Review: Emirates First Class A380 San Francisco To Dubai

Filed Under: Emirates

While I’ve flown Emirates first class on the A380 a half-dozen times (oof that’s an obnoxious sentence, sorry), my husband hadn’t. He had flown Emirates first on the 777 a few years back, and even had the cabin to himself, so he had a general idea of what to expect, but we were still excited to fly together.

Ben has reviewed Emirates first class on the A380 at least a dozen times, and I’ve reviewed it myself as well, so check those out if you’re looking for a comparison in terms of the service and soft product, but I’m going to primarily focus on the updates and changes to the service.

In the year or so since I’ve flown them, Emirates has been engaging in cost-cutting measures, which while they haven’t been advertised as necessarily impacting long-haul premium cabin flights (other than birthday cakes), were noticeable in the catering.

Our flight boarded from gate A9, which was just a short walk and escalator ride from the lounge.

Emirates A380 gate San Francisco

We boarded directly to the upper deck, and the bling-tastic first class cabin.

Emirates A380 first class

Emirates A380 first class

Emirates A380 first class

Emirates 226
San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB)
Tuesday, December 27
Depart: 3:40PM
Arrive: 7:25PM (+1 day)
Duration: 15hr 45min
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 3F (First Class)

Emirates A380 first class

We were promptly offered champagne — I enquired as to whether they were serving the first or business class offering on the ground, and with a laugh the crew opened a 2006 Dom Pérignon for us. Arabic coffee and dates followed soon after.

Emirates first class champagne

One of the first changes I noticed to the catering was to the snack basket contents, and it’s a welcome improvement. Last time I flew Emirates the basket was full of junk food — cookies and candies and pretzels, with a couple of fruit bars thrown in to make you feel better about it:

Emirates first class snack basket 2015

I’m not sure if we had a “holiday mix” or if this is the new standard, but I liked seeing a mix of veggie chips, dried fruits, nut and seed bars, and even rehydration tablets (along with cookies, of course). There are plenty of high-calorie foods available on the flight as it is, so this assortment seemed to actually add something to the service versus just being there for the sake of having a snack basket.

Emirates first class snack basket 2016

The tail cam has to be one of the best inventions ever, and I really enjoyed the views of the bay on our climb out.

Emirates A380 first class

Sadly for my husband, his camera wasn’t working — in fact his entire IFE system was stuck on the data for the inbound flight, despite being reset several times.

Emirates A380 first class

It wasn’t a big deal, as there were only three other passengers in first, so he could have easily moved to another seat to watch a movie. He was mainly bummed about missing the take-off views.

Emirates has been touting their new pajamas, which are supposedly moisturizing. They were certainly stylish, and I think the grey tones are an improvement over the old beige pajamas.

I have far too many sets of airline pajamas, so didn’t try these on. I will be giving away both pairs during FTU this weekend though, so maybe the winner will try them out and report back.

The slippers though, were excellent, and are my new favorite pair.

The amenity kits are also new, though still made and provisioned by Bulgari. The ladies’ kit is a pebbled cream leather, and featured both face and body lotion in addition to the more common hand cream and lip balm.

The kit also included a makeup mirror and large bottle of fragrance, along with a smaller travel vial.

The men’s kit was similar, but came in a dark grey leather. The contents were generally the same, though a razor and shaving cream replaced the makeup mirror, and the perfume was traded for cologne.

The menus were presented, which as usual for Emirates were extensive (sorry about the pictures, I didn’t realize these were so blurry until we were off the plane):

For those interested, the wine list for the flight was as follows:

Emirates has a dine-on-demand concept in first class, which is nice for those who like to taste a smattering of things. As per my usual, we started with the caviar service.

Emirates first class caviar

The presentation was beautiful, and the accompanying bread basket has been updated with some additional selections.


The caviar itself, however, was decidedly meh. I realize there is probably nothing on the planet more obnoxious than complaining about a caviar service, but the texture wasn’t quite right and flavor just wasn’t there.

Emirates first class caviar

Emirates uses a Chinese caviar nowadays, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — many premium caviars are farmed in China. I asked to see the tin, which was generic from Gourmet House.

It seems that Gourmet House typically labels the specific type of caviar on their retail products, so I’m not sure if this is a lower-grade product for airline consumption or what. It wasn’t great, is the main takeaway.

One of my favorite parts of flying Middle Eastern airlines (and of visiting the region) is the mezze course, so we decided to have that next. My husband ordered the mezze for both of us, though a few minutes later the flight attendant came around to me to tell me they were out of mezze.

I was shocked, as I’ve never had a problem with selections not being available on Emirates, and with only 5 people in the first class cabin you’d think they’d have enough of a staple item like the mezze.

Eventually the purser came by and explained that they only cater two mezze portions for first class nowadays, and that while they had one available, the second had already been ordered. I said it was fine to just bring one for my husband, and it was presented beautifully.

