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Emirates A380 First Class Review

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On my RTW 2016 trip, I had the privilege of trying out Emirate’s luxurious First Class cabin, not just once, but three different times! I routed the Emirates flights towards the end of my round the world journey on my return back to the U.S.

The journey back started with the first A380 flight from Barcelona to Dubai (where I stayed for 5 days to meet with friends). The second A380 flight went from Dubai to Milan. And then the third A380 flight went from Milan to New York. Technically, the second and third flights were booked under the same flight, but the plane makes a stop-over in Milan to pick up/drop-off passengers before heading onwards to New York.

The one-way flights on the Emirates First Class can go upwards of $10,000 or more. When I priced out the actual cost of each of the one-way flights from Barcelona to Dubai, Dubai to Milan, and Milan to New York, the estimated total cost would have been nearly $20,000 for all three first class flights! I definitely did not have that kind of money.

So how much did I actually pay for all of those Emirates First Class flights? (drum roll …)

$79.20 – which covers the taxes and fees. Yes, you read that correctly. But how?

Since Emirates is not part of an airline alliance, the airline is still partnered with other airlines, and one of those partners is with Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines has a personal and business travel credit card with Bank of America. At the time in 2015, I had applied to both the personal and business Alaska credit cards. I would spend the minimum requirements within 90 days and then receive the 30,000 Alaska bonus points. With the first two cards, I had total of 60,000 points.

The trick to earning much more Alaska Airline points is to simply, apply for the same cards again! I know it sounds ridiculous that Bank of America would let people do this, but after every 90 days, one would be able to apply to the same personal and business card and get approved for the same cards again and receive the same exact bonus points. So I did do that, and then earned yet again another round of 60,000 bonus points, to bring my total Alaska Airline bonus points to 120,000 Alaska miles!

Onwards to booking flights, I wanted to find award availability with Emirates First using Alaska Airlines search tool. I would search routing from Dubai to New York one-way and the number of required points was 90,000 Alaska miles. Now that’s an amazing redemption. But another trick is to add a stopover, in this case, it would be simply Dubai. So I routed Barcelona to Dubai as the extra flight. And boom, it was ONLY an additional 10,000 Alaska miles, to bring the total miles required at 100,000 Alaska miles for the Barcelona – Dubai – Milan – New York routing ALL in Emirates First. Incredible!

Unfortunately, those Emirates First class redemption rates are thing of the past. Back in March 2016, Alaska intentionally, unannounced, that they would significantly raise the award redemption rates in Business and First by as much as 100%! Depending on the Emirates routing, First class redemptions now require anywhere from 150,000 to 180,000 Alaska air points. Gone are the days of easy Emirates First redemptions, even though it was not surprising that this would likely end.Also, the above credit card churning strategy may also have most likely ended as Bank of America would scrutinize over the number of Alaska Airline credit card applications you have.

So to recap, my three Emirates flights were as follows:

EK186 from Barcelona to Dubai on the Airbus A380 on May 9, 2016. It’s a late afternoon flight leaving at 3:50PM and arriving in Dubai just after midnight next day at 12:35AM.

I flew in First on seat 2K. Since Emirates doesn’t have a lounge in Barcelona, Business and First class passengers have guest access to the Sala Miro lounge.

EK205 from Dubai to Milan on the Airbus A380 on May 16, 2016. It’s a morning flight leaving at 9:45AM and arriving to Milan around 1:00PM.

Again, I flew in First on seat 3A. Emirates does have their own branded lounge at Milan airport.

EK205 from Milan to New York JFK on the Airbus A380 on May 16, 2016. It left in the afternoon at around 3:30PM and arrived at JFK around 7:00PM.

 I flew in First, retaining the same seat at 3A. Going through customs at NYC was a breeze.

Onwards to the actual Emirates First class cabin experience:

My first leg of the journey with Emirates First started out in Barcelona. Since Emirates does not have their own premium lounge at Barcelona airport, they give guest access to the one lounge called Sala Miró VIP Lounge.

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The lounge was decent, however no where near the top standards of Emirates Business or First class lounges.

Emirates First Class Cabin Features and Amenities

After relaxing in the lounge for 1 hour, I headed out to the gate to prepare for boarding. The boarding process was separated with First and Business boarding at a separate gate and Economy board at another nearby gate. One thing I wish was that Emirates had a way to separate the First/Business boarding process as it got confusing, but it wasn’t such a big deal. Once I got into the cabin, I was pleasantly enjoying the cabin interior:

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The photo above is view of neighbor First suite from my window seat. You can see how the suite doors really give ample privacy!

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There was leg room for miles! Since Emirates First didn’t have any overhead bins, you would put your carry on in the corner space under the front table. There are extendable wall straps that can hold bigger rolling carry on luggage from shifting around during the flight.

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Lighted table vanity mirror with some lotion, cream, and wake/sleep sniffing box.

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Next to the seat is a self-serve bar with sparkling water, still water, and other juices and sodas, within easy reach.

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Right in front of the self-serve bar is a tablet that controls the seat position, seat massage, all the lighting in the suite, and also controls the suite doors.

