In a nutshell: Well…I was certainly glad to deplane my Emirates 777-300ER business class flight, so that should tell you something. I thought I knew what I was getting into with the angle-flat seats and 2-3-2 cabin, but the experience was still less-than-stellar. At least the great service and good catering balanced things out. I certainly do not rate it among the better business class experiences I’ve had. 

Can you say fifth freedom flight? Why, yes, you can! I was excited to travel on my very first fifth freedom itinerary, previous attempts notwithstanding. After a week in Kosovo, the majority of which I spent with friends, followed by two whirlwind days through Tirana and Athens, it was time to head home. And what could be better than an introduction to Emirates and my first fifth freedom flight?

Emirates 777-300ER business class

Booking Emirates ATH-EWR Business Class

Emirates flies a handful of fifth freedom routes, including Athens (ATH) to New York-Newark (EWR). The upside to this route is that it is relatively cheap to book using Emirates Skywards miles. I had a couple other options for getting back home, but I figured that 62,500 Skywards miles (transferred from American Express Membership Rewards) and €88.75 was about as good of a deal as I was going to get. I did have to tack on an economy ticket back to California for 12,500 United miles, so the overall itinerary cost about 75,000 miles and $110. Not bad.

Flight details: 

  • Airline: Emirates
  • Cabin: Business
  • Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
  • Date: September 9, 2021
  • Origin: Athens, Greece
  • Destination: Newark, New Jersey
  • Booked Using: 62,500 Emirates Skywards and €88.75 in taxes and fees

Athens Airport Experience

I spent my morning in Athens enjoying a guided tour of the Parthenon and the old part of the city. It was a lovely day that passed too quickly. Even with a flight out at 5:00 PM, I wanted to make sure I arrived at Athens Airport with plenty of time to make it through check-in, security, immigration, and all that jazz. I settled on arriving 2.5 hours prior to scheduled departure.

It was a surprise to see so many people in the Emirates business and first-class line when I arrived. I’d end up sharing the business cabin with a group of Hasidic Jews, some of whom upgraded their tickets from the conversations I overhead at the counter. I am pretty sure some of them bought the last first-class seats on the plane. Unless I am mistaken, the one-way buy-up price offered was around $1,000, unless that was to business class. If that was to first class, I’d still pass. Unless you’re made of money, schlepping it in business seems the better choice.

The check-in process took about 20 minutes, way longer than I am used to. Must. Learn. Patience. Normally, priority check-in is super quick. The Emirates staff handled COVID-19 test checks and attestation forms while we were in line. I also left the line with the dreaded SSSS printed on my ticket. There’s a first time for everything.

a group of people standing in a line with luggage

But I was still excited. Very much so.

Emirates 777-300ER business class check-in Athens

The rest of the process went quickly and smoothly. I spent some time in the Goldair Handling Lounge, the one drawback of flying an Emirates fifth freedom route. This isn’t anything like Dubai. Well, I’m assuming this isn’t like Dubai, as I haven’t been. Just an educated guess.

Emirates 777-300ER business class lounge Athens

The SSSS check was handled at the gate. The check took only a couple minutes and was pretty much a joke. There were many people who had received the black spot. I wasn’t singled out. It made me wonder if it is routine for the flight.

The boarding area was ridiculously crowded and disorganized. Everyone was standing. I can’t imagine what things would have been like if the flight was actually full.

And there she is. Emirates 777-300ER business class would be my home for the 10+ hour trek back to the East Coast. Even after the disorganization and extra checks, boarding only started 10 minutes late and finished nearly on time. Kudos to Emirates there.

Emirates 777-300ER business class Athens to Newark

Emirates 777-300ER Business Class First Impressions

It’s difficult to fall instantly in love with a 2-3-2 business class product across any plane cabin. Emirates 777-300ER business class stuffs a good number of seats into the cabin, a total of 42. The dividers between seats help a little (you can drop them if traveling with a companion), but you still have middle seats in business class. Unless you’re a party of 3+ no one wants that. Actually, you probably still don’t want that even as a party of three.

Emirates 777-300ER business class cabin

I could quickly tell the cabin is well-used, noticing quite a few scuff marks on the aisle seats. One surprise was the boarding music. One does not expect Emirates to be playing a Santana selection or Guantanamera.

I’d picked a window seat in the second-to-last row of business class. I debated whether I wanted aisle access or window views. I went with views, hoping I’d end up with no one in the aisle seat. As it would turn out, I had a seat mate. It was clear that the majority of the business class cabin knew each other, as nearly all of the others were part of the group I’d encountered at check-in and in the lounge.

a seat on an airplane

Flight attendants brought around welcome beverages soon after boarding. Good start to the soft product. Hopefully it makes up for the seats. Menus were passed around before takeoff as well. I browsed it and enjoyed the views of another Emirates 777 parked at Athens.

Emirates 777-300ER business class welcome drink

an airplane on the tarmac

Emirates 777-300ER Business Class Seat

The Emirates 777-300ER business class seat is comfortable in the upright configuration. One of the major downsides is that it is not as adjustable as many other business class seats. You’re also quite close to the passenger next to you, which should be apparent, given the cabin density. There’s not much privacy.

Emirates 777-300ER business class seat

The seat is nice enough overall, except in the bed mode. More on that later. A blanket, pillow, and noise-canceling headphones were placed at every seat.

a seat with a pillow and a pillow in it

The tiny side table is a nice feature. It’s nice to have somewhere to keep a drink or other items without needing to have the full tray table out. It’s also better than a shared surface between seats, like what is offered by some other products.

