Tested by a Pilot: The Emirates A380 Business Class Experience (DXB-ICN) 

As an airline pilot for a competing airline, I didn’t know if I’d ever get the chance to fly in Emirates Business Class on the Airbus A380. All I knew was that I really wanted to some day. To see if it’s worth all the hype.

Is flying business class on Emirates really everything it’s meant to be? Is it worth it?

In many ways, yes. But not in all the ways. I was quite surprised by my experience as it was not exactly how I expected. Here’s why.

If you're transiting through Dubai, make sure to read Dubai (DXB): The Ultimate 4-7 Hour Layover & Transit Guide

How I booked Emirates Business Class seats to Asia for under 68,000 points per person

Enjoying the luxury of business class on an Emirates Airbus A380 aircraft.
A smug smile after knowing I got an epic deal on Emirates business class.

I hate redeyes – I’ll start off by saying that. But when you get to lie comfortably flat and grab some sleep, they’re suddenly not so bad. And that’s exactly what prompted me to start searching for business class tickets on my flight from Dubai to Incheon, South Korea.

Initially, I was dismayed by the amount of Emirates Skywards points it would take to book an award flight from DXB-ICN. But I decided to give it another shot and see if I could book it through any of Emirate’s partners.

Luckily for me, I found seriously attractive rates using Air Canada’s Aeroplan. I was honestly shocked by the number of options and airlines offered by Air Canada. And seeing as I could easily transfer points directly from my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to my Aeroplan account, I was sold. I opened my account then and there.

A booking for a business class award ticket from Dubai (DXB) to Incheon, South Korea (ICN) for 68,000 miles per person - excellent value.
Using Air Canada’s Aeroplan, I was able to snag this incredible rate for two tickets in business class on an Emirates A380 to Asia.
Comparable Emirates Skywards award redemption rates showing over 100,000 Miles required with an additional large fee.
Comparable rates directly from Emirates are over 100,000 miles and AED 1610 (about $350 USD).

Transferring Points: throwing caution in the wind

There was a slight hiccup though. Seeing as there were only a few business class award tickets left and I didn’t have any points in my Aeroplan account, I had to transfer the points over or purchase them directly. The problem is that whether your transfer them from a partner or purchase them from Air Canada, the points don’t show up immediately.

The fine print on purchasing points from Air Canada's Aeroplan might mean you'll miss out on excellent award bookings.
The fine print when you purchase Air Canada Aeroplan points – the only downside if you see an award ticket you want to book.

This was cause for concern, as I was worried the award tickets would be gone by the time the transfer was complete. Depending on the source, the estimated time was 2 business days or up to 72 hours, and I was purchasing these tickets the week prior (in April 2023).

Thankfully, the points landed in my account the next afternoon (about 30 hours later), and I was able to book 2 amazing business class seats on Emirates with ease and without many fees. The dream was starting to become reality.

Accessing my trip online: easier than I expected [10/10]

As often as I fly standby for almost free, I’m not new to booking award flights for a better experience. But one factor that has always irked me is the difficulty of accessing my itinerary through either the airline I’m flying on or the one I used to book the award ticket.

Luckily, I found that I had absolutely zero issues pulling up my trip through the Emirates app, making sure I could select the best seats (window please!), preloading any dietary restrictions, and having the latest travel information to make my trip seamless. Much to my pleasure, Emirates really facilitates this whole process and makes it absolutely seamless.

The Emirates A380 Business Class Experience: is it worth it? (Rated)

An Emirates stewardess welcomes you onboard a business class A380 with excellent dining options.
Fine dining, excellent service, and a wonderful hard product – what is there not to like about Emirates business class? Well, I’m about to tell you.

While I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly business class on an Emirates 777 (particularly the middle seats – gross!), flying business class on the A380 has always appealed to me. But there’s way more to the journey than just the hard product, and after hearing raving review after raving review, I knew I had to try and compare it for myself.

And whereas I felt that Emirates Business Class shines in many areas, it disappointed in others. It wasn’t everything I hoped it would be – though sometimes it was more. In the end, I’d just say I was very surprised. 

A Whole Terminal Just for You: The Check in Process – Fabulous [10/10]

Emirates Airlines offers a separate business and first class terminal, including security screening and border control.
The business class terminal at DXB was absolutely vacant – staff outnumbered passengers. This meant showing up an hour before our flight was actually very comfortable and relaxed.

I’m not going to lie – when my Careem captain (driver) asked me which terminal I was going to and I responded by saying “Terminal 3, business class”, I felt like kind of a boss. Seeing as I usually fly in economy, this was a fleeting moment of smugness I soaked in as much as I could.

I arrived at what would normally be a busy time at Dubai International Airport, around 2AM, but I was surprised – I basically had the whole terminal to myself. 

Included are check-in kiosks, ample personnel to assist with your any request, and even better – a dedicated security zone and customs/border control area. We arrived about an hour before departure time and made it to the other side in just about 5 minutes.