Emirates first class Arabic mezze

Oddly, it wasn’t served with additional pita bread, though that could be a side-effect of the heftier bread basket.

Emirates first class Arabic mezze 2015

A few minutes later it occurred to someone to check and see if business class had any mezze. They had spares, so delivered one to me, and it was actually a much more reasonable portion, though I could tell the crew was embarrassed about the presentation.

Emirates business class Arabic mezze

I told them it was still more attractive than what Etihad offered for their first class mezze, which made them laugh. 😉

I think this is a real miss on the part of Emirates catering. It’s understandable that not every entree choice would be catered for every passenger, but I think a signature dish (particularly one you’re going to talk up in the monthly menu blurb), should be fully catered.

Against my better judgement, we decided to order main courses as well. I selected the lamb, while my husband asked for the beef filet.

Emirates first class main course

My lamb was lovely, especially paired with the Saint-Julien Bordeaux.

Somehow, my husband received a mango and chocolate terrine rather than the filet.

Emirates first class dessert

The crew was again embarrassed, but he assured them it wasn’t a big deal, and asked them to just save a filet for him for later on.

I skipped dessert, though the crew brought a small box of chocolates out to enjoy with the rest of my wine, which was thoughtful.

Emirates first class

At this point we were somewhere over Northern Canada, and while it was just after 6PM in California, it was the middle of the night in Jordan, so I decided to head to bed.


The crew offered to make up our beds in the window seats, which is always a nice gesture. I sleep much better in the cocoon of the window than I do in the center seats!

Emirates first class suite

While the bed was being made I went forward to check out the bar area at the top of the stairs. The only major change I noticed was the shift from Voss water to Evian.

Emirates first class bar

Having learned on previous Emirates flights to turn off the lamps and displays in the vacant suites, I made a quick pass through the cabin and then fell right asleep.

Emirates first class turndown service

The cabin was cool and quiet, so I slept for a solid six or so hours, which is about as long as I ever sleep anywhere. We had about five hours left in the flight, which seemed perfect.


I realize I’m starting to sound shrill about the catering, but the cappuccino I ordered was either very poorly made and in the wrong mug, or was actually a latte.

Emirates first class cappuccino or maybe a latte?

Emirates first class cappuccino 2015

I’d requested to shower four hours prior to arrival, but as I was awake the shower attendant invited me in a bit early. The shower experience was, as always, ridiculously fun.

Emirates A380 first class shower suite

The Timeless Spa shower amenities have been replaced by Voya, but there was still an abundant selection, and two different scents to choose from.

When I returned from my shower, an updated version of the post-shower fruit plate was waiting at my seat, along with a Voss water.

Emirates first class post-shower snack

My husband reluctantly took a shower as well (he’d been properly unimpressed with Etihad’s A380 shower, so didn’t feel the shower was worth the hype). He changed his mind once he realized the floors in the Emirates shower suite are heated. 😉

The timing of this flight — especially combined with a connection — can make deciding on meals tricky. Do you have breakfast, since you just woke up? Or lunch, since that’s what would be appropriate for your destination? I’m aggressive in my approach to jet lag, so decided to consider the earlier coffee and fruit “breakfast” and have “lunch” about two hours prior to arrival.

Emirates first class

I’ve had great soups on Emirates in the past, so we both ordered the soup course. I had the watercress soup, which was heartier than I would have anticipated, but quite tasty.

Emirates first class soup

My husband ordered the chicken consommè, which was in his words “unforgettably bad” and “like a bowl of tepid mucus.”

Emirates first class soup

A salad course followed, which was fresh with a nice combination of flavors.

Emirates first class salad

My husband then had his filet, which was “mediocre given all the anticipation.”

Emirates first class main course

I had the sweet and sour seafood off the “light bites” menu, which was perfectly prepared, and the exact right portion size.

Emirates first class “light bite”

We landed in Dubai pretty much right on schedule, deplaned through the lower door, then headed through the terminal for our connection.

Bottom line

I always enjoy Emirates first class, and despite the minor service mishaps this was a great and fun flight.

The catering downgrades are a bit disappointing, though I suppose are to be expected given how light first class loads seem to be on Emirates’ long hauls. But I of course still wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again (just next time on a JAL award rather than Alaska)!

  1. Times have changed and there’s an abundance of First Class and Business Class offers available across all airlines.Ten years back travellers were spending as if there was no tomorrow. Today most companies (also mine) is quite conscious on expenses. New rule is Low Cost on regional flights. Economy uo to 6 hours flight unless there’s an offer that can’t be refused. Then if can find flight at 1500$ or less in J class fine otherwise Premium Economy or Economy. Outbound flights for those like me who live in Dubai are 30% or more expensive than inbound. An example. If this week I wish to fly to Milan Y class the cost of a ticket would be 3500 AED (approx 950$). A friend of mine bought a ticket MXP-DXB-MXP at approx 600$. So basically you get half of Dubai based passengers skipping EK and flying instead via Qatar, or in my case via Amsterdam.

