Emirates may not have won its bid for expanded Toronto landing rights in its tussle with the feds, but the airline is in a position to clobber Air Canada in the luxury service department.
What is the carrier offering for its $16,500 first-class Toronto-Dubai return ticket on the A380? Your own private suite, for starters, with a flat-screen TV, an enormous chair that opens into a full-size bed, and real doors. And, if you're one of eight first-class passengers in the window-side suites, as I was, you can look out one of four windows in your nest of privacy. In short, Emirates First Class offers the finest air travel experience this side of chartering your own jet.
Food is a big part of the package. In first-class, a staff member is on standby to prepare whatever you order, whenever you order it. The menu features high-end cuisine with wines to match: Dom Pérignon with Iranian caviar, piled high and artfully plated with minced onion, hard-boiled egg and a delicate criss-crossing of chives; Château Favray Pouilly-Fumé nicely suits the mezze platter appetizer of labneh and moutabel, kibbeh and prawns; and a superb 2000 Château Léoville Poyferré accompanies the rack of lamb.
First-class cabin atmosphere tends to be subdued. There is a "socializing" area in the forward compartment, but I never saw anyone there. I felt like I was on the plane alone, just me and all those staff hustling around bringing me my pajamas or scheduling my time in the spa. Oh yes, there is a spa. And if you have never finished a 13-hour flight with a hot shower and facial cleansing—in a bathroom larger than the ones in many boutique hotels I've known—the upgrade might be worth it for this alone. I landed. I sailed through customs. The Emirates car was waiting curbside to take me to my hotel—all part of the package.
Nice food on a flight is great. Eight hours' sleep even better. But arriving halfway around the world free of jet lag is miraculous.