Simply phenomenal – and much better than my checkin experience in business class on Ethiopian Airlines.

Emirates Business Class Lounge: Huge and Disappointing [7/10]

As a PriorityPass member, I love to explore lounges and see what each airport has to offer. At Dubai International Airport, there’s a myriad of excellent PriorityPass lounges, some of which have become my favorites in the whole system.

So I had very high expectations from the Emirates business class lounge – which were unfortunately not met.

I’ll begin by saying that I was amazed by the incredulous size of the lounge. I’m sure you could fit a football stadium – or two – with room to spare. Included are:

  • A Costa Coffee Shop
  • Several food centers (Middle Eastern, Western, Desserts, etc)
  • Shoe shining
  • Business areas
  • Showers
  • and even a Champagne Lounge

Thanks to its massive size, there’s no issue find space to sit – a problem area for many lounges (such as the JFK T4 SkyClub).

But what disappointed me was the food.

Whether it was the Western section or the Middle Eastern, there weren’t many options, and of the few options they did have, most were bland and unexciting. In fact, it was so regrettable that I wished I had gone to one of the PriorityPass lounges instead.

That’s saying something.

But if you’re not there for the food, I think the Emirates Business Class lounge is great.

Emirates A380 Business Class Hard Product: Pretty Great [9/10]

Ah, it was so much fun boarding with business class and walking up the stairs (for once!) to my seat. You do get a sneak peak at First Class as you walk back towards business class, and I can’t help but feel that Emirates does this on purpose. It’s a tease – and it makes you want more for next time. Clever move, Emirates.

More Storage Room than a New York Apartment [10/10]

The side storage bin on an Emirates A380 business class seat.
One of the side storage bins – big enough for a 17″ laptop – aside our business class seats.

As soon as I could after booking, I made sure to select one of the window seats with the seat closer to the window. This seems to offer better privacy, and more importantly (for me), an easier time looking out the windows – my favorite pastime.

When you get to your seat, you’ll find ample overhead space, and yet even better: tons of storage space. This is rare in business class. And if that’s not enough, there are two extra bins on the side of the seat for further storage, which I loved. I believe these are only offered at the window seats.

Excellent A380 Business Class Seat and Ergonomics [9/10]

The Emirates A380 offers ample storage, seating room, legroom, and comfort plus amenities in business class.
With ample room, I easily made myself comfortable in my business class chair on the A380. I slept like a baby.

Emirates is renowned for their excellent service, but their hard product is pretty great too.

The seat is very adjustable and quite comfortable in most positions. More importantly, there is plenty of legroom in the wide footwells. This is a huge plus – especially if you’re quite tall.

The wood accents are magnificent, and really add to the feel of luxury. There’s an outlet, USB-B and USB-C inlets, a personal air vent in the seat, a lovely prefilled drinks area, an excellent amenity kit with everything you need and more, and even a comfortable mattress pad and pillow. 

In terms of improvements, the seat could be made slightly wider, and a privacy door would go a long way. The issue here is that there would be almost no reason to book First Class anymore, so I’m not sure Emirates will ever upgrade it Business Class seats anymore than they already are. 

Emirates Business Class Service: Not the dream I was hoping for [8/10]

Emirates Airlines are renowned for their excellent service and personable flight attendants.
Though I have frequently experienced amazing service from Emirates, I was left slightly disappointed by the mundanity of my business class experience.

I’ve always admired Emirates for their excellent service – even in economy class. But that’s where my disappointment comes in – I expected more.

There were several Korean speakers, which I think is fantastic to have, and I always love hearing about all the languages spoken by crew on any given flight. Oftentimes it exceeds 15 languages. Crazy.

But the service itself didn’t feel special or individualized, even with a half empty business class cabin. In fact, it practically felt identical to the service you’d get in economy – apart from one thing: the bar.

The A380 Business Class Bar: an unforgettable experience [10/10]

The bar area of the Emirates A380 business class section has bench seating, tables, magazines, and plenty of options to choose from.
Hanging out at the bar alongside the fantastic service we received there really was the highlight of our Emirates business class experience.

I’m not a big drinker, but I decided that while I was there, I might as well try out the onboard business class bar on the A380. After all, YOLO.

I was stupefied by the amount of choice you have – and the quality of the selection. I truly wish American carriers had something, anything, that compared to the selection of drinks you have on Emirates.

But hold on to your beer – the drinks weren’t even the best part.

Unlike the service we got in our seats, the flight attendants at the bar truly treated us like royalty. At one point, they even offered to take pictures of us with an old polaroid. We happily obliged.

Emirates offers practically bottomless service of whatever you desire – and quite good stuff too. In fact, it seems you could drink away the price of your seat if you tried hard enough. Unfortunately I don’t have the tenacity for that. One glass of excellent champagne was good enough for me.

