Emirates is one of the three big Middle-East Carriers (alongside Qatar and Etihad), and it’s well known as one of the top airlines in the world. While any Emirates experience can be fantastic, the Emirates First product is absolutely second to none. Best of all, there’s an open secret in the airline industry that can allow you to fly Emirates First for $0! That’s right, you can fly in the best first class product in the world for free! We took advantage of this loophole in August 2019 on a flight from Melbourne to Singapore – make sure you read right to the end of this article to find out how we pulled it off!
The route we booked was Melbourne to Singapore, EK405, which uses Emirates’ 777-300ER aircraft. This leg of the flight is known as a “fifth freedom flight”, where the airline operates a route between two cities, neither of which is their home base. Because demand can be lower for these kinds of flights, fifth freedom flights can often be an excellent way to get a good deal on flights, particularly in premium cabins.
The Emirates experience started in Melbourne, with a smooth premium check-in process followed by a reasonably quick security check. After clearing security and immigration and the endless duty free shops, we made our way to the lounge precinct. The Emirates First and Business lounge in Melbourne is a spacious and light-filled area which is rarely even half-occupied, making for a luxurious experience. Food, snacks and drinks (including beer, wine, spirits and of course champagne) are available in buffet style, with plenty of runway-facing seats for pre-flight plane spotting.
As fantastic as the Emirates First and Business joint lounge is, however, it is well outdone by the Qantas First Lounge which Emirates First passengers have access to as part of the Qantas-Emirates alliance. The Qantas First Lounge is a quiet and cozy space which rarely has more than half a dozen occupants. An extensive a la carte food and drink menu is available in their dine-in restaurant, in the library-style enclaves or in one of the many spaced-out runway-facing lounges. Don’t forget to grab a signature pavlova for dessert!
The service in the lounge was highly personal and any request was not too much for the Sofitel-supplied staff in the Qantas First Lounge. But perhaps best of all, the lounge features a spa which offers complimentary 20 minute pre-flight treatments – a perfectly relaxing way to start your journey.
After a few hours split between these two world-class lounges, it was time to board the flight. We waded through the crowds of Australians on their first leg of their European getaway and reached the boarding agent who, upon seeing the “First” on our boarding passes, quickly ushered us through and directed us to the front of the plane. The next few minutes were, frankly, a bit of a blur as we were greeted by the cabin crew and given a comprehensive tour of the seat and the facilities available.
The Emirates Boeing 777-300ER have a total of 8 first class suites in a 1-2-1 configuration. The middle two seats have a retractible divider and with the sliding doors create a mini-cabin within a cabin feel. The whole first class cabin is separated by bulkhead and galley from the 42 business class seats and whopping 310 economy seats, so this private cabin has quite a private jet feel to it. As an added bonus, we were the only first class passengers on this leg of the flight, which meant we could use the remaining suites to store our bags (which was useful as although the suite is spacious, there are no overhead storage bins in first class). We had plenty of attention from the fantastic cabin crew and were given the opportunity to control the lighting within the cabin (an amazing experience!).
The first class suite has a spacious lounge-like suite with multiple reclining options (including fully flat for resting on overnight flights), a minibar filled with soft drinks and a large touch screen for entertainment. The suite also features a mirror, a writing pad and pen (great souvenirs!), and a smaller touch screen for controlling the seat and entertainment. The whole cabin has a premium glossy wooden facade with gold trimmings to give it a flashy, luxurious feel.
True to their reputation, the Emirates first class flight crew were highly personable and attentive, meeting our every request and more. After an extensive explanation of the seat’s features and various other amenities available, we were promptly served with a glass of Moet and Arabic coffee and dates. We’re not big coffee drinkers but this coffee was incredibly fragrant and herbal, more like a light tea flavour.
It was after taking off, however, that the real drinks came out. A bottle of Dom Pérignon 2008 vintage was opened and accompanied our first meal. We were also treated to a range of premium wines and spirits, but perhaps none was better than the Graham’s Harvest 1976 Tawny Port.
As for the food, well, where to start? We started with a serving of caviar with plentiful condiments to accompany the Dom Pérignon, then dug into an Arabic mezze, as well as a main of grilled beef fillet. For dessert we managed to fit in a premium cheese board.
The flight took off at 6pm Melbourne time and arrived 8 hours later, so after eating as much as we could (which was a challenge after the amazing food in the lounge too), we were ready for bed. The always-attentive flight crew served us with some Emirates first class hydra-active moisturising pyjamas and transformed our seats into a fully flat bed with sheets, a blanket and pillows. Despite a bit of turbulence as we transcended the Australian outback and the Timor Sea on the way to Singapore, this was an extraordinarily comfortable bedding set-up and we both slept very well for a few hours.
After some sleep, we continued to enjoy the drinks, snacks and entertainment on this one of a kind flight experience. At just before midnight Singapore time, it was time to descend – as a final bonus we were given an extra pair of pyjamas each as a souvenir. Our only regret was that we couldn’t continue onward with this incredible flight crew to Dubai – maybe next time!
So by this point you’re probably thinking this all sounds incredible, but it’s totally inaccessible to the average person right? Actually, that’s totally wrong! Despite this Melbourne-Singapore typically costing over $3,000, we took advantage of the Emirates-Qantas partnership and used Qantas points to get the fare for free! To cover the fare we used 90,000 Qantas points each by searching for classic flight rewards on the Qantas website. After using the points to cover the fare, we did have to pay the taxes and fees of A$731 (US$508), however depending on how you want to use your points you can actually use them to cover the taxes too, making the cost $0.
Now how do you get these points? Well, it depends on where you are, but many countries have banks offering credit cars with large sign-up bonuses. We’ve covered this a bit in our article 7 easy tricks to pay for your dream holiday, but in general you can sign up for a credit card, filter your regular expenses (like bills and groceries) through that card to hit the designated minimum spend, for which you’ll be rewarded with a large sign-up bonus which can be in the range of around 100,000 points. Emirates has a range of partners globally including Alaskan Airlines, Japan Airlines and Malaysia Airlines, so do your own research to see what’s available in your country to make this incredible flight experience a reality.
One final note…
The international travel situation is constantly evolving throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Emirates continues to fly its incredibly 777-300ER first class product, though to comply with social distancing requirements the experience is vastly different. Regardless, as Australians our borders remain closed and we’re currently unable to travel internationally. We’re frequently researching the best options for travel once it’s safe again, so be sure to follow our blog and our social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) for the latest updates! Thanks for reading to the end, here’s to a Better Break soon!