EK 415 A388
Boarding: 0530 Gate 57 Seats 2E/F
Takeoff: 0613 to South
Enjoying the goodies
There are three reasons for shelling out the extra money – or in my case, the points – for a seat in a premium cabin:
The space. You can stretch out flat and get some serious sleep. You don’t have to climb over others to get to the toilet. You aren’t continually cramped and jostled and woken. Arriving (relatively) fresh and able to work is a huge bonus.
The status. If something goes wrong, like a cancellation and a delay, the airline people will look after you ahead of the great mass in the Economy cabin. You get more luggage, you are assured of room in the overhead lockers. They may even delay the flight if you are running late.
The goodies. Paying an extra thousand bucks to get a better meal is insane. But you do get better food and drink, a comfier seat, a bigger entertainment screen, access to a lounge, nice big noise-cancelling headphones and so on.
A rationalist like my wife wouldn’t spend the extra money on fripperies ahead of paying off the mortgage or whatever. Think of it as a hobby. People spend fortunes on old cars or Persian carpets or whatever. I choose to travel as a hobby. So there.
Drinking my breakfast
Once airborne from Sydney with the seatbelt sign off, I visited the bathroom – more on that later – and it was time for breakfast. We’d missed out on anything much to eat since our flight the previous day, and we were keenly interested in what the chef had to say. He handed out menus, and yes, I took photographs, but I won’t waste space here. They can be seen online.
My main interest was in the champagne. Dom Perignon 2006, which was very nice, and I had a refill during breakfast. They would have cheerfully kept topping up my glass all flight long, but I would have needed a wheelchair at the far end.
A plate of fruit to begin, followed by a real breakfast. There may have been more coffee involved.
I had scrambled eggs with lyonnaise potatoes, sautéed spinach, mushrooms and grilled tomato. Oh, and Dom Perignon. Pretty much my idea of the perfect brekky. Spinach aside.
There was a glass of water as well, but I won’t touch water on a plane unless I see it come out of a sealed bottle. The bubbly is far healthier!
The goody bag
Pyjamas in a soft grey material, which are supposed to contain a moisturising element. I replaced my shirt with the top but kept my plastic trousers on. They weren’t going to wrinkle up. Extra-long sleeves aside, the pyjama top was comfortable enough.
I likewise left the grey slippers in their wrapping. For long-haul flights, I wear compression socks, and I was quite comfortable walking around the cabin in them.
An eyemask, but again, I let it be. When it came time to sleep, the cabin was darkened, my suite doors were closed, and I was tired enough to zonk off without delay.
The amenity bag was worth a rummage. Grey leather of a decent size, it was full of Bulgari kit. Toothbrush and toothpaste, razor, shaving foam, aftershave, body lotion, eau de toilette, antiperspirant, tissues, folding comb/hairbrush, and a refresher towel.
I travel with my own kit packed in a long-obsolete Qantas first bag, so I wasn’t really interested in this stuff, but I moved the lip balm over. The dry air of aircraft – and later, of Iran – plays havoc with my face, and I wanted all the help I could get.
Still, I kept the amenity bag. These things make great gifts, or at a pinch can be sold on eBay.
There was also a “wellness” kit from Temple Spa: three more lotions, and a pair of aromatherapy “sniff boxes” labelled “Sleep” and “Focus”.
For a fourteen hour flight spanning a quarter of the globe, meals are arbitrary labels. We took off at six AM, certainly breakfast time in Sydney, but an hour from landing in Dubai, is it seven at night or one in the afternoon?
Whatever, I began my second meal somewhere over India with caviar. This is something of a touchstone for First across various airlines, and Emirates turns out to have one of the best offerings. I got wild Iranian caviar – top marks right there! – served with blini, chopped piles of egg white, egg yolk, onion, and crème fraîche. Vodka was offered but I asked for a wee dram – indicating with my fingers – of the Glenfiddich 21YO Scotch.
They brought me a tumbler half full of the stuff and asked if I wanted ice. I shuddered no, thanks. Good single malt Scotch is best drunk warm to let the flavours out, and maybe a few drops of water to help. I’m not a huge drinker, and there was enough in the glass to have me dancing a jig when poured off the plane. I sipped what I could over the final hour or so, but couldn’t do full justice to the very generous serve. It was, however, a very smooth drop.
There was also a very yummy poached salmon dish, which I enjoyed immensely.
The goodies. Worth it?
Short answer, no. If I’d been paying full price for my ticket, there’s no way a few sample packs of cosmetics, some pyjamas, and a couple of good restaurant meals would have filled the gap between the Economy price. Or even Business.
But these things are expected for First. The type of regular passenger who can afford these seats demands a luxury experience with every need catered for. For someone like me, unloading a pile of frequent flyer points, the goodies were the icing on the cake.
For me, the room to stretch out, the privacy, the comfort, all made for a very pleasant experience. That’s worth a lot over being wedged in Economy and deprived of sleep for fourteen hours.
Or if you want to treat your partner for a special occasion, a First ticket is a gift of love, an experience to round out the occasion. I was certainly getting no complaints from my wife snuggled up in the suite beside me, savouring her caviar and flirting with the purser.