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Sydney to Dubai
It's 10 years in August since Emirates flew its first A380. There are now 103 in the fleet (the largest in the world), with another 59 on order. Keep your eyes open for the A380-900, the A380neo and the A380plus, and hold your breath until about 2021. In the meantime, the A380 rules.
Business, seat 26G
Spacious and very, very comfortable, the flat-bed seat is 18.5 inches (47 centimetres) wide and has a pitch of 44 inches (112 centimetres). There are power outlets galore, including two USB ports, plenty of stowage, and even your own little mini-bar stocked with Evian, Perrier and soft drinks. Staggered seat arrangements mean no clambering over anyone.
The Airbus 380-800 flies from Sydney to Dubai four times daily.
Checked baggage allowance is 40 kilograms, plus two carry-on items. Extra allowances available for Skywards Platinum, Gold or Silver members.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Skywards, passengers can also earn points towards Qantas Frequent Flyer.
The spacious and frighteningly comfortable seat 26G is dissed on seatguru.com as potentially "bothersome" due to its proximity to the bar and the toilets. Frankly, this is a huge part of its charm as far as I'm concerned. The seat has plenty of elbow room, adjustable this, adjustable that, all the usual doodads and turns into a flat bed at the push of a button. The crew even brings you a mattress for those stressful moments between movies and trips to the bar/toilet. The Bulgari amenity kit helps, too.
Last year ICE, Emirates' inflight entertainment program, won the Skytrax Best Entertainment System in the World award for the 13th year in a row. So, yes, it's pretty good. The 23-inch (58-centimetre) screen helps. There are thousands of channels, many hundreds of movies, documentaries, sports and video games. These can all be watched and/or played on the main screen, your very own tablet or the in-seat handset. The tablet is handy for live news headlines via satellite and keeping track of the flight, and the plush noise cancelling headphones are a godsend. There is free Wi-Fi for Skywards members in first and business class. Not a member? It's free up to 20mb, after which fees kick in.
Frankly I'm not sure these people are human. It's just not possible to be that solicitous, that attentive, that engaging and not be an alien species, or Canadian. The proof? Who else can smile continuously for 14 hours straight? I rest my case (in the overhead locker for take-off, of course).
Dinner is a five-course meal served on Royal Doulton china and crisp, white linen. All Emirates menus were revamped in April after a 14-month review which, the airline says, was focused on providing "simple, well-cooked food, putting emphasis on ingredient quality over quantity" and sourcing local food and local producers where possible.
And the proof is in the pudding. And the appetisers. And the mains. I start with a Japanese five-spiced beef (cucumber ribbons and ponzu sauce) which is so beautifully presented that I don't know whether to eat or frame it. The beef is tender and gently spiced, packing a tickle rather than a punch but it sits well with the slight citrus of the ponzu. A simple side salad and fresh warm bread complete the picture.
A main course of steamed ocean trout turns out to be a large and thankfully moist fish fillet sitting on a bed of fingerling potatoes and cubed pumpkin. It's substantial enough that I worry the moreish cookies and cream cheesecake dessert won't fit under my seatbelt. It does.
Breakfast later in the flight is a cornucopia of choice from simple continental through a cheese and chive omelette, French toast, yoghurt and granola or an Arabic cold plate of meats, egg, olives and labna.
Special mention must go to the bright, sleek lounge at the rear of the business class cabin. If an art deco bar had a baby with the 21st century and James Bond it would look like this. Here you can ward off deep vein thrombosis while standing at the semicircular ivory and white bar and ordering a single malt or a cocktail or two. If you're still hungry (really?) there are snacks on the bar.
ONE MORE THING
Take advantage of the free business class chauffeured limousine service to and from the airport. It's nice enough on the outward leg but there's nothing quite like getting back to Sydney after a 14-hour flight to find a driver there with your name on a sign, albeit upside down in my case.
To be honest, it's hard to find fault with any of it. The seat, the service, the food, the wine and that amazing lounge with its selection of top-class spirits add up to a superlative experience.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Five out of five
Tested by Keith Austin, who flew as a guest of Emirates.