdest crisps known to man. Photo: Bernie Leighton

The Shower


Emirates needs bathrobes. They have a heated floor, but they have no bathrobes. The shower is the same as Etihad’s shower. I think it even came from the same supplier. It’s five minutes of water with a start/stop button that automatically stops with one minute left to remind you.

It’s still great. It’s a shower! I sweat a ton in the EK pyjamas, which are also the best pyjamas an airline has yet to give me. Under their bedding, which is also flawless. That shower just makes everything so much better! Though the humidity change murders my sinuses. YOWZA!

Thoughts on the Dubai Experience


Upon landing, we were parked at an F gate. Premium pax landing in Dubai and not connecting have to walk close to a mile to customs and baggage claim. NOT COOL!

If you want a premium experience, arrange a driver. Have golf carts for taxis. I saw, when we finally got to about 3/4s of the way to customs there were “taxis” you could pay. That is not premium. It’s just bizarre. Most airlines I’ve flown in first do something to keep the experience going after you land.

All Emirates gives you is “Fast Track.” When I landed, however, not only am I Smartgate registered (though that has yet to work) there was no line to speak of for anything and there was no track to speed through. Though, at least I walked off some of dinner.

The Emirates chauffeur service is amazing. We had too many bags for one car, so they sent another so we’d be comfortable. Even better, there are free porters at the airport to help you with your many bags. 

The ground experience, though, in Dubai is bizarre. Just bizarre.

The highlight is the separate boarding area for all three classes of
service.

Thing is, combining the lounge with the boarding gates makes the lounge feel like an empty, luxury, shopping mall. At least in the middle of the night. The layout has to be completely linear at all hours of the day – but the lack of people, combined with the unending length makes it seem so strange.

There is a main dining room. It makes no sense to me. It’s both annoyingly
claustrophobic and intimate, but also gigantic. It doesn’t seem like the space
knows what it is. The food overall, however, is very bark. The bread was ruff, the pasta was chewy, and the salad was grrrrrrrrrr.

I don’t know what the point of being able to see a fully-staffed restaurant kitchen is when the food is like that! That’s a lot of what the “higher-end” dining in the UAE is like, though.

Ambience and flash over substance. Then again, how do most Russians choose where to go? AMBIENCE! Their wives, mothers, and grandmothers are all the best cooks in the world; so they can’t wait to hang out and be cool. Hang around until 12:15 at any locale… You’ll see.

It’s all very nice, but also very weird. It’s not my kind of lounge. There are
ample spaces to get away from the other passengers, but you can still hear the main-terminal and the business class lounge above.

Weirder, there is no premium-class train to the A gates from the dedicated
premium check-in area! I find it a bizarre oversight. Even just a separate car with a separate elevator right up to the lounges. That’d make the experience feel better.

Random Closing Thoughts

There needs to be a better location for the “snack basket.” In front of the TV is distracting, I moved it to above the minibar, but that doesn’t feel like a great place for it either.

Speaking of the minibar, it’d be great were it chilled. Though, I think it is on the new 77W suite.

So yeah, that’s Emirates A380 F. The shower still gives it wow factor, the food is decent, the service is amazing, but it’s time for Emirates to upgrade the suite to match their industry-leading 77W product. I’d happily fly it again, but I would probably be less than thrilled with the same seat on the 77W as without the shower, it’s been eclipsed by its own company brethren.

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About Author

Bernie Leighton

Bernie Leighton

Aviation media is the only career where you can be in Papua New Guinea one day, and then go to Bangladesh the next; for no reason than to fly on rare airlines, rarer aircraft, and visit new countries. I write about aviation. I mostly love Russian planes. I'm a Trivia geek who flies helicopters and loves meat.

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