Flying on one of Emirates’ fifth freedom routes has always been a goal of mine. When the opportunity arose to fly in Emirates business class on an Airbus A380 on the three-hour flight from Christchurch, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia it was a no-brainer for me. Little did I know just how fabulous that short flight would be!
We initially booked this flight in economy class for $212 NZD (~$140 USD), a $50-100 NZD discount off the typical price for the route since it was for travel on Christmas Day. Our goal was to upgrade to business class at check-in, as Emirates offers very competitive rates for this route.
48 hours prior to our flight, as we entered the check-in process, we were offered an upgrade for $225 NZD (~$150 USD). Though doubling the ticket cost seemed like quite the price to pay, the thought of Emirates business for less than $300 USD was just too good to pass up.
At the Airport
Though Emirates upgrades do not qualify for lounge access, their contract lounge in Christchurch, known as the Manaia Lounge, is also a Priority Pass member, meaning we had access anyways.
The lounge had plenty of seating areas in an open concept, composed of a main dining area composed of individual and community tables, plus casual sitting areas.
The lounge also offered a variety of local New Zealand beers and wines, plus standard spirits at their self-service bar.
The food buffet contained hot and cold items. On average, the quality was reasonable, but certainly not on par with what Emirates would serve in its own business lounges.
After a couple of hours in the lounge, we were ready for boarding. The lounge is conveniently placed directly across from Emirates’ gates. At Christchurch Airport, Emirates boards their flights from two different gate areas, 31 and 32, which is rather unique compared to how most airlines board their A380s. We boarded with First and Business through gate 32, which is farther from the main concourse, meaning that even without lounge access, you’re in for a quieter pre-boarding experience.
On the Plane
25 December 2019
STD: 18:45 / ATD: 18:40
STA: 20:05 / ATA: 19:55
We were greeted at the door by several flight attendants wishing us a Merry Christmas, and they guided us to our seats through the beautiful business class cabin.
Waiting at the seats was a menu, pair of noise cancelling headphones (which only worked moderately well), pillow & blanket, pair of socks, and eye mask. No amenity kit is provided on the short trans-Tasman sectors. A glass of champagne was promptly brought to my seat as well.
The seat itself was incredible with not a single detail out of place. Though some may call it gaudy, I found the wood finish tasteful and creative. There’s a variety of charging ports (both USB and international), an IFE remote, a second IFE screen, mini-bar, and window seats offer storage bins in between the fuselage and seat. You have absolutely everything you need in these seats.
That said, some seats can be better than others, depending on your preferences. Emirates A380s have a staggered 1-2-1 configuration in business. In general, odd-numbered window seats are best, as these hug the fuselage, rather than the aisle, making them much more private. Couples traveling together should also choose odd numbered rows in the middle, as these are closer together and more private from traffic in the aisle.
I chose seat 23A, a bulkhead window seat in the rearmost business cabin. Though this seat is marked for having “extra legroom” on SeatGuru, I found this to be incorrect—not that I needed any more legroom anyways!
One very nifty feature on the seats is the button-controlled physical window shades. There are two layers to each window shade, meaning you can either have complete darkness or just some external light. This was particularly helpful during our flight as the sun was quite strong close to sunset.
Prior to pushback, I received a visit from the purser AND business class cabin manager welcoming me on board. Other airlines take note, that is how you set the tone for an excellent service! Another crew member also collected my order for drinks after takeoff and dinner.
The exuberant captain offered a Christmas welcome and informed us of a quick 2 hours and 50 minutes in flight and an early arrival into Sydney. I turned on the beautiful A380 tail camera and settled in for the flight, hoping it would take a little longer than usual simply so I could enjoy it for a few minutes more.
On such a short flight, there simply wasn’t much time to dine. I commend the flight attendants on taking less than 75 minutes from takeoff to finishing the meal service, though this was certainly helped by the light 30% load in business class.
The dinner menu read as follows, with the beef tenderloin substituted on our flight for lamb (even better, I said to the flight attendant!):
Around 15 minutes after takeoff, I was served my Champagne Cocktail alongside a bowl of nuts.
Just 15 minutes later, I had my meal in front of me:
Though I’m not usually a fan of gravlax (or dishes featuring cold fish in any way), the appetizer was quite delicious. The lamb was juicy and flavorful, and was not completely overcooked, as I’ve come to expect on planes.
The milk chocolate delice also had a balanced sweetness—it was the perfect way to finish the meal. A small box of chocolates from Hotel Chocolat was also provided as an after-dinner temptation. The only disappointing part of the meal was the bread, which was hard and unappealing.
Throughout the meal, I received excellent attention and service. As soon as the tray hit my table, I was offered a selection of New Zealand wines from the business cabin manager. Drinks were kept full.
Despite the short flight, the on-board bar and lounge is available for passengers to enjoy. At several points during the flight, the entire business class cabin was congregated there, and for good reason. With the decorations in the bar and holiday spirit throughout the crew, it provided an excellent atmosphere. Not to mention, more alcohol and food.
I ordered a Negroni (I still don’t even know what that is) and an Espresso Martini while I was in the lounge, and the crew struggled with figuring out how to make both.
They were honest and told me they didn’t often work the bar. Since multiple crew struggled, I am curious if Emirates needs to invest in further lounge training for their flight attendants.
I noticed the business cabin manager standing off to the side and went up to her and asked questions about her job and the fifth freedom routes. I found out that the Christchurch-Sydney flight is part of a six-day trip where the crew operate each individual leg (DXB-SYD-CHC-SYD-DXB) with a night of rest in between each one. She was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly; we had a fantastic conversation about all things Emirates.
In the middle of our conversation, she called the purser and then offered me a tour of first class! She took me on a brief tour of both the seat and of the first-class lavatory with shower. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, but her offer to show me first class was incredibly appreciated and highlighted the flawless service mentality of Emirates.
I returned to my seat shortly thereafter due to some turbulence, which caused the seatbelt sign to be turned on for the remainder of the flight. I explored ICE, Emirates’ entertainment system, which is unparalleled in quality and selection. There are hundreds of movies and TV shows available, along with games and live programs as well. Of course, my program of choice remains the tail camera.
As promised, we landed ahead of schedule and taxiied straight to the gate without delay. I said goodbye to the amazing crew with fond memories of Christmas in the sky.
Emirates is legendary when it comes to aspirational premium cabin products. However, flying through Dubai presents a challenge for many due to both distance and cost. Flying one of the fifth freedom routes across the Tasman can be one of the most affordable ways to sample a world-class product, especially given the readily available (and affordable) upgrade at check-in options. Despite it being a short flight, you get to experience the same perfect seat, phenomenal crew, and brilliant catering. There’s no more stylish way to cross the Tasman than in an Emirates business class on the Airbus A380.
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