When it comes to First Class lounges, there aren’t many bigger than Emirates’ salubrious space in Dubai Terminal 3, Concourse A. In fact, this lounge is as large as the building itself – stretching a staggering 645 metres, literally occupying an entire floor at one of the world’s busiest airports.

In that sense, it’s almost akin to flying from a private terminal. Once you’re inside, there’s no need to leave – at least, until it’s time to board. This lounge sports everything from private duty-free shops and restaurants through to cigar lounges, nap zones, kids’ rooms and even a Tiffany & Co. store for any last-minute gifts.

Speaking of boarding, you can do that from the lounge as well – onto any flight departing from Concourse A. Whether you’re flying Emirates First Class or are savvily using the lounge as a Platinum-grade frequent flyer of Emirates or Qantas, here’s what to expect when flying from Emirates’ flagship First Class Lounge.

Lounge location, layout and seating

At Concourse A in Dubai, Emirates’ First Class Lounge isn’t merely hidden in the corner. It instead resides one floor above the public departures level. Or more accurately, it occupies that entire floor of the building from end to end. But to keep the vibe of the lounge connected with the airport itself, its design is more rectangular in shape, with a hollow centre.

From almost any point in the lounge, this allows travellers to glance down at the bustling walkways or boarding gates below. But as for finding the entrance to this grandiose space, there’s just one main reception lobby. From the public concourse – after security – follow the signs towards Emirates’ lounges and take the lift or escalator upstairs.

For lack of a better explanation, you’ll arrive close to the ‘centre’ of Emirates’ First Class Lounge in Concourse A. Given its size, the floor plan of the lounge is largely duplicated on each side – so it doesn’t matter whether you turn left or right. Unless you have hours to kill, I’d suggest choosing the path that takes you closest to your gate.

Along the way, you’ll uncover a vast array of seats, so take your pick. For short stays or when waiting for a companion to arrive, the many chairs lining the walkways are a good fit. For somewhere quiet, wander to the far ends of the lounge and relax beneath a strikingly colourful chandelier. Or simply stop when something takes your fancy.

Even when you reach one of the lounge’s dining rooms, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Whether you want a more traditional ‘table and chair’ combo or something a bit cosier, you won’t be left wanting. For boisterous groups, there’s even a private dining room. Just look for the bold red walls and close the doors.

Food and beverage in the Emirates First Class Lounge, Dubai T3, Concourse A

Speaking of dining rooms, that’s what really sets the Emirates First Class Lounge apart from its Business Class sibling here in Concourse A. Rather than self-serve meals from the buffet, settle back and peruse a full menu instead. There are light bites, substantial main courses and desserts to tickle your fancy.

I have a few hours, so begin with a cocktail. The Sips Fizz is a refreshing mix of gin, elderflower syrup and sparkling water, with sprigs of rosemary to garnish. Out of interest, I also wander past the nearby buffet counter – just to see if anything catches my eye. I spot some beautifully presented dips with triangles of lavosh. It’s hard to go past the hummus and mutabal, and after a taste, I quickly top up my lavosh supply.

I reopen the menu on the hunt for a starter. There’s so much to choose from – but, let’s be honest, I spend a great deal of time in airport lounges. Most of those have buffets, and the highlights are often quite similar. Here, I’m looking for things that aren’t common staples elsewhere. And with that in mind, I order up the foie gras terrine.

It’s beautifully sweet – made even more so with the slide of yoghurt. But that’s balanced with a splash of balsamic, as well as the mango and pink peppercorn chutney. The brioche is a perfect pairing, as it’s light and soft – an ideal conveyance for the foie gras and one that avoids disturbing the core flavours. I’ve ordered this dish before, and I’d certainly order it again.

For my main – a late lunch – it’s hard to pass up the wagyu tenderloin. With a choice between fries and mash, I figure I’ll behave and order the latter. On the side, I go for the béarnaise sauce: a nice complement to the mash. It seems there’s a miscommunication: I order medium rare, but it arrives medium well. It’s still juicy and delicious, but that’s an important detail to get right. I don’t rate the crunchy baby corn on the side, either – greens would be a better match. Still, the beef is appetising enough that I don’t ponder sending it back.

There’s a concise dessert menu offering cheese, a chocolate and pecan gateaux, a strawberry tres leches cake and a selection of ice creams. But given this is the fifth lounge I’m visiting in a 24-hour period, and I have a meal waiting on the flight ahead – my third departure in the same timeframe – I’d best not! Instead, a simple Baileys on the rocks does the trick.

If you’re short on time, there’s also more to the buffet than those dips and crackers. Expect a wide selection of hot meals, including curries, a variety of proteins, and tastes from around the world. There’s a section devoted just to sushi and an entire fridge dedicated to cheese and accompaniments.

