Shelby's Dubai Diary

Million dollar deals in the sky: Swanky onboard lounge of this Middle Eastern airline is a power player's dream

Flying high: Million dollar deals worked out in plane's swanky lounge

News, Shelby, Dubai, Emirates Air, January 2015
CultureMap editor at large Shelby Hodge gets ready for the lengthy flight Houston-Dubai, business class, aboard Emirates Air. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Emirates A380 in Houston December 2014 flying
The  Emirates Airline A380 Photo courtesy of Emirates
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The Onboard Lounge on the upper deck is available to First Class and Business Class passengers.
Emirates A380 in Houston December 2014 Onboard Lounge Social
The Onboard Lounge is the place to be for socializing on the lengthy flights. Photo courtesy of Emirates
News, Shelby, Dubai, Emirates Air, January 2015
My own personal cocoon complete with mini-bar, flat screen TV and Bulgari toiletries. Photo by Shelby Hodge
News, Shelby, Fly Emirates, Class, Feb. 2015
We take a spin in the A380 simulator located in the Dubail Mall. Courtesy photo
News, Shelby, Fly Emirates, Class, Feb. 2015
Fly Emirates in Dubai Mall. Photo by Shelby Hodge
News, Shelby, Dubai, Emirates Air, January 2015
Emirates A380 in Houston December 2014 flying
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Emirates A380 in Houston December 2014 Onboard Lounge Social
News, Shelby, Dubai, Emirates Air, January 2015
News, Shelby, Fly Emirates, Class, Feb. 2015
News, Shelby, Fly Emirates, Class, Feb. 2015

Granted, the ruddy-faced Scotsman had been nipping at the whiskey for the better half of the Dubai-Houston flight aboard Emirates Airline. But when he commented that there had been several million dollar deals worked up in the onboard lounge at the rear of Business Class, I paid attention.

As the guest of the airline on a press junket to Dubai, I had the pleasure of flying business class both coming and going. While I slept most of the way over (my spacious seat extending to a comfy flatbed complete with mattress and fresh blanket), the 16-hour return flight presented greater opportunity for mingling in the popular lounge.

A CPA with Shell Oil, a regular on the Dubai-Houston run, spent a good bit of the flight socializing with said Scotsman and other business travelers, who filled almost all of the 76 business class seats. The CPA preferred her 35,000 foot high camaraderie on the comfy banquette setting that flanked the walls of the lounge.

The A380's upper deck, where the lounge offers full bar service and snacks throughout the flight, is reserved for first and business class passengers, both berthed on the upper deck. So once I had fulfilled my sleep quota and watched several movies selected from the 1,500 channels that were offered on my personal flat screen TV, I headed to the lounge.

Window seats are a world unto themselves. For the record, I was not the only business class passenger taking selfies in the swank jetliner interiors.

There, the Scotsman, who had been in the lounge for each of my trips to the loo, was regaling a younger oil service industry exec from South Africa with tales of the business deals going down in the lounge, including one blessed by one of the first-class passengers, who parted with $18,000 for the ultimate luxury travel. A pipeline magnate from Sydney, Australia, who actually lives in Singapore, added to the informal chatter around the stand-up bar, sharing stories of his European soccer team.

Note to self: Partygoers in the lounge use only first names unless getting down to serious business.

The onboard lounge is just one of numerous perks that Emirates offers its passengers ranging from airport transfers via limo to onboard cosseting that includes free Wi-Fi. My cozy cocoon included my own mini-bar with bottled water, fruit juice and soft drinks, a vanity bag filled with luxurious Bulgari products and the touch-screen TV, which also had a handheld remote. 

Seats on the upper deck of the A380 are configured so that no passenger sits directly across from another. Middle section seats are separated by the min-bar and a screen that gives you the feel of traveling solo. Window seats are a world unto themselves. For the record, I was not the only business class passenger taking selfies in the swank jetliner interiors.

The steady flow of meals and snacks were commendable with offerings including both western and Middle Eastern fare and the continuous service and attention from flight attendants helped pass the time.

Emirates introduced the Airbus A380 on its daily Houston-Dubai-Houston flights in early December. (Emirates Airline also offers daily Dallas-Dubai-Dallas flights on the A380.) Airfare for the round-trip Dubai-Texas flights in business class runs around $10,000.

Once in Dubai, our merry band of travel writers spent a morning in the Dubai Mall (more to come later on that experience), where Emirates Airline has a retail shop and a flight simulator. For around $100, you get half an hour at the controls with an instructor. Select your departure and landing airports (the system is wired for tens of thousands of airports) and take control. Take-off at 150 knots! Quite a ride.

Next up in Shelby's Dubai Diary: 45 million flowers bloom in the desert, a floral Disney World. To view the previous story in this seven-day series on Dubai, click here.