Airline review: Emirates A380 economy class, Sydney to Dubai

THE PLANE

Airbus A380-800; Emirates is the largest operator of the world's biggest commercial aircraft with 101 in its fleet. 

THE ROUTE

EK413 Sydney to Dubai.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Emirates Skywards.

CLASS

Economy aisle seat 87H.

DURATION

Fifteen hours, six minutes.

FREQUENCY

Multiple daily departures between Sydney and Dubai.

THE SEAT

Comfortable enough seat in a 3-4-3 configuration, with adjustable headrest, large seatback pouch, good recline allowing legs to stretch under the seat in front. A width of 45.5 centimetres and maximum pitch of 86 centimetres translates to relatively roomy on the A380. Realistically, it's economy – you still end up vaguely mummified.

BAGGAGE

A generous 30-kilogram luggage allowance and seven kilograms for carry-on. Some passengers continue gaming carry-on rules. Luggage lockers in my rear seating area are full of huge carry-ons, plus Emirates' red storage boxes. Our aisle neighbour must deposit her carry-on five rows forward.

COMFORT

With all the will in the world, a full plane in economy is not super-comfortable. My second-from-the-back-row seat is beside the toilets in the smallest of four economy cabins with 46 people. It's freezing and one of the toilet floods. Must rely on the nice soft fleece blanket made from 28 recycled plastic 400-millilitre bottles. Pretty amenities pouch offers eyeshade, earplugs, toothbrush and socks.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Emirates is justly proud of its ICE 33-centimetre digital touchscreen with up to 2500 on-demand entertainment channels, including almost 600 movies, more than 50 TV box sets, documentaries, podcasts, live news and sport. Patience required with an elderly gent regularly wandering the aisle, clutching seatbacks, inadvertently changing people's channels. Not sure about the squarish earphones. Who has square ears? In-seat satellite phone and power, 20MB of free Wi-Fi, useful for emails.

SERVICE

The charming check-in person goes out of her way to switch my seat from window to aisle due to a hip injury. Polite onboard staff do their best. A flustered steward tries to soothe an irate nearby gentleman about his food choice running out. "It's in the fine print," he offers desperately. It can't be easy serving people on planes.

FOOD

Emirates' food is good. I enjoy my chicken korma with sauteed veg and parsley pulao even though, like the gentleman, I would have preferred the extinct Persian-style braised lamb. Love the hot-smoked salmon, potato and mustard appetiser. Unlike Qantas, Emirates thankfully still offers cheese and biscuits and a decent roll with butter. The metal cutlery brings tears of joy. Oh, how we cling to civilisation in cattle class. They've run out of Coke here in Siberia but the South Australian shiraz is perfectly acceptable. Breakfast is a choice of cheese omelette with chicken chipolata, spinach and potatoes or scrambled eggs with smoked baked beans, spinach and mushrooms (nice).

ONE MORE THING

Excellent trip updates from captain and crew and terrific take-off and landing vision from the outside cameras.

THE VERDICT

The roomier seats mean I get five hours' sleep, my goal in economy. The ability to rest is critical, so it's four stars for this flight, assisted by the lovely constellation ceiling.

Tested by Alison Stewart who flew as a guest of Emirates.

Our rating: ★★★★

See also: World's safest, and least safe, airlines named

See also: Emirates unveils new Mercedes-inspired first-class seats

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