Emirates Airlines is always ranked among the world’s best airlines. In the 2017 world airline awards Emirates was ranked 4th overall, #2 in the First Class category and was awarded the best First Class Amenities. Since I started playing “the points game” I have wanted to fly the exclusive Emirates first class product. Since nearly all Emirates flights from the United States go through Dubai, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to break up the 24 hours of flying to South Africa by spending a couple days there.
Emirates’ US Gateways
Emirates flies to 12 US cities. All flights route through Dubai except the two fifth-freedom routes JFK-MXP and EWR-ATH, meaning you can fly one of the best First Class products to Europe for a fraction of the typical cost. Emirates flies Orlando and Fort Lauderdale to Dubai five days per week, but all of the other US gateways feature daily flights directly to Dubai.
How I Booked Emirates First Class with Points
Since Emirates isn’t part of any airline alliance it can be a bit tricky to book their premium cabins with miles/points. Emirates does have partnerships with Qantas, Japan Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. Even though I have never flown on any of these airlines I was able to take advantage of my loyalty to Starwood (Marriott) hotels! When you transfer 20,000 SPG starpoints to a partner (Japan Airlines) you get 5,000 bonus points.
Booking Emirates First Class with JAL miles transferred from SPG requires a little luck and a bit of planning. You can only transfer 79,999 points per day, so in order to take advantage of the bonus you’ll only want to transfer 60,000. Starpoints also take about a week to show up in your JAL mileage bank account. JAL has a distance based award chart so Orlando-Dubai-Cape Town falls in a category costing 135,000 miles per person, so we had to make 4 transfers. JAL also has a family pooling option, so we could get our miles quicker by transferring miles from both our SPG accounts.
After moving some Chase points to Marriott then over to SPG we had enough (220,000) starpoints to transfer to JAL for our First Class trip from Orlando to Dubai to Cape Town. Once you have enough miles in your JAL account you have to call to book Emirates awards. I found the wait times to be long minimum 25 minutes even when I call the minute the US customer care center opens. After 3 tries I was able to get us both booked in First Class for our desired flights and I was ready to plan the rest of our trip!
Emirates First Class Cabin
Emirates is the only airline in the world to fly exclusively wide-body jets – the 777 and A380. This means the First and Business class cabins should feel very roomy and spacious. Business class is set up 2-3-2 meaning there are 3 seats that don’t have direct aisle access. First class is more roomy at 1-2-1, but still feels a little cramped compared to the Etihad First Class Apartment. Both of our Emirates flights were on the 777, but the aircraft from Dubai to Cape Town was definitely newer.
When you enter the first class cabin there is no mistaking the decor. Everything is reminiscent of Dubai – Gold, fine wood finishes, and even finer champagne! Each suite has an automatic door that give you maximum privacy, and one of my favorite touches in the cabin was when the lights dim the ceiling lights up like a sky of stars!
The Food and Drinks
The food and drink menu was pretty extensive for our 14 hour flight from Orlando to Dubai. In Emirates first class it is dining on demand, so when you’re hungry they cook. As you would expect, I started with a glass of 2006 Dom Perignon because why not? This lead to several more glasses as the flight attendants did not like seeing my champagne glass half-full! The canape was a meatball that didnt seem to match anything on the menu, but it was very delicious! I had caviar and a smoked venison salad for my appetizers, and chose the Rojan josh (spicy lamb curry) for my entree. Looking back at the pictures I chose very unphotogenic food and the cabin was pretty dark, which means poor quality iphone pictures- sorry! Everything I ate was wonderful! I skipped dessert and asked for my seat to be made into a bed.
There was a smaller menu for the flight from Dubai to Cape Town, but I had a beautiful medium rare filet and you guessed it, more Dom Perignon 🥂!
Emirates First Class Service and Amenities
We got to experience Emirates first class two different ways. On our flight to Dubai the cabin was completely full. From Dubai to Cape Town, Mallory and I were the only passengers in the first class cabin. I have to say both flights the service was outstanding. The crew went above and beyond expectations to make sure we had an enjoyable flight.
Skytraxx ranked Emirates number 1 for first class amenities, and it is very clear why. Beautiful Bvlgari fine leather amenity kits, stylish moisturizing pajamas, and a second amenity kit in the vanity mirror containing skin products and sleep/focus smell boxes.
Emirates was also ranked #1 for inflight entertainment at the world airline awards. The screen was massive, one of the biggest if not the biggest in the air. The operating system was easy enough to use, although on the flight from Orlando to Dubai (older plane) the remote kept having to reboot itself and wasn’t as responsive as the newer plane’s system. There were plenty of choices of new releases, but beware everything is edited to a PG level. Mallory and I both watched Fist Fight with Charlie Day and Ice Cube and some of the edits to remove bad language may have made the movie even funnier! When playing games Mallory’s system froze a couple times, so we weren’t able to finish our game of battleship.
For me the Wi Fi only worked intermittently even though I purchased a 500 MB plan and used less than 100MB I had a hard time getting anything to load.
Where does Emirates First Class Rank?
I have now flown the top three first class products as ranked in the World Airline Awards – Etihad, Emirates, and Lufthansa. I would say Emirate first class is my second favorite. My experience in Etihad’s first class apartment and the amount of space you get is unmatched. We didn’t get to fly on Emirates A380 to try their shower, so maybe that would change my mind… We will have to wait and see! Emirates first class is an amazing product and it’s no wonder why they charge such a high price for a great product, but as I explained above anyone can experience it!
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How would you rank Lufthansa, Emirates, and Etihad on their first class products? Let me know in the comments below!