The Complete Guide to Booking Emirates First Class
Flying Emirates First Class is one of the most sought-after aspirational flights for Miles & Points and aviation enthusiasts alike.
With a well-deserved reputation as one of the best premium cabins out there, a dream flight on Emirates First Class tops many travellers’ bucket lists.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything there is to know about Emirates First Class, including what to expect before and during the flight, the routes available, the points required, and booking logistics.
The Emirates First Class Experience
Emirates First Class offers an inflight experience like none other. Most notably, the experience includes being able to take a shower during the flight on the Emirates Airbus A380.
Passengers are also treated to an onboard bar, an ostentatious suite, top-shelf Champagne, and bragging rights for flying on one of the most desired products in the game.
The Emirates First Class experience begins long before boarding the plane.
Emirates offers chauffeur-drive service to eligible First Class and business class passengers. You’ll be picked up by a chauffeur in a luxury vehicle and driven to the airport in over 75 cities worldwide.
Unfortunately, those who book Emirates First Class with points are not eligible for this benefit, so you’ll have to shell out a lot of cash for the honour.
Upon arrival at the airline’s hub airport in Dubai, Emirates First Class passengers have access to either the cavernous Emirates First Class Lounge located in Concourse B or the more impressive and somehow even larger Emirates First Class Lounge located in Concourse A.
The Concourse A lounge is bigger than many mid-sized international airport terminals, and is jam-packed with many food, seating, and napping options.
In addition, this lounge is unique in that it has an exclusive full-scale duty-free shop, an eloquently-decorated cigar lounge, a games room, a children’s play room, and a complimentary 15-minute spa treatment for First Class passengers at the Timeless Spa.
When it comes time to board, the Concourse A lounge has 24 in-lounge boarding gates that lead almost directly onto the jet bridge.
In addition to the First Class Lounges in Dubai, Emirates also operates a network of dedicated lounges in 25 airports worldwide, so you’ll have lounge access if flying out of many of Emirates’s outstation airports as well.
Upon boarding the aircraft, passengers will notice the sheer space of the Emirates First Class seating area.
Upon entering your enclosed First Class suite on either the Airbus A380 or the Boeing 777, you’ll be treated to arguably the most glamorous First Class hard product available out there.
Decked out in brazenly over-the-top faux gold with decadent suede walls, Emirates First Class contains some unique seat features and amenities.
To ensure you’re looking immaculate throughout the journey, you’ll find a personal built-in vanity mirror in your suite.
The newer Boeing 777s feature an enormous 32” personal television, virtual windows in the middle seats that project the views from outside the aircraft, personalized temperature and lighting controls, and a floor-to-ceiling door for complete privacy. There’s also an internal window for easier service.
For those who wish to get some rest during the flight, Emirates provides blankets, pillows, and even a high-quality pajama set for you to keep and add to your airline pajama collection.
Food and Drink
Emirates First Class passengers are immediately treated to a personal snack basket and access to an in-suite mini-bar, which can be raised or lowered with a push of a button.
Guests are also offered pre-departure snacks and drinks, including the ubiquitous Dom Pérignon Champagne.
Premium drinks are available throughout the flight, and include an extensive list of cocktails, mocktails, soft drinks, tea, coffee, beer, wine, aperitifs, digestifs, spirits, and, of course, free-flowing Champagne.
Emirates offers a dine-on-demand service for First Class passengers, meaning you can eat your meal at any time of your choosing throughout the flight.
There is a range of choices for appetizers, main courses, desserts, and light bites from the menu.
Any First Class experience wouldn’t be complete without a caviar service. Sure enough, you won’t be disappointed when flying Emirates First Class, as they offer a full caviar service with accompanying trimmings.
Those travelling with a companion won’t be able to dine face-to-face, as you can with some First Class products; however by choosing the middle seats and lowering the partition, you’ll still be able to share the moment.
Emirates First Class Aircraft Cabins
Emirates First Class products can be found on three different aircraft: the Airbus A380, the Boeing 777-200LR, and the Boeing 777-300ER.
As of July 2022, Emirates has a total of 118 Airbus A380s, 10 Boeing 777-200LRs, and 124 Boeing 777-300ERs in operation.
The Boeing 777-300ER has two different First Class arrangements. The old version contains eight First Class seats and the newer version has six. Of the 124 Boeing 777-300ERs in Emirates’s fleet, only nine currently contain the new, updated First Class product.
Emirates plans to eventually phase out the Boeing 777-300ER in favour of the Boeing 777X, with deliveries beginning in 2024.
The Airbus A380 is a double-decker aircraft equipped with two staircases, one at the front, and one at the back, which separate the upper business and First Class seats from the lower economy seats.
There are 14 First Class seats set up in a 1-2-1 format.
Solo travellers would get slightly more privacy from the window seats. These include Seats 1A, 1K, 2A, 2K, 3A, 3K, 4A, and 4K.
Couples, or passengers otherwise travelling together are best off choosing one of the middle seats. These include Seats 1E and 1F, 2E and 2F, or 3E and 3F.
The seat has an above-average pitch at 86”, and a below-average width of 23” compared to similar premium cabins.
