- Booking the Flight
- Using Marriott Rewards Points towards an Emirates First Class Award Ticket
- Finding Open Award Space
- A380 Aircraft
- Experiencing the Suite
- Using the Shower
- My Selections
- First Class Bar
- Final Thoughts
Flying Emirates first class is a once in a lifetime experience. I recently had an opportunity to fly Emirates first class on a flight from New York JFK to Bangkok with stopovers in Dubai and Milan. This article provides a detailed review of my experience on the first leg of the Emirates first class flight from New York to Dubai.
- New York JFK to Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Departure: 10:55pm
- Arrival: 8:11pm (next day)
- Miles: 6,832
- Duration: 12 hours and 16 minutes
- Aircraft: Airbus A380
- Seat: 2A
- Cash Cost: $19,729
- How I paid: 155,000 Japan Airlines miles and $87 of taxes.
*The cash cost represents the entire cash cost of the round trip. This article discusses the first leg of the round trip ticket I took to Dubai.
Booking the Flight
Round trip tickets in first class on Emirates can cost anywhere from $18,000 to $25,000. I paid for the round trip ticket with 155,000 Japan Airlines miles and $87 in taxes. I’ve never flown on Japan Airlines before, so accumulating that many miles took a few steps.
I focused on Japan Airlines because after the recent Alaska Airlines award chart de-valuation, Japan Airlines currently offers the best price in miles for flying Emirates in first class. For more information about Japan Airlines miles, see: the best way to book Emirates first class.
Starwood is a transfer partner of Japan Airlines. For every 20,000 Starwood points transferred to an airline, you receive an extra 5,000 miles. I transferred 125,000 Starwood points to Japan Airlines. Those points converted into 155,000 Japan Airlines miles. The extra 30,000 miles were added as part of Starwood’s 5,000 points bonus for every 20,000 points transferred.
Earning Starwood points can be challenging. I was able to earn 50,000 points for opening two Starwood American Express credit cards, a personal card and a business card. However, there was still a large gap I needed to fill to acquire enough points for the trip.
Using Marriott Rewards Points towards an Emirates First Class Award Ticket
Surprisingly, Marriott’s recent acquisition of Starwood provided a unique opportunity to fly first class on Emirates. When the Starwood acquisition closed, Marriott opened a temporary window to transfer points between Starwood and Marriott (see: SPG Platinum Shortcuts for Marriott Rewards Members). The transfer window allowed Marriott points to be converted into Starwood points at a rate of 1 Starwood point for every 3 Marriott Rewards points.
With extensive business travel, I managed to accumulate a large amount of Marriott points (see: Marriott Platinum Challenge). I rarely redeemed the Marriott points because I never saw many worthwhile redemption values. Free hotel nights were expensive on Marriott’s award chart. Prior to the acquisition, I originally intended to use the Marriott points towards one of the Marriott flight and hotel packages.
However, when Marriott opened the transfer window to Starwood, I decided to transfer my Marriott points to Starwood for the Emirates first class redemption. I transferred 225,000 Marriott points into 75,000 Starwood points. I combined those points with the 50,000 existing Starwood points I held and transferred them to Japan Airlines.
Transferring Marriott points into Starwood points was instant. Transferring Starwood points into Japan Airlines miles took 3 days. The next step involved booking an award ticket on Emirates through Japan Airlines.
Finding Open Award Space
I use ExpertFlyer to check for open award space. Expert Flyer lets you know if any award ticket space is available on a particular flight. If no award space is available, you can set an alert so you will be notified if any award space opens at a later date.
The other benefit of Expert Flyer is that you can see if seats are available, but not yet eligible for an award ticket. Airlines frequently try to sell as many cash tickets as possible. The airlines only make those seats eligible for award tickets closer to the actual flight date. Expert Flyer’s seating chart view shows you if there are open seats. If you see multiple open seats in first class, there is a good chance those seats will eventually be eligible for an award ticket booking.
I traveled to Penn Station in New York on Amtrak and transferred took the Long Island Railroad to JFK airport (See: Transportation by Train to JFK). Emirates offers chauffeur service for first class customers similar to Etihad’s Chauffeur service. However, both Etihad and Emirates recently stopped provided the free chauffeur service for award tickets. I managed to use Etihad’s chauffeur service when I flew on the Etihad First Apartments this past summer right before Etihad changed the rules for their chauffeur service.
The check-in process for Emirates was easy. The flight to Dubai left New York late at night so the airport crowd was much lighter than normal. The one downside of Emirates is they don’t participate in TSA pre-check, so security takes longer than what I’m used to for pre-check. Emirates provides access to a priority security line, but that line still feeds into the general security line so you don’t save a tremendous amount of time.
Passengers boarding Emirates first class from New York board directly onto the plane from the Emirates first class lounge. Business class and first class are on the second level of the Airbus A380 aircraft. The 16 first class seats are in the front of the plane. The 76 business class seats sit in the middle of the plane.
A large bar open to both business class and first class customers takes up the very back of the second level behind business class. Economy class occupies the first level of the plane. Economy class customers don’t have access to the second level of the plane.
Experiencing the Suite
The first class section includes two aisles with 4 rows of first class suites ordered in a 1 x 2 x 1 pattern. The first class suites sport a distinctive wood paneled, gold design.
