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Airbus A380; Emirates has the largest fleet of A380s out of all the airlines, with 104 in service and 58 on order.
Skywards (booked as Qantas Frequent Flyer)
First-class, Seat 2A
Seven hours and 20 minutes. The ticket included a complimentary massage in the first-class lounge at Dubai before take-off.
Emirates operates two A380 flights daily direct from Dubai to Madrid , departing 7.30am and 2.30pm
Up to 50 kilograms of checked luggage, and two carry-ons, each up to seven kilograms.
You inhabit your own suite with sliding door. The ivory leather seat lies flat (Emirates calls it "zero gravity"). Flight attendants bring a mattress and bedclothes when you wish to sleep. Even the side-by-side suites in the middle of the 1-2-1 guarantee total privacy (or, if you wish to chat to a companion, you can simply retract the divider). There are 14 first-class suites on the upper deck of the A380. Emirates boasts it is the closest you can get to flying in your own private plane, and they're right.
Astonishing, beginning with the trip to the airport when a chauffeur picks you up in a Mercedes limo. Another limo awaits at your destination. All part of the service. The on-board suite has a stocked mini-bar at your hand, a wood-grain dining table, sliding drawers, a vanity mirror with Hollywood lights, a snack basket filled with mints and chocolates and other goodies, an orchid in a vase and a slide-out writing desk with creamy stationary. You can adjust the mood lighting, set your suite's climate, and when you settle down for a snooze, you can summon up a starry night scene on the ceiling. There's a wardrobe in the aisle to hang your travelling attire when you wish to change into the supplied pyjamas. And those pyjamas, according to the airline, come with Hydra Active Microcapsule Technology to keep your skin soft by gently releasing natural nutrients of sea kelp, preventing dehydration and stimulating circulation. Meals from the a la carte menu arrive on Royal Doulton china, with full silver service. The TV screen is huge, and there's a control unit beside you. There are enough power plugs for all your devices. Storage for carry-on luggage is copious. And there's that lie-down seat that becomes a bed complete with mattress, fresh sheet and a faux sheepskin blanket.
If you feel restless, saunter back to the bar and order a Chivas Regal – or just about anything else you might desire.
The greatest offering? You can book a shower, with five blissful minutes of hot water and 30 minutes access to a vast spa-like bathroom.
Emirates' ICE system offers around 3500 channels of movies (including latest releases), games, docos, music, infotainment and TV shows in a range of languages. It screens on the biggest TV of any commercial airline: 32 inches, or 81 centimetres. You get noise-cancelling headphones. When you want to settle down for a movie, your (three!) windows close electronically, as if louvres are shutting.
Impeccable. Anything you wish, just ask. Meals, snacks or drinks of any type are available at any time. Cosmetic and refresher kits – grey leather for men, beige for women – come with top-range Bulgari products. Request that your bed be made, and it is done. I was asked within minutes of the delivery of my first glass of Champagne when I would like to reserve the shower. I chose two hours before arrival at Madrid, and arrived more refreshed than at the end of any flight I've taken.
The trick is to limit your intake. A restaurant-sized menu and wine list – plus a whole page of aperitifs, digestifs and spirits – are on offer. I indulged in caviar (with chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon), a chicken consomme, a grilled kingfish with olive salsa and tomato and an assortment of cut fruit, plus a glass – possibly two – of the Dom Perignon Champagne (2009), finishing with a Hennessy Paradis cognac. The chefs had designed so much more, but there's only so much a traveller can, or should, handle. Before the snooze. And, of course, the shower.
THE LAST WORD
Magnificent, though likely a once-in-a-lifetime indulgence for this traveller. Flying long distance is rarely particularly pleasurable, but first class on Emirates is surely unmatched. Can a hot shower in a large bathroom at 12,000 metres be topped?
Tony Wright paid his own way with Qantas frequent flyer points.