Some of the beverage selections include:

  • Vitality Drinks (no added sugar, gluten free, vegan)
  • Mocktails (Virgin Mary, Orange Fizz, Virgin Cucumber Gimlet, Mint Lemonade, etc)
  • All sorts of tea, cappuccinos, decaf
  • Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut Champagne
  • Wines from France, Germany, and Italy with vintages back to 2010
  • Top shelf liquors

A tasty treat: Emirates delicious onboard cuisine [9/10]

Dining options on Emirates business class are excellent.
I selected the butternut squash for my appetizer and was not disappointed. However, the barbecue prawns were not quite as tasty.

Even in economy, Emirates offers honestly quite tasty food. I’ve never been disappointed.

In business class, you’re treated to an excellent selection. On our flight from Dubai to Incheon, we were offered:

Breakfast, a choice of:

  • Cheese omelette with herbs
  • Chicken congee
  • Brioche French toast (my choice – absolutely delicious and not too sweet)

Lunch, a choice of:

  • Butternut squash soup, Traditional Arabic Mezzo, or Seared tuna salad as an appetizer
  • Grilled beef tenderloin (the best option), Korean Barbecue Prawns (not great), and Mapo tofu (didn’t try)

Looking around, all of the meals appeared well portioned, prepared with attention to detail, and tasty. My partner had the beef for lunch, which was excellent, whereas my Korean Barbecue Prawns left something to be desired. I think I was just unlucky with my selection.

Staying Entertained has never been so easy: Excellent IFE & Onboard WiFi [9/10]

The ICE system on Emirates is easily one of the best in existence. The WiFi could, however, use some improvements.
The ICE system on Emirates is easily one of the best in existence. The WiFi could, however, use some improvements.

If you’ve flown on Emirates before, you’re probably familiar with the excellent ICE system. ICE – Information, Communications, Entertainment, is the culmination of a comprehensive and brilliant entertainment system that has been truly refined for years.

My favorite aspect of it is that you have access to 3 cameras at all times, a detailed moving flight map, and lots of information about the flight.

If you’re less of a nerd than me (which is likely), you’ll enjoy the hundreds of movies and shows from all around the world.

The WiFi is priced reasonably if slightly high, but it’s included with business class seats. There is one catch though – your Emirates Skywards account number must be associated with your booking. Make sure to add it to your award booking either online or when you check in at the airport. 

I’m knocking off a point because the WiFi didn’t work half of the flight (over China), and it’s not as robust as on other airlines.

Not so crappy: an awesome lavatory [10/10]

An Emirates A380 business class lavatory - featuring a full sized window and shade.
Funny enough – the lavatory was one of my favorite aspects of flying on Emirates in business class.

Although it might not be something everyone pays attention to, I quite enjoy checking out the royal throne and seeing just how nice it is. I am a fan of the lavatories even in economy on Emirates, but business class lavatories blew me away.

Featuring an awesome large window, ample room, shaving kits, toothbrushes and paste, a wide sink, I felt right at home.

Getting off the plane behind the crowds: the downside to flying business class on an A380 [6/10]

Normally when you fly in business class, you’re in the front of the plane – which naturally means you can get off the plane first on arrival. This means getting to customs and immigrations first, one of the many techniques I use to save a whole bunch of time every time I fly. 

But on Emirates business class, the seats are actually located further back than much of economy. As such, we found ourselves lost in a sea of hurried economy passengers, fallen behind and awash in the hoards. To be honest, much of the purpose of booking business class (at least for me) is the huge benefit of saving time on both ends – showing up as late as possible, boarding whenever without worrying about overhead space, and being the first to get off the plane.

Unfortunately, that’s just something you’re going to have to give up when you fly business class on an Emirates A380.

An Airline Pilots Verdict on Flying Emirates Business Class on an A380: Is it worth it?

Is flying on Emirates business class worth it? It depends on many factors.
Some parts of the Emirates business class experience, like this one enjoying the bar area, were unforgettable. Others were a little more mundane.

Overall, I’d give the entire experience an 8.5 out of 10. It was excellent in so many ways, and yet I was left longing for just a bit more in others. Certain things – like the unspectacular service – left a sour taste in my mouth. If you’re paying so much extra for a business class ticket, it should feel drastically different than what you’d perceive in economy.

But in many other ways, I was pleasantly surprised, like the business class terminal, phenomenal seat storage, and unique experience we had at the onboard bar. Overall, I’d say it’s worth it only on longer and redeye flights, or when there’s an exceptional deal on offer. 

How Emirates First Class purposely degrades the quality of their Business Class

My perception of Emirates business class is this – it’s quite good, but Emirates doesn’t want to make it too good, for fear of jeopardizing their own First Class sales.

From the lack of a privacy door to unexceptional service, and a lounge with subaverage food on offer, it was obvious that Emirates was stopping short of itself on purpose.

This is the quagmire that Emirates faces, and it’s an issue many other airlines simply don’t need to face. If you don’t even offer First Class, you can focus more on making your business class product outshine the others. It’s that simple.

Unfortunately, the undoing to the excellence of Emirates business class product is just one thing: Emirates own self.

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