9 takeaways from my first-ever Emirates First Class experience

Emirates' shock and awe approach to luxury might not be for everyone, but it also means there's never a dull moment.

As part of my latest trip report, I’ve just completed two First Class flights on Emirates- not a bad way to be introduced to the airline! 

I’ll be working on the full reports in the weeks to come, but as a teaser, here’s some takeaways from the experience.

(1) Skip the Emirates Lounge in Singapore

Emirates Lounge Singapore

Emirates has its own lounge at Changi Airport, a combined facility for First and Business Class passengers. It’s not a bad lounge by any means. In fact, it’s a perfectly adequate Business Class facility, offering Moet champagne, plenty of seating, friendly staff, and a decent buffet spread.

Emirates Lounge Singapore
Emirates Lounge Singapore
Emirates Lounge Singapore
Emirates Lounge Singapore buffet
Emirates Lounge Singapore buffet

However, it’s a very underwhelming First Class lounge, since it lacks typical First Class amenities like a la carte dining, a tended bar, nap rooms, or private shower suites. 

Showers are located inside the main toilet, and are spartan at best

Likewise, the wine selections might pass muster in a Business Class lounge, but are woefully inadequate for First Class, doing no justice to the US$1 billion (yes, billion) that Emirates has invested in its wine programme. 

Emirates Lounge Singapore wine selections: Roughly S$20 or less

If you’re an Emirates First Class passenger, you’d be crazy not to visit the Qantas First Lounge instead, with its Neil Perry designed menu, fully-tended bar, and private shower rooms. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no lounge at Changi has better food than Qantas. It’s restaurant quality, the stuff I’d gladly pay money for outside.

And even if you’re an Emirates Business Class passenger, I’d wager you’d be better off at the Qantas Business Lounge, where there’s private shower rooms, a fully-tended bar, and much faster Wi-Fi (the Emirates Lounge network clocks single-digit scores on Speedtest, versus triple digits for Qantas). The main drawback is the Qantas Business Lounge tends to be more crowded, and lacks champagne.

(2) Wi-Fi is free, but…

Emirates offers free Wi-Fi, but not the way you might expect.

Whether or not you get free Wi-Fi depends on both your cabin class and whether or not you’re a member of Emirates Skywards. For example, an Emirates First Class passenger would not enjoy free Wi-Fi, unless they also happen to be a member of Skywards.

 Economy & Premium EconomyBusinessFirst
BlueFree chat-onlyFree chat-onlyFree Wi-Fi
SilverFree chat-onlyFree Wi-Fi
GoldFree Wi-Fi
Platinum

There’s no cost to join Skywards, but in order to get free Wi-Fi your membership number must be linked to your booking at least 24 hours before departure. Moreover, this means that if you wish to credit your Emirates flight to a different FFP, you won’t get free Wi-Fi.

If you forget to add your Skywards number in time, you’ll have to pay for access:

  • US$9.99 for 30 minutes 
  • US$9.99-19.99 for full-flight Wi-Fi, depending on length of flight
  • US$2.99-5.99 for chat-only plan, depending on length of flight

This is notably different from Singapore Airlines in two ways:

  • Singapore Airlines First and Business Class passengers enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, period
  • For complimentary access by virtue of KrisFlyer status, your membership number can be appended right up to the point of check-in

(3) First Class service is uneven

Emirates nails the hard product, but service can be hit and miss

Emirates talks a big game about luxury, and to be fair, they do get a lot of things right. In terms of the hard product, catering and amenities, it’s right up there with the best of them.

But when it comes to service, Emirates hasn’t quite figured out consistency. There was a gaping difference in quality between the crew on the first leg from Singapore to Dubai, and the second leg from Dubai to Geneva.

On the first leg, the crew were decidedly indifferent: no pre-flight introductions, slow service, requests frequently forgotten, glasses sat empty, and I thought they handled an incident with an inconsiderate passenger rather poorly.

On the second, the crew were outstanding. From start to finish, they were warm, friendly, and hospitable. I got a full tour of the seat and all its features, meal service was conducted efficiently (and yet entirely at the pace the passenger wanted), drinks were kept topped up, and I just got the sense that they were so proud of their product. 

I’ve laid this out in more detail in the post below, so check that out if you want the full story.

Hit and miss: Emirates’ uneven First Class service

(4) You can never have too much caviar

That’s a lot of caviar

In August 2022, Emirates unveiled its latest party trick: unlimited caviar for First Class customers (or at least as unlimited as onboard supplies permit).

Customers can now savour unlimited portions of Persian caviar as part of the ‘dine on demand’ service, with an exquisite pairing of the world-renowned Dom Perignon vintage champagne

One Mile at a Time claims that Emirates loads three tins of caviar per First Class passenger, and looking at the portion served, I can believe that. In fact, I didn’t even need to ask for extra; the crew came up with a plate and said “a double portion of caviar for you”.

