The best part of my 14-hour, $5,400 Emirates business class flight was a perk I originally thought was a gimmick

a380 airbus emiratesAn onboard bar of an Airbus A380 is pictured during a delivery ceremony of Emirates' 100th Airbus A380REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

  • I recently flew in business class for the first time in my life.
  • My flight was a 14-hour flight from Dubai to New York operated by Emirates on the Airbus A380 superjumbo, the largest and most expensive commercial airliner in history.
  • While there were a lot of perks that blew me away - including the chauffeur service and extravagant preflight lounge - the A380's inflight cocktail bar gave the flight an entirely different feel than I've ever experienced.
  • Rather than be stuck alone in my seat, I opted to hang out at the bar for a few hours, getting to know other passengers and flight attendants - and getting a drink or a snack at my leisure.

For many travel junkies, flying in business class on an A380 operated by Emirates is considered the crème de la crème of flight experiences.

Up until last month, I'd never flown business class before; it never made sense for my budget.

But then, thanks to Airbus announcing that in 2021 it will stop producing the A380, the world's largest passenger plane, my editors thought I had to try flying back to New York on Emirates Airlines Business Class on the A380.

I didn't know what to expect. I'd already had an excellent experience flying Emirates in economy class to Dubai in November, but I've heard mixed reviews about business class. I was worried all it would mean was a slightly bigger seat and better airplane food.

I was very wrong. While business class with Emirates blew my mind for many reasons - the food, lounge, and pod-like seats among them - my favorite part was the plane's famous walk-up cocktail lounge.

Best_Business_Class_Flight_Emirates_Airbus_A380 (154 of 198)Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

I had heard about the lounge beforehand, as many travel experts and frequent fliers consider it to be the centerpiece of Emirates' business-class experience. But I was skeptical.

I kept wondering, does anyone actually use it or is it a gimmick that looks better in a travel magazine?

I got my first taste of the cocktail lounge a few hours after take-off. Dinner was over and I was looking for a sweet snack to eat while I watched a TV show.

One of the best parts about the lounge is that it's always stocked with fresh fruits, sandwiches, pastries, chips, and other goodies that you can grab at your leisure. I took a bag of cherries and a bottle of water and went back to my seat.

Best_Business_Class_Flight_Emirates_Airbus_A380 (156 of 198)Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

The drink and snack convenience was great, but it was how much fun the lounge was that showed me what a game-changer it is for travel.

Throughout the flight - and I was on a red-eye - there were always a few passengers there chatting or, more often, talking with the staff.

After sleeping for a few hours, I went into the lounge to stretch my legs and found a group of passengers drinking at the bar and having a conversation with the flight attendant/bartender. I had intended to grab a water bottle and head back to my seat. Instead, I ended up spending three hours hanging out there with the passengers and the flight attendants.

The flight attendants told us about the worst passengers they've ever had to deal with, crazy things that I have happened on board, and what they like to do on their off-time. The other passengers and I shared stories from our travels, shared recommendations for New York and Dubai (our destination and origin), and got to know each other.

Halfway through, the bartender mixed an experimental drink at my request, turning the cucumber-fizz mocktail into an alcoholic drink. It was delicious.

Best_Business_Class_Flight_Emirates_Airbus_A380 (196 of 198)Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

One of the passengers I met told me about how the Super Bowl was happening during his flight to Dubai a few weeks before. He and a half-dozen others hung out in the lounge, cheering on their teams as they used the airplane Wi-Fi to get updates on the score. It sounded like a blast.

As I left the plane the following morning, I was still amazed at how much fun my flight had been. An open social space creates a totally different atmosphere for the passengers and, I imagine, the staff.

The next time you think about splurging on a business class flight, look for an airline that has an onboard lounge. Emirates is far from the only one.

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