The famous Emirates First Class shower spa is only found on the Airbus A380s. There are two shower rooms located at the front of the upper deck of the aircraft.
A dedicated five-minute shower is only available once per flight and is exclusive to First Class passengers.
The Emirates onboard bar and lounge is also exclusive to the A380.
Unlike the shower, the onboard bar and lounge is accessible to both First Class and business class passengers, and is located at the back of the upper deck. There is designated seating in this lounge, equipped with seatbelts, and a bartender available to whip up your favourite cocktail.
In addition, there is a self-serve bar reserved for Emirates First Class passengers located at the front of the upper deck, opposite from the shower rooms.
Boeing 777-300ER (New)
With a wider body and only six First Class suites compared to 14 on the Airbus A380, Emirates’s new 777-300ERs exude a finer air of exclusivity.
With a 1-1-1 layout, couples or those otherwise travelling together will not have the same options of conversing during the flight as they would on the A380 or the older 777 aircraft.
For those travelling solo, you really can’t pick a bad seat out of the six, as they all are very similar and offer the utmost privacy. Each seat has a pitch of 69” and width of 20.5”.
While the new Boeing 777-300ER has neither the shower nor the onboard lounge and bar, it does have some other unique and updated features.
One noticeable difference is that the newly-equipped 777 First Class suites provide complete privacy with floor-to-ceiling doors.
Moreover, the new 777s are updated with cutting edge technology, including some of the largest entertainment screens at 32 inches, virtual windows for the middle seats, and updated personalized temperature and lighting controls.
Boeing 777-300ER (Old) + Boeing 777-200LR
With significantly more aircraft in operation compared with the newer format, this older version First Class product on the Boeing 777s offers slightly less privacy and less space as compared to the newer 777 product.
The same product is found on the 10 Boeing 777-200LRs in Emirates’s fleet.
There are eight First Class suites on these planes, laid out across two rows in a 1-2-1 format.
Similar to the Airbus A380, couples or passengers otherwise travelling together would be best suited in the middle: Seats 1E and 1F, or 2E and 2F.
Solo travellers who want slightly more privacy would be best off choosing one of the window seats: Seats 1A, 1K, 2A, or 2K.
Despite not having the same advanced technology as the newer models, this First Class product still has impressive features. These include mechanical window shades, unique light fixtures, a button-operated mini-bar, and a motorized sliding door.
Emirates First Class Routes
The below maps indicate which of Emirates’s routes offer First Class as of July 2022.
Emirates operates out of Dubai, which is where you can find almost all the First Class options. There are a few notable fifth-freedom routes, too.
Emirates First Class Routes to North America
The below map shows routes on which Emirates operates First Class cabins to North America.
Routes with the Airbus A380 are marked in blue, while routes with the Boeing 777 are marked in red.
As you can see, there is a good mix between the Airbus A380, which operates between Dubai and San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, and New York JFK, and the Boeing 777, which operates between Dubai and Seattle, Chicago, Boston, New York Newark, and Orlando.
You’ll also notice three fifth-freedom flights on the above map. Airbus A380 First Class is offered between New York JFK and Milan Malpensa, and Boeing 777 First Class is offered between New York Newark and Athens, as well as between Mexico City and Barcelona.
Emirates New First Class Routes
There are many more options for flights to and from Dubai to Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. In fact, on a large swath of routes, you can usually find the option to fly Emirates First Class.
The most coveted routes for Emirates First Class are ones with the new First Class Cabin. While the exact routing offerings aren’t entirely reliable, as Emirates is known to swap out aircraft up to the last minute, the following routes tend to have the new First Class cabin more frequently than others:
The bulk of these routes are to Europe, with single routes to North America (Washington), the Middle East (Riyadh), and Asia (Tokyo).
If you’re not on one of these routes, you’re likely to experience either the older First Class on other Boeing 777 aircraft, or the Airbus A380 First Class cabin.
Remember that the majority of the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft still have the older First Class product.
In order to find out whether the Boeing 777-300ER has the updated First Class product, you will want to see how many First Class seats there are in total.
The new product contains only six seats, while the old product contains eight seats. Use SeatGuru or ExpertFlyer as tools to find the cabin for your specific flight.
How to Redeem Points for Emirates First Class
Emirates is not a member of any global airline alliance. However, there are still ways for savvy travellers to experience this coveted First Class product without spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Since Emirates removed the ability to book First Class flights with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank, and Korean Air SKYPASS, there are only two reward programs remaining that can be utilized to book an Emirates First Class flight: Emirates Skywards and Qantas Frequent Flyer.
Despite heavy surcharges on the most popular routes, redeeming Emirates Skywards miles for Emirates First Class flights is significantly cheaper than paying the cash rate. At this point in time, it’s the best way to book and experience Emirates First Class with costing an arm and a leg.
Instead of an award chart, Emirates uses an “Emirates Miles Calculator”. Note that this calculator should be used as a guideline only, as flights can often be booked for fewer miles.
Using the calculator, you can find the following Skywards miles requirements for booking a one-way First Class flight from popular North American destinations to and from Dubai on the Airbus A380:
- Toronto to Dubai: 136,250 Skywards miles
- New York JFK to Dubai: 136,250 Skywards miles
- Los Angeles to Dubai: