Emirates First Class is consistently ranked amongst the best commercial First Class products in the sky, so when you find a loophole (in this case adding multiple stopovers to an award fare) to get you $60,000 worth of First Class flights for not much in return, it's probably worth taking advantage of it.
Travel blogger Sam Huang did just that, cashing in his Alaska Airlines miles and $300 for an extravagant trip around the world in Emirates First Class decadence, enjoying "unlimited Dom Perignon, wild caviar, and a shower spa while flying 40,000 feet in the air."
Jealous much? Fortunately Huang took plenty of pictures along the way, and described every aspect of the trip in intricate detail on his blog TopMiles. Here's what it looked like.
My heart was pounding but I tried to keep a straight face. The check-in agent typed something into his computer and picked up the phone. In my head I kept on thinking, "This is it. I'm not going to pull this off." All of a sudden he put the phone down and smiled. A few seconds later, my ticket to Melbourne was issued and handed to me. I finally got my golden ticket, and was about to begin the greatest flying experience of my life.
Singapore to New York - 7 Cities - 21,136 Miles
The VIP treatment started the moment I stepped into the Melbourne airport. I headed straight to the Emirates First Class check-in counter, which was completely empty. Meanwhile, there was a sea of people in the Economy counter.
I then proceeded to the First Class lounge, which is operated by Qantas, an Emirates airline partner.
I walked into the Qantas First Class lounge. The agent scanned my ticket, looked at me, and said "Welcome, Mr. Huang" with a big Australian smile.
The first thing I noticed was the decadent marble entrance, plastered with greenery to give an illusion that you're not in an airport, but a sanctuary.
I walked in and headed to the dining tables, passing what seemed to be an endless amount of seating room, with no one sitting in it. Clearly space isn't an issue here.
I sat down on one of the dining tables with a view of the runway. A server wearing a suit and tie came up to me, handed me a menu, and asked if I would like a glass of champagne. It was a Wednesday, but weekday drinking is not a problem when you're flying in First Class.
The breakfast menu is extensive to say the least. There were over fifteen entrees, ranging from fruit salad to organic poach eggs. Emirates makes sure that the menus are changed seasonally, so that its jet setting clientele are never bored.
Knowing that I would soon be having a feast in my upcoming flight, I opted to order simple muesli. It was by far the best muesli I've ever had.
As I sat sipping champagne, I was struck by the silence and emptiness of the lounge. There were at most ten people using this lounge. Within the chaotic confines of the airport, the lounge provided a place where you could truly relax and feel like you're not in an airport.
After a quick breakfast, I decided to get a refill of champagne and sit on one of the many spacious couches lying around the lounge. As I made myself comfortable, the lounge assistant came over with my carry-on and put it next to me, without me even asking.
Soon, it was time to board.
I thanked the lounge attendants for their wonderful service and headed to the "king of all planes", the Airbus A380.
I left the lounge and went down the escalator into main gate area. It was packed with passengers getting reading to board. Welcome back to the real world, or so I thought.
I asked an Emirates employee if the flight was boarding yet. She took a quick look at my boarding pass and told me that since I was in First Class, I should go to lounge. I replied that I thought it was already time to board, and that I just left the lounge. She then told me to come with her, escorted me down a side elevator, and dropped me off in a private waiting area.
Moments later, another gentleman came and pointed me toward a separate plane entrance.
Another gentleman took a quick look at my boarding pass and waved me through.
I strolled down the walkway alone. No people, no crowds, no one behind me. It felt like I was boarding my own private jet.
I was greeted and escorted to my seat by a flight attendant.
She asked if it was my first time in the Suites. In my most nonchalant voice, I answered that it was indeed my first time. She gave me a quick overview and immediately offered me a glass of champagne.
My first impression of the First Class Suite was WOW. You see the pictures online, but only when you actually sit down do you realize how over the top the Suite really is.
There is bling everywhere; gold trimmings line pretty much everything from the table to the LCD screen to the adjustable air duct.
Would you like some gold dusted air, sir?
Everything is designed to wow you. There is even an automated bar, because they can.
The flight attendant noticed me playing around with the seat and asked if I would like a picture.
After takeoff, I was offered the first of many glasses of Dom Perignon 2004 and some warm mixed nuts. Speaking as a non champagne expert, all I can say is that you could immediately tell the difference between a Moet and a Dom. It was like sipping on the nectar of the gods. I could start to see why the retail price is $200 per bottle.
I was quickly handed my menu. Let's just say for a 3-hour flight, it was complete overkill. There were over three starters and six entrees to choose from. Since I was starting to feel hungry again, I ordered the Spanish Omelette with fruit as a starter.
The flight attendant set up my seat into a mini-dining area, complete with table cloth and fine china. Even though I did not order bread, butter and all the essential condiments were provided. My fruit plate arrived along with some more muesli.
