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Two weeks ago, Emirates launched what I consider to be the world’s best first-class suite (at least until Singapore’s new product comes along.)

I was fortunate enough to score a seat on the very first flight, from Dubai (DXB) to Brussels (BRU) on December 1, but to save a bit on the fare I actually began my itinerary in Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB), which gave me an opportunity to fly both versions of the EK first class suite — old and new — one after the other.

The old first class is still plenty posh — it’s certainly not something you’ll want to actively avoid — but the new suite is better in absolutely every way. Let’s see exactly what’s changed from one generation to the next.

A Smaller Cabin

While Emirates’ A380s have a gigantic first-class cabin, with 14 suites, the older 777s are a bit more intimate, with just eight. Suites are comparable in size between both planes, and are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration.

The new 777 has just six suites in the same space, so they are noticeably wider. The center suites are especially spacious, and since you don’t have to compromise on the exterior view — as I’ll explain a bit more later — 1E and 2F are the suites I’d pick first.

Much-Improved Privacy

The old model offers automatic sliding doors, and slide-up partitions between center suites, but you’re otherwise exposed to the cabin — a tall passenger walking down the aisle could see inside without much effort.

The new suites, on the other hand, are entirely enclosed, with floor-to-ceiling walls, a large manual sliding door and even a ceiling. You’d really need to open the door or hatch in order to have a peek inside one of these.

Significantly More Space

My two priorities when flying first class are privacy and space, in that order — I’d rather have a smaller suite with a door than a larger one that’s entirely open to the rest of the cabin, but having both is ideal. The old suite offers a bit of privacy, thanks to the sliding door, but it can feel a bit cramped compared to the new model.

The more spacious cabin arrangement allowed for a wider suite — it’s clear this is a big step up before you even step inside. There’s even enough room to move around with the seat in bed mode, which I’ve only otherwise been able to do in the Etihad Apartment.

A Big Tech Upgrade

The Emirates suite was always fairly high-tech — even the first model has a 27-inch touchscreen, and a 2015 update brought 32-inch screens to some planes. There are mechanical window shades, a motorized sliding door and several light fixtures, in addition to a mini-bar that pops up at the touch of a button.

The new suite really takes things to an entirely new level, though. The standout feature is the new virtual windows — there are three in each center suite — but the tech certainly doesn’t stop there. Everything is customizable and on-demand, from the content you choose to watch on the 32-inch high-def display to the color and brightness of the lighting and even the interior temperature. And don’t forget about the video chat ordering — although ultimately that felt a bit excessive to me.

What Hasn’t Changed

The most notable similarity is catering — it’s identical between the two, though you won’t be able to order via video chat in the older suite, of course. High-end liquor and a-la-carte ordering is available on all flights, while you can expect caviar and an expanded menu on most long-hauls.

The service should also be identical, of course, and while my crew was the best I’ve had with Emirates, the flight attendants had been hand-picked for the occasion. You’ll also get turn-down service with high-end bedding, pajamas and the new Emirates amenity kits on overnight flights.

So Which First Class Will You Get?

As of December, there are only two 777s flying with the new suites: A6-EQH, the plane I flew, and A6-EQI. Both are currently assigned exclusively to one daily flight between Dubai and Brussels, and a second between Dubai and Geneva (GVA). For Brussels, be sure to select flights 183 or 184, and for Geneva you want 83 or 84.

Those are the only flights confirmed for now, but expect to hear about other destinations as Emirates takes delivery of more upgraded 777-300ERs. The airline has yet to detail plans for an A380 retrofit, so for now you’ll only find these suites on the 777.

Bottom Line

Emirates successfully took one of the world’s top first-class products and made it even better. The new cabin is far more luxurious, and understated compared to its especially blingy predecessor.

I just wish the airline had plans to roll these new suites out more quickly — for now, only two planes have them, and it’s anyone’s guess when we’ll see them on the first Airbus A380, Emirates’ flagship superjumbo plane. Fewer suites could mean a reduction in award space, too, although even scoring the old cabin on points has become increasingly price-prohibitive these days.

For more on Emirates’ new first-class suite, see:

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