- I recently flew in business class for the first time in my life.
- It was on a 14-hour flight from Dubai to New York operated by Emirates on the Airbus A380 superjumbo, the largest and most expensive commercial airliner in history.
- While there were a lot of perks that blew me away – including the chauffeur service and the extravagant preflight lounge– the A380’s in-flight cocktail bar gave the flight a feel entirely unlike what I’ve experienced.
- Rather than be stuck alone in my seat, I opted to hang out at the bar for a few hours, getting to know other passengers and flight attendants – and getting a drink or snack at my leisure.
For many travel junkies, flying in business class on an Airbus A380 operated by Emirates is considered the crème de la crème of flight experiences.
Until last month, I’d never flown in business class before; it never made sense for my budget.
But then, thanks to Airbus’ announcement that in 2021 it will stop producing the A380, the world’s largest and most expensive passenger plane, my editors thought I had to try flying back to New York in business class on an Emirates A380, for $US5,400.
I didn’t know what to expect. I’d had an excellent experience flying Emirates in economy class to Dubai in November, but I’d heard mixed reviews about business class. I was worried that all it would mean was a slightly bigger seat and better aeroplane food.
I was very wrong. While Emirates’ business class blew my mind for many reasons – the food, the lounge, and the pod-like seats among them – my favourite part was the plane’s famous walk-up cocktail lounge.
I had heard about the lounge, as many travel experts and frequent fliers consider it the centrepiece of the Emirates business-class experience. But I was sceptical.
I kept wondering: Does anyone actually use it, or is it a gimmick that looks better in a travel magazine?
I got my first taste of the cocktail lounge a few hours after takeoff. Dinner was over, and I was looking for a sweet snack to eat while I watched a TV show.
One of the best parts about the lounge is that it’s stocked with fresh fruits, sandwiches, pastries, chips, and other goodies you can grab at your leisure. I took a bag of cherries and a bottle of water and went back to my seat.
The convenience was great, but it was how much fun the lounge was that showed me what a game-changer it is for travel.
Throughout the flight – and I was on a red-eye – there were always a few passengers there chatting or, more often, talking with the staff.
After sleeping for a few hours, I went into the lounge to stretch my legs and found a group of passengers drinking at the bar and having a conversation with the flight attendant/bartender. I had intended to grab a water bottle and head back to my seat. Instead, I spent three hours hanging out there with passengers and flight attendants.
The flight attendants told us about the worst passengers they have had to deal with, wild things that have happened on board, and what they like to do in their free time. The other passengers and I shared stories from our travels and recommendations for New York and Dubai, and got to know one another.
Halfway through, the bartender mixed an experimental drink at my request, turning the cucumber-fizz mocktail into an alcoholic drink. It was delicious.
A passenger I met told me about how on his flight to Dubai a few weeks before, he and a half-dozen others hung out in the lounge during the Super Bowl, cheering on their team as they used the aeroplane WiFi to get updates on the score. It sounded like a blast.
As I left the plane the following morning, I was still amazed at how much fun my flight had been. An open social space creates a totally different atmosphere for the passengers and, I imagine, the staff.
The next time you think about splurging on a business-class flight, look for an airline with an onboard lounge – Emirates is far from the only one.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.