September 01 2015 Melbourne, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Emirates EK409 2:40AM-8:40AM Travel time 8 hours
Recently I had a special trip because it was my first time in First Class as well as my first time flying with Emirates. After years of reading amazing trip reports of EK First Class, I was really excited and had really high expectations. There are many trip reports for EK First Class on A380 - the bar and shower etc… but I rarely see reviews of red-eye flights, especially on the 777. So is EK First Class on the 777 any good? Let's find out.
Introduction My work originally booked in EK Business Class, leaving at 2:40AM and arriving into Kuala Lumpur at 8:40AM so I could get straight to work. After getting my booking reference 2 days before travel, I went online to select my seat and I noticed one award seat available for upgrade to First Class for 30,000 Skyward Miles. Although it wasn't the A380, so no showers or onboard bar, I have read disappointing reviews of EK 777 Business Class, so I didn't really want to fly on angled beds. After upgrading, I went to http://www.emirates.com/au/english/flying/dining/inflightdiningsearchresult.aspx to check the menu and saw that my overnight flight does not caviar or real on demand meals, only a few snacks and breakfast before arrival. I decided contact EK on social media to see if they can load caviar on my flight, but they brushed me off. I thought EK would be like Garuda Indonesia and provide a personalised service for First Class passengers.
The trip I arrived at Melbourne Airport at 11.40PM. Unfortunately EK counters don't open before 11:40PM so I couldn't check-in earlier at 9PM and use the Melbourne Qantas First Class lounge, because it closes at 11:15PM. Instead I used the EK Business/First Class mixed lounge.
Check-in Check-in took five minutes the First Class counter was busy. I was handed an express card and I proceeded to security. There was a queue in passport control so I used the fast track queue. However when I got to the front, a much bigger build passenger who was at the front of the normal queue pushed his luggage in front of me and cut me off when the passport officer called me up. I just shrugged since the flight was not departing for another 2 hours 50 minutes.
Emirates Business & First Lounge Melbourne The EK lounge is near Gate 10/11, up the escalator and located next door to the QF First lounge. The agent advised boarding would be called. The lounge only had four passengers. Whilst the decor was drabby, there was plenty of seating, a business centre, buffet and dining area, showers etc. The EK lounge is much better than the windowless Qantas International Business lounge downstairs in the dungeon, which I have reviewed before.
Catering By the time I settled down, it was around 12:10AM and surprisingly EK had hot food snacks in the buffet area. Considering its past midnight, the food selection was good. I've had worse offerings during dinner time on other airlines (BA Galleries Business in Singapore, Asiana Business in Seoul). My favourite snack was the bite sized steak sandwich. I had expected a chewy dried old beef but this steak was moist and tender with caramelised onion. Yum! The chicken satays were really dry though.
Beverages This is where EK lounge shines because they offered champagnes, Veuve Clicquot and Moet. Some airlines only serve these labels in First Class lounges. A couple on their honeymoon opened a new bottle of Veuve from the fridge, but I poured mine from the bottle already opened in the cooler. There was a coffee machine, comprehensive list of spirits and beer, juices and soft drinks. By the time I finished my glass of Veuve and food, the lounge was beginning to populate. Soon it was packed with 30-40 passengers, including 11 of my colleagues! We were flying in business but I hadn't told them I upgraded to First … muahahaha
The flight At around 2.20AM, boarding was called and we headed to the gate, where we boarded by the front door.
Onboard Once onboard I was greeted by Rina, a lovely Japanese lady who escorted me to my seat, but the walk didn't take long because I was in 1A! 1A! OMG My colleagues were like This is us too? but I shook my head and point them towards the back. How did you? What? They just shook their head. Another passenger boarded and took 1K on the right side, so 2 of 8 seats were taken. The cabin felt spacious because EK did not install overhead lockers. Since I was a newbie, I searched for lockers to put my cabin luggage. Rina showed up and told me to put the luggage under the TV screen area and she took my jacket to hang it up. She returned and offered me champagne, but due to taxes EK can't serve Dom Perignon on the ground, so it will only be the cheap business class stuff (teehee) Moet Imperial Brut. Rina said Dom will be served after takeoff. Shortly after, Tandokazi followed by Anton (Purser) introduced themselves. They handed me my pyjamas, amenity kit and menu.
Pyjamas & amenity kit Emirates amenity kit is contained in a lovely leather bag. Although I don't know how long it will last with wear and tear. Inside is the shaving foam, shaver, hair brush, toothpaste and toothbrush, eye shades and Bulgari products. Some of these pictures were taken after I got home, so no toothbrush in sight! The pyjamas are heavy and soft, but I haven't put in the washing machine to see if it holds together.