Emirates 777-300ER business class seat table

a medical face mask and hand sanitizer on a plane

There is a small IFE screen to the side of the seat, plus power and USB outlets. I never figured out the “tablet,” but I did use the IFE control provided for the main screen. I was very glad Emirates provided their own noise-canceling headphones.

a screen on a seat

a close up of a plug in

a phone on a seat

Emirates 777-300ER business class headphones

Here is the Emirates 777-300ER business class seat control. You only have upright, lounge, and bed options. You can stop between modes, but there is no micro-adjustment of the back rest or leg rest, which is a bummer.

a close up of a button

At seat storage is at a minimum, but leg room is at a maximum. The silliest part is that the piles of bedding had to be stored in the overhead bin during takeoff.

a white pillow and a plastic bag on a grey carpet

a person's legs in a chair with a bag and a bottle of water

Emirate touts “up to 1,000 movies” including over 100 new releases in their IFE selection. This is worlds better than what was offered when I flew SAS business class on my outbound to Europe. I found the selection very good overall.

Emirates 777-300ER business class IFE

a wood grained surface on a table

Two things that really help the seat are the headrest and footrest. The headrest tilts forward, making you more comfortable in the reclining position. The footrest helps immensely in the reclining position as well.

Departing Athens

I’m not sure what the weather is normally like in Greece in September, but I thought it was lovely, aside from the wind. The wind was noticeable during landing the previous day and during the Emirates flight takeoff.

I love new airports. Even though a good chunk of the flight would be over the ocean, I was glad for a window seat. It was worth sacrificing the aisle access.

Emirates 777-300ER business class Athens Airport

a road with a car on it

Emirates 777-300ER business class leaving Athens

Soon after takeoff, the flight attendant supervisor introduced herself, addressing me by name. The crew was incredibly professional, which was fully expected. The Middle East three are known as some of the best.

The crew passed out amenity kits soon after takeoff. I like the design of the bag more than pretty much another other one I’ve received. It will likely become my go-to travel toiletry bag. The Bulgari bag contained a toothbrush, shaving kit, lip balm, deodorant, tissues, comb, and a couple other items.

a small blue bag on a table

Emirates 777-300ER business class amenity kit

Then it was time to settle in for lunch. Well, second lunch. Maybe third lunch. I’d eaten in Athens and in the lounge. But hey, one does not pass up the catering of their first Emirates experience.

Menu and Catering

The Emirates business class menu had a few different options for appetizer, main, and dessert. For lunch I went with the Greek mezze, pan-seared chicken, and blueberry vanilla slice. For dinner, I selected mezze again, lamb kleftiko, and the raspberry rose water cake. Emirates served chocolates after both meals.

Emirates 777-300ER business class menu

You can also expect a full selection of cocktails in Emirates business class, plus a quality champagne and a pair each of red and white wines.

a menu of drinks in a book

an open book with text on it

a book open with text and images

The crew kicked off the service and took orders about 90 minutes into the flight.

a white towel on a wooden surface

Meal Service

A champagne cocktail might be a wonderful way to utterly ruin a glass of bubbly, especially one of good quality. But I decided to have one. I enjoyed the champagne by itself as well. Don’t worry.

Emirates 777-300ER business class starter

Emirates catering and meal service was excellent. Lunch was delicious from start to finish. The mezze was great, the salad fresh, and the main course excellent.

Emirates 777-300ER business class meal

a plate of food on a table

a plate of dessert with a spoon and a card

My conclusion was that dinner, while good, definitely did not hold up to the lunch. The mezze plate wasn’t as good, likely because I’m not keen on either beets or fava beans. The lamb was also overcooked, but the flavor was still pretty good.

a plate of food on a table

Emirates 777-300ER business class dinner

a plate of desserts on a table

The Killer: Emirates Angled Business Seats

If there is one huge red flag I can raise in a review of Emirates 777-300ER business class, it is their angled-flat seat. The 2-3-2 cabin layout hurts, but it’s manageable if you know what you’re getting into. Not having a fully-flat bed turned out to be a massive downside. I thought I’d be able to nap well. Nope. Not at all. Even after two cocktails, which normally sends me off perfectly to dreamland.

a person's legs in jeans and socks

I don’t know what it was, but between being boxed in to the slight, but definitely noticeable angle, I couldn’t get any real rest on the flight. The final few hours seemed to pass extremely slowly. All I wanted to do was get into a real bed.

Emirates 777-300ER business class angle flat seat

Early on into the flight the flight attendants put a pad on the seat. But even with the pad and footrest, it was difficult to sleep comfortably.

Final Thoughts on Emirates 777-300ER Business Class

It’s odd to be extremely glad to arrive in Newark. But this was definitely my reaction at the end of the flight. The flight is blocked for a little shy of 11 hours. Of these, the first several were excellent. I enjoyed the catering and service immensely. But things went downhill once I tried to take a nap and found that difficult. So, overall, Emirates 777-300ER business class is a mixed bag. If you can get over the lack of privacy and cabin layout, it still might be a decent choice. I’m still amazed they are flying a 2-3-2 product on their 777s.

The award price wasn’t all that bad, all things considered. But…it also didn’t get me to the West Coast. I wouldn’t want to pay the premium to fly an Emirates 777 from Dubai to California. Give me the A380, which looks worlds better.

Have you flown Emirates business class? What are your thoughts on their 777-300ER?