Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Review of the Emirates Airbus 380 at SFO

By Mike Grasso
August 1, 2008, Emirates Airlines made history by launching the first-ever, Airbus 380 commercial airliner service into the United States. The flight touched down at New York's JFK, and will continue to be operated 3 times a week JFK and the Emirates hub in Dubai.

During a little downtime in the flights, the airline shuttled the super-jumbo jet to San Francisco Airport, where media and other aviation VIP's got a sneak peak of the A380, and a taste of the world famous Emirates service.

First Class
The 14 First Class Suites (pictured left) exceed a private jet experience. Electronically controlled double-doors open to an adjustable bed extending 86" in length. The suites provide the opportunity to customize a level of service depending on your needs. Simply relax in your suite with the accompanying mini-bar and refreshments, vanity mirror, 23" digital TV, including 1100 channels of programming, and request flight crew service on an as needed basis.

Or, pamper yourself with the award-winning service Emirates is known for. Indulge in a seven course meal, with a variety of options to please all tastes. First class passengers may order limitless menu items, including a complete range of sundries and premium liquors by simply informing the nearby cabin attendant.

First class passengers receive complimentary access to two full-service bathroom spa's (pictured above), including hot steamy showers, to freshen up after a long journey. Although showers are limited to 5-8 minutes in length due to water restrictions, guests are permitted to use the remainder of the bathroom for a longer duration. And who wouldn't, with heated flooring, premium grooming products, a hair dryer, and a 15.4" LCD monitor.

Although the suites provide a high level of privacy and comfort, they are not floor-to-ceiling enclosures you might expect when you hear the term, "suites." The surrounding wall to the walkway stands about 3-4 feet in height. Nevertheless, the luxurious first class suite on the Emirates A380 is one not to be missed, and certainly surpasses most other first class aviation products available.

First and Business Class, both which cover the entire second level of the A380, share a lounge area near the rear of the aircraft. Two nearby leather couches invite friends, new and old, to truly enjoy the experience of flying - outside of the assigned seat. A few steps away, a full-service bar (pictured above), featuring warm and cold canap├ęs, premium liquors, and service with a smile, are all available at your leisure.

Business Class
Business class (pictured above), includes 76-lie flat beds which vary between 70" and 79" in length, depending on your seat. Although business class does not feature enclosed suites, high quality food and service, much like in first class, remain available to guests. On-demand media programming is available with a 17" personal digital TV in each unit.

An important consideration when flying Business Class on the new Airbus 380 is the staggering layout of the seats affecting your experience. Some rows for example are designed for two passengers travelling together, but still with the option of putting up a privacy wall in-between, while other rows are built with a large amount of space between the seat next - not particularly warming for a couple traveling together. An Emirates purser I spoke with indicated that the varying layout reflects the needs of the traveler, and often times, those traveling in business class are flying solo. Bottom line here. not all business class seats are equal, and be sure to know this when selecting them during the reservation process.

The business class product itself appears to be of superior quality and will most certainly makes for a wonderful flying experience.
Additional First & Business Class photos can be found here.

All Classes
Ring-ring, who is that calling? It's a friend sitting back in row 86K. (That is, economy class of course). A feature available to all passengers on the plane is the seat-to-seat calling. Can't sit together? Too lazy to go visit them? Call them. The quality of the voice comes through quite clear on the receiving end.

Another great element of the Emirates Airbus 380 are the three mounted cameras. The tail-mounted cam (pictured above) makes for hours of viewing pleasure, particularly during take-offs and landings.

The entire aircraft is equipped with the latest and greatest in technological developments. Each seat features a USB port whereby you can upload and work on important business tasks, or entertain yourself with music and movies you brought from home. ICE, the onboard entertainment system offers over 1000 channels of on-demand entertainment, as well as live BBC news headlines.
Each cabin has crew-controlled mood lighting and sounds. As night falls, the cabin dims and stars fill the roof of the cabin; by morning, light begins to fill the cabin, with the sounds of birds chirping, softly in the background.

Emirates has incorporated even these small details to ensure a premium travel experience for all passengers, regardless class of service.

Please check back later this week for a review of Emirates A380 Coach class.