What: Emirates A380 First Class Sydney – Bangkok
How much: 90,000 Qantas points + $350 (face value $5000)
My only experience of luxury air travel to date has been a couple of 1hr BA business class flights between London and Zurich when I was working on a project over there.
The only differentiators between business and economy were:
– A small cloth over the back of the headrest saying “business”;
– A little curtain between us and the rest of the plane;
– A hurried glass of wine.
And that’s about as good as it has got in my 27 years to date.
So imagine my delight when booking this trip to Asia when I found a way for my Qantas points to secure me a seat (bed) not just in business, but in FIRST, in what is arguably one of the best airline offers in the world…Emirates A380, complete with bar and shower!
I’ve been in Australia nearly 3 years now, and for the past 2 have been a ‘Qantas Frequent Flyer’. I signed up for this because I was doing a few work trips with Qantas which I could collect points on.
In my 2 years of membership and about 8 flights, I had a accumulated a grand total of 20,000 points.
Motto: despite the name, flying frequently is not actually the way to get the points.
So recently I signed up for the ANZ Black Frequent Flyer credit card. There’s no annual fee for the first year and you get a whopping 75,000 bonus Qantas points when you spend $3k on the card in 3 months. I just put my UK flights on there and was almost at the threshold.
I got the card in early June, and by late August I had the points sitting in my Qantas frequent flyer account.
When I searched for the flights I wanted for Thailand, the best outbound flight was SYD – BKK Qantas but operated by Emirates for $500AUD. I checked how much it would be to ‘pay with points’ (I.e. No taxes/charges) and it was around 180,000 for the one-way!!
The key is then to search the ‘reward flights’ which there is a tick box for once you are signed into your Qantas FF account. My understanding is that these are the flights that the airlines would like to shift seats on, so are happy to offer to points redemption customers. Perhaps they are considered off-peak times…although I left SYD at 6.30pm on a Friday night which seems pretty peak to me!
The exact same flight appeared as a reward flight, but instead of 180,000 points for an economy seat, it was only 20,000 (plus fees and taxes of approx $150).
There were no business class rewards seats available, and my eyes drifted over to the right of the screen where I spotted ‘First Class, 90,000 points’.
Accountant/Excel nerd that I am I whipped up a quick spreadsheet calculating the ‘value per point redeemed’ under each scenario. You get almost 5 times more value per point using them for first class rather than economy…it was almost be rude not to really.
I thought it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I took the plunge and booked and have spent the last month eagerly anticipating the flight and reading numerous reviews of ‘First Class Emirates A380’.
I even got to the point of downloading the flight menu online (so keen!) Emirates uploads the menus a week or two before, so I boarded already knowing exactly what I wanted to try.
The journey started in style with a chauffeur coming to collect me from the flat, and whisking me to the airport. This is standard for all Emirates business and first customers.
Now, call me silly, but for some reason I had literally envisaged you’d have your own entrance to the airport, and own corridors etc, basically a ‘first class airport’. I realise in hindsight how ridiculous this sounds since you always see the first class people at the check-in desks, but I think I let myself get a little carried away.
You do however get given a ‘priority pass’ which speeds you through the immigration and security. Given the airport was eerily empty for a Friday night (although this is probably because I was about 3 hours early for my flight to maximise lounge time!) this wasn’t a huge benefit, but I can imagine it’s fantastic when there are long queues.
Then to the lounge. Now I had heard that you can use either the Qantas or Emirates lounges at SYD on a codeshare flight, but since the Emirates lounge was right next to the gate I opted for that.
I didn’t actually get to go up the stairs, but I made sure to get a snap there once I was settled in the cabin.
Thankfully there was someone else who was equally as un-cool as me about the whole experience. Anni, from the UK but living in Sydney was off to Bangkok to celebrate her birthday with her husband, and he’d got her the flight as a present. Both of us were running round the cabin like little headless chickens, snapping pics everywhere “oh take one of me in the suite”, “oh take one of me with the champagne”…shameless.
All the while Mr Cool-as-a-Cucumber in seat 1A looked on with mild distain. You could tell he’s a regular.
The rest of the cabin was incredibly quiet, of the 14 suites I think only 4 were occupied, meaning the service was even more personalised and impeccable than I imagine it usually is.
First up we were given Arabic coffee and dates, along with a pre-take of glass of bubbles.
Shortly after take off I had some caviar and blinis, which went very well with the bubbles. Next up was the Arabic mezze platter (love me a platter) with lots of delicious dips and vine leaves and vegetables and breads.
I had a little digestion break at this point, with the intention of ordering some beef tenderloin for mains which Ridha had told me would take about 30 minutes to prepare.
Anni was once again my partner in crime in heading to the in air bar at the back of business class. Once there she continued on the bubbles and I went for my favourite classic Gin Martini.
The champagne that we were being served was apparently for First Class only, so it was quite amusing RIdha sending us off to the back of the plane accompanied by our own bottle of bubbles.
The bar staff took amazing care of us, even offering to snap some Polaroids. Anni’s sidekick Mr Edward Bear helped make the martinis…
I got the guilts at this point for having left Garfield in Sydney and him not getting to experience First Class. I mean what was the point of me demanding that Garfie get his own ‘passport’ when we first went overseas to France when aged 6? And forcing my somewhat sheepish Dad to show it to the border officials, if not to take him adventuring!!
We had some turbulence whilst at the bar so had to pop our seat belts on. Easy to forget you’re at 35,000ft when you’re sitting at the bar having a chat.
I was so stuffed with food and drink at this point that I decided the beef would be unwise, so I headed back to my suite which had been made into a full bed whilst I was at the bar. I popped on a film, and ordered a mini-pudding and a ‘nightcap’. Now, I’d read that the cognac they serve in First is super rare (and $$$) so I thought I’d give it a go, despite to my knowledge not liking cognac. Conclusion is that I still don’t really like it, but I finished it so it didn’t go to waste.
Then it was time to snuggle down into my PJs. RIdha offered me a choice between “large and XL” when I got on, so assuming these were the only 2 sizes available I opted for large.
I later heard him suggesting Anni took a small or medium and feigned indignation, his response “but you are tall!”
So off I trotted to the bathroom to get changed and the trousers were like a sack on me, so he kindly swapped for a small, which were far better. They were so soft and cosy.
Later they were to be stashed in the handy tote bag that is provided in the knowledge that you’ll be leaving the flight with a whole heap of goodies and snacks.
I had a dreamy few hours sleep and woke up about an hour and a half before landing as it was SHOWER TIME!! Best way to get off the flight feeling refreshed.
What a wonderful experience. Would I pay $5k for the ticket? No. But I’ve already got my next credit card (AMEX Qantas) lined up to get another 100,000 points! 🙂