The Spanish omelet was amazing, it was almost like you headed to some hip brunch place and ordered one fresh off the stove.
After breakfast, I continued to play around with my suite.
The best part of the Emirates Suite is the automated doors. To open or close your suite doors, you simply push a button and the door will slide open or shut.
Since I knew that I have plenty of Emirates flights left to explore every aspect of the seat, I decided to just enjoy the moment and drink more Dom Perignon. After finishing a couple of flutes, I decided to have an early morning drink of Hennessy Paradis cognac, the most expensive drink in the sky. A standard bottle retails for over $700.
It was nine in the morning, but who can pass up a chance to drink that? I took one sip and was overcome with multiple sensations. The burn was smooth and the aftertaste was delicious. Again, I am not a liquor connoisseur but it was by far the best alcohol I've ever had in my life. It put the Dom I just had to shame. I felt like I was in pure heaven.
After a quick sip, I asked the flight attendant if I could partake in the highlight of any Emirates A380 First Class experience: the onboard shower.
When it first launched, it was the cooler talk for everyone around the world. And now I was finally about to experience it. My ears were filled with joy when the flight attendant came over and said, "Mr. Huang, your shower is ready."
As I followed the attendant to the front, she asked me if I had showered on a plane before. I gave a big grin and said that it was my first time. She then took me into the shower and showed me all the features.
The first thing you notice about the shower spa, is that it's big. Very big. I'd say you could fit at least three if not four regular sized bathrooms in there.
The wallpaper is of the entire Dubai skyline, and because this is Emirates, the spa has a heated floor to ensure your million dollar feet are nice and cozy.
The spa also has a huge LCD screen that shows you where you are, while taking a shower.
The shower itself has a 2-minute water timer limit, which you can see by the bars on the shower light, but you could stay in the shower spa as long as you wanted to.
So how was it? It was like unlocking a new treasure that you never knew existed. I couldn't stop laughing at how insane it was. Three years ago, I was stuck in coach hating flying, and now I was taking a shower in the sky at 40,000 feet for almost nothing.
Since I was a complete mile high shower newbie, I vastly underestimated the time I would take to shower. Before I knew it, the shower stopped (the shower stops spraying water at 25% so you know you are running low on water), and I had to quickly finish rinsing off before the water ran out!
We landed in Auckland and I thanked the crew for a wonderful flight. When a crew member asked me how long I was going to stay, I said I would be back in a couple of hours heading to Sydney. She laughed and bid me farewell. Little did she know I was being 100% serious.
As First Class passengers, we were the first ones to get out of the plane. Auckland to Sydney: The first thing that greeted me was this New Zealand themed woodwork. Nothing like a couple of scary faces to welcome you to New Zealand!
I dropped my carry-on luggage at the airport storage and proceeded to the Emirates check-in counter to get my ticket for the next flight. The check-in counter usually opens around 3.5 hours before the flight, but since I was a First Class passenger, my ticket was promptly issued. I then took the bus to downtown Auckland. After walking around downtown Auckland, I settled into the Auckland harbor, which was simply gorgeous.
The afternoon went by quickly and I took the bus back to the airport. The flight attendant greeted me and said "Mr. Huang, welcome back with us!" She asked a petite shower attendant to help me with my carry-on. She looked at me a bit weird when I declined and decided to lug my carry-on up the airplane staircase. I guess they aren't used to First Class passengers carrying their own luggage. I was shown to my seat, the same one from my previous flight (2K), and was given another glass of Dom Perignon.
Since it was my second flight, I began to notice a few things that I missed in the excitement of my first flight. There was a snack basket that contained various types of chocolates and crackers.
Since I was hungry from exploring Auckland, I decided to order a five course meal: a starter salad, smoked salmon for my appetizer, a beef fillet steak, chocolate cake, and a cheese platter.
I asked the flight attendant which wine to pair with my steak. She suggested the 2001 Chateau Gruaud Larose. It was an excellent pairing, as it complemented the steak perfectly. Most of all, it left no bitter aftertaste, so I was able to thoroughly enjoy my wine.
At this point I was already stuffed, but who can refuse a nice plate of cheese and chocolate cake? The presentation was excellent, and I was a bit surprised by the vast selection. Instead of making you choose which kind of cheese you want, Emirates just gives you everything.
I had a couple more bites until I was completely stuffed. I then asked the attendant if I could take a shower. Within ten minutes, the shower was ready, and I headed over to take my second shower on a plane in a couple of hours. This time, I managed to pace my shower better so I didn’t have to rush at the very end.
Since it was my second shower in the same day, I noticed a few more details. Emirates provides all the shower amenities you could possibly want. There were eight different bottles ranging from body wash to conditioner.
After my shower, the flight attendants were starting to prepare for landing and I buckled in for our landing into Sydney.
