Dubai to Johannesburg, Emirates Business Class, 777-300

And now, for one of the more disappointing flights we’ve taken in months if not years. Emirates hypes up their service and amenities on their flights, and in first class they deliver. On this flight in business class however, delivery did not meet expectations at all.

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We arrived at the Dubai airport with plenty of time before our flight, because we knew we had a gargantuan task in front of us… secure an upgrade from business class to first class. Now, in all fairness, when we booked the flight from IAD-DXB-JNB, we booked first class from Washington, DC to Dubai, and the only seats that were available for an award redemption at the time were for business class heading from Dubai to JoBurg. With that said, as the days approached we were constantly checking to see if availability opened up. Alas, the day of the flight, space was opened up from Dubai to JoBurg, so we came to the airport, information in hand, ready to try and talk our way into first class.

Emirates First/Business Check In

Emirates First/Business Check In

The first woman at the First Class check in counter was of no use, so we headed over to the business class counter. She was just as helpful, so we sought out a supervisor. This guy was awesome. You could tell that he really wanted to help us, and he could see as well that the “Z” class inventory was open on the plane. However, since Alaska Airlines issued the ticket, there really wasn’t anything that he could do. He suggested calling Alaska Airlines.

So, I fired up Skype and made the long distance call. Alaska has a policy with Emirates called “married segments” which means in order for you to change one part of the flight, the other parts of the flight must also be able to be changed. Since we were already on our journey, and that means you couldn’t change the first portion, she wasn’t able to make any changes. The only option she had for us was to book a new ticket and charge us another 100,000 miles each. Clearly, that wasn’t an option.

We went back and pleaded our case again with the supervisor, but alas, no luck. It was at this point that he read the case notes (see previous post) and noticed that we also had issues on the previous flights. We couldn’t get lounge access in Washington DC and sure enough, there was no lounge access printing on these boarding passes either. The supervisor assured us that we would be able to get in however, and if not, he would personally handle our case.

Emirates Business Class Lounge Entrance

Emirates Business Class Lounge Entrance

The Emirates business class lounge isn’t a lounge. It’s literally a city inside of the terminal. Entire airports in the USA can fit into just what’s considered the lounge of the Dubai airport. The lounge is so big that each gate has its own lounge. So, if you’re leaving out of gate A15, you go to the lounge for A15. If you’re leaving out of A16, then you head to the lounge for A16, etc… Not to mention, that the business class lounge was on level 4, and the first class lounge was on level 3. So when you’re flying in first, you don’t even have to mingle with the business class passengers. You’re completely isolated!

Emirates Business Class Lounge

Emirates Business Class Lounge

Each lounge area has a food service area with prepared foods and a bar service, unique to your gate. They all have private seating areas and the bathrooms usually are between each set of lounges.

Emirates Lounge

Emirates Lounge

Emirates Lounge Bar

Emirates Lounge Bar

The food selection was quite large with both hot and cold foods, soups, breads, crackers, etc. There was more than enough food to eat, considering you’re about to get on an 8 hour flight where they’re going to feed you, AGAIN!

Emirates lounge food selection

Emirates lounge food selection

Emirates lounge food selection

Emirates lounge food selection

Emirates lounge food selection

Emirates lounge food selection

From the Business Class lounge on level four, you could look down onto the First Class lounge on level 3, and then the common space area on level 2, where the shops and coach class passengers are.

Emirates Terminal View

Emirates Terminal View

When you’re ready to head to your plane, there is a dedicated check in counter at the lounge, and a private elevator. Just head to your elevator, take it down to the bottom level, and walk straight away to your plane. It’s unbelievable the level of separation from “premium” class passengers and “standard” class passengers.

Emirates Dedicated Check in

Emirates Dedicated Check in

Emirates dedicated check in

Emirates dedicated check in

Once we arrived onto the plane we found our way to our seats in Business Class. The 777 is separated out to where there is first class, a small private business class cabin, and then a larger business class cabin. We chose the last row of the first section of business class, as typically it’s a bit quieter and more private.

Emirates 777 business class seat

Emirates 777 business class seat

The seats were adorned with the same bird’s eye maple as the first class cabin, but the seats were noticeably smaller and tighter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not coach, but it definitely was NOT first class.

Emirates 777 business class seat

Emirates 777 business class seat

As you can see by this photo, my shoulders were rubbing up against the side of the seat where the video remote control was located.

Emirates tight seat

Emirates tight seat

Since we had a good 8 hours in flight, we decided to relax with some movies, and the ICE system does have hundreds of channels with lots of selections. It’s actually one of the most complete movie systems that I’ve seen on any airline.

Emirates ICE

Emirates ICE

Even the staff working this flight was in a bad mood. It was almost like a fake happiness. You could tell they were there for your security and comfort, but your comfort wasn’t really a concern. They were slow to answer the call bell, they offered a minimal bit of conversation, and as a general rule, were not very engaging with the passengers. I suppose that’s ok if you want to sleep, but on a daytime 8 hour flight, it would be nice to have some conversation.

The menus were distributed, but then collected again, so I don’t have any pictures for you of that, and honestly, the meals were quite unmemorable.

I ordered a beef dish on top of lentils, or something…

Emirates Beef and Lentils

Emirates Beef and Lentils

And Ben ordered some type of a fish with veggies (and lots of oily sauce)

Emirates oily fish

Emirates oily fish

I’ve had better dessert presentation in a Denny’s.

Emirates dessert

Emirates dessert

When it came time for a nap, the purser did come by to place down a mattress pad for sleeping, but as you can see, the seat was pretty narrow.

Emirates "bed"

Emirates “bed”

Also, check out this in flight map. Notice anything strange? The animated plane actually never moved the entire time, and we definitely were NOT heading in a southwest direction. And unless that’s a different JoBurg, I’m sure that’s not in South Africa…

Wrong direction on the map

Wrong direction on the map

Luckily we made it to the correct airport and deplaned quickly and onwards to our airport hotel for the night.

I apologize for the lack of quality photos on this trip report. Honestly, we were pretty pissed off that neither Alaska or Emirates would help us get into First, especially since 1) We paid the first class fare with the understanding that we could switch if space became available and 2) First Class flew empty! It set the mood for us for the flight. Add to that the uncaring crew and rather disappointing business class seat, we were just happy to get to Africa to start our vacation.

All in all, it’s not a bad product, but it’s just not up to what we were expecting from Emirates. If you have a chance to fly in business class on the A380, it’s a much better experience. The cabin is more spacious, the seats are wider and include more personal space for storing your things, and the ambiance onboard is better.

Regardless, it’s a solid product and a great way to get down to South Africa, especially using miles. Now, onward to our hotel for the night, the OR Tambo Airport Protea Hotel.

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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