This is my review of the Emirates First Class suite on a Boeing 777-300ER.
The review will run over three articles on different days. Today I want to look at the background to the trip and how I managed to book it.
There was, at the start of 2019, only one ‘realistic’ airline experience on my bucket list – the new Emirates First Class Suite.
You can take a look at the official website for the new suite here.
There are other things I would love to try, such as Cathay Pacific First Class, but the reality of juggling my wife, children and the site means that I can’t just nip off to Hong Kong unless an airline is underwriting the trip.
How to book the Emirates First Class Suite with miles
The Emirates First Class suite WAS achievable. I owe this to a HFP reader who, late last year, made a throw away comment under one of our articles that you could now book the First Class Suite three days before departure.
This was news to me – I thought it was unbookable for Emirates Skywards miles. I was wrong. I started to keep track, and seats did indeed open up three days in advance. Sometimes one, sometimes two, sometimes none – but usually something.
Unless you have no job or family responsibilities, of course, you can’t just rush off to Dubai at three days notice. I planned a trip around an Air France business class review, sorted out my hotels and booked Etihad A380 Business Class coming home so I was guaranteed a seat.
It was an interesting game. I literally wouldn’t know if I would get the seat until I was already on my way. As it happens, I made the booking at 5.45am – just before my taxi arrived to take me to Heathrow – and I cancelled the Etihad flight from the Air France lounge in Paris.
The cost of the one way flight from Dubai to London Stansted was 85,000 Emirates Skywards miles plus £367 of taxes and charges, which is a bit shocking given that there is no Air Passenger Duty on inbound flights.
The reason I wanted to fly home on Emirates, instead of outbound, is that the flight FROM Stansted is overnight which would mean I couldn’t fully appreciate the suite. The outbound leaves Stansted at 21.10, arriving into Dubai at 07.05. The return is more civilised, leaving Dubai at 09.30 and arriving at Stansted at 14.10.
The only upside to offset the high taxes and charges figure is that I got a free chauffeur car at each end. I only saved about £10 getting from my hotel to Dubai International, but it was great having a Tristar driver meet me at Stansted. I was pleasantly surprised, in the middle of the afternoon, that I got back to West London in just 70 minutes.
As I covered in this article, Emirates Skywards miles transfer INSTANTLY from American Express Membership Rewards as long as the accounts are already linked. I wasn’t risking having any points stuck in Skywards if the seat didn’t open up.
And why launch Stansted? Apparently the service is aimed at the tech and pharma companies around Cambridge and Peterborough, such as Glaxo and Astra Zeneca. Stansted is also a major cargo hub.
Emirates generally runs an A380 fleet to Heathrow and Gatwick. Stansted can handle an A380 but no airline operates one. Emirates chose to run a Boeing 777-300ER instead.
A quick word on the Emirates Boeing 777-300ER
The Boeing 777-300ER, of which Emirates has 138, is the only place you will find the new First Class Suite – but only on nine of them. If you want to try this seat, you’ll need to track it down.
Weirdly, Emirates is mixing their best First Class product with an inferior Business Class product. Whilst fully flat, the 2-3-2 layout in Business Class means there is a middle seat in the middle block.
This is really not appealing, and for the solo traveller I didn’t find any of the seats attractive. It is not a herringbone layout, so you are sat directly next to your seat mate. Compare this to the Air France Boeing 777-300ER I flew down on, which is 1-2-1 in Business Class and where, even if you are in the middle pair, your head is about four feet away from that of your neighbour.
This is the background to my trip. In Part 2 on Thursday – click here – I will show you how the flight went in practice. In Part 3, click here, I look at the Emirates First Class food and drink, which includes £250 bottles of wine and £790 bottles of cognac!
You can find out more about the Emirates First Class product on the new 777 fleet on their website here. There is also a video on that page, although we will unveil our own version in Part 2.
How to earn Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit cards (April 2021)
Emirates Skywards does not have a UK credit card. However, you can earn Emirates Skywards miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards. These are:
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 20,000 Emirates Skywards miles. This card is FREE for your first year and also comes with two free airport lounge passes.
- The Platinum Card from American Express (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 30,000 Emirates Skywards miles
- American Express Rewards credit card (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 5,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 5,000 Emirates Skywards miles. This card is FREE for life.
Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Emirates Skywards miles which is an attractive rate. The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Emirates Skywards mile. The Gold card earns double points (2 per £1) on all flights you charge to it.