    So in conclusion. I’d cut F class since today’s J class are awesome, 20 times better first class seats of 15 years back. And I’d take care also more of outbound passengers from any country (as most airlines use similar policies).

  2. Tiffany – I am curious: how did you pay for this? You mention points, but not how many, or with what program.

  3. Well at least EK is still giving caviar. I flew them to DXB in Suite Class and flew Etihad back from AUH in the Apartment Class and was surprised that they didn’t have caviar. I thought the food was much better on EK but service better on Etihad. First Class lounge and ground service better on Etihad. Both flights on points. EK using AS pre deval and Etihad using AA miles. Unless you are a sheik or an oilman on a big budget not many pay for those seats.

  4. “While I’ve flown Emirates first class on the A380 a half-dozen times (oof that’s an obnoxious sentence, sorry)”
    why so? because you paid with points (not full price of ticket) and 99% of the population had not even flown it once?
    But this is your job & you work hard, paid your dues/taxes, and not breaking any codes/laws/rules. why do you feel you owed? Ignore whatever social equality rants, you enjoy what you work brings to you & readers, including any credit card referral links that are mutually beneficial.

  5. Sigh, the writing quality of blogs is getting lower and lower / very sad. On another note, there is nothing wrong in criticizing caviar – just because it’s fish eggs it doesn’t mean it has to be good by default. Also, I found catering on Emirates pretty unforgettable when I flew them back in 2015. Etihad and Qatar offer a better overall experience.

    Also, asking whether they served business class champagne before take off.. that made me lol. 🙂

  6. Really appreciate the timely review of this flight as we’ll soon be flying SFO-DXB-BOM (and back the same way) in F (except for the BOM-DXB sector on the return flight, which is in J as it has no F award availability).

    A couple of question for you Tiffany –
    ~ Was your husband in 3E which had the IFE problems? So we have 3 seats 3A, 4A and 3E. Can’t select 3F at this time as it is a bassinet seat. I’m hoping that 3F will remain empty, so we can use it as well, as needed. If someone (without an infant) does end up in 3F, hopefully switching one of the window seats with them should not be a problem.

    ~ Which wines did you try on the flight? Any recommendations. I have flown in EK F a couple of times several years ago (same route when they used a B77L) and remember having some ’89 French wine (don’t remember much other than it had Chateau in its name 🙂 which is the best wine I have ever had. I’m not much of a wine-connoisseur and don’t want to try whole bunch of them to find out which ones are good.

    ~ Which wines

  7. Tiffany, could you please elaborate on this “just next time on a JAL award rather than Alaska”? Is JAL award is cheaper/better?

  8. We just flew SFO-DXB on the 19th, but there were only 3 of us in First Class, so getting the Mezze wasn’t a problem. Flew DXB to SIN a couple nights ago (777 this time), with only 3 people in First again, but they’d only loaded one Mezze. They were apologetic and gave the Business Class version, but it was kind of surprising!

  9. @Ryan – JAL awards on EK not only require much less miles (almost 50% in some cases specially if booking a round trip), but are also much cheaper to change/cancel. JAL awards can be changed/cancelled for only 3100Y (~USD 28) or 3100 JAL miles. Another benefit of JAL Mileage Bank is the ability to pool miles of family members.

    The only problem is earning JAL miles without flying JAL or its partners. Only way is to transfer from SPG as Tiffany has mentioned.

  10. @ Tiffany — I see, thanks for the link also, something new to learn about 😀
    How’s the availability of business or first awards on Emirates using JAL? Is there any way to check it online?

  11. @ KJ — Got it. After seeing the award chart, it is definitely cheaper and like you said even more when booking round trip. I think it’s time to open some new SPG accounts then ;D

  12. During 2010-2014 I flew extensively on EK exclusively in F and have continued to experience a minimum of 1 RT flight upto 2 RT flights with EK every year since. I always felt that in spite of being “bling-tastic” in terms of appearance EK was always poor on both catering and in flight service. Sure the attendants were attentive – but often incompetent (Chocolate Mango terrine instead of Beef!!) and the food may have looked good but never tasted exceptional or even just special. Since 2015 I have become a LX/LH loyalist and would NEVER look back (unless LH does away with the F cabin!!)… The cabin is not bling-tastic but the service is informed, attentive, gracious and very competent. And the catering – especially out of the European hubs – is phenomenal. Oh, and by the way, their Caviar is farmed in Italy…………way better than the Chinese stuff. Your review confirmed my opinion of the EK First Class product.

