Review: Emirates DXB Business Class Lounge

This is a long overdue continuation of my trip report from my trip to the Gulf this past summer.

I hopped on the Dubai Metro from the GGICO station near my hotel to the airport. While my flight wasn’t until 8:30 AM the next morning, my plan was to check in early to drop my bags off in the afternoon before heading out into the city to take care of a couple more things. Rather than book an extra hotel night, I decided as I did with my previous trip from Dubai to spend the night in the lounge.

The premium check in area in Terminal 3 is located to one side of the terminal building, about a 3-5 minute walk from the Metro entrance/exit into the building.

Perhaps in part because of the electronics ban that was ongoing at the time, Emirates had separate check-in counters specifically for US flights, something I hadn’t noticed on my previous trip back in 2016.

The premium check-in area was deserted, given that I was there during an off-peak time in the mid-afternoon. There was nobody at the business class US-bound flight check in desks, so I was told to go to the first class check in area. Check-in was uneventful, and I was quickly on my way back into the city.

DXB US-bound flight check in area

As I alluded to above, I was able to overnight in the first class lounge on my last trip out of Dubai in early 2016. While this is technically not allowed, at that time it was common for exceptions to be made for premium cabin passengers to be allowed through security and immigration to spend the evening. Leading up to this trip, however, I had read multiple reports that the policy had become more stringent and that passengers are allowed to clear security/immigration at most 8 hours before departure unless holding a reservation at the post-security airport hotel. Despite this, there were some reports that EK supervisors were still able to “talk to” immigration officials to bend this rule. I decided ultimately to risk it, without having a reservation at the airport hotel. Initially two separate EK agents said I would not be able pass through, as did the immigration official. I then asked for the agents at immigration to call an EK supervisor (something I had read worked online), who as well said no over the phone. I was told, by one of the EK agents near immigration however, to try talking to the supervisor in person back at the check in area, where he finally said he’d try to help me out. We walked back over together to the immigration area, where the supervisor warmly shook hands with and then spent about 5 minutes gossiping with immigration agent. I was then told again by both the EK supervisor and the immigration official that letting me in was against policy and that they would allow it as a one-time exception, but that next time I needed to have a hotel reservation or I wouldn’t be allowed through until T-8. Ultimately it took just a bit of walking and some pleading to get through, but I wouldn’t advise trying this out as the policy seems to have gotten stricter over the past few years.

Emirates has several lounges spread throughout T3, but I always prefer the largest, in the A concourse. Unfortunately the inter-terminal train (the only way to get to the A gates) was undergoing maintenance and as a result passengers were being shuttled by bus from the C gates to the A gates. It was about a 15-minute walk to get from the terminal 3 entrance/Concourse B to Concourse C, but there were Emirates staff stationed throughout the terminal with signs for the shuttle. After finally making it to the shuttle staging area and waiting another 15 minutes for the shuttle, I boarded with several other passengers who looked like they had been waiting for quite some time. We reached Concourse A within 10 minutes, after which we were brought into the terminal and then had to re-clear security. Granted, this was a nonstandard operation due to the terminal train being out, but the whole experience was pretty tedious.

Once inside Concourse A, I finally made it up to the business class lounge, which is located one floor above the first class lounge. The well-known issue of Alaska-issued tickets showing in the system as not having lounge access was still present at this time, but the agent quickly saw that I wasn’t a non-revenue passenger and admitted me in.

Emirates DXB Concourse A business class lounge

The layout of the lounge is just like that of the first class lounge: two mirror image halves that span much of the length of and overlook the terminal. As with the first class terminal below, this lounge is huge. With a variety of different seating areas and arrangements, it’s not difficult to find a quiet and private place to plop down. While on the surface the business class lounge has almost all of the amenities that the first class lounge has (showers, prayer rooms, rest/sleep areas, a smoking lounge, children’s play area), these are unsurprisingly not as extensive or nice as those in the first class terminal. Of note, there is no duty-free section as there is in the first class lounge, and there is no dedicated game room but instead a children’s play area with toys.

