I have been learning about frequent flyer points for a few years now. Unlike many other people who collect points, I have not been able to earn points and status through flying for work. Instead I earn points through some domestic flights, credit cards and a few other minor methods. I do not have status with any airline, and am usually sitting down the back of the plane, even for long haul. In April 2016, for the first time I was able to use my points to redeem business class flights. Here is what an excited newbie thought of those flights.
I chose to do only long haul flights in business class. The first flight was from Adelaide, Australia, to Dubai. We were flying with Emirates, and the flight was on the Boeing 777. These planes have an inferior business class product compared to the A380, but we have to start somewhere. I still have the better version to look forward to in the future. The seats on the 777 do not lay fully flat. Instead they tilt slightly.
Before the Flights
When I originally booked these flights, I could not find any business class award seats, so I had booked economy. Only a couple of months before the flights, I saw some business class seats available and nabbed them. It was only after the seats were booked that I started to realise the added extras that came along with them.
The first thing I realised was the business class seats came with lounge access. In Adelaide that means access to the Qantas Lounge. Our flights were at 9:50pm and I had worked that day, so it was nice to think I could head straight to the airport. After check in we were able to spend some downtime in the lounge having a snack and a glass of wine away from the rush and noise before boarding.
The day after booking I received an email asking me to book my chauffeur drive to the airport. Chauffeur drive? I had completely forgotten that Emirates offered that in some places. So no need to find a family member to drive us to the airport in peak hour traffic! Or worse, pay the exorbitant taxi fare to get there! Instead we got to sit back and relax in a luxury car while a professional did the driving.
It was also nice at the airport to avoid that big long queue to drop our bags off and instead go straight to the business counter and be on our way in only a minute or two.
I’m not yet on the plane, but I could get used to this!
On The Plane
On boarding we could bypass the queue and head straight to our seats. Business class was almost full, so I had ended up with the dreaded middle seat. We contained our excitement as we took our seats, stretching our legs right out in front and not touching the seat there. As we were still grinning over the space, the flight attendant came around to offer a drink before take off. I don’t normally drink sparkling wine, but since champagne is the drink to have, I happily asked for a glass.
After take off we were offered another drink and were given warm mixed nuts. Our orders for our three course dinner were taken. We had a choice of about three different options for each of the courses. Our amenity kits were also brought to us now. Before the flight I had been told by an acquaintance we would be given pyjamas on board, but I was disappointed to find out Emirates only supply them in first class. This actually meant I would need to go shopping on arrival in Dubai, as I did not pack pjs in anticipation of receiving a pair on the flight. Anything to keep the weight in my backpack down!
Soon we were eating our three course meal with real plates and cutlery. Wine was on offer throughout our meals and we happily indulged. The food itself was quite good and a definite improvement on the economy offerings. The dessert was a struggle for me to eat, as there was almost too much food.
The wine had done it’s job so I settled down to have a sleep after I had eaten. The tilted flat seats were actually quite comfortable. I didn’t at all feel like I was sliding downwards. I am not a good sleeper on any form of transport, so I was happy to get a solid five hours sleep. While more sleep would have been great, this was a huge improvement over what I would have had in economy.
On waking I still had a substantial amount of time to occupy as this flight is 13.5 hours long. I grabbed the noise cancelling headphones supplied, and switched on the Emirates entertainment system ICE. I usually have trouble with headphones being too big for me, but these fit nicely and the noise cancellation was fabulous at getting rid of that continuous drone of the plane. ICE has so many choices available! There were movies that were still in the cinemas in Australia, many tv series, documentaries, and sports options and also games and music. It should be noted that ICE is no different in business than in economy, but surely it is one of the best entertainment systems offered on flights.
The flight attendant brought our breakfast about ninety minutes before landing. The food offerings were generous. Coffee/tea/juice/water and even champagne and orange were available if you want it – I didn’t!
Emirates fast track cards given to us before we landed, allowed us to skip the lines through immigration and security. The lines were short so in the end we didn’t need the fast track cards. We were waiting at the baggage carousel before our luggage arrived.
Our luggage had been tagged as “Priority” and so was amongst the first ten or twenty bags to emerge onto the baggage conveyor. We were quickly on our way to the Chauffeur Drive counter. Our driver was waiting to take us to our destination in luxury. We left the airport little more than thirty minutes after landing.
Of course the flight was more comfortable with the ability to stretch out to sleep. The food was significantly better than economy. Alcohol was continuously on offer too. It was so nice to land in the morning and feel like I had some sleep so we could get out and do something on the first day. When we have done this flight in economy in the past, we have slept some of the first day. In my opinion this does not help at all with jet lag.
The big question is if it is worth the approximately $7000AUD for a return flight to Europe from Australia? Well, for us paying that is not an option. The points I used for the flights were definitely worth it because I felt so much better on arrival. In future I will do my best to have points available any time I need to fly long haul. For shorter flights, I will save my points and fly economy.
If you would like to see some of the things I have done for points read Frequent Flyer Madness in the Pursuit of Points.
One year after this flight I had the opportunity to fly in First Class. Read about that flight in Sydney to Singapore – The Suites Way!
Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.