The seat The seat is wide and comfortable. Whilst it does not look huge, it does turn into a wide and fully flat bed. I was seated in Suite 1A and my bed would be in Suite 2E tonight. There is a nice storage unit for your phone, wallet, passport on the left side at the push of a button. The sliding doors can be controlled from the touch screen pad or the buttons next to the doorway. The buttons below the touch screen control the window shades. There are at least four lights including two behind your head and two next to the TV. The mini bar is a nice look but because the drinks are not chilled, I didn't find it useful. And the tray table is huge, I own a 17 desktop replacement notebook computer but it looked like an iPad on the big table. The suites are very private and once the door is closed, you barely notice any foot traffic or the light coming from the galley. There is plenty of legroom and I heard that EK is looking to update the First Class suite. EK could easily remodel this suite to allow face to face dining like other airlines offer.
Catering The menu is minimal. I understand EK doesn't offer full three course meal because its overnight flight, but the lack of real on demand meals or caviar as a snack in First Class was disappointing. Other airlines like Etihad or Cathay Pacific offer on demand meals in business class flights. Anyway I am sure I am not the only person who likes to have a bite to eat in the middle of the night, especially when I am flying and have nowhere else to go.
After takeoff, I ordered the seafood thermidor pie. It was a small snack! The pie was filled scallops, fish flakes and shrimps but tasted like creamy Alfredo sauce poured over seafood garnished with breadcrumbs.
Beverages Shortly after the seatbelt sign was switched off, Rina came by and ask if I would like to drink some Dom Perignon? Is the sky blue? Why yes! Before she poured the Dom, Anton came by with some dates and Arabic coffee. The dates were so soft and sweat, really tasty and coffee was an interesting taste.
I ended up drinking the Dom Perignon 2005, followed by Dom Perignon Rose 2003 and Hennessy Prive cognac, which retails around $500 AUD a bottle in Australia, so I believe this is the most expensive cognac in the sky. Emirates has discontinued serving Hennessy Paradis. The Dom Perignon Rose was accompanied with three h'ordeuvres - Camembert cheese, Smoked duck with onion and slice of seared tuna. I was only able to drink about 1.5 bottles of champagne before I waved the white flag. Before I went to bed, I checked the flight map and we were still in Australian airspace, near Broome.
Cabin Service The three cabin crew members - Rina, Anton and Tandokazi were fantastic. There was turbulence over the middle of Australia. After turbulence was over, the seat belt sign was switched off and within seconds Rina appeared with a napkin and ask if my champagne was spilled and I need a clean up?! Big thumbs up! I had a chat with Tandokazi, who comes from Cape Town and she has worked with EK for nine years and travelled to almost parts of the world. I learned some interesting things about EK, like cabin crew can only fly in economy, regardless of seniority. Only the purser is allowed to travel in business and the pilots can fly first. That is completely different to Qantas, where their cabin crew can fly book First class! Tandokazi told me that since EK started serving Dom Perignon in July 2015, the airline has bought an entire vintage from Moet Hennessy. The bottles were printed Exclusively selected for Emirates. Rina came by and offered to make my bed in Suite 2E, she said So this will be your bedroom and this will be your office, oh how wonderful! I changed into my pyjamas, asked for a Hennessy Prive cognac as my nightcap and went to sleep. The cabin was kept very warm thorough the flight though, so I slept without the blanket.
I woke up 1.5 hours before landing and they were serving breakfast to the lady at 1E. Tandokazi asked me if I wanted a champagne breakfast and I had to decline since I was still a bit tipsy. But she urged me to have the half a bottle of champagne left, telling me You should try it, my last passenger had five bottles of Dom Perignon! I ordered mango smoothie and ricotta crêpes, which were delicious. The crepes were fluffy and sweat contrasted by the tanginess of the ricotta cheese. Shortly after I started brekkie, Tandokazi comes by and said The captain has advised that he has taken a shortcut so we will be landing 40 minutes sooner. Is it okay if I bring everything together?
I hurried through breakfast and by the time I got up to change out of my PJs, we were preparing for the descent. Tandokazi handed me my forms and express card for KUL. There wasn't much to see approaching KUL because it was smoggy, I later learned it was because Malaysia's neighbours, Indonesia, was burning the palm oil forests.
After landing I farewell the crew, exited via the front aerobridge and caught up with my colleagues. We proceeded to immigration, where the premium lane was closed. No officers working in business class today an airport official told us and shepherded us to the economy queue - so much for the express pass.
Melbourne - MEL
Kuala Lumpur - KUL
If you want to true First Class experience, don't fly EK 777 or a red eye flight. Apart from the flat bed and great crew on my flight, my maiden EK First Class experience on 777 was not amazing for a number of reasons, no caviar or ala carte meals. EK is good when it comes to factory standard service but any attempts to get a customised service was brushed off because EK does not empower its people to do anything, unlike other airlines. The EK Melbourne lounge is more business+ rather than a First class lounge. If you were flying Qantas business class, I would recommend going upstairs to use the EK lounge. The food and alcohol selection, particularly champagne, is better than QF. Essentially EK First Class 777 is just a flat bed rather than trying to sleep on angled bed. I hope the experience on A380 First Class would be different. I have to give credit for EK retrofitting this old 777 with WIFI. Because the internet was really fast and dropout rate was low. The crew were the standout and one of the best I've ever encountered. So thank you very much to Anton, Rina and Tandokazi!
Thank you for reading my very long review, I hope you enjoyed it!
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