Review of Emirates First Class 777 – Melbourne-Dubai-Lyon. I’ve seen how the other half live at 40,000 feet and I like it.
After years of hoarding and conjuring every trick I could to acquire frequent flyer points (regularly swapping credit cards works best), I have enough to fly first class. It is time to score a big tick off my bucket list by flying first class on an Emirates 777.
I’ve cashed in almost all of my Qantas Frequent Flyer points in my account (252,000) to score a complimentary return flight from Melbourne to Lyon with the outbound leg in first class all the way. I’m coming home in economy and trying not to think about it right now as I board the sleek Emirates Boeing 777. Hmm, was that a look of incredulity passing across the face of the steward when I handed him my boarding pass? He still directs me to the pointy end of the plane.
You might think that 4.45am is too early to start drinking. And you would be right – usually. But the bottle being brandished by the smiling hostess is Dom Perignon. What can I do? The champagne is offered by my new best friend Dina, who shows me to my private suite right up the front. Dina doesn’t have to twist my arm too hard – not at al in fact – to get me to accept a glass. I sip on it while I survey my home for the next 14 hours.
I’ve never even seen first class before. I’m usually with the people who have to turn right at the door of the plane. I’m happy to report that everything in the first class suite lives up to its publicity. For once something really does look just like the photos in the brochure.
The suite has a luxurious cream leather armchair, three windows all for me, flat screen TV, a mirror and a personal mini bar stacked with soft drinks and mineral water (I’ll need to call Dina if I want booze). There’s also a basket of snacks for when I get peckish.
The gifts keep coming: my pick of glossy magazines, a leather goodie bag filled with pampering treats by Bulgari (soon to be repurposed as an elegant evening clutch) and the much-lauded moisturising pyjamas. I can barely wait to put them on*.
While I get changed shortly after take off, Dina offers to make up my bed. Since I’ve been up all night waiting for this stupidly early departure, I am looking forward to bed. The seat reclines all the way to make a flat bed with the push of a button. Dina tops it with a padded mattress, doona and fluffy pillow. I blissfully spend the first few hours of the flight tucked up in my little private cocoon.
When I wake up I head to the bathroom and come back to my bed has disappeared and the armchair is back. This sudden disappearance of things is a common occurrence during the flight. Every time I leave the suite I come back to find it has been rearranged or tidied. Anything left laying around is whisked away.
I am most annoyed to discover that the felt envelope that my pyjamas and slippers were presented in, and the slippers themselves, have been ‘tidied’ during a toilet break. I had intended to repurpose that pouch as a magazine holder. Now fearing for the safety of my Bulgari treats, I stash them in my hand luggage and resolve to wear my pyjamas all the way to Dubai.
After settling back into my comfy chair, I order a late breakfast of cinnamon flapjacks, apple and yoghurt with a pot of coffee. There are no set meal times in flight. No choice of the beef stew or the pasta and we’re really sorry if your selection is no longer available by the time we get the trolley to your seat. Whenever I’m hungry I push a button a button and Dina or one of her friends appears to take my order from the à la carte menu and accompanying wine list.
Since I’m up now I spend the rest of the flight binge watching the entire fourth season of Sherlock and pushing buttons in my suite to see what they all do.
Most of the suite’s functions from opening and closing the doors, lifting the window shutters, controlling the lighting and the television are controlled from a touch pad. It’s very Jetsons.
The best bit is the seat. The control pad adjusts it from bed to lounge chair and various angles of recline in between. With great joy I discover that it is a massaging chair. This has surely got to be the best chair ever. When it’s time to eat, I push a button and the seat moves itself forward so I can reach my food on the the little dining table where Dina lays out the white tablecloth and the cutlery for my next meal – a yummy spread of Arabic mezze snacks and a main course of grilled chicken.
With Sherlock wrapped up for another season, my tummy full and my Bulgari treats and pajamas safely hidden in my backpack (yes I took them off and got dressed before landing), I bid farewell to Dina in Dubai where I need to change planes for the onward leg to Lyon.
Access to the Emirates First class lounge in Dubai airport is part of the deal and makes the 90-minute layover a pleasant distraction instead of the usual chore layovers are. I enjoy an hour browsing more glossy magazines and helping myself to the snack bar before boarding the next flight.
This leg, at just over six hours, is not considered to be a long-haul or overnight flight so there is a disturbing lack of goodies. There is, however, another glass of Dom Perignon, further on-demand fine dining and several more hours of chair massages.
I tuck into another delicious meal of saffron lamb and a sticky date pudding washed down with a Pinot Noir I proudly discover comes from the Macedon Ranges – yay Victorian wines.
Where normally after more than 20 hours of in the air I’d be on the verge of screaming “let me out!” this time I’m slightly disappointed when the captain announces where on our final approach to Lyon.
Many a time I’ve walked past the gaggle of chauffeurs in an airport after a long flight and wished one of them was waiting for me. Well this time one was. I am very pleased to find a suit-clad chauffeur brandishing a sign with my name on it. Transfers are all part of the first class service. It is very welcome because, despite the comfort of my trip, long is long. I’m tired and not up for negotiating Lyon ground transport and trying to find my way to the hotel. A chauffeur-driven Audi, with another luxurious cream leather seat, is just the ticket for ending the first-class experience.
First class travel one way from Melbourne to Lyon via Dubai cost 192,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points (252,000 including an Economy Class return leg from Lyon to Melbourne with a Dubai stopover). Thanks to code share arrangements between Qantas and Emirates, I was able to use QFF points on an Emirates flight and take advantage of Emirates’ more direct route to Lyon. Travelling with Qantas would require a flight to London and then a regional flight to Lyon with British Airways. The flight was booked through Qantas thanks to the code share arrangement.
Taxes for the return flight was $932. That’s not far short of an all-inclusive return economy fare. However, the ticket price for the first class leg would have cost me around $6,000 if I’d paid for it, something I’m unlikely to ever do. So, the way I look at it is that I got a $6,000 flight for less than $900. It was well worth it.
While the 777 lacks the in-flight bar and showers boasted by the A380 services, I am extremely happy with the experience.
The only regret is that I said I wanted to fly first class once in my life. I can’t say that anymore. Now I’ve experienced it, and with further enhancements to the 777 first-class suite on the way, I want to do it again and again. I can’t wait. I’m already thinking of new way to accrue points.**
Louise flew first-class with Emirates in April 2017.
*The moisturising pajamas came home with me and went on to live a second life as my new favourite yoga pants. I have eveb been known to breakfast in the local café wearing them and pretending they are in fact a high-class leisure suit.
**I have done and now have enough points to fly first class to Europe again, which I plan to do some time in 2019.