As a keen fan of aviation, and a particular fan of the Airbus A380, it was always my destiny to one day fly first class onboard the Emirates A380 in their amazing First Class Suites, and after a short stay in Kuala Lumpur, I was finally able to do so!
I flew back to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport on Thai Airways from the impressive KLIA the day before my First Class flight with Emirates. Rather than go through the whole rigmarole of journeying into the city and back just for one night, I decided to spend the night at the Suvarnabhumi Novotel Hotel. This hotel is located just outside the airport and they even offer a free shuttle at Arrivals for your convenience to save you walking in the heat and humidity! You can see the airport from many of the rooms at the Novotel – whether this is a good thing, depends entirely on your own personal preference, but I didn’t mind. I only booked a standard room, and believe me it is not cheap. Please be aware that there is no free wifi in the rooms, which is a bit of a cheek really considering the price you are paying for the room itself. You can pay for wifi at the business centre downstairs and they will give you a password. You are paying for the location, and as the Novotel is the only luxury hotel near to Suvarnabhumi Airport, they charge accordingly. However, cheaper, day rates are available whereby you can check in and out on the same day (by 6am-6pm, I believe). The regular bookings enable you a 24hr period from the moment you check in to the moment you check out, so unlike normal hotels, there is no particular check out time, which is brilliant when you plan your departing flight from Bangkok.
Anyway, I awoke from a fairly good night sleep and made sure my luggage was packed and checked out downstairs in the lobby. Soon enough, the hotel shuttle arrived and three minutes later I had returned to Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).
It was around 10.30 and as I stood in line waiting to check in for EK384 to Hong Kong as male attendant from Emirates approached me and enquired if I was flying in economy class or business class, despite standing on the red carpet of Suites class. I presumed this was a cultural thing due to me being so young, so he just presumed I had got in the wrong line, but nonetheless it did annoy me slightly. Anyway, the rest of check in went smoothly – and instantly after I told the guy I was in fact flying in Suites, I was directed to a special security screening area for all of BKK’s first class passengers so I did not have to wait in any queues whatsoever. What struck me most was that people treat you much nicer when they know you are a first class passenger, and I had about 4 security members asking if I wanted my laptop taken out of my bag for me! Usually I have to do that kind of thing myself! After a minute or two I was through security and into BKK airside.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is a very good airport, but not one of my favourites. It has been very hot inside on every occasion I have visited, and this time was no exception. However, there is some great architecture in the terminal buildings and the manicured gardens in the middle of the airport are very nice to look at. Of course, with well over 2 hours remaining before boarding, I wasn’t going to be sitting around in the main terminal areas, I was going to fully make the most of my invitation to the Emirates Lounge – for first and business class passengers only!
I have never flown first class out of Dubai Airport, but I have seen from videos and photos that the Emirates Lounge there is immense! That said, my favourite lounge anywhere in the world is the Qatar Airways First Class Lounge at Doha, but the best Emirates Lounge is certainly the one at Dubai. That’s no big surprise, as it is their home-base and hub. However, their lounge in Bangkok is still very good, if a little rough around the edges in some parts. For my flight today, there were surprisingly few passengers in the lounge. In fact, for the first hour of my stay, I saw only one other guest, who I noted took advantage of the showers. Having showered that morning before leaving for the airport, I concentrated on eating, as I had skipped breakfast at the pricey Novotel hotel restaurant. One whole side of the lounge is dedicated to a dining area, with ample tables on which to eat your meals or snacks. All food and drink in this lounge is free, and the assistants regularly topped up the orange juice and fruits, even at such an early morning. I even began to wonder who was eating so much that it needed to be topped up so often – maybe it was me, but then again I did say I was hungry!
To be honest with you, as well as many glasses of orange juice, some fruits, and a can of Coke, I did also indulge in some blackforest gateaux, which was delicious! However, I was mindful of the fact that I would be treated to me gourmet food for my lunch during the flight, so I decided to lay off the food for a while, and relax in the main part of the lounge. There were many newspapers to read, including today’s Gulf News, which I thought was pretty cool, seeing as it was only printed in the Gulf a few hours ago. I guess it must have been transported to BKK as cargo this morning on an Etihad, Royal Jordanian or Qatar flight to be spread around the airport for guests. Now that’s what I call a well-oiled machine! There was a notice above the newspaper shelves which stated guests should not take the newspapers with them when leaving the lounge, as there is ample reading material on the plane, when you choose to board. There was a nice little hidden section of the lounge where I decided to sit and enjoy my gateaux, as well as read the papers and watch BBC World on the huge LCD TV (oh, and take some photos, too!). And to think I had all of this to myself!
