Emirates A380 First Class, Washington Dulles to Dubai
Emirates First Class tickets are, for me, one of the best uses of Alaska Airlines miles that are out there. For only 100,000** miles you can route to Asia, Africa, or Europe through Dubai and include a stopover for as long as you like.
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To start, here’s a great video of the on board experience.
Originally we booked this ticket to fly out of Dallas, TX instead of Dulles, VA. Just about two weeks before we were to leave, we found out that Emirates decided to switch planes on the Dallas route from an A380 to a Boeing 777. While this may not seem like too big of a deal for most people, half of the entire reason we wanted to fly on Emirates was for their amazing A380 product. The A380 has a shower onboard for first class passengers and also an onboard bar at the back of the upper deck for both business and first class passengers.
Luckily, we managed to call Alaska and get the flights changed. Because of our MVP Gold 75k status, we weren’t charged any fees of any kind to make the change.
Check In Experience
What a disaster.
I figure I’ll start out this section with that phrase to give you an idea of what a fuster cluck the Emirates counter was at Dulles.
First off, as happens in most non-hub cities, a lot of the employees are contracted out, and you’re not getting a true airline specific employee. I would have expected the contracted workers to be working the economy check in counter and the emirates employees handling the customer experience on the first class. This, however, was not the case in Washington Dulles. The Emirates employees were all working coach and we had the “pleasure” of working with a contracted employee who would rather be anywhere else.
Me: “Hello, Good Morning!”
Her: “Passports please”
Me: “Here you are…”
Her: “Do you have any other passports?”
Us: “No, why would we have any other passports?”
(this is where radio silence kicks in until the boarding passes were issued)
Her: “Jon, you have lounge access, Ben, you do not have lounge access. Please pass through security on your left, have a nice day”
I’m sorry, What?! It was at this point where we got a little DYKWIA. For those who don’t know, that stands for “do you know who I am” and basically it’s that person who gets loud and angry in public spouting “Do You Know Who I Am?!” in order to get something they usually don’t deserve. In this case, we absolutely deserved it, so we got a little DYKWIA.
She told us to go over there and wait for her supervisor, to which I snapped and replied quite loudly: “No, I will not go to your supervisor. Your supervisor will come to me. NOW.” Apparently that got the supervisor’s attention and he stepped over to find out what was going on. When he looked at the reservation he said the reason that Ben didn’t get a lounge access pass was because that he was on an employee ticket. Obviously this can’t be true, considering we both paid for our ticket with miles and we were booked on the same ticket, the same record locator.
So, we started making even more noise and getting even louder until an actual Emirates employee showed up to handle the situation. Her solution? A pen.
Since she couldn’t seem to get the boarding pass to print the lounge access, she just decided to write it on the boarding pass herself. Classy.
To make the entire process even more insulting, when we tweeted Emirates for support they told us that if we wanted lounge access we should get in touch with Alaska Airlines. What the hell does Alaska Airlines have to do with giving us lounge access for a ticket? The entire situation was handled very poorly and we were already off to a bad start.
Emirates usually makes an Emirates controlled lounge available to its passengers in the majority of their destination cities, but they don’t have one in DC. Instead they share the Air France lounge and upon check in, we were shuttled off to the “private first class” area of the lounge, which was pretty lame. It consisted of a Nespresso machine, some stale croissants wrapped in plastic, and a wifi that was barely functional. It was so bad that we didn’t even bother to take any photos of the lounge. The business class area was 10x as large and had about 5x as many options for food and drinks. Safe to say we didn’t stay here very long and wanted to get on the plane ASAP.
Boarding was delayed about 30 minutes, but once we did get to the gate, we headed to the first class section of the gate. The A380 has two levels, the first and business class passengers are given their own jet bridge as to not have to walk through economy (because who could DARE be seen with the riff raff below, am I right?). As we headed down the jet bridge a representative came out stating that the jet bridge was broken, and we would all have to board with all the economy passengers.
If you’re keeping track, we’ve got a botched check in, a botched lounge experience, and now a botched boarding. This trip is off to an excellent, very #firstclass start!
I wasn’t having any of it, and I know Ben wasn’t either, so we pretty much pushed our way through the economy jet bridge and made our way to the front of the line J
Once we got to the front the agent said “Oh, sir! What are you doing down here? You should be up top!” We told her that the jetbridge was broken, and she apologized that she was not able to escort us personally to our seats, but ensured us that once we got upstairs we would be properly taken care of. Boy, was she right.
The Inflight Adventure
The first class cabin is amazing. No, seriously, its over the top. Like, it’s everything you would expect from an airline that prides itself on being the best, in everything. Gold everywhere. Bird’s eye maple lined seats and walls. Everywhere. Fresh flowers at every seat. Individual mini bars at each seat… ya know what? Why don’t I just shut up and let some of the pictures speak for themselves?
As soon as we were seated we were greeted by our in flight attendant Dali and offered some wonderful dates. She left and shortly came back with a glass of champagne and a cold or warm towel. Being it was pretty chilly outside, we opted for the warm. We were also given a tour of our seats because they were pretty complicated, with more buttons, drawers, and compartments than on any other airplane seat we’ve flown. Next were the pajamas, amenity kits, writing kits, and even a large cotton tote to take all of our “goodies” with us when we left. And finally, we were presented with the menu, which was more like a binder, all presented in a gorgeous leather bound journal.
