Flight test: Emirates A380 business class

Route: Sydney to Dubai (connecting to Vienna).

Aircraft: Airbus A380 to Dubai. Boeing 777-300 to Vienna.

Seat: 24K business class to Dubai.

Check-in: After the chaos of last-minute packing and too little preparation, the appearance of a car and chauffeur outside the house about 10 minutes before schedule signals the return of order. The drive to the airport is swift and stress-free; I follow the blue carpet to an even swifter check-in, follow the express lane through passport control and emerge in duty-free land within 15min of drop-off. Now that's quick.

Flight time: 13hr 40min to Dubai; we depart 35min late, at 9.45pm, but arrive on time, at 5.40am local time. After a 4hr wait, it's 5hr 22min to Vienna.

Comfort: The choice positions for singles are the alternate seats between the window and the bulky (and largely unnecessary) personal minibar and foot-level stowage. Seats in the side and centre aisle are vulnerable to occasional jostling from traffic along the narrow aisles. There are more couples on my flight than there are conjoined seats, resulting in an hour of sustained complaint by the couple seated in separate aisle-facing seats behind me, and an hour of sustained frotting by the couple seated in separate aisle seats in front of me.

Food and drinks: Moet & ChandonNV on arrival. A glass of Meursault is a treat with a salmon and crab terrine for entree and with the poached blue-eye cod, followed by a baked orange and almond pudding. I could have chosen the lamb shanks and a glass of Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna shiraz. An excellent breakfast before arrival: a generous grill, cheese omelet, toasted waffles or deli plate, and good coffee. Lunch on the Dubai-Vienna leg is one of the tastiest midair meals I've had: Arabic mezze with robust flavours, and lamb machbous (marinated lamb stew and rice, topped by pine nuts and fried onion).

Entertainment: The exceptional inventory on the Ice system appears to grow; there are now more than 1300 films, shows and docos. Slightly overwhelmed, I wander back to the popular business-class lounge. Passengers stand around the little illuminated horseshoe bar and chat with each other and the attendants (in several of their 15 languages), or sprawl on two curved banquettes, or circle in socialising-exercising mode. In the lounge are drinks, canapes and high tea. I take a cup of English breakfast and a raspberry butterfly cake (OK, and a pumpkin scone) back to my seat and watch the final three episodes of Downton Abbey season two — splendid, m'lord. All the carrier's A380s now have wi-fi access in all classes (5MB of data for $US7.50), as well as seatback phones, SMS and email.

Lounge: Pleasant but not remarkable in Sydney; monstrously large in Dubai. However, it has been refurbished and improved in the past year or so and is noticeably less crowded than on previous visits; mercifully, no queue for a shower.


Flight frequency: Emirates flies three times daily from Sydney and Melbourne to Dubai and twice daily to Vienna. A low-season economy return fare is $1870; a non-seasonal business-class fare is $7850, including tax.

Online  emirates.com/au.

Tested by Helen Anderson, who flew courtesy of Emirates.

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