  13. @Ryan – Supposedly you can use Qantas website to check availability but that didn’t work for me well, so I have used expertflyer which works well enough. Though it requires a monthly subscription (only 10$/mo and well worth the price when looking for award availability).

  14. The caviar issue could be due to being stored at an improper temperature. I had a similar issue on LH F in December, while the time I flew LH F before that (March last year), the caviar was lovely and I had two servings!

  15. Boy I’m not sure that I have ever seen a product date itself faster then Emerites First. What just a few years ago was AMAZING is now tacky and borderline embarrassing. To not have a fully catered first class cabin (nearly empty nonetheless) and overall mediocre food is unacceptable at this level in my opinion.

    I’ve enjoyed Emerites in the past but it just feels very stale now. Yikes.

  16. I also wonder whether these regular claims of cabin crew being “embarrassed” by service standards (mezze on one plate – how ghastly!) are just the reviewer projecting onto them.

    If it’s not then I feel deeply sorry for them. They must have to put up with some intolerable snobbishness and arrogance if merely presenting a perfectly adequately, though not specially, presented business class dish elicited visible embarrassment in them.

  17. “Ben has reviewed Emirates first class on the A380 at least a dozen times, and I’ve reviewed it myself as well,”


  18. Great review Tiffany. It looks like you and your husband didn’t go to the J bar at all, is that true? On a 15 hour flight, that feels like a miss given how much fun it can be. Is that true?

  19. Not an Emirates fan and can’t stand caviar ( gross beyond description). One great thing about Emirates F is the cheese: very well selected, always unusual choices from a range of countries, inevitably extremely tasty, terrific presentation. Whoever does their cheese deserves full marks.

  20. Khaliji mezze is over rated.
    If they could focus on cooking a steak to order, now that would be worth a review!
    I also agree that gold bling on the Emirates flights look over the top with little ascetic value. The people who like all of the gold finishing are probably gaga over concrete lions at their front gate and oversized fountains in their yard too :-p

  21. Em I the only one who thinks that they should better cut the sponsorship of all those sport events etc and keep the standard of their services? I personally wouldn’t even noticed that they are not sponsporing some football stuff anymore, but several cuts (in my case in economy, of course) made me thinking about dropping my years – long loyality.

  22. Thanks very much Tiffany for this review.

    I enjoy it as it gives us another point of vue about this first trip, in particular on the catering side.
    I could feel or even taste the disappointment just by your photos.
    That’s a good balanced and diverse review about this class of service.

    Thanks again for that.

  23. @Tiffany great report as always! Out of curiosity, how do you get 300,000 SPG points? (150,000 x2) for this award?

  24. @ frank — I booked using Alaska miles. You could transfer those from SPG, but if you’re going to do that you’d be better off booking through JAL.

  25. @Roberto — As someone who writes full-time, I just want to point out that Tiffany’s writing is actually quite good. It’s among the best among the miles and points blogs, and, along with Nick, the best at OMAAT. Meanwhile, your comment was so pretentious that it made me want to cry.

  26. Thanks for this review. I flew Emirates Business from Sydney to Singapore 2 years ago and it was bloody horrible all around. The food was mediocre, at best, and the flight attendants were horrid and basically ignored me the whole flight. Either they were having a bad day or thought I shouldn’t be in the cabin. It definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth. While I usually fly biz or first using miles, this was a ticket I actually purchased with my money.

  27. Great review and the additional comments are informative. I have a couple of questions regarding Emirates: a) do you know if the EK SFO to DXB route lands at the A Concourse or is this variable? Follow-up question if anyone knows – what percentage of the EK A380 flights land/depart from A concourse? b) When I booked the F class reward ticket, I found it interesting that the Alaska flight segments could not be booked in anything other than (if I remember correctly) A class. So, I use a great deal of points for the Emirates booking but the AS segments needed to get me to the USA EK departure city can only be booked in a very low coach class. I got to wondering if this is an example of a mismatch in airline fare classification. Does any know what an A fare equates on Emirates? Thanks.

  28. @ AK Traveler — “A” is the code Alaska uses for saver first award space, and “W” is saver economy award space. There may have just not been first available for the Alaska segments on your dates.

    Each airline uses their own designations for award space, so it’s not really a mismatch. You can have multiple fare codes on a single ticket.

    In terms of the concourse in Dubai, that varies. It’s not fixed, but the majority seem to go in and out of A.

  29. Thanks for a great post. Quick question. My wife and I just booked SFO – Dubai later this year with Alaska miles. 85k per ticket each way for business class; which seems like a good deal. Question #1) Is it a pretty good rate? Question #2) First class just opened up but is 150k miles per ticket. We have enough miles but aren’t sure if it’s worth it. Thoughts?


  30. Hi there! A quick question. Which first class product would you choose, Emirates A380 First class or Etihad A380 Apartments? Please suggest based on overall experience from chauffeur driven cars to lounge experience to flight experience.


Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *