Served solely by a Boeing 777-300ER until this month, the Emirates Gatwick to Dubai route is now also serviced by an Airbus A380.
I flew business-class from Gatwick on a Boeing service and returned from Dubai on an A380. Gatwick passengers accustomed to flying with the 777 will find the A380 offers a significantly enhanced experience.
Pre-departure: Business-class passengers departing from Dubai (and Gatwick) are provided with complimentary private transfers to Dubai Airport’s Terminal 3, where they can check in at one of 15 dedicated business-class counters. Although conservative in design, the airline’s lounge is vast and impressive. Tasty international cuisine is available from various buffet stations, as is Moët & Chandon champagne; treatments can be booked at the lounge’s Timeless Spa; and an office space caters to those working as they travel.
Seat: The Emirates A380 business-class cabin accommodates 76 flat-bed seats in a 1x2x1 configuration. An in-seat power supply means travellers can use laptops for the duration of long-haul flights and a personal minibar, stocked with soft drinks, is a novel feature. I didn’t attempt to sleep during my daytime flight but blankets were provided and the central seats extend to 79 inches when fully flat. Aisle seats are shorter when fully flat, extending to 70 inches. Seat pitch varies from 48 to 39 inches, with the central seats again offering more space, and seat width is 18.5 inches throughout the cabin.
Food & drink: While there are a number of Middle Eastern dishes on offer, the Dubai to London menu is, in the main, Western. Lunch dishes included a starter of smoked salmon and sour cream, a main course of chicken breast stuffed with foie gras, and a chocolate ganache cake. An afternoon tea and snacks including crab cakes and vegetable pies were available later; the wine selection was limited to two reds and two whites, or Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label. I enjoyed my meals, but had expected the airline to celebrate Arabic cuisine to a greater degree and to offer more distinctive options. Most impressive is the bar reserved for those in business- and first-class. A steward was on hand to mix cocktails and the lounge was a hub of activity throughout the flight.
Service: Departing on the 777 service from Gatwick I had found service perfunctory rather than personable, but the opposite was the case on my return flight. Upon boarding, stewardesses explained the features of the new cabin to passengers individually; subsequent requests were dealt with promptly and cordially. The bar provided a good platform for interaction between passengers and the international crew, too, with affable Emirates staff enquiring about holiday plans and dispensing travel tips as appropriate.
Entertainment: This is a forte of Emirates. The carrier’s ICE (information, communications, entertainment) system has an extensive range of new-release and classic films, television shows, box sets and audio options to choose from. Business-class passengers can access it via a 15-inch widescreen, which can be controlled via touchscreen remote or tablet. Wi-Fi is also available on board most A380 flights, for a charge.
Post-departure: I wasn’t provided with a fast-track pass for immigration so clearing security at Gatwick took some time. If booked in advance, business-class passengers can also avail of a complimentary chauffeur service to their final destination upon arrival at Gatwick, provided they are travelling to a postcode within London or to an address within 70 miles of the airport.
Price: Emirates return fares from London Gatwick to Dubai cost from £400 return in economy class, or from £2,068 in business class. The airline operates 16 daily services from the UK to Dubai; of the three daily departures that leave from Gatwick, one will always be an A380. Bookings can be made via www.emirates.com or by calling 0844 800 2777.