Just as much caviar on the second leg

It got to the point where I had to sit back and ask myself “is this too much caviar?”, which is probably as absurd a thing as will ever be said in life. 

(5) The onboard drinks list is spectacular 

Emirates has secured exclusive rights to Dom Perignon in the air

First Class passengers have an extensive wine list at their disposal, the fruits of Emirates’ long-term investment in its wine programme. The airline has a cellar in France with 6.5 million bottles of fine wines, some of which won’t be ready for tasting until 2035!

WineTypeVivino
Dom Perignon 2012Champagne4.6/5
Ermitage de l’Oree Michel Chapoutier 2013White4.5/5
Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay 2017White4.2/5
Ken Forrester ‘The FMC’ Chenin Blanc 2021White4.4/5
Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay 2018White3.9/5
Chateau Montviel Pomerol 2011Red4.1/5
Chateau Pichon Longueville Lalande 2005Red4.4/5
Tournon Shays Flat 2013Red3.7/5

We all know about the Dom, which has now become an Emirates exclusive (hence the removal from Singapore Airlines’ First Class cabin). Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the 2003 Dom Pérignon Plénitude 2, which was served in a limited run that ended before my flight. However, Dom 2012 isn’t a bad consolation prize either.

Dom Perignon 2012
Chateau Lafite Rothschild Carruades de Lafite Pauillac 2006

But it’s not just the wines. Hidden away on the spirits list is something any cognac fan will recognise instantly: Hennessy Paradis. This retails for more than S$1,400 a bottle in Singapore, which means your average 50 ml serving costs about S$100. 

Hennessy Paradis

I will freely admit to knowing absolutely nothing about cognac, but having tried this, I can see where the money goes…

(6) Showering at 40,000 feet is transformative 

Emirates A380 shower

While Emirates wasn’t the first airline to fly the A380, it certainly managed to wrestle the headlines away from Singapore Airlines by becoming the first to introduce onboard showers, an unprecedented perk in commercial aviation. 

The 14 First Class passengers have access to two shower-equipped lavatories, with five minutes of hot water, heated floors, and spa-like amenities. You can scoff at this as a gimmick or lament the environmental impact, but one thing’s for sure: you’d have to be dead inside not to find this fun. 

Emirates A380 shower
Emirates A380 shower
Shower amenities

Even though you can pause the five-minute water flow, my first-ever airborne shower was over all too soon. It was incredible while it lasted though, and as I stepped out onto the heated floor with a fluffy towel in hand, I couldn’t believe I was naked at 40,000 ft with no one calling the cops.

I’ll walk you through the logistics of bathing on board in my full review, so stay tuned for that. 

(7) Gifts, gifts, gifts

My Emirates First Class haul

Emirates First Class passengers won’t walk away empty-handed, since the airline positively plies you with goodies. It’s a good thing they give you a complimentary tote bag to store everything!

Here’s what you can expect:

  • A fully-stocked minibar, inclusive of soft drinks, mineral water, chocolate, crisps, snack mix, gummy bears and breath mints

Emirates minibar
Emirates minibar

  • Bvlgari amenities kit (on overnight flights or daytime long-haul flights)
Bvlgari amenities kit
  • Pyjamas, slippers, eyemask
Emirates PJs
  • Byredo kit with sample-sized eye cream, facial toner, pillow mist
Byredo sample kit
  • Writing kit with notebook and pen
Writing kit

(8) Dubai Connect works seamlessly

Dubai Connect at DXB arrival hall

One of the neat features about flying on Emirates is Dubai Connect, which offers a complimentary hotel room and meals to passengers (in any cabin) with a connecting time in Dubai of 8-26 hours. 

My 13 hour 40 minute layover presented an opportunity to try it out, and I’m very impressed by how seamless the process is. You’ll collect your Dubai Connect vouchers during check-in at the first port of departure, and once you reach Dubai, simply clear immigration and head straight to the chauffer-drive services lounge (or bus pickup area, if you’re in Economy/Premium Economy).

Chauffer drive lounge

You’ll be assigned a vehicle by the staff and head outside for pickup. There’s virtually zero wait for the car since the whole fleet is lined up raring to go. Never before have I seen so many BMWs and Mercedes in the same place…

Dubai Connect ground transfer

You’ll get whisked away to the hotel (JW Marriott Marquis Dubai for First Class passengers), where Emirates has a dedicated check-in desk (which suggests the volume of Dubai Connect passengers they must handle). 

Emirates check-in counter at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

My room was more than adequate, and I also received complimentary buffet breakfast the following morning. Since it was late when I arrived, all I did was sleep, but had this been a daytime layover I could see passengers taking the opportunity to explore nearby attractions like The Dubai Mall or Burj Khalifa.

JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

When the time comes to fly, a car will pick you up from the hotel and bring you back to the airport. No mess, no drama.

