Emirates has one of the world’s best first class products. Their business class wouldn’t come close to ranking, and their new first class is only on a limited number of planes. But their decade-old first class, while a bit tight on space for its fully enclosed suites with doors, is still a marvel with great amenities, good alcohol and catering, and generally good service.
What really makes Emirates first class special on its Airbus A380 aircraft (and they’re the world’s largest operators of A380s by far) is the first class shower suites.
When showers aren’t in use these super luxe rooms double as first class lavatories. Don’t worry, they’re cleaned between each use. And every passenger in first class can book a shower time. You get 5 minutes of water (water is heavy and burns fuel to carry) which you can turn on and off at will for a longer shower. Even the floor is heated so you don’t step out of your shower onto a cold floor.
On one level it may seem like a gimmick. But a shower at the end of a 14 hour flight, or at the start of a connecting flight after you’ve already flown for 14 hours, is incredibly refreshing. And trust me, the first time you try it you won’t stop grinning from ear to ear.
The only other commercial airline with an onboard shower is Etihad. They have one on their Airbus A380s. It’s much smaller and more cramped than the Emirates shower.
Very few airlines put as much into their soft product as Emirates, whether it’s top wine or liquor or dining on demand. So Emirates first class is always a great way to travel long haul.
It’s also very very available using miles. Perhaps that’s because there are so many first class seats on so many flights and very few people know how to redeem for these seats at a reasonable price.
The first thing I did when I wanted to demonstrate how available these flights are is search for two first class seats on the flight closest to where I live in Austin. When I took the Houston – Dubai flight it was an easy drive and cheaper than buying United tickets and worrying over delays.
Here’s Dubai – Houston availability for two first class passengers in March:
Keeping the month the same I then looked at the flight from my old home town and decided to run a search for Dubai – Washington Dulles. First class is available for two more than half the month, and bear in mind I’m not cherry picking months here.
Here’s also New York JFK and Newark – Dubai in both directions for two first class saver award passengers in March.
Emirates also flies to Boston, Chicago, Dallas Fort-Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, and Seattle. In addition to flights between the US and Dubai they fly New York JFK – Milan and Newark – Athens as well.
You can search for Emirates award availability using Expertflyer which also lets you search for upgrade availability (for upgrades you’ll likely transfer American Express points to Emirates Skywards).
You can also search using the Alaska Airlines and Qantas websites. These availability calendars were made using Award Nexus searching the Qantas frequent flyer site, though I do most of this sort of searching accessing the Qantas site via the KVS Tool.
Emirates itself is a transfer partner of American Express. Their awards in premium cabins get expensive as award pricing is a straight multiple of coach (business is double and first is triple). They have an award calculator instead of an award chart. First class one way awards are more than half the cost of a roundtrip because they only are permitted as ‘Flex Plus’ which – while it no longer gets you extra availability – is cancellable and changeable at no fee.
Alaska Airlines awards are much more expensive than they used to be, with first class pricing very high, these are one way prices:
You can use Japan Airlines miles. Those are tougher to get, the only transferrable points currency currently partnering with JAL is Barclays. However you can move Marriott points to Japan Airlines. They too have devalued their award chart yet they still offer compelling pricing.
For instance stay under 20,000 flown miles roundtrip and an award like New York JFK – Dubai – Bangkok costs 190,000 miles for first class. (JFK-DXB-BKK is 9899 miles each way.)
Korean Air also partners with Emirates. US-Europe is 125,000 miles roundtrip in business class and 170,000 miles in first. US-Dubai is 140,000 miles roundtrip in business and 210,000 roundtrip in first. If you wish to connect beyond the Mideast that’s added as a separate award. Emirates has several other airline partners as well.