To the everyday traveler, flying is not always an enjoyable experience. Getting through the airport is a hassle. Jostling for overhead space might as well be the next barbarian-style sport. And folding your long legs into a tiny economy seat is something only toddlers find amusing.
So when Emirates debuted its newly designed first-class cabins, the world took notice. For one, the carrier is notorious for luxurious, second-to-none travel experiences. And tickets cost a fortune. So it’s no surprise that expectations were as high as the airfare. The redesign focuses on the Boeing 777 and the A380 aircraft initially. Both planes boast fewer first-class cabins because the carrier chose to expand each individual footprint for maximum comfort.
While other airlines are making economy and business classes more accommodating to budget-friendly passengers, Emirates is cementing its place in royal travel treatments.
To afford a first-class ticket with Emirates, you’ll have to be pretty close to royalty, too. Prices vary, but for January 2018 a round-trip first-class flight from New York to Dubai costs over $28,000 for a single passenger. What does a flight costing about as much as a new car get you? Here are a few things you can expect.
The ultimate traveling experience
The steep price tag’s value is in the convenience. Frequent rovers need no reminder that traveling is taxing, and it’s the little things that go a long way. First-class passengers experience the royal treatment almost instantly. Go ahead and pocket the cash you would’ve spent on airport transportation or long-term parking fees. First- and business-class passengers traveling on an Emirates flight receive complimentary transportation, provided you live within 70 miles of the airport. Your stylish BMW ride is equipped with Wi-Fi and leather seats.
Even prior to boarding travelers are privy to Emirates exclusive lounges many say are decked with elaborate marble and expensive food menu items, such as Champagne and caviar. Through these exclusive lounges, guests can board the plane privately and disembark before anyone else on board — a feature many would pay thousands for alone.
Next: How much is your privacy worth?
A private suite — truly
Passengers are resigned to the fact that additional leg room or preferred window seating will cost them an extra $118 on certain carriers. On a standard flight, that might be the case. But on an Emirates aircraft the layout per person is arguably bigger than most urban apartment bathrooms. The new cabin design provides up to 40 square feet of private space with sliding doors that fully enclose the room. A moveable compartment allows you to communicate with attendants without ever having to open the door, meaning you can literally avoid everyone all flight if you choose to do so. Two cabins on either side of the plane offer window views, while the middle cabin gets its own virtual view of the same landscape.
Your suite wouldn’t be a true suite if the “zero-gravity” seats didn’t recline into a bed. These “beds” relieve joint pressure and stimulate a weightless feeling similar to the ones astronauts experience in space. These are the same type of NASA-inspired seats Nissan included in its fully loaded cars that jacked up the car’s retail value by thousands.
Next: An in-flight spa
Other airlines provide luxury amenity kits, but none is quite as extravagant as Emirates. Long overnight flights grant you exclusive access to Bulgari designer amenity kits filled with skin care essentials, including lip balm, perfume, deodorant, razors, and shaving cream. Bulgari’s woody floral fragrance — Eau Parfumée au thé noir — runs $97 in retail stores, such as Neiman Marcus. Naturally, these first-class bags are made from leather and come in eight designs for both men and women.
And when you want to wash the “airport” off of you, how about an on-board shower spa? Each passenger is given five minutes of hot, running water during their 30-minute spa session. Enjoy heated floors, a view of the Dubai skyline, and a full range of Voya skin care products, including shampoo, conditioner, hand cream, moisturizer, body wash, soap, and cleanser. Those Voya products are pricey in their own right. Relaxing body oils alone retail for more than $50.
Next: Emirates does its best to overcome jet lag.
A better night’s sleep than most
No need to ask for pillows and blankets (unless you want an extra set). Normal passengers must lug neck pillows, eye shades, sweatshirts, and personal toiletries onto the aircraft if they hope to get any substantial amount of shut-eye on a long flight. But one of the most highly acclaimed Emirates features is the set of Hydra Active pajamas. The fabric is infused with nutrient-rich sea kelp that prevents dehydration and stimulates circulation. Pair such comforts with calming mood lighting and a faux-sheepskin blanket, and jet lag will be a thing of the past.
Next: What “airplane food?”
A fine-dining experience
Hoarding overpriced airport food in your carry-on is not necessary aboard a first-class Emirates flight. Your suite comes equipped with a minibar stocked with water, soda, and juice. But it’s no Dasani. It’s exorbitantly expensive bottles of Voss artisan water from Norway, Perrier sparkling mineral water, and, well, Pepsi.
Depending on the length of the flight, your attendant will transform your suite into the ultimate dining experience for two full three-course meals should the unlimited snacks and beverages lose their luster. You’ll munch on regionally inspired dishes served on Royal Doulton bone china plates — they’ve scored designer deals with celebrities, including Gordon Ramsey and Ellen DeGeneres — and exclusive Robert Welch cutlery. Menu options might include caviar, lamb brochettes, wine pairings, or afternoon tea.
Next: Staying seated is not a requirement on Emirates.
Step into the lounge, will you?
Who needs online dating when you can meet other singles with a passion for travel at 30,000 feet? It’s not uncommon for passengers to get a little stir crazy, even if it is from an unrivaled luxury suite. When you get a bit antsy and want to stretch your legs, passengers can saunter over to the sleek, in-flight lounge and full bar for a casual drink and snacks.
Jennifer Aniston’s celebrity endorsement speaks very highly of this special Emirates feature. At night, the bar lights up, illuminating the aisles and reeling you in for a refreshing glass of Hennessy Paradis, the most expensive alcohol served by any airline, starting at around $745 per bottle. Or you can settle for Dom Perignon, roughly $200 per bottle depending on the year.
Next: The price you pay for entertainment
Unlucky economy passengers on some airlines sometimes pay upward of $5 to watch movies with $7 headphones. That’s not the case on Emirates. Flyers in first class gain access to new Bowers & Wilkins noise-canceling headphones, exclusively designed for the carrier, to ensure optimum sound quality. Similar models retail anywhere from $100 to $400 on Amazon.
Such luxury allows guests to unwind while watching real-time sports and news broadcasts on a 55-inch digital touch-screen TV with surround sound. The only problem? You’ll have to choose among 2,500 channels in a package that puts even the most connected residential cable services to shame. Dedicated businessmen and businesswomen will appreciate LinkedIn Learning, a feature that allows passengers to brush up on negotiation skills or other career-related topics via professional instructional courses.
Even Emirates won’t provide completely unlimited internet access. Other passengers in business or economy will eventually pay for Wi-Fi if they exceed the limit — but not you. That’s another $15.99 saved.
Next: Let’s see where other airlines fall in comparison.
How do other airlines compare?
To put it simply, they don’t. But that’s just the point. A $28,000 ticket from New York to Dubai warrants an incomparable experience. We used Expedia to compare prices for a first-class ticket on other airlines. A similar first-class flight will cost over $14,000 on British Airways and over $21,000 on American Airlines.
Should you choose to fly American over Emirates, you’ll still enjoy premium dining menus and in-flight entertainment, but your personal space will be compromised by a mile. Forget privacy suites, airport lounges, and ample leg room. British Airways is slightly more comparable with a 24-hour private concierge service and soft cotton pajamas — sans moisturizing nutrients.
When comparing other airlines, you’ll find Emirates offers some of the largest seats, the best entertainment, and the most privacy. You’ll also finally know what award-winning customer service looks like when you see it, as the airline has won top accolades in this aspect several times.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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