Category Archives: Emirates

Why I Applied for Another Bank of America Alaska Airlines Card

Alaska Airlines has an interesting award program, largely because they’re not a part of any alliance and instead have one-off partnerships with a number of carriers. Two of those partners include Delta and American, so Alaska is often cited as a good program to credit to if you’re not particularly loyal to one carrier as you can credit Delta, American, and Alaska flights to Alaska. As I’ve argued before, the marginal value of a mile can vary wildly depending on how many miles you currently have in your accounts, so it often makes sense to concentrate your mileage earning if you don’t fly a lot.

I currently have about 85,000 Alaska miles. I originally started collecting Alaska miles to redeem for Qantas first class, since Alaska used to be able to book Qantas awards at the same time as Qantas’s own members, which means it was slightly less of a crapshoot to find first class award seats, but that functionality has since been discontinued. This is still a possibility, but you can’t really plan around finding Qantas first class award seats, and now there’s not much of a reason to use Alaska miles for this over American miles (although Alaska charges 70k miles for a one-way first class seat while American charges 72.5k and the stopover rules are slightly different).

Then there’s the oft-talked-about-but-rarely-booked (at least as far as I can tell) Alaska award of Cathay Pacific first class from North America to Africa for 70k miles one way. This is two lengthy flights in Cathay Pacific first class–from North America to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Johannesburg (Cathay’s only destination in Africa)–for the price of one. South Africa is one of my favorite places to visit, so this is definitely a possibility, and 70k miles is much cheaper and a more viable alternative than 100k miles on American for first class to Africa where you’re probably paying through the nose for first class flights on British Airways or 75k miles on United for first class where the best option is waiting 15 days in advance for Lufthansa to open up award availability.

But the real reason why I applied for another Alaska Airlines credit card was to get enough miles to cross the 100k mile mark on Alaska, which gives you the opportunity to book Emirates first class to anywhere in the world. Alaska is the only US-based frequent flyer program to allow you to redeem for Emirates, and even though 100k miles is pricey for a one-way trip, this is probably the best way to experience Emirates first class (your alternative being JAL’s mileage program, which has a distance-based award chart and could thus be cheaper, but the most practical way of accumulating JAL miles is to transfer from SPG, which isn’t that practical for those of us who don’t spend much money).

Which of these redemptions do you think is most worth it? I’ve had the fortune of already flying Emirates first class on the A380 (and experiencing the Emirates first class lounge/terminal in Dubai), and I’ve got a trip planned on Cathay Pacific first class for February, so Qantas is the only one of these I haven’t done. Should I hold out to see if I can snag Qantas space at some point?

Around the World in 100 Hours: Emirates First Class Dubai to London Heathrow

Introduction
United Club San Francisco, International Terminal
United Business Class San Francisco to Seoul
Asiana Airlines Business Class Lounge Seoul
Korean Air Lounge and Singapore SilverKris Lounge Seoul
Singapore Business Class Seoul to Singapore
Ambassador Transit Lounge Singapore
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Singapore
Changi Airport Free Singapore Tour
Singapore Business Class Singapore to Colombo
Transiting Colombo
Lotus and Araliya Lounges Colombo
Qatar Airways Business Class Colombo to Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Premium Terminal Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Doha to Dubai
Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai
Emirates First Class Dubai to London Heathrow
British Airways Concorde Room London Heathrow
British Airways Galleries First Lounge and Club World Lounge London Heathrow
British Airways First Class London Heathrow to San Francisco


Emirates 007
Dubai (DXB) to London Heathrow (LHR)
Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
Depart: 2:30am
Arrive: 7:00am
Duration: 7h 30m
Aircraft: Airbus 380
Seat: 4K

One great thing about the First Class Lounge is that there are gates in the lounge, so again, there’s no need to interact with the riffraff to get onto the plane. This was my first time on an A380, and it’s quite a marvel. The plane is enormous, and they were using three corridors to board everyone on time.

Triple boarding action

Triple boarding action

Similar to the First Class Lounge, my first impressions were that of excess. The suites are enormous, there’s a minibar at every seat, the screen is the largest I’ve ever seen, and they even have a vanity mirror.

My seat, 4K

My seat, 4K

In suite minibar

In suite minibar

Giant screen, snacks, and vanity mirror

Giant screen, snacks, and vanity mirror

Funnily enough, the cabin itself felt a little claustrophobic to me, especially when people had their suite doors closed, but that’s just a natural consequence of having giant, extremely private suites. When your doors are closed, you’re in your own world because the walls are so high, but it also makes the aisles feel crowded.

View of the first class cabin

View of the first class cabin

I had a lot of fun playing around with everything in the suite: there are multiple light sources, including a lamp next to the entertainment screen; the minibar is motorized and goes up and down; the in-flight entertainment and seat are controlled by a removable handheld touchscreen device, and there are multiple massage options.

