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Perhaps one of the most celebrated airlines for its in-flight premium products, Emirates is a force to be reckoned with in the airline industry. It has the world’s largest fleet of Airbus A380s, and it flies all around the world, connecting destinations with one of the most luxurious in-flight products.
Emirates makes headlines with its in-flight showers (reserved for first class) and stand-up lounge bars (available to both first and business class), but it still has some hiccups that keep it from being absolutely perfect. The biggest issue: middle seats in business class on certain aircraft.
Emirates has four classes of service: first, business, premium economy and economy. But, the reality is that even within business class, there are superior and inferior products. While you experience the same benefits on the ground (luxe lounges and all), the seats can vary quite a bit.
This guide will help you know which planes to seek out and which to avoid (if possible, given your routes), and what amenities to look for when you fly business class on Emirates. Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values Emirates Skywards miles at 1 cent each.
Here’s what you need to know about Emirates business class, plus how to maximize your miles when you book.
What to expect when flying business class with Emirates
Flying business class on Emirates is an experience far different from U.S.-based carriers. Many of the things you are familiar with for premium cabins are there, but the in-flight service and airport lounges are a step above its North American competition.
If you're paying for business class (excluding mileage redemptions or the most discounted fares), Emirates will pick you up at least 12 hours before departure. The distance from the airport that they will pick you up ranges by city, so it's worth reviewing before purchasing a ticket, although you can circumvent the mileage restriction for a fee.
Emirates allows passengers flying to or from the Americas up to two bags that each weigh 70 pounds (32 kilograms). You can also travel with two carry-ons — one standard carry-on and then either a briefcase or garment bag. Each carry-on can weigh a maximum of around 15 pounds (7 kilograms).
Priority airport service
At the airport, you’ll enjoy priority check-in desks before heading to the lounge and priority baggage reclaim. From Dubai Concourse A, business class passengers can board directly from the lounge.
Emirates offers passengers lavish lounges, with hot and cold buffets, impressive bar selections and sometimes a la carte meals. These are part of the business class perks, and arriving early to the airport is half of the fun.
The airline’s Dubai base has the most impressive business class lounges (special perks include barista-made coffee and a new health and wellness buffet). That said, any of the Emirates-branded facilities are sure to carry the airline’s signature touches.
In Dubai’s Concourse B, you can even visit the Moët and Chandon Champagne lounge, where you can sample top-notch bubbly for free.
Lie-flat seat availability is one of the main reasons that people book an Emirates business class ticket, but the airline has several business class configurations. It is important to know your aircraft type before understanding what seat you will find.
Emirates A380 business class
On the Airbus A380, you’re safe. There is no need to worry about a middle seat, as every business class seat has direct aisle access. On the sides of the plane, seats alternate between being closer to the window or closer to the aisle. In the center section, seats vary between being closer to the aisle or tucked into the center section for more privacy from those moving in the aisle.
Even better, passengers can take advantage of the airline’s famous onboard lounge and bar (exclusive to the A380).
Emirates 777 business class
It’s on the Boeing 777 where things get tricky. Only the Boeing 777-200LR has a 2-2-2 configuration. Most other Boeing 777s guarantee that you will have a 2-3-2 setup where the person in the very middle will have to climb over their neighbors. These are angled lie-flat seats, which are not 180-degree-flat like seats on other aircraft.
Don’t get stuck in a dreaded middle seat, especially if you're flying solo. Use this article as your guide to make the most of your business class investment, whether you paid with miles or cash.
The airline also uses a lot of cream, hardwoods and gold finishes to create a luxurious cabin. While it may not appeal to everyone’s design tastes, it is certainly striking. While no one wants a middle seat in a premium cabin, the top-notch in-flight service remains the same.
» Learn more: Best business class experiences with lie-flat seats
Wine and dine in the sky
Emirates offers some of the finest menu selections, such as Arabic mezze appetizers and champagne breakfasts. Passengers enjoy meals on Royal Doulton fine bone china with custom-made Robert Welch cutlery.
Emirates publishes its menus for different flights on its website. Just enter the flight details online to discover what is being served on the food and beverage list.
Meals start with an aperitif and appetizer followed by the main course and then decadent desserts. All meals on Emirates are halal. In between the main meals, there is a light bites menu that passengers can order at any time, including items like tofu poke bowls, ravioli and pecan cake.
The drink menu includes labels like Hennessy X.O cognac and Chivas Regal 18-year-old Scotch whisky. There are cocktails, a lengthy wine list and plenty of soft drinks, mocktails and juice options.
Emirates serves meals at set times, but will honor dine-on-demand requests. Some airlines, like Qatar Airways, always offer dine on demand for everyone.
If you fancy dining (or drinking) on your own schedule, Airbus A380 planes have in-flight lounges where passengers can gather for a drink, sandwich, snack, dessert or even a meal.
» Learn more: Qatar Qsuites or Emirates first class — which is better?
Dubbed "ice," Emirates’ in-flight entertainment programming is among the best in the industry with hundreds of movies, sitcoms, documentaries, music albums and games to keep passengers busy. There can be more than 5,000 channels of entertainment.
While, yes, the same programming is available to everyone (no matter what the cabin), business class passengers benefit from a larger screen than those seated in lower cabins of service.
How much is Emirates business class?
Sample searches found March 2023 flights at $4,975 for a one-way trip from New York-John F. Kennedy or Chicago-O’Hare to Dubai. A one-way flight from San Francisco to Dubai will cost a bit more, at $5,768.
One way to stave off the sticker shock is to book your business class ticket with points and miles rather than cash.
You can transfer miles and points to Emirates Skywards from a variety of bank programs, such as:
Your spending with other points programs could be a route to an affordable trip, as you can transfer those points to your Emirates Skywards account.
Instead of a traditional award chart, Emirates relies on an award calculator that helps travelers know how many miles they need for a flight. The number of miles you need on a particular route is always the same (no dynamic pricing), but each route can vary.
For example, flying New York-John F. Kennedy to Dubai in business class costs 115,000 miles each way.
Also look out for Emirates’ fifth freedom flights between the U.S. and Europe, like Newark, New York to Athens. These only cost 72,500 miles in business class each way.
Emirates Skywards Premium World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card ($499): Earn 60,000 bonus Skywards Miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
Emirates Skywards Rewards World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card ($99): Earn 50,000 bonus Skywards Miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
Those who are only looking to make a one-time redemption may prefer to stick with another credit card to accumulate valuable miles and points until they are ready for their big Emirates adventure.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
How to book business class on Emirates
Navigate to the Emirates website and input your flight details to begin your search.
Be sure to select “Business Class” from the drop-down menu, and indicate whether or not you’d like to book with cash or rewards.
Select your flight, input passenger data and follow the prompts to complete the booking.
Is Emirates business class worth the money?
Emirates delivers an exceptional airport and onboard experience that is miles ahead of the competition. Whether you’re going to Europe, the United Arab Emirates or beyond, you’ll be pampered no matter where you sit in the business class cabin.
Maximize your experience by racking up Emirates Skywards miles from flying with the airline, transferring points from a credit card rewards program or applying for one of the airline’s credit cards. The next time you’re enjoying a cocktail in the lounge of an Airbus A380 at 36,000 feet over planet Earth, you’ll be glad you did.
Featured image courtesy of Emirates.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card