True Luxury at 40,000 Feet by Gary Schweikert

Emirates Airlines "The Beast" One of the best experiences in the art of hospitality is no longer confined to terra firma. Despite all the talk recently about how travel is not what it used to be, Dubai based Emirates Airlines is dedicated to the age-old philosophy of providing warm, generous hospitality to all its customers– in the air. When other airlines have been reduced to cost cutting measures and instituting fees to stay in business, Emirates has focused on its core vision of being the most service oriented long haul carrier in the skies today. Despite how accustomed you may be to receiving unparalleled service in hotels, Emirates will exceed your expectations for comfort while flying.

The airline’s home turf is a natural base through which travelers from the Middle East and Indian subcontinent can continue on to Europe and the Americas. The carrier has the largest number of A380 aircraft on order in the industry and has outfitted them with beautiful interior design and the highest level of creature comforts available.

But let’s start with the “Welcome on Board”. Business and First Class customers enjoy use of beautiful lounges fully stocked with great wines and a wide selection of food to be enjoyed pre-flight. Given the length of the flights to and from the Middle East – and the off-peak times of departure — travelers can decide to have a full dinner or breakfast before boarding if they’d prefer to get on the plane and go right to sleep. Boarding for upper classes of service takes place through a private dedicated gate which leads you directly to the top deck of the plane, thereby making the loading process a breeze.

View of 1st class cabin in Emirates "The Beast" Getting settled on board, one cannot help but marvel at the serene interior design of the aircraft, detailed with burl wood and leather everywhere,  and lighting perfectly appropriate for the time of day.  The plane is staffed, indeed over-staffed, with impeccably uniformed, wonderfully courteous attendants from every corner of the globe speaking about a dozen languages.  First Class passengers are escorted to their seats individually and then welcomed personally by the flight’s chief purser.  At this point, one can begin relaxing and trying to comprehend all that Emirates offers on their flights.

Emirates has chosen to reserve the upper deck of the A380 for First and Business Class only, but the economy section is also well designed. Given the height of this amazing plane’s fuselage, the lower deck does not curve near the ceiling thereby giving economy seats the feeling of sitting in a large auditorium without any claustrophobic effects; the ceilings are quite high and completely squared off!

But the real pampering takes place upstairs:

Business Class flyers seated on the windows receive the entire row to themselves, with a full work area adjacent to their seat which, of course, converts into a fully flat bed. Center seats can be separate by a full height partition which provides privacy from unfamiliar seat mates or which disappears when seatmates wish to experience the flight together.

First Class is whole new level of luxury.  Each of the first class seats is in fact a suite, equipped with its own closet and two doors which slide closed, electrically, to offer complete privacy.  The seat has any variation of comfort controls, including 5 different settings for massage, and reclines fully flat to a six foot+  bed.

Your Suite on The Beast

Once settled in your seat, staff returns and provides a slew of amenities for your comfort: a full shaving/tooth/hair kit, personal hand towel and pouch, slippers, pajama suit, eye shades and a “goody basket” with chips, chocolates, energy bars and mints.  Additionally, near the window wall, a motorized mini-bar is raised offering bottles of Perrier cranberry juice, still water, coke, 7up, and glasses.

On the vanity table in front of you, under the 25” television touch-screen are an assortment of skin balms, aromatherapy scents, fresh Flowers and a box with writing stationery and pen.  There are multiple places for ample storage of your headphones and carried on goods so no need to consult your carry-on baggage once you’ve settled in!

The entertainment system affords so many choices with 1200 channels of audio, games and video programming that it’s hard to imagine ever being bored. And with three remote controls, it couldn’t be easier to flip through the channels all the way across the ocean. There is an even a USB port for plugging in your own audio or PC in case you prefer your own programs, want to watch a slideshow of your photos or do some work on the big screen.

When it comes to sleep, the bed and turndown service here rivals the best hotels. Staff members will discreetly “turn down your seat” upon request, placing down a thick mattress, then a crisp white comforter and fluffy pillows, topped off with a box of Godiva chocolates and an orchid!   Click on the do not disturb sign and drift off to a sound sleep while gazing at the “stars”, courtesy of many, many dimly lit LED’s installed in the ceiling!

But who can last all those hours in the air without indulging in some fine food and wine?  If it’s the latter you choose to enjoy first, there are two bars on board. The one at the rear of the top deck is plenty large and one can frequently find a dozen of your fellow passengers enjoying the full open bar attended every minute of the flight.  Ample couches and seating allow the opportunity to socialize, stretch the legs, or just get a change of scenery for a while.  The private area for First Class offers a full bar with snacks and sandwiches provided and changed frequently during flight.

Emirates has spared nothing when it comes to matching their top-notch cuisine with superior wines.  Let’s start with the premise that you can choose to eat from any of the three menus at any time you wish during the flight.  The selection of American, European and Arabic entrees is certain to satisfy anyone’s palate including those on healthy diets.  The breakfast menu is replete with eggs, pancakes, meats, cereals, vegan choices and traditional Arabic breakfast items as well.   But the wines, well here we go.  Dom Perignon is the free-pour champagne of choice on Emirates, but is followed by renowned French and California wines and even Sauternes and Ports to pair with your cheese or canapés.   The wide selection of the world’s teas and coffees is remarkable…and so are the desserts!  Just push the room service button at your seat and a very obliging staff member delivers any or all of this in short order!

True luxury takes many forms, but the piece de resistance these days is the ability to manage your own time, on your own schedule.  Arriving refreshed and rejuvenated after such a long flight is an experience not normally provided in air travel but Emirates, again, has the ability to deliver on this difficult request.  First Class passengers can take advantage of Emirate’s “Shower  Spas” (occupancy limited to one person only please)!  Two shower spas are installed on the A380 so now, the only thing better than being naked on an airplane is the ability to take a shower!  The airline’s famous attention to detail extends to these spacious suites as well; heated floors(!),  large bath towels, a selection of shampoos and body gels and lotions truly allow you to arrive looking like you’ve just left home and are ready to start the day in your exciting new destination.  Bath attendants refresh and reset the space after every use to ensure that everything is impeccably cleaned and well stocked.  Toothbrushes, combs, hair product, q-tips, cotton pads, loofahs, nail kits, shower caps and balms are always provided.   And in case you weren’t feeling pampered enough, how about some rose petals strewn about the place to make you feel like royalty!!

Yes, the flight is long, but with all this to offer, I found myself wishing I had a few more precious hours on board this wonderful aircraft being spoiled by some of the most gracious staff in the hospitality business today.  Short of flying privately, the Emirates experience is unmatched in air travel today and well worth a try!