When all was said and done, I decided to leave the lounge a little early, to go and explore the airport further, which was a surprise to the Emirates assistant sitting at the Lounge reception. She presumed I would wait until the last possible moment before boarding to leave the lounge. I said was going to do some shopping, and she said goodbye to me by my name (nice personal touch, but then again, there was only 2 or 3 people in the lounge at the time) and presented me with a couple of Emirates-branded chocolates. Half an hour or so later, I was at the gate ready to board the behemoth that is the Emirates A380. I didn’t need to be at the boarding gate with all the economy class passengers, I could have stayed in the lounge, like the assistant suggested, but it is what it is. The gate was full it seemed, full of holidaymakers, businesspeople, and, yes, a few screaming babies. Thank goodness I was going straight to the Suites!
As you would expect, first class passengers were called to board first, and I jumped up hurriedly and made my way to the boarding area and showed a young member of Emirates groundstaff my boarding pass, who then greeted me by name and escorted me to the plane and handed me over to the cabin crew, who were equally warm towards me. I was showed to me suite, Suite 4A, which would be my office for the next 4 hours before we landed in Hong Kong. I had a pre-take off drink of Jack Daniels and Coke (sorry, but I am not a fan of champagne!) and began to watch a movie on the excellent entertainment system Emirates have on offer, ICE.
Soon before takeoff, the captain announced that he was expecting a lot of turbulence during the flight today, and if the seatbelt sign came off at all, it probably wouldn’t stay off for long, so make those toilet breaks count! Now, if I had been sitting in an economy seat and heard that announcement, I probably would have been a little apprehensive, but it didn’t annoy me too much as I was sat in my suite playing with my private minibar and marvelling over the noise-cancelling headsets which I had just been given with which to enjoy my movies (incidentally, you are not allowed to keep these headsets). What I was slightly concerned with, however, was that if it was going to be a turbulent flight, then I would not get to experience the showers or spa, which are both famous and exclusive to the Emirates A380 first class cabin. Fortunately, after an uneventful takeoff and ascent, to my surprise the seatbelt sign was turned off immediately, and only really came on again as we began our descent into Hong Kong, which is pretty usual anyway, for those of us who are experienced in landing there.
Soon enough, it was time for lunch. Unlike Singapore Airlines or Malaysia Airlines, who offer their first class passengers the opportunity to ‘Book the Cook’, Emirates still use a set menu from which we have to choose our meal. I decided to have braised beef and asparagus with marrow. I wasn’t too hungry after all my indulgence in the lounge beforehand, so I only had a salad and a bread roll to accompany my main course – with a Jack Daniels, of course! The dish was fantastic, not too filling, but that’s precisely what the doctor ordered. It gave me a taster to Emirates’ first class cuisine, and left me very impressed with it, so much so that I wish I had ordered more, if only to take more photos!
About 45 minutes before landing, the captain announced that we had hit a batch of turbulence, and the seatbelt was illuminated for the first time. There were some very strange and large cloud formations around Hong Kong and in the South China Sea area that day, and it made the remainder of the flight a little bumpy, but the good thing with the A380 is that it is so large that you cannot feel much at all unless it’s significant turbulence. I watched the remainder of the flight on the personal TV screen in my suite. I love watching from the tailcam, and it amazes me that even Singapore Airlines do have these installed on their A380s, and probably never will do. I loved the moisture on the tailcam as we glided through the aggressive-looking clouds – they must have been holding quite a lot of rain. As we touched down at Hong Kong, we had quite a ‘crabbed landing’, which is the term used when pilots have to fly into the wind to maintain control and not be blown off course. It was spectacular to watch, and I have captured it on my video below.
Thanks to the great skill of the Emirates pilot, we touched down perfectly and had a fairly short taxi back to the gate by HKG standards. It was nice to see other planes on the tarmac as we were taxiing. When we arrived at the gate it was almost time to leave the plane. Naturally, first class passengers get priority when deplaning. That’s why you usually have to wait for upto 10 minutes when you land in economy class before you can leave the plane – it’s because the first class and business class passengers are deplaning before you! I allowed myself one last look around the cabin. I like the decor of the Emirates suites. I have heard many people say the golden and wooden combo is a bit tacky, but I think it works well, and I think it’s one of the better first class cabins in the sky at the moment, and I prefer the style to that of Singapore Airlines suites, which are far more minimal. One day, I hope to fly first class suites with Emirates on a longhaul journey, so that I can finally enjoy that massage in the sky in the Emirates Spa!
This is a video I made of my First Class Suites experience onboard the Emirates A380: