I got an opportunity to fly both Emirates’ new and old first class cabins shortly after the new first class product was launched in late 2017.

To do so, I took advantage of a reasonably priced (for first class!) one-way ticket, flying from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Geneva, transiting (of course) in Dubai.

Colombo - Dubai (“old” first class)

This was my first time flying Emirates first class, though I had never been desperate to do so, given how Emirates has a reputation for the “bling” style of its top cabin.

That being said, who doesn’t enjoy flying in first - and I was still very excited to fly Emirates “older” first class product.

The first major difference you’ll notice is the number of seats. Emirates A380s (which don’t currently feature the new product) have 14 suites - the largest first cabin they operate.

Both legs on this trip were flown by 777 aircraft, and the first flight (with the older set up) had eight seats arranged in two rows with a 1-2-1 configuration.

The seats in this layout are definitely more of a traditional first class configuration and while there’s still enough space, privacy is much improved with the new product (more on that later).

The original set up features a mini-bar stocked with soft drinks (room temperature), as well as a mechanical sliding door, several light fittings and a 27-inch touchscreen personal entertainment monitor.

I’m not sure the catering is much different (always a-la-carte), though there was no caviar service on the shorter Colombo-Dubai sector.

The flight took just over four hours and, by the time I had read some of my book, and enjoyed a good meal with a few drinks, we were soon descending into Dubai.

Dubai - Geneva (“new” first class)

Geneva was one of the first cities to get the new first class service, and this flight was the whole purpose of booking this ticket.

I stepped on board and realised this product was like nothing I had flown before.

There was a huge amount of space, as the new first class features just six suites in a 1-1-1 format.

Even middle seats have a view, thanks to installation of high definition “windows” giving you a view of outside. It’s a total gimmick, but it was also pretty cool to find binoculars at your seat.

Privacy is absolutely assured since the new suites are completely enclosed, with floor to ceiling walls as well as a sliding door. It feels more like riding in a high-end train carriage than sitting in an airline seat.

Emirates new first class is a high-tech experience, with a 32-inch high definition personal TV and mood lighting in the suite. It’s even possible to order food and beverages via video chat, but I didn’t try it.

One aspect I thought could be improved was the catering. Nothing was terrible, but equally nothing was mind-blowing (though there was plenty of it!). I did enjoy the caviar, and always make a point of ordering this when it’s available in first class.

I also missed the interaction with the crew, and I’m not sure I liked being cocooned away, though overall this was a great experience and I had no regrets.

The new product felt much more luxurious, but also more understated in comparison to the bling of the older version.

Naturally, both models feature fully flat beds, and you’ll find high-end bedding, sleep suits and amenity kits on longer overnight flights.

Pre coronavirus, Emirates' new first class was available on select flights from Dubai to Geneva, Brussels, Frankfurt, London Stansted, Vienna, Tokyo Haneda, Riyadh, Kuwait City and Male.

Summing Up

I think I was lucky to get that one-way flight for a reasonable price, as I don’t see Emirates offering too many promotional fares for first class these days, nor do I find as many cheap deals originating in Sri Lanka in general.

For me, it was a real treat to splurge on Emirates first class, but unless a killer deal comes along, it might be a while before I do it again, as I find I’m drawn to other airlines (particularly Swiss first class).

If you haven’t done it, and the price is right, don’t hesitate to book Emirates first class for the experience!

Have you tried Emirates old or new first class product? What did you make of it?