Trip Report Index

I have broken my 16 hour flight from Dubai to Houston into four parts because I had over 200 photos and several videos from the flight. This section covers roughly half of the flight that I spent at the onboard bar.

After waking up, I headed to the bathroom. There are three bathroom exclusively for First Class passengers, a toilet behind the cabin in the galley area and two shower spas in front of the cabin. If they’re both open, I head to one of the shower spas when I need to use the bathroom because they are so much nicer and more spacious.

Between the shower spas at the very front of the top deck is the First Class Bar. It is set up with all the First Class liquors, wines, some soft drinks, and snacks.

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Here are close ups of the display and brands including the Dom Perignon 2005 champagne. The selection is extensive!Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.39.36 PMScreen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.39.42 PMScreen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.39.51 PMScreen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.40.00 PM

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The First Class bar is entirely self-serve, and there is really no place to sit down or hang out, so it is rarely used. When it is used, people are just grabbing a snack or a drink and heading back to their seats.

I prefer to hang out in the Business Class bar, which is where the action is. The Business Class bar is open to First and Business Class passengers. If you’re a First Class passenger heading there, I recommend tipping off a flight attendant to what you’ll be drinking, so she can bring back the superior First Class liquors and wines.

The Business Class bar is at the very back of the top deck, behind Business Class, so I walked through the half-full (at best) cabin to get there.

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The Business Class bar is a small half circle that is always staffed with a flight attendant. The counter is covered with snacks, and liquors are displayed behind the bartender.

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On both sides of the plane are curved couches where you can hang out any time and where you have to sit down and buckle up if the seat belt sign is turned on.

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I started with a glass of Dom Peringon, which had been brought back for me.Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.40.37 PM

The Argentine bartender (what are the odds!) had a Polaroid-style camera at the bar and offered to take a picture of me. I asked a Romanian flight attendant to write something in Romanian on the card, so I could snap a picture and send that via Whatsapp to a friend in Bucharest.Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.41.02 PM

The flight had free wifi that was too slow to load web pages but fast enough for iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. The flight also had a cellular network. Because I have T-Mobile’s free international data plan, I turned Airplane Mode off to see if the cellular data would be free. I was immediately met with a text message telling me that I was roaming and data would be absurdly expensive, so I put my phone back in Airplane Mode and used the free wifi.

The bartenders, a Brazilian Business Class passenger, and I had a blast for the next few hours. The bartenders rotated every few hours, and I learned that they have some control over whether they are assigned to the bar. The bartenders as a group definitely self-select for outgoing people, so I wouldn’t mind being the only passenger at the bar and just talking to the bartender. If more passengers are in the bar area, though, it becomes even more fun.

One reason I love the bar: you know how American airlines are at great pains to remind you that all alcohol you consume on board must be served by a flight attendant? That rule either doesn’t apply to Emirates, or Emirates flouts it.

First I invented the Dom Piñon, which is one part Dom Perignon and one part pineapple juice.
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It seemed like a good use of $170 champagne.

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Then I made a vodka soda for my Brazilian friend. I know that a shaker is an inappropriate tool for the job, but it was fun to use.Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.45.10 PM

Next a Thai passenger came to the bar and didn’t know what he wanted, so I had another customer for my Dom Piñon.Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.46.00 PM Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.46.10 PM

The hours flew by while we goofed off in the back. Occasionally the fun would be interrupted by turbulence that would require us to sit on the couches and buckle up or a flight attendant having to prepare a drink that someone ordered from his seat.

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But mostly we just ate the fruit, nuts, and finger sandwiches; drank Russian Standard Imperia vodka pineapples and Dom Piñons; and discussed Houston, Dubai, travel, books, and the best nightlife in Argentina. Flight attendants representing 20 countries and 17 languages came through, a copilot stopped by for a (non-alcoholic) drink, and I had as much fun as I would at a bar anywhere in the world that was full of other interesting travelers.

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It just so happened this bar was 41,000 feet up, full of free top shelf drinks, and let me pour my own drinks.

Bottom Line

I spent about seven hours at the bar on the back of the top deck of the Emirates A380. It was an enjoyable way to meet interesting people, both crew and fellow passengers. If you’re an extrovert, this definitely beats hanging out in the suite and watching movies.

Stay tuned for reviews of the food and shower.

How to Fly Emirates First Class for Yourself

Alaska Airlines charges 90,000 Alaska miles one way in Emirates First Class from the United States to Dubai or 100,000 from the United States to Europe, Asia, or Africa via Dubai. (Or vice versa since I flew Zurich to Dubai to Houston.) You can stop in Dubai as long as you’d like on the award.

You can get Alaska miles by opening the Alaska Airlines personal and business cards, which each come with 25,000 bonus miles, no spending requirement, and an immediate $75 annual fee. Both cards are churnable every few months, and you can have several open at once. You can even open multiple personal cards at once. You can also transfer SPG Starpoints to Alaska miles at a 1:1 rate with 5,000 bonus Alaska miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

You can book Emirates award flights on alaskaair.com as outlined here. You will pay (low) taxes plus a $12.50 per one way booking fee. There are no fuel surcharges on the awards.

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