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So before take-off, the friendly flight attendants came around providing a welcome Dom Pérignon champagne drink, Arabic coffee, and a date. They also came around with newspapers/magazines and provided wonderful Bvlgari amenity kits, which included toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, shaver, hair comb, tissues, and Bvlgari fragrance and lotion. Comfortable slippers and pajamas were passed out as well as Emirates branded beach bag. Lots of cool Emirates items to keep!

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Now, after taking off from Barcelona, I noticed something strange in that the plane kept circling around and around. After 45 minutes of circling, the pilot finally came on and mentioned that the landing gear had issues retracting back. I was thinking, uh-oh, that can’t be good. To ease my mind, I decided to simply explore the cabin by meeting up with a fellow business class passenger I had made acquaintance with and hang out with the friendly flight-attendants while the pilots were figuring out if they had to return to Barcelona. In the end, the pilots decided to return and cancel the flight.

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While the flight was dumping fuel, I decided to have some fun and become an Emirates flight attendant, wearing their signature head piece.

Once we landed back in Barcelona, you can imagine the amount of stress and work that the ground crew would need to do in rebooking over 500+ passengers into hotel rooms overnight. Luckily, I got my hotel room all paid for at the Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel along with dinner and breakfast. When I showed up the next morning, they still handed me another food voucher for more breakfast. Nice touch. And since the Emirates plane cancellation was well over 5 hours, under the EU compensation laws, I ended up getting 600 euros. So not bad for one plane cancellation!

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So up and early, I boarded our replacement flight that flew in from Dubai the night before. Luckily, no problems and it seemed like everyone was optimistic for a pleasant on-tim journey towards the Middle East. The flight crew was the same from the day before, so it was fun joking around about the whole cancelled flight situation!

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Emirates Onboard Shower, Spa and Bathroom Amenities

Back in late 2015, Emirates made a short commercial featuring Jennifer Aniston, that poked fun at the US-based airlines. In the commercial, Jennifer Aniston gets up in a bath robe and asks the flight attendants, “where’s the shower?”. And to her dismay, the flight attendants make fun of her for making a ridiculous remark. You can view the Emirates commercial here.

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In actuality, I kept thinking back to the Jennifer Aniston commercial as I went into the Emirates First bathroom. It truly is the biggest airplane bathroom facility I’ve ever seen.

The bathroom has amenity kit drawers, hair dryer, sink, full size toilet, close-in door timed shower, and full line of hand/body soaps and body products.

A flight attendant goes around to each First class passenger and asks what time you would want to take a shower. The showers are limited to around 4-5 minutes, however, on flights where it’s not as full, the flight attendant can manually set it to as long as 8 minutes. There is also a bathroom/shower attendant who freshens up the bathroom and helps with any questions pertaining to the use of the shower.

After you take a shower, they set the table with a post-shower tea, brandy, and fruits. Nice touch!

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If you are hungry for other treats or want to make a drink (without having to ask flight attendant), the front of the First class cabin area has a self-serving mini-bar.

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Emirates Inflight Cocktail Bar and Lounge

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The cool thing about each of the Emirates flight is their inflight bar. The inflight bar is located towards the back of business class on A380. I decided to venture across the business class cabin (which felt like a long journey lol) to get to the inflight bar. There, I had a good time pretending to be making drinks.

The Emirates flight attendants were happy to assist in taking souvenir photos of me (and my acquaintance friend) behind the bar using a Polaroid camera. The inflight bar area is spacious with two couch seatings on each side of the inflight bar area. There is also a big flat screen TV showing the flight path along with extra snacks and treats to grab.

Emirates First Class Dining Experience

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I’ll let the various above photos of my Emirates dining experience speak for itself. Prior to the Emirates flights, I had experience a bunch of other business class flights ranging from United to Qantas to Royal Jordanian to Thai Airways. But nothing was going to prepare me for the thick menu booklet with tons of appetizers, main entrees, and desserts to choose from. So much food, so little room in my stomach!

The appetizers I enjoyed the most was the caviar plate and the Arabic mezze. For the main entrees, I opted to order more of the fish dishes.

And lastly, the drinks, below it was awesome to hold the incredibly expensive Hennessy Paradis bottle that cost upwards of $900 per bottle and the 40 year old Tawny Port. Of course, I had to sample both!

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Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai Airport

Upon arriving to Dubai airport from Barcelona, the flight attendant hands a Fast-Track pass, which allowed me to bypass long lines at customs. That being said, Dubai airport is incredibly HUGE. It was hard to find where to go, but luckily I found my way out!

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After having a great time in Dubai with friends, I headed off to the airport. Emirates has it set-up where Economy class passengers have separate check-in terminal and the Business and First class have their own check-in terminal. It’s a pretty big check-in area for Business and First class passengers!

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Further more, Business and First class passenger lounges are separate as well. Above is the entrance to First Class lounge.

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I was greeted to have breakfast and seated at an empty table within the First lounge breakfast area.

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The rest of the First class lounge is enormous and spans across the second floor of the terminal.

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Overall Emirates First Class Impressions

My experience flying with Emirates First three times all were definitely amazing. It’s unfortunate that Alaska Airlines redemption rates have doubled, so I’m grateful that I was able to take advantage of the low redemption rates prior!

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Have you ever flown Emirates First? What was your experience like?




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