In March, four months after the official unveiling of the new Emirates First Class for Boeing 777 at Dubai Airshow (November 2017), I’ve sampled the new product from Dubai to Brussels and back, flights EK183 / EK184. Here’s how people who pay almost 10,000 dollars for a return ticket travel in style, enjoying an amazing experience above the clouds.
Game Changer. This is how Emirates refers to its new First Class, available for the moment on 7 Boeing 777-300ERs. Confirming what Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline, told us in a one-on-one meeting back in November at the airshow, the Dubai-based airline has also introduced the new Business Class and Economy Cabins on its 10 Boeing 777-200LRs (Longer Range). Unlike the 777-300ER, where the Business Class layout is still 2-3-2, on the LR the configuration is a much-awaited 2-2-2. Emirates has also announced it will introduce the new First Class on the Airbus A380 beginning in 2020. As a reminder, Emirates is the world’s largest customer and operator of Airbus A380 (104 superjumbos in service, 58 on order) and Boeing 777 (165 in service). With 150 Boeing 777Xs ordered, Emirates will be the launch-customer for this new aircraft, with delivery of the first one set for June 2020.
Back to our flight in First Class, a product developed jointly with Mercedes-Benz, just like the new Business Class cabin. Car lovers will immediately notice common design details between the new Emirates 777 First and Business Class and Mercedes’ flagship, S-Class. The “Game Changer” tagline perfectly fits Emirates’ new cabin given the innovations it brings. The new First Class Suites (6 on-board the Boeing 777-300ER) guarantee full privacy thanks to the sliding, floor-to-ceiling door. Basically, you feel like you’re in an exclusive hotel, a 5-star apartment with a great view.
Amongst the many settings at your disposal there’s “Do not disturb”, allowing you to unwind in complete privacy, but also Dine On-Demand. Passengers can easily communicate with the cabin crew, or request for room service using the Video / Audio call function. Exclusive room service at 36,000 feet? Yes, please! The new First Class suites also come with a service window where customers can be served drinks and canapes undisturbed. Emirates has retained and updated the most popular features of its private suites: the personal mini bar for drinks and snacks within each suite, and wireless controls to adjust seating positions, as well as to navigate ice, Emirates’ award-winning inflight entertainment system.
With the new First Class Suites, Emirates ticks two world firsts: Virtual Windows for the two middle suites and a Zero Gravity seat position. The soft leather seats recline into a fully flat bed and can be placed in a “Zero Gravity” position inspired by NASA technology, giving a feeling of relaxation and weightlessness. The roomy suites also have ample space for passengers to change in the privacy of their suites even after the bed has been made.
Passengers traveling in the middle suites should also enjoy the same amazing views like the passengers flying in the outer ones, so Emirates has come up with Virtual Windows. These HD virtual windows project the views from outside the aircraft using real time camera technology. I’ve interacted with these Virtual Windows both at Dubai Airshow and in Brussels, before taking-off, and I can confirm the images have an exceptional clarity. Basically, if you don’t know that you’re looking at / through Virtual Windows, you can hardly tell they’re not real (see below).
The remote of ice entertainment on-board system, which offers over 3,500 channels of on-demand entertainment, impresses with its elegant design and the premium fit-and-finish quality can be felt at every touch. Each of the 6 new First Class Suites (layout 1-1-1) comes with its own binoculars so that passengers can better admire the landscapes below or watch aircraft passing by, just like I did (24/7 avgeek). Thanks to the 32-inch Full HD LCD TV screens in First Class, you can watch the take-off and landing of the mighty Boeing 777 via the forward-facing camera or the one located below the aircraft. The detachable iPad size remote, located on the side of the seat, can also stream images from the two outer cameras, so you can watch the flight’s most exciting moments also there.
The viewing experience is enhanced with brand-new Bowers & Wilkins Active Noise Cancelling E1 headphones created exclusively for Emirates. These headphones were designed by award-winning audio brand Bowers & Wilkins to ensure the sound was optimised for the First Class cabin environment. Each suite is fitted with an inspiration kit: luxury Byredo skincare collection found only on Emirates, Hydra Active moisturising pyjamas (available on request on day flights, always offered on night flights), and Bulgari amenity kits.
Each new First Class Suite allows passengers to individually change the mood lighting and temperature. When night falls, the stars projected on the aircraft’s ceiling (a different, more elaborated projection than the one in Business Class) create the perfect ambiance for a relaxing sleep. Even the carpets of the new First Class Suites boast LEDs as part of the mood lighting. An artistic motif representing the Ghaf tree (on the front wall of the middle suites, as well as in-suite above the windows and the TV screen) is used as a design highlight throughout the aircraft. An indigenous evergreen plant, the Ghaf is a considered the national tree of the United Arab Emirates, and has deep cultural and ecological significance.
For First and Business Class passengers, the ticket also includes complimentary limo transfer to / from the airport both in the departure city, as well as at the destination to / from the hotel. In Dubai, from Palazzo Versace – the hotel I stayed at – I’ve arrived at Dubai airport’s Terminal 3 with a very well equipped BMW 5 Series Touring, while the transfer from Brussels Airport to the hotel took place with a Mercedes-Benz V-Class, the best of premium MPV in the world. For my return flight to Dubai, I’ve arrived at BRU airport with a BMW 7 Series, and back at Palazzo Versace with a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Before boarding the flight to Brussels, I’ve spent almost an hour in one of Emirates’ huge First Class lounges from Terminal 3. Enjoying breakfast and a cappuccino with a view to Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s parked at the gates doesn’t happen daily, so I savored every minute of the experience before heading to the boarding gate, where the Boeing 777-300ER painted in “Year of Zayed” livery (A6-EQH) was waiting.
On both flights – Dubai to Brussels and back – I’ve travelled in Suite 1K, on the right side of the aircraft. Before taking off from Dubai, I spoke briefly with the First Officer about the new First Class, as well as the Triple Seven and what an awesome flying machine it is. Born in Austria, he told me he’s married with a Romanian. What a small world! Flying over Bucharest – unfortunately covered by a thick blanket of clouds, therefore no aerial photos – listening to LiveATC (live communications between pilots and air traffic controllers) thanks to the on-board Wi-Fi connection, I’ve heard Christian exchanging a few words in Romanian with the ATC: “EK183, buna ziua” and “Multumesc!”
The second day, on the EK184 return flight to Dubai, I flew with the same crew (pilots and cabin crew) on-board A6-EQJ, the newest 777-300ER in Emirates’ fleet back then (mid-March). How was the load factor in the new First Class? Full on both flights, 6/6 suites occupied. Not bad at all. Without doubt, these flights on-board Emirates’ new First Class for the Boeing 777-300ER stand out as the best First Class experience so far. Given that an Airbus A380 offers more space than a 777, the Emirates First Class experience will be even nicer on-board the superjumbos from 2020 onwards.