Once again, immigration was a breeze and I was out of the airport in just fifteen minutes. With a nice buzz from the alcohol I'd been drinking, I took the airport train to the Sydney Harbor. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see. As I approached the harbor, I noticed an enormous ship dominating the harbor. Turns out it was the world's only ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2.
I woke up at 4:00AM in my hotel room to a loud shrieking alarm. The Sydney to Dubai flight was scheduled to leave in two hours. I quickly boarded and sat in my now familiar 2K seat.
As the sun began to rise, we took off from Sydney and began our 13-hour journey to Dubai. I decided to get a quick breakfast before going to sleep.
Another amazing feature of the Emirates A380 is the automated blinds. To save the 1% from having to manually close the windows, all you have to do is press a button on your touchpad and all the blinds would go down. As I laid there gazing at the ceiling, I felt like I was in a private room in the sky. Needless to say I quickly fell asleep. It was truly the most comfortable airplane "bed" I've ever slept in. After about six hours, I woke up and felt completely refreshed, as if I was waking up in my own apartment.
Upon waking up, I was a bit thirsty and headed over to the famous Emirates A380 bar, which serves both First and Business Class passengers.
When I first saw the bar, I was amazed. It looked exactly like the commercials I have seen on TV, and dare I say, even classier than most bars on the ground. The A380 bar was fully stocked with your standard selection of mid-range alcohol.
After a few drinks, I began to get hungry again and headed back to my seat to grab dinner. For my appetizer, I started with caviar.
After dinner, I asked for a glass of Hennessey Paradis, the most expensive bottle of alcohol served by any airline, with an average retail cost of $700. I decided to sip on my Hennessy while enjoying the gorgeous live view from the A380 tail cam.
A very cool feature of the A380 is the iPad-like controller. This allows you to browse through entertainment, select your seat position, and ask for a refill of champagne.
We were soon close to arriving in Dubai. I decided to watch part of Interstellar, and ordered one last glass of Hennessy Paradis.
As usual, First Class passengers were let out first, and I bid the awesome crew goodbye.
Dubai to Milan: The baggage claim area itself was a bit surreal, with a walkway flanked by palm trees on both sides.
I headed into the gulf's most decadent city via the newly built Dubai metro. Dubai hotels are notoriously expensive, but Expedia was running a sale of $40 off for any four star hotel. I managed to book a hotel in Burj Dubai for a reasonable cost. The hotel itself had a bit of Arabian charm, complete with the cigarette smell and Middle Eastern furniture.
At night, the rooftop bar upstairs turned into a nightlife hotspot, with a wide array of "interesting" characters. Quite a few Emirates flight attendants were also mingling.
My five days in Dubai passed by quickly, with just enough time to see all of the highlights.
The highlight of my stay was the Holi festival, which as luck would have it, was happening during my brief stay in Dubai. If you've never gone to one before, just do it! The crowd was going nuts all night long.
Soon, it was time to head back home, and I headed back to the Dubai airport. What I found interesting was that the Business and First class passengers have their own separate immigration area. I headed to the Emirates First Class lounge, which is located on its own level in the terminal.
Since this was the "B" Lounge, I was expecting something a bit homey, but upon entering, I was struck by how big the lounge was. It spanned almost the entire terminal, with an open air ceiling, making it feel less like a lounge and more like a hotel.
The main entrance was grand, complete with mini water fountains.
I quickly settled in for a nice lunch. The dining room was gorgeous.
The hostess mentioned that they would start serving lunch in fifteen minutes but I was welcome to grab some food in the buffet table while waiting.
After lunch, I decided to walk around the lounge. Even if it's the B lounge, the place is huge, a complete overkill considering the small amount of First Class passengers. I finally sat down on one of the sofas and decided to grab some Moet champagne.
After a bit of lounging, I decided to take advantage of the complimentary spa treatment given to First Class passengers. I chose a haircut, because where else can you get a free haircut inside an airport lounge?
Feeling fresh from my haircut, it was time to take care of my shoes, which is also complimentary for First Class passengers. They even had a place to put your glass of champagne.
Soon it was time to board, and like Melbourne, I headed to the aircraft via a private elevator meant for First Class passengers.
I decided to take a look at the First Class bar. Yes, Emirates has a fully stocked bar of top shelf liquor and fruit just for First Class passengers. I actually never saw another passenger at the bar.
Our flight to Milan involved flying through Iran, which is more mountainous than what most people would think.
We shortly began to descend into Milan. Once again, First Class passengers were let out first. As we left the plane, I knew I would cherish this flight forever. Like the jet bridge itself, it was simply art.
After Milan, Sam flew to New York, and then Houston, Dubai, Mauritius, Dubai, Rome, Dubai, Brisbane, Auckland, Brisbane, before finishing up his epic journey in Singapore.
To learn more about Sam and how he did it, head to his blog, TopMiles.
(H/T Business Insider)