Seat/entertainment controls

Seat/entertainment controls

The flight attendants also went around introducing themselves to everyone and offered numerous amenities, including incredibly soft pajamas, slippers, eye shades, a large amenity kit, and a bag to hold everything in since they give you so much stuff.

All the goodies that they give out (including a bag to hold everything)

All the goodies that they give out (including a bag to hold everything)

Contents of amenity kit

Contents of amenity kit

And of course, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. The bathrooms are enormous: each bathroom is larger than the bathroom in my apartment in San Francisco. The bathrooms are well-stocked with toiletries, and they have a little pyramid of towels you can use to dry your hands, which is mostly just for show since they have a dedicated bathroom attendant that will replace the used towels so each time you enter the bathroom, the towel pyramid is once again intact.

Sink in the giant bathrooms

Sink in the giant bathrooms with a towel pyramid

Amenities in the bathroom

Amenities in the bathroom

Shower!

Shower!

Shortly after takeoff, a flight attendant asked if I wanted to take a shower, and of course I said yes, even though I had just showered in the lounge. When it was time for me to shower, the flight attendant escorted me to the bathroom and explained everything in the bathroom to me–not just the shower–down to how to flush the toilet. She was quite thorough.

When explaining the shower itself to me, she noticed that the flooring of the shower moved slightly, so there was an awkward interaction where she asked the bathroom attendant to tell the purser about it since the flight attendant was worried about passenger safety, but it was more like a power struggle since the bathroom attendant didn’t seem to like the flight attendant and just sort of ignored her, which led to a passive aggressive exchange. In my mind, I was just like, “I don’t care about safety! I just want my shower on a plane!”, and eventually, I was able to convince everyone that it was okay and that I was a strong, young man who can keep his balance in the shower in spite of a moving floor, but not before I was trapped in the bathroom with a flight attendant, bathroom attendant, and purser for several minutes.

Anyway, the shower was amazing. You only get 5 minutes of water (but the flight attendant said that I could request more, likely because most passengers weren’t taking showers), but I honestly didn’t need even that since you can turn the water on and off. It was honestly a better shower than I’ve gotten in some hotels (and definitely better than most airport lounges) since the shower was super clean, the toiletries were awesome (they even had special scrubs), and the water pressure and temperature were good. And then I got to change into the super soft pajamas and blow dry my hair. On an airplane.

Since the flight was a red-eye flight, most passengers just slept the whole way. I was slightly surprised by the fact that the cabin was completely full and that no one except for my friend and me seemed that excited to be flying in Emirates First Class on the A380. You can shower! In the sky! This seemed lost on all of the business travelers.

This also meant that there wasn’t a full meal service, and the on-demand dining options weren’t as extensive as I would’ve expected from Emirates, but the drink options were as ridiculous as one might expect.

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Fruit plate

Fruit plate

Omelette

Omelette

I wasn’t very hungry after having feasted in the lounge, so I just opted for some lighter fare. The food was generally good, although I was a little surprised that the fruit wasn’t that ripe.

After eating, I decided to nap for a little bit. The seat converts to a fully flat bed, and it’s quite spacious. Lots of room to roll around and do whatever. And since you can close the door completely, you don’t have to feel self-conscious about drooling/curling up in a fetal position/masturbating. I’m actually curious if flight attendants have to deal with that.

Suite in bed position

Suite in bed position

So much room in the suite

So much room in the suite

I intentionally didn’t sleep for long as I was trying to readjust to San Francisco time, so I then spent some time exploring the plane. At the front of the first class cabin between the bathrooms, there’s an extensive self-serve bar stocked with very high quality alcohols. There’s also a larger bar in the very back of the upper deck which serves both business and first class that’s meant to be a social area. There weren’t very many people there given that it was a red eye, but it was a nice area to visit. There was another flight attendant who was extremely friendly and offered to take pictures of me behind the bar and gave me a picture souvenir using a Polaroid camera.

Self serve bar

Self serve bar

Self serve Dom

Self serve Dom

Upper deck bar

Upper deck bar

When I got back to my seat, I of course had to use the call button at least once. Mostly because they label the call button as calling “room service”. A flight attendant was quick to attend to me within 5 seconds of my hitting the button.

This is what happens when you press the call button

This is what happens when you press the call button

I spent the rest of the flight using ICE, Emirates’ in-flight entertainment system. They have a vast selection and overall one of the best in-flight entertainment systems I’ve ever used.

Giant table + super high class entertainment options

Giant table + super high class entertainment options

Flying Emirates First Class in the A380 is one of the most extravagant experiences I can imagine. You could actually live on one of these planes, given the showers and amount of space they devote to each first class passenger. This, along with the First Class Lounge in Dubai, should go on the bucket list of any serious miles aficionado.