Each first class suite includes a fully reclining leather seat and a personal entertainment monitor. Virtually everything inside the suite is controlled electronically from the entertainment to the food service, and even the suite doors, which close for privacy when sleeping.
Entertainment options include over 100 different movies, 90 TV channels, 71 audio channels, and various news headlines. Noise cancelling headphones underneath the seat console connect into a headphone port next to the armrest for listening to programs from the entertainment console.
Using the Shower
First class passengers have access to two spa style bathrooms at the front of the first class section. Each bathroom includes a shower with enough hot water for a 5 minute shower. Passengers interested in a shower sign up for a specific 30 minute block of time with the flight attendants.
I used the shower prior to landing in Dubai after waking up from a nap. The hot water from the shower felt great. Five minutes goes by fast, so keep an eye on the timer inside the shower. Just keep in mind the water pressure declines pretty fast during the last 30 seconds.
Food and drink service in first class is available on demand at any time in the flight. Just press the service button and a flight attendant will take your order.
A few of the notable items on the menu included:
- Caviar – Presented with a traditional selection of finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon, served with melba toast and blinis.
- Butternut Squash Soup – Whipped cream and roasted pumpkin seeds.
- Chicken Consomme – With wild mushrooms.
- Traditional Arabic Mezze – Spread of local savory dishes including houmous, moutabel, muhammara, shanklish salad, tabouleh, seafood salad, stuffed vine leaves, lamb kibbeh, spinach fatayer, and cheese sambousek.
- Chicken Caesar Salad – With romaine lettuce, quail egg, Parmesan, and an oven baked potato ring.
- Poached Lobster – Served with celeriac mousseline and herb vinaigrette.
- Slow Braised Lamb Shank – Served off the bone with thyme reduction, mashed potatoes, glazed turnips, and carrots.
- Murgh do Pyaza – Chicken in Hyderbadi style onion gravy, served with vegetable korma and steamed basmati rice.
- Pan Seared Salmon Fillet – Served with herb butter, saffron risotto and steamed green vegetables with mint.
- Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini – Roasted tomato sugo, kalamata olives and feta.
- Poached Sea Bass Fillet – Served with tomato and saffron sauce, broccoli and barley risotto with porcini mushrooms.
- Chocolate Tart – Served with vanilla nut bread and raspberry coulis.
- Apple and Blackberry Delice – with apple jelly and blackberry preserve.
- Seasonal Fruit – an assortment of fresh cut fruit.
- Cheese Board – Carefully chosen selection of fine boutique cheeses from around the world.
- Sandwiches – Barbecue chicken with mustard mayonnaise, smoked salmon and cream cheese, or brie with fig chutney.
- Sweet and Sour Prawns – served with egg fried rice.
- Creste Di Galli Bolognese – Crescent pasta in beef and tomato sauce, served with Parmesan.
- Asparagus and porcini mushroom quiche – served with caramelized onion marmalade.
- Selection of pastries – battenberg cake, chocolate salted caramel, carrot cake, and raspberry opera gateau.
- Fresh Juice – choice of orange, grapefruit, raspberry and mint smoothie, or beetroot apple celery and ginger detox drink.
- Mushroom Omelette – Served with baked beans, grilled tomato, spinach, and sauteed potatoes with onions.
- Scrambled Eggs with Chives – Grilled sourdough, served with veal sausages, rosti, baked beans, mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes.
- French Toast – Poached peaches and vanilla mascarpone.
- Continental Cold Plate – Sliced grilled chicken, beef pastrami, red leicester, and emmental.
- Breakfast Cereal – Cornflakes or Muesli.
The drinks menu included a full range of champagne, red and white wine, mixed drinks, beer, and soft drinks.
If your interested in the most expensive drink options on the menu, the first two white and red wine options represent items exclusive to first class. The other items below those represent business class options which are less expensive.
- Caviar and Poached Lobster.
Both items were excellent. The caviar quality was comparable to the caviar served on my Singapore Suites flight.
- Pan Seared Salmon Fillet.
- Chocolate Tart.
- Fresh cut fruit and french toast.
Emirates first class offered excellent food and service. Since the food was available on demand you were at risk of gorging yourself with all of the great options available at a press of a button.
First Class Bar
First class customers have access to two on board bars. A smaller self-service bar located in the front of the plane by the two first class showers and a much larger full bar at the back of the plane past the business class section. The larger bar at the back of the plane is available to both first class and business class customers.
The larger bar in the back of the plane offers a full bar staffed by an Emirates flight attendant. All drinks and food at the bar are free for business and first class. A large satellite TV attached to the wall on the other side of the bar offers sporting events or news to customers sitting around the bar area.
Customers are free to stand around the bar as long as they’d like to stretch their legs or socialize with the other customers on board. In the event of turbulence, two seating areas with seat belts occupy each side of the bar.
What an amazing flight! If you have the available points, I highly recommend experiencing Emirates first class at least once. Virtually every aspect of the flight was exceptional. The only downside that I can think of is that flying international first class like this can ruin your ability to tolerate flying economy on long flights.
So far I’ve had the opportunity to fly international first class on Etihad’s First Apartments, the Singapore Suites, and most recently with this flight on Emirates. You really can’t go wrong flying on either of those three airlines in first class. They all offer incredible experiences.