My first stop was the dining area to grab some food. In contrast to the first class lounge, there is only a buffet in the business class lounge with no separate à la carte dining. The spread is significantly smaller than in the first class lounge and, in my mind, disappointing by Emirates standards. The bar had your standard business class liquors; I was happy to see Glenfiddich even though it was a bottle with no age statement, i.e., mixed year. The champagne on offer was Moet. After grabbing a glass of single malt and a plate of food, I settled in to a chair overlooking the dining area and got to work catching up on some emails.

After eating and catching up on some work, I decided to walk around and explore. The lounge was fairly empty as it usually is in the evenings, but in contrast to my last visit in the first class lounge where attendants were attentive and proactive, the business class lounge had clusters of 3 to 5 attendants spread throughout the lounge congregating together and chatting, only briefly acknowledging me before returning to talking amongst themselves. I generally find Emirates service to be good even on the ground, so I thought this was a bit strange.

Around midnight, I went to go freshen up with a shower. Immediately upon entering the shower area, I noticed a strong smell of mildew/mold lingering in the air. This smell actually permeated through the entire shower room area and made for a less-than-pleasant experience. The shower rooms themselves were on the small side, and disappointingly the showers had shampoo and conditioner dispensers but no soap. The water pressure started off great but after only about three minutes became pretty variable, even completely shutting off a few times, which required me to turn the knob all the way off and then back on. The temperature, as well, fluctuated wildly, going from hot/warm to cold every 60 to 90 seconds throughout the whole shower. At the end of the day, getting to shower in a business class lounge is a nice perk, but this was highly disappointing and subpar, particularly considering this is the flagship business class lounge at Emirates’ home base.

The lounge started to fill with passengers after midnight as the late night/early morning rush hour at DXB began. I decided to take a nap around 1 AM. Unlike in the first class lounge, there are no dedicated rooms in which to sleep, but rather a “quiet zone” at each end of the lounge. This area was comprised of oddly shaped daybeds that were arranged together out in the open (which I thought was strange), and then a few cordoned off areas with more “private” areas. Unfortunately, most of these private areas were already occupied.

I was able to find what appeared to be the last open private daybed on and settled in. At each bed was a blanket and socks/eyeshades. I was disappointed that earplugs weren’t provided, as despite the name it ended up not being a quiet zone at all. Due to the lack of an actual dedicated room partitioning off the sleep area, all announcements, conversations, and sounds of clanging dishes from the rest of the lounge filtered into the sleep area, making it difficult to actually get any rest. I was able to pass out for a little bit, but slept very poorly. This, in my opinion, is the biggest downgrade in the business class lounge compared to the first class lounge.

With a couple hours to go before departure, I headed back over to the dining area to grab some breakfast. As with dinner, the breakfast spread was fairly average and disappointing. It did not look particularly appetizing, and both the fruit and assorted dim sum that I tried were not very good. In addition to hot food at the buffet, there were bagels and pastries. By early morning, the lounge had become quite busy and particularly in the dining area it looked no different than any old Admirals club.

At around 7:45 AM, boarding for my flight was announced and I headed to the gate to undergo the electronics gate-check process, which I previously covered. Excepting the temper tantrum thrown by a British woman who apparently had been reaccomodated from another carrier onto EK and was unaware of the electronics ban, everything went smoothly and I was quickly through the process and onboard.

RECAP
The Emirates business class lounge at DXB leaves much to be desired, particularly when compared to the vastly superior first class lounge, but even when compared against those of other premium carriers like Qatar, Singapore, and Cathay. The food was average in terms of selection and quality, the showers were straight up bad, and the sleep area is loud and not private at all. I also thought the lounge was uncomfortably warm for much of the time I was there; I found myself sweating just sitting around throughout my time there. Disturbingly, there were also a good number of flies each time I sat down to eat — I actually had to get my glass of champagne changed twice during dinner because flies died in it. All in all, the offerings are pretty mediocre, and the lounge is certainly not worth spending a night in and perhaps not even worth building in extra time for.

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Comments

  1. I’ve had absolutely terrible lounge experiences in QF J lounges – dirt, trash and grime everywhere. Whereas I’ve had mostly positive experiences with EK J lounges. Also I think it’s unfair to compare EK’s J/F lounges, in the sense that of course the latter is going to be disappointing.

    • I agree that directly comparing EK’s F and J lounges is a bit unfair, but I thought that even compared to, say, Al-Mourjan at DOH or Cathay’s HKG J lounges, EK’s J lounge falls short.

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