Around the World in 100 Hours: Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai

Introduction
United Club San Francisco, International Terminal
United Business Class San Francisco to Seoul
Asiana Airlines Business Class Lounge Seoul
Korean Air Lounge and Singapore SilverKris Lounge Seoul
Singapore Business Class Seoul to Singapore
Ambassador Transit Lounge Singapore
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Singapore
Changi Airport Free Singapore Tour
Singapore Business Class Singapore to Colombo
Transiting Colombo
Lotus and Araliya Lounges Colombo
Qatar Airways Business Class Colombo to Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Premium Terminal Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Doha to Dubai
Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai
Emirates First Class Dubai to London Heathrow
British Airways Concorde Room London Heathrow
British Airways Galleries First Lounge and Club World Lounge London Heathrow
British Airways First Class London Heathrow to San Francisco


The Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai is one of the most ridiculous things that I’ve ever experienced in my life.

We arrived in Dubai at Terminal 1, and we decided to head to the lounge first before heading out into the city since we had a very long layover. So we made the very long trek to Terminal 3, which is technically accessible by walking.

I’m not sure if we ever made it to Terminal 3, since we wound up finding a First Class Lounge that wasn’t the lounge that we wound up in later. But not knowing this at the time, we were still astounded by the size of the lounge, the services offered, and the multitude of people just waiting to serve someone.

Entrance to a First Class Lounge

Entrance to a First Class Lounge

Lots of space

Lots of space

So much space

So much space

Directions in the lounge

Directions in the lounge

There were maybe fewer than 10 passengers in the lounge at the time, so there were absolutely no problems finding seating or flagging someone down to bring you something. Before heading out into the city, we decided to sample some of the many food offerings.

Food offerings at one station

Food offerings at one station

More food offerings

More food offerings

Sushi

Sushi

Buffet items

Buffet items

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Dining room

Dining room

The sheer number of things offered in the buffet was pretty incredible. It ranged from sushi to Balik salmon to Arabic food to a giant round of parmesan. They also offered a full menu of foods to order.

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After grabbing some food, we headed out to the city since our continuing flight wasn’t until late at night. This involved going the wrong way through a security checkpoint, walking outside on the tarmac briefly, worrying that we might get arrested, and eventually finding our way to the arrivals exit.

Upon arrival back at the airport, we ended up going through the first class check-in for Terminal 3. It’s an unnecessarily large check-in hall and a long walk to actually get into the terminal.

First Class Check In

First Class Check In

Once in the terminal, we again made our way to what we thought was the First Class Lounge.

The real first class lounge?

The real first class lounge?

After entering the lounge and walking around, we started getting really confused. Since the lounge we had been in earlier was so large, we thought we had to be in the same lounge as this morning. Things looked pretty similar as well, so we just thought that we were maybe in a different section of the same lounge.

But then we realized that we were in a completely new lounge. And this one was even more massive than the one we had been in earlier. This lounge spanned the entirety of the terminal, complete with its own duty free shops.

Duty free shopping, just for First Class passengers

Duty free shopping, just for First Class passengers

At this point, we just started laughing. Emirates has at least two giant lounges in Dubai, this one having multiple duty free shops, multiple dining areas, multiple shower rooms, etc. We couldn’t believe that they would devote so much space to first class passengers, but it was true.

And this time around, we were actually the only two passengers in the entire lounge. So essentially, it was like we had an entire airport terminal to ourselves. Of course we had to take advantage of the service and ate a five-course meal.

Appetizers

Appetizers

Soup

Soup

Salmon

Salmon

Wagyu beef burger

Wagyu beef burger

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Trio of desserts

If this were a restaurant, the meal would’ve easily cost at least $100 a head just due to service, especially since we had our own personal waiter who doted on us, and the ingredients were generally of high quality. Some things were quite good, including the soup, salmon, and desserts. But the burger was cooked well done even though I specifically told them to err on the rare side of medium rare and that I wouldn’t hold it against them if my burger were a little bloody. Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever had a proper burger outside of the US.

After dinner, there was more time to explore the lounge, including the shower rooms, relaxation room, and game room.

Map of the lounge

Map of the lounge

Shower room

Shower room

Bathroom

Bathroom part of shower room

Recliner in the relaxation room

Recliner in the relaxation room

Computers

Computers

Game room

Game room

Looking down on the normal terminal

Looking down on the normal terminal

Overall, the lounge is somewhere I could easily live, even if there aren’t proper beds. The lounge is so big that it feels empty even at its most crowded. Good food and drinks abound, and there are people waiting at every corner to serve you. Any special requests that I had were quickly addressed (including asking for a non-dairy fruit smoothie with no tropical fruits), and service was impeccable.

Everyone talks a lot about Emirates First Class for the shower in the A380, but I think the First Class Lounge is something that should also not be missed.