I discovered I had enough frequent flyer points to travel to Europe return in business class via Qantas with Emirates. I was so excited as I had only flown business internationally once before and loved it. So, 3 months prior to departure I hopped online to book. This began what I can only describe as a rollercoaster of emotions.
My initial excitement of having the points evaporated as I saw all seats were booked out! However, this quickly escalated to incredulity, disbelief, and elation as I located first-class seats for the same number of points! After triple checking, the flights were booked. 5 legs in total, 4 in first and 1 in business, costing 280,000 points (Blog on collecting points coming soon) and $1,000 in taxes.
Fast forward to 2 weeks before departure, I receive a text advising 1 of the legs had been downgraded to business class. I’m disappointed, but hey it’s still business right? Then 1 week before departure another text, another leg back to business. OK, now I am worried, can I also be downgraded to economy? A quick call to the airline confirmed that no, further downgrades would not occur, this was specifically a change to the aircraft which had no first-class option (phew). Finally, time to fly.
The notable service started from the moment I checked in, as I was ushered towards the first-class queue (well there was no queue) and desk. The gentleman who checked me in was not flustered or frustrated and gave advice on where to locate security, and more importantly the lounges! I was again a little deflated that I was not accepted into Qantas first lounge (there goes my massage), but rather Emirates business as that was who I was actually flying with. Still a beautiful lounge and empty, time for some nibbles and bubbles until the flight.
The flight itself…. I can only sum it up by saying, first class is everything you want, however nothing you actually need that isn’t available in a good business class. I say ‘good’ as unfortunately the 3 eventual legs in business were not the stellar quality I had recalled from my previous trip. The crew in first went above and beyond with the service and I highly commend the Emirates team. A favourite crew comment occurred as I was being offered my ‘leather bound meals menu’ and said, “ohhh give me just a sec and I will let you know what I would like.” The response which was “oh don’t rush Ma’am, in first you order your food whenever it suits you, please note the Dom Perignon and caviar for starters” made me feel like royalty.
In short, everything about first-class was luxurious and yes, I did sleep better than in some hotels and I arrived feeling exceptionally well. However, there was nothing substantially different in functionality (going from a sitting position to a flatbed) that would justify paying full price for a ticket.
For me personally the essentials and value are in speedy queues, lounge access, amenity kits and a flatbed, all of which are done well in business class.
My advice: work on that points balance, check for any deals and book incredibly early. It is possible to land a first-class seat for the same or less than a standard business seat.