MGM Grand Air Had ‘Emirates’-Like Luxury In The 1980s

MGM Grand Air set a new standard for luxurious airline status in the 1980s. Emirates Is Now Taking It To the next level. Photo by Richard Silagi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

First class is typically luxurious.  MGM Grand pioneered super-luxurious accommodations in the 1980s.  Emirates is now taking luxury to the next level in 2017.

Flying first class has always been the preferred mode of travel for the privileged among us. Celebrities, dignitaries and star athletes fly first class on luxury airlines that offer every amenity and technological convenience imaginable. Today, the totally private first class suite aboard Emirates is the best example. This exclusive suite is the first of its kind in the world. Top shelf amenities and advanced technology make it unique. Let’s take a look at how far technology and creature comforts have come by contrasting today’s most luxurious first class experience on Emirates with the famous MGM Grand, a favorite of celebrities in the 1980s.

The MGM Grand was favored and supported by Ivana Trump, who frequented coast to coast flights. The airline offered charter service along with regular routes between John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Los Angeles International Airport and flew Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 727 aircraft in the most lavish configurations available at the time.

MGM Grand’s pampered guests enjoyed oversized seats, video monitors with enhanced audio and their very own fax machine. Back in the 1980s, business travelers and VIPs could send an important fax while in the air! Luxury travel has come a long way. In comparison, Emirates first class suites have work stations with USB and HDMI ports. But what … no fax machine? And they call it first class?

Technology and comfort to wow the most discerning traveler

In all seriousness, to elite passengers, up to the minute technology was as important then as it is now. But back in the ’80s, most people had never dreamed of free wifi or high definition TVs like those currently being offered by Emirates. And the entertainment system is not the only thing that is technologically advanced. You can rest your weary bones in your private Emirates suite in an uber-comfortable seat designed in part by NASA.

The optimum position for astronauts is zero gravity, which was literally adopted from NASA and placed into the seats. Maybe you are not flying into space but with zero gravity engineering, today your seat in the sky on Emirates is designed to make you feel like you are sleeping in a cloud! The zero gravity construction completely removes pressure from your shoulders, neck and back. Ah, technology.

In 1987 when Kirk Kerkorian started MGM Grand Air, the all first class cabins had huge swiveling barcaloungers, several private compartments, and two-passenger love seats. Memory foam had not been invented yet but the goose down pillows were immensely popular. The bathrooms featured gold-plated wash basins and faucets. There was an on-board chef with full open kitchen and opulent sit down bar.

Emirates, the pace-setter of luxury today

Air Emirates Boeing 777. Photo Krug100, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Today in Emirate’s first class suite, you can dine on demand on your own private dining table. Enjoy high tea at 40000 feet anytime the mood strikes you. All of the crew are master mixologists and you can enjoy any kind of cocktail imaginable on the cocktail table provided in the suite. Emirates has named cocktails after some of their customers but when we asked who, they would not name-drop (oh well, we tried).

The Emirates bar is available for first and business class customers. Photo: Emirates

Back in the heydey of MGM Grand, the flight crew may not have been cross-trained as professional bartenders but they were all dressed to the nines – in tuxedos, no less. How decadent! In fact, ’80s actress Nell Carter told Robin Leach on the television show, “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” that MGM Grand Air was better than the Concord…and better dressed, no doubt.

MGM was best in class with VHS tapes and cassettes.  Today, no less than 2,500 channels of entertainment will do.

You can have your own kind of film festival in the sky with Emirates’ luxury entertainment system. The system has over 2,500 music and entertainment channels and if that is not enough, passengers can link up with to Netflix account or streaming music service on the free wifi. MGM Grand had a totally luxe set up at the time, as well, so passengers could enjoy their favorite movies on VHS tape or rock out to 80s hair bands (kidding) on cassette tape with noise-canceling headphones.

Even the diets of the rich and famous affect what is served in first class. Back in the day onMGM Grand Air, champagne and caviar were in high demand. Emirates elite flyers can choose from special diets like organic fare or the Paleo diet.

Photo: Emirates

While first class luxury air travel has changed significantly in past decades, much has remained the same. There is still demand for first class from VIPs who expect the highest level of pampering. MGM Grand Air set the standard years ago with its fleet of upgraded DC 68s. Today, Emirates 777 300-ER first class offering has become a model for the epitome of first class air travel. Which begs the question…who will we be comparing Emirates to three decades from now? Only time will tell.