Flying down the sharp end

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Emirates First Class on the A380
David Bullard

Last year I decided my advancing years meant I should pay more attention to the adverts on the radio and upgrade to First Class. I rationalized the extra cost with the fact that I had very few accommodation costs in the UK, had no children to support and that I bloody well deserved it.

“What time would you like your shower?” asked my cabin attendant as I was enjoying a second glass of pre take off Dom Perignon 2009 in Emirates First Class. Since I was landing at Gatwick at around 12.30 local time I opted for an 11.30 shower at 35000 feet above sea level just to make sure I arrived fragrant and glowing.

I’ve been flying Emirates Business class for the past five years and while it may take me 19 hours to get to London via Dubai, these days as an unemployed man I really couldn’t care less. As the Rolling Stones sang, time is on my side and I quite like to split the journey into two segments to keep the blood circulating in my legs. Not much fun if you’re travelling cattle class I imagine but in Business Class it’s a pleasure. When you arrive in Dubai you get fast tracked through airport security and are soon in the lounge with non stop food and drink until you board your connecting flight.

The whole experience starts with a shiny limo, which they send to take you to the airport. Then it’s a swift, trouble free check in and straight to the luxury of the Emirates lounge where you have to try and restrain yourself and remember that you have nine hours of feasting ahead of you and that’s before you transfer to your next flight. Of course, on arrival in Dubai I now had access to the First Class lounge which is all crisp white linen, waiter service and a great opportunity to drink normally inaccessible  French wine with your sushi breakfast.

Emirates First Class on the A380

Two hours later I was boarding the Airbus 380 and making my way towards seat 1A. The First Class section on Emirates offers a cubicle with sliding doors for privacy. After take off you can potter along and get changed into loose fitting pyjamas while your seat is flattened into a bed and a mattress and duvet added. Should you wish to stay awake a bit longer and binge watch TV there is plenty to choose from on the entertainment system and some very comfortable noise reducing headphones.

Being an Emirates First Class virgin I made the mistake of asking my cabin attendant what time I needed to order dinner. She looked at me with the kindly gaze you might use for a slightly backward child. “Mr Bullard, you can have anything you want on the menu whenever you want it. You just ring for me”. So I did and kicked off with the caviar and blinis and another glass of Dom Perignon followed by a delicious duck salad and a glass of 2007 Chateau something rather grand from Bordeaux.

The food up the sharp end is excellent and the wine list even more so. I was delighted to see my old mate Ken Forrester’s FMC on the wine list and the Vin de Constance makes an appearance on some flights.

Flat bed in Emirates First Class offering

One of the perils of air travel is the fact that for 10 hours you are in a long metal tube with everybody else’s germs. The joy of Emirates First Class is that you have nobody next to you or directly behind you. Instead you are cocooned in a self contained cubicle with your own mini bar, snack basket and entertainment system. It’s a sublime experience and really is like no other airline I’ve ever experienced.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York air travel has become a nightmare. Shuffling forward in the security queue with your “illegal” bottle of water you are treated alternately like a refugee and a terrorist. There’s not much Emirates can do to improve on that but it is comforting to know that at the end of the ignominy of having to remove your shoes, your belt and anything else that might set the alarms off you can look forward to a few hours of pampered luxury. I used to dread international air travel but since I’ve discovered the Emirates sharp end I look forward to my flight with all the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning.

Is the extra you pay for First Class over Business Class worth it? That rather depends on your disposable income. Business class is superb and the prices from South Africa are far more competitive than rival airlines. But First Class is even better and with the rate the ANC is robbing us all it strikes me as a smart idea to spend your money on life’s little luxuries before the commies get their hands on it.  You won’t regret it.

David Bullard has just returned from his second First Class Emirates trip to the UK. On both occasions he was self funded. He isn’t remotely concerned about the size of his carbon footprint.

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