Drop-off at DXB Terminal 3

(9) Make time for The Great Emirates Wine Hunt

One of many self-serve wine stations around the First Class lounge

Finally, if you’re visiting the Emirates First Class lounge in Dubai and consider yourself any sort of oenophile, you need to take part in The Great Emirates Wine Hunt. Emirates has some incredibly expensive bottles of wine just lying around its lounge, and doesn’t make a big deal about it (which, if you think about it, is the ultimate kind of flex).

It’s almost laughable how casual they are about this; you can be walking past a random self-serve food and beverage station and encounter a bottle that would cost you silly money at a restaurant. If this is their idea of surprise and delight, well, I’m surprised and delighted. 

Wandering through the First Class Lounge in Concourse A, I found the following:

WineVivino RatingRRP
Chateau Lafite Rothschild Carruades de Lafite Pauillac 20064.4/5.0S$483
Chateau Pichon Baron Pauillac (Grand Cru Classe) 20064.4/5.0S$394
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac (Grand Cru Classe) 20054.4/5.0S$393
Le Petit Cheval Saint-Emilion Grand Cru44/5.0S$355
Pennfolds RWT Shiraz 20064.5/5.0S$205

Yes, there’s cheap stuff too, but take the time to look and you’ll find some absolute gems. I was running around Vivino-ing every bottle I could find. 

Later in the Concourse C lounge, I found everything together in one fridge!

See anything you like?

Conclusion

I’m still deciding where Emirates First Class ranks in my overall pantheon, but one thing I can tell you for sure is that there’s never a dull moment. This is an airline that takes a shock and awe approach towards luxury, and in some ways it can be overwhelming. OK, I’ve just had all-you-can eat caviar and Dom…now it’s time to take my Bvlgari amenities kit to the onboard spa shower……and back to my seat where there’s a Hennessey Paradis nightcap…and what’s this, lobster rolls and wagyu sliders as movie snacks?

If Singapore Airlines is quiet elegance, Emirates is its blinged-out cousin who doesn’t let you forget it’s there. They’re two radically different approaches, but hey, different strokes and all that right?

Stay tuned for the full reviews!

Flown Emirates First Class before? What were the highlights for you?

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Joseph

Besides the drinks selection, what did you think of the lounges in DXB (food, space, ambience)? The concourse A lounge looks insane.

CBKIA

Got one smell. Did u smell it?

Zaos

The showers are tiny, decidedly basic, and don’t have a toilet in it. Need I say more?

The onboard showers are probably better, obviously except for the water.

Last edited 11 months ago by Zaos
CSS

Nice to bask in oil money stuff once in a while lol

Michael

No, you can never have too much caviar.

Anthony

Nice synopsis Aaron. The EK experience isn’t perfect, but for the most part, it’s fun and it’s memorable. It’s hard not to be excited, especially if you’re a Oenophile (like I am).

While I still think SQ leads in the consistency of its service in F or J, you can’t help but feel SQ is mean by comparison. EK just feels so much more generous wheres you can feel SQ counting every single penny. It’s very austere by comparison.

Spoon

You forget to mention that whilst SQ has the Government’s backing (as COVID demonstrated), the money that goes into SQ is effectively taxpayers’ money. The money that goes into propping up what generally has been a loss-making Emirates business approach is oil money. Perhaps when we find a giant oil field under Sentosa, then maybe SQ can be as generous and flush money down the pipes. .

Last edited 11 months ago by Spoon
Muthu M

nice write up Aaron. Hope one day i will use their first class. Any review about Emirates business class service? Planning to fly them for the first time, since SQ became more expensive for Sep/oct flight to europe. Appreciate any feedback. thanks

Bruno

Also worth visiting the A380 bar in the back of the plane, being in F they will send a bottle of Dom to the back specially for you!

Michelle

I just did NYC to Dubai, Dubai to Sydney, Auckland to Dubai, Dubai to NYC. I found the flight crew wonderful on all 4 flights. My last flight however must have been one of the oldest a380s. The seat was wobbly, the screen controls wonky and tail camera not clear. But food, amenities, shower, and crew were exceptional. Dubai lounge is too huge. Can’t really find a place to settle for a few hours. But if you need to shower on the ground, they are immaculate with huge wrap around towels. I absolutely was glad to spend the money for… Read more »

LionDen

The shower has a time limit of 5 min? Why

G___

Probably to do with logistics, a fixed amount of water allocated to each first class guest.

Wan

Flown Emirates First Class before on the A380, my highlights were the bling, chauffeur and shower.

Nothing like showering before arrival and feeling like a million bucks, refreshed and ready for the holiday!

lifeonthego

Were their PJs the Hydra-active Sleepwear variety? If yes, did you feel the difference from the standard PJs given in other business/first cabins?

John Tring

How much did you get paid, pal? Or are a staff of the airline in question?

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