The staff on board could not have been nicer. We told them about our crummy on the ground experience and they vowed, personally, to make sure that this flight was the best one that we’ve ever had in our lives.
The plane taxied down the runway and we were able to watch take off through the camera on the tail on the large 24 inch monitor at our seats.
After take off the fun began.
Dom Perignon. Any questions?
For the record, we each finished a bottle (that’s $150 each. Keep track as the running tally at the end might surprise you)
They were served with an amuse bouche, which is probably the only time in my life I’ll use the words amuse bouche.
For our appetizer we both decided on the caviar … because … caviar! I admit, I’d never had it before, and was kind of ashamed sitting in first class asking our flight attendant how she suggested eating it. She was amazing, and laughed right along with us, and told us exactly how it should be done.
Afterwards, we followed up with the Arabic Mezze, listed as a “starter” but was HUGE! It could have been a meal in and of itself.
For dessert we opted for the the passion fruit tart with raspberry coulis, it was accompanied by an individual box of Godiva Chocolates. We also had a wonderful bottle of the dessert wine between the two of us ($40). It was sweet and delicate and really mixed well.
We took some time after this to get a tour of the cabin. Including the shower facilities (also the bathroom when the shower isn’t in use) and the first class bar. This bar is at the front of the plane and is for the use exclusively of the first class passengers. This is different from the social lounge in the back, which is mixed with both business and first class passengers.
Right from the beginning of the flight, Dali said that we “absolutely must come and enjoy the bar in the back, because it’s amazing.” It should be noted that she didn’t mention this to anyone else in first class, probably because at least two of the other people in first class were total jackasses and jerks, and let’s be honest, we are pretty cool people.
I promised that I would go check it out, but she had to lend me her hat to wear behind the bar and pose for pictures. She took it one step further and said that she had an onboard polaroid camera and would make sure to get us mementos of the flight!
We headed back to the bar and met Mike, our amazing bartender for the afternoon. He made sure to bring the good stuff from the front of the plane just for us, since the drinks served are usually for business class passengers, and if the first class passengers want premium spirits or wine, they will bring them to the back especially for them. This was the case, as in Emirates First they serve Hennessy Paradis (retails for upwards of $800 a bottle) and in business class they only serve Hennessy Privé (around $400 a bottle).
It also created some fun, yet awkward moments when the business class passengers saw us being served a different champagne and cognac then they were, and that he wasn’t allowed to serve them first class beverages. #firstworldproblems.
We hit some pretty intense turbulence at this point, so we all strapped in to the seats along the outside of the bar, and since we just had our drinks filled, it was a great opportunity to truly enjoy the sipping potential of this wonderful Hennessey. It was also a really great chance to talk to the flight attendants for about 25-30 minutes, and we got to learn about them and their countries. Also, we got a lot of ideas of what to do in Dubai, South Africa, etc. After all, flight attendants travel the world more than anyone else, so they are the ones to talk to about where to go and what to see! We got back up after turbulence, and Mike insisted on giving us a tasting flight of all three Hennessys. We did the math, and at this point we were up to about $450 in Cognac, finishing at least half the bottle and tasting some of the others.
We headed back to our seats which at this point had been made into a bed for us to take a quick nap. As it was a daytime flight, we were already pretty well awake from our good night’s sleep in DC, but knowing that we were landing at 8am into Dubai, it was a smart idea to at least get a good 3-4 hours of shuteye to hit the ground running.
Before the flight took off, we scheduled our showers for two hours before landing. That way we could arrive refreshed and clean, ready to see the sights in Dubai.
Trying to explain in this post about how freaking unbelievable and amazing the shower is wouldn’t do it justice, so Ben’s going to give that its own post, but for some teaser photos:
Upon leaving the shower, the two shower attendants were waiting for us both with some tea and fresh fruit. We stayed a bit chatting with them both, finding out they were from the Philippines, and since we have a trip coming up soon we started to ask for suggestions of places to go and foods to eat, etc.
With that, our lunch was ready to be served back at our seats.
I chose to have a fruit smoothie and sparkling water, with a bread basket and soup. For the main course, a salmon filet with vegetables. The salmon was soft, juicy, and excellent. The soup had a flavor that was so amazing you’d think you were at a five star restaurant.
As we landed, we opted for the belly camera, and had views of Dubai underneath us on the approach.
Just before landing we switched to the tail cam and got to watch the big beast of an airplane land, throw engines back to full reverse thrust, and slow down with a safe landing into Dubai.
We cleared customs, got our luggage, and grabbed a taxi to the Sheraton Grand hotel Dubai. It should be noted that Emirates does offer a car and driver service for PAID business class and first class passengers, but when using miles for your ticket, only those used with Emirates and Qantas are eligible to receive the service, not Alaska miles. For me, this is a huge place to improve.
We can’t say enough about the exceptional onboard service offered by Emirates. It was amazing to see the contrast between the ground staff failures and the on air staff’s rise to excellence. What we had expected to be a bad experience all around was turned 180 degrees by a caring and exceptional staff. For me, this still remains one of the best uses of Alaska Airlines miles out there.
The cost of the ticket was 100,000** miles and $28.80 each. For what it’s worth, we estimated to have consumed upwards of $650 in alcohol each on this flight alone. That, is a great value…
**(PLEASE note, as of last week, the ticket price went up to 200,000 miles one way to get to Africa, 180,000 miles one way to get to Asia, and 150,000 miles one way to get to Europe, so plan accordingly.)