It certainly helps that in Emirates First Class, you can dine when you like – because you’ll likely be leaving Concourse A rather full.

Amenities in the Emirates First Class Lounge, Dubai Concourse A

As with my lunch selections, I go on the hunt for amenities that stretch beyond the norm. After all, Emirates’ First Class Lounge in Concourse A is the airline’s newest, largest and arguably best First Class facility. So there has to be more than seating and dining. And I’m not disappointed with what I find.

Restrooms, showers and cigar rooms

Some travellers visiting Emirates’ First Class Lounge in Concourse A are amid journeys of 24 hours or longer. That’s why it’s not surprising to find dedicated cigar lounges within that space. If it’s not your thing, a double entry door keeps the scent well contained. And by clever design, there are even seats just outside – if you need somewhere to wait while a companion ducks in.

If your visit isn’t rushed, there’s a cigar menu as well as a full bar. I’m just here for a quick peek around, but design-wise, it’s a nice space. Think ‘London private club’ vibes, complete with leather armchairs, chandeliers and stained-glass windows.

Back in the regular lounge, restrooms are peppered throughout. And the attention to detail is striking. From the tile mosaics on the walls to the fabric hand towels stacked like pyramids, you can tell why this is Emirates’ flagship.

Shower suites are on-hand too. I try my luck about an hour before a Sydney-bound flight is ready to board. Even without a booking, there’s no wait to wander on through and freshen up. If there’s a queue, just ask the staff if it’d be faster to wander to a different bank of showers. Those few minutes spent walking could ultimately save you time.

Duty-free shopping

Here’s something you don’t often see in an airport lounge. Inside Emirates’ Concourse A First Class Lounge, the duty-free stores come to you. Literally. I mean, why would anybody leave paradise to shop, when here, you can practically have the entire store to yourself?

There’s everything from electronics to watches and other luxury jewellery, wine, spirits – the list goes on. Even Tiffany & Co. makes an appearance with a private store just for those with access to this lounge.

When you think about it though, this all makes sense. The travellers entering this lounge are flying First Class on an international flight. Or they’re Platinum-grade frequent flyers who take lots of trips – the senior employee, business owner, high-flyer types. Bring the store to them, and they just might shop.

Now, I make it past Tiffany, Omega, Longines, Piaget and Montblanc intact. But then I spot the Le Clos store for wine and spirits. At first, my eyes are watering. There’s a bottle of 1998 Dom Perignon Rosé selling for 30,000 AED (AU$12,474). Or for something slightly more ‘affordable’, a 1999 Louis Roederer Cristal for 28,000 AED (AU$11,648).

Clearly, this is the place to come in search of rare wines. But not everything is in that same pricing category. My home supply of vodka is in need of a top-up, and I stumble upon a bottle of Nikka Coffey vodka. Taking its name from the ‘Coffey Stills’ used to produce Nikka’s whiskey lines, it’s one I’ve never tried before.

At just 97 AED on sale (equal to AU$39.19, when I shop), it’s a sharp buy – so I snap it up. I learn later that the same bottle costs AU$67.20 at Dan Murphy’s… I should have grabbed two.

The shop assistant packs my purchase in a sealed box, reassuring me that it’s fine to carry onto flights bound for Australia. But what they didn’t mention is that at the gate, a label is added to the box – similar to a luggage tag – and it’s taken from you. It’s then, somewhat ironically, delivered to the ‘oversized baggage’ claim area on arrival.

On this trip, I’m only flying with carry-on baggage. If I’d known I’d be waiting around in Sydney just for a bottle of vodka, I might have perused the selections on arrival instead. I know for next time… but I’m still happy with my purchase. It’s still quite a novelty, having a private duty-free store to explore in Emirates’ Concourse A First Class Lounge.

Work, sleep, play, relax, board

There’s still more to explore at the Emirates First Class Lounge in Concourse A. When there’s work to do, you’ll find no shortage of power outlets scattered throughout. These are also easily found in the dining room – handy to top-up my phone while I’m sitting down to a meal.

But when your visit calls for more serious work, the business nook brings peace, quiet and coworking vibes. Fancy more of an ‘office’ feel? Wander on through to the next room, and close the door behind you. Or if you’d rather sleep, the nap zones give you space to put your feet up. Just be mindful, there’s no wake-up service here – or boarding calls, for that matter.

Wi-Fi speeds here are also respectable, and fast enough for tasks like video calling and video streaming. Tests during this most recent visit find downloads averaging 49Mbps, with uploads hitting 77Mbps.

Travelling with kids? Head to one of the colourful playrooms to keep them entertained. And if these are too vibrant for your taste, there’s seating for adults right outside, so everybody can have their space.

