There aren't many good options when flying from sub-Saharan Africa to the west coast of the United States, but when faced with a 24-hour flight you're unlikely to find a more luxurious commercial option than First Class on Emirates. Or at least so one would think?
Airport arrival comes with the customary visit to the First Class lounge, which with Emirates outside of Dubai can mean an 'any-class' third-party lounge shared by numerous international airlines. Once aboard, however, our 77W aircraft was well serviced with just 8 First Class suites contained behind wood-grain retractable panels that fully close to a gold in-lay cocoon operated by large LCD-remote and extravagant wide-screen TV. Settling into the seat, we were disappointed at its width in comparison to Cathay Pacific First Class that's almost 50% wider - in fact the Emirates First Class seat is no wider than those in its Business-Class. Cool distractions include a motorized mini bar pops-up with personal selection of non-alcoholic beverages and snack basket but with pedestrian options like pretzels and Mars bars ill-fitted to its clientele. Champagne on the ground is Moet, Dom Perignon once airborne, with flashy Bulgari amenity kit overstuffed with full size products. Dining includes an adequate Iranian caviar service, so-so Arabic mezza and braised-beef in coconut curry by unnamed world-class chefs.
A layover in Dubai includes private transfer in specially equipped First Class vans with plush seats and moody lighting that numbs the almost 30-minute distance from parked plane to gate. Expansion at Dubai's airport makes for congested, cumbersome layovers with refuge found in its First Class Lounge with its wine cellar and personal quiet rooms. But true happiness on any connecting flight only comes once airborne again, this time on the 16-hour flight to LA in a flagship A380. Located on the upper level, First Class sits in front of Business Class with premium service bar located at the rear of the aircraft. With 14 First Suites, the staff that spoke over 16 languages seemed from everywhere and yet nowhere, lacking personality and personal connection on our particular flight. Few amenities differ between the 77W and A380, with the exception of two highly hyped showers that allow First Class passengers 5-minutes of personal bathing time in-flight. Although a luxury, bathrooms were underwhelming and stagnant in style with mural of the Dubai skyline in lieu of even one window that overall left us smelling divine but uninspired with 8 hours still left till landing.