Flying on Emirates is always an amazing experience. Last year I had an opportunity to fly in Emirates first class. This year, I flew in business class.
That’s probably the reverse order that I should have done it, had I planned it out properly. Normally I would have wanted to fly business class first and first class second. That way each flight would have offered a new experience.
The problem with using award miles to fly is that airlines frequently de-value the points, so its in your best interest to spend them quickly. That’s really the main reason I did these flights in reverse order.
Flying Emirates with Miles Is Getting Harder
Around a year ago, it was possible to fly Emirates first class on a one-way ticket using Alaska miles for just 100,000 miles. At the time, it was one of the cheapest ways to fly first class on Emirates. Then, without any warning Alaska increased the cost in miles to 180,000 miles. Alaska provided a brief, but unsatisfying explanation about the de-valuation here.
All of a sudden anyone that was saving Alaska Airline miles to spend for a first class flight on Emirates needed to save even more miles than they originally planned. I round trip ticket that would have cost just 200,000 miles, suddenly increased to 360,000 miles.
This was exactly why I took that Emirates first class flight last year. After the Alaska downgrade, Japan Airlines miles represented the cheapest option to fly first class on Emirates. I took Emirates first class on a round-trip flight for 100,000 Japan Airlines miles. I wasn’t sure how long the Japan Airlines miles cost would stay the same, so the first opportunity I had to book first class, I took it.
Booking business class with Alaska miles wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t a bad deal either.
- Departure: 11:20am
- Arrival: 10:00pm the next day
- Aircraft: Airbus A380
- Cash Cost: $6,622.60
- How I paid: 105,000 Alaska miles and $70.80
- Points Value: 6.3 cents per mile.
Normally I fly out of Philadelphia. The problem with the Philly airport is that they just don’t have as many options for international flights like at New York JFK. Philly does have Lufthansa, British Airways, and Qatar, but I’ve never been able to match their flights with my schedule.
Luckily getting to New York JFK from Philly is relatively easy. I took the Amtrak to New York Penn Station. From Penn Station, its just a matter of taking the Long Island Railroad to Jamaica station.
One of the best parts of flying on a business class or first class flight is the ability to bypass the airport lines. In New York JFK, there is no shortage of people or lines. When I flew last year, I wasn’t able to use the shorter TSA pre-check security line because Emirates wasn’t part of the program. I know in the past, the TSA pre-check mainly included domestic airlines.
I’m not sure when that changed, but this year, I was able to use TSA pre-check which made the security line a 5 minute process. I could see the long line at the economy check-in. There was just one person in front of me in the business class line. After receiving the boarding ticket, I headed to the security line.
After passing security, I headed over to the JFK Emirates Lounge. In Dubai, Emirates has one lounge for business class and one lounge for first class. However, at New York JFK, Emirates has one single lounge that is available for both business and first class customers. You can read my review of the Emirates lounge at JFK here.
The nice part about the Emirates lounge at JFK is it offers direct access to your flight from the lounge. That means you don’t have to plan extra time to leave the lounge and walk over to your boarding gate.
Business class seating is on the upper deck of the Airbus A380. 14 first class seats are located in the very front section of the aircraft. The 14 first class customers receive exclusive access to the showers at the front of the first class section.
Business class is directly behind first class and includes 76 seats. 4 business class seats are in each row. There is a single seat next to the window on each row. Two seats are next to each other in the middle of the aisle.
Even though the two middle seats are close together, there is still plenty of room in between the seats. It’s nothing like the uncomfortable experience in economy seating.
The bar and lounge is right behind the business class section on the upper deck. Emirates operates the bar throughout the flight. It is open to both business class and first class customers throughout the duration of the flight.
Walking to the back bar and lounge during a long flight is really a nice experience. Its such a stark contrast to all of those long uncomfortable domestic economy flights I’ve taken.
Each business class seat fully reclines to a flat position for sleeping. When you first arrive at your seat, you receive a small Bulgari toiletry kit. The kit includes basic toiletries to make your flight more comfortable on your trip. Emirates actually offers one version for men and a separate one for women.
Each business class seat includes a full entertainment center with over 2,500 channels of movies and TV shows. I scanned the library and didn’t come close to seeing all the possible options. You even have the option of watching live TV from your flight.
I left New York JFK pretty early in the morning. So it was a little strange walking down the aisle seeing 10 or 12 screens playing the live testing from the recently fired FBI director.
The seat includes extra soft drinks and universal plug adaptors to charge any type of phone. The remote control controls the entertainment console.
Emirates served the lunch menu on my flight. The menu included the following options:
- Asparagus soup
- Traditional Arabic Mezz
- Seafood Duo
- Confit Chicken, with porcini mushroom sauce
- Roasted Sea Bass
- Rogan Josh
- Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
- Hederow Berry Torte
- Seasonal fruit
- Cheese Board
- Tuna Nicoise
- Lemon and Riotta Ravioli
- Salmon Burger with lemongrass & chilli
- Extremely comfortable seats.
- Emirates provides really amazing customer service.
- Access to the back bar and lounge.
- Really excellent food on board.
- Since I flew Emirates first class last year, there was no way business class would have exceeded that experience. But then again, that’s not really a fair comparison.
The Emirates business class trip was amazing. The service, food, and the whole experience were all really excellent. It’s just too bad that the recent mile de-valuations make it much harder to fly business class on Emirates.
I’ll add one last bit to my experience. When we landed in Dubai, the flight attendants made an announcement that there was a medical emergency on board. They then asked for everyone to remain seated while medical personnel remove that passenger from the flight.
We were on a double decker flight and no one on my level was having any obvious medical distress. My flight through Dubai occurred just a few days after Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar.
The sanctions were taken seriously by the UAE which actually issued a warning that anyone talking favorably about Qatar could receive a 10 year prison sentence. So in my mind, there was the possibility that this medical emergency was really some type of terrorist event and the passengers on the top level were told about a medical emergency to keep us calm.
Thankfully it was not a terrorist incident and everyone was let off the plane after a 20 minute delay. But clearly I wasn’t the only person who thought something else was going on because the upper deck was eerily quiet for that 20 minutes we waited.
When it was all said and done, Emirates actually handled the situation very well. Not being able to see the medical emergency on the lower level caused more than a few people to wonder whether anything else might have been going on.