Add to that, the lounge even has a day spa. There’s a lot to do on this visit – all these photos don’t take themselves, after all! – so I can’t squeeze in an appointment this time. But I’ve enjoyed the chair massage here in the past, and it’s well worth the pit stop. Short treatments like this are gratis for all who can access the First Class Lounge.

Soon enough, it’s time to depart. And when your Emirates flight is leaving from Concourse A, you don’t need to go far. Remember, this lounge spans the entire length of the building – 645 metres, to be precise. Rather than having to leave the lounge and find your gate, you simply board from within the lounge itself. When you must depart from one of the world’s best First Class lounges, it’s the best way.

Accessing the Emirates First Class Lounge, Dubai Concourse A

Fancy a visit to the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai’s Concourse A? Here’s how to get inside.

  • By class of travel:
    • Emirates First Class (+1 guest). This includes Emirates-operated flights booked on codeshare flight numbers, such as via Qantas (QF).
  • Courtesy of elite status:
    • Invitation-only Emirates iO members (+ guests), regardless of airline or flight number.
    • Emirates Skywards Platinum (+1 adult guest and +2 children), departing on an Emirates flight when booked on an EK or QF flight number. When travelling with FlyDubai, access is to the Terminal 3 Concourse B and C lounges instead, or to the FlyDubai lounge in Terminal 2, depending on the departure gate.
    • Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge (+1 guest), prior to Emirates flights booked on a QF or EK flight number. Flights to North America, South America and South Africa are excluded, as these destinations are outside the realm of the Qantas/Emirates partnership.
  • By paid entry or lounge upgrade:
    • Passengers already entitled to Emirates Business Class Lounge access in Dubai can pay an ‘upgrade’ fee at reception to use the First Class Lounge instead. Inclusive of taxes, the price is US$155.50 (~AU$238) for Skywards members and US$183.75 (~AU$281) for non-Skywards members.
    • For those who’d not otherwise qualify for entry – whether by cabin class, frequent flyer status, lounge membership or as a guest of the same – a flat fee applies. For Skywards members, the charge is US$262.50 (~AU$401), while for non-members, it’s US$315 (~AU$482).

It’s worth pointing out that paid access to this lounge is only available within four hours of departure. And as the prices suggest, it’s quite an exclusive space. Even at the most affordable ‘upgrade’ price, there’s little change back from AU$500 when travelling as a pair. But still, that’s a lot cheaper than buying a First Class flight where the access is included. For a special trip or a ‘bucket list’ adventure, it might just be worth it.

If you plan to pay, do yourself a favour and join the Emirates Skywards program first. Membership is free, and you’ll save on the cost of your lounge entry or lounge upgrade. You might even consider transferring points from programs like American Express Membership Rewards (MR) to Skywards to book or upgrade to First Class using miles – where access to the First Class Lounge is again included.

At the time of writing, transfers from MR to Skywards are possible at a 2:1 rate. From 4 October 2023, that shifts to a 3:1 rate. You could also convert points from CommBank Awards to Skywards at a 4:1 rate, or from Marriott Bonvoy to Skywards at a 3:1 rate. Also, no time limit applies when accessing the lounge by cabin class – or status, for that matter.

Summing up

Of Emirates’ three First Class lounges in Dubai, the space here in Concourse A is my top pick of the trio. No doubt, Concourse A is the airline’s largest and newest luxury lounge in Dubai. But there are so many amenities here that I’m never left wanting. In fact, even when I’m flying out of Concourse B or Concourse C, I’ll always make time to visit this lounge in Concourse A.

Whether it’s a bite to eat from the à la carte menu, a cocktail from the bar, a spa treatment or just a quiet place to work, this lounge ticks the boxes. And when it comes to peace and quiet, that’s what I’m really looking for in a First Class lounge.

I don’t want to feel sandwiched in or as part of a crowd, as can so often be the case in a busy Business Class lounge. I want space and time to myself – or somewhere quiet to relax with invited company. Emirates’ First Class Lounge in Concourse A delivers exactly that.

In fact, with such a large footprint, you’d think this lounge could feel a bit cavernous. But being divided into so many smaller sections, each one feels quite intimate. There’s service when and where you want it – such as in the dining room, where a mere glance summons a waiter. But when you’d rather be left alone, you’re in your own world.

For many, this lounge alone is a compelling reason to fly with Emirates. And at 645 metres from end to end, you can have a completely different experience on each visit. For those who travel more than most – where regular journeys could become a tad monotonous – this lounge does its best to keep things exciting. So much so, I’ve been here many times before, and I’m already planning my next visit.

Also reviewed: Emirates First Class Lounge, Dubai Terminal 3, Concourse B

All photography by Chris Chamberlin, who accessed the lounge courtesy of (earned) frequent flyer status while travelling as a guest of Emirates.

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Emirates First Class Lounge, Dubai Terminal 3, Concourse A was last modified: August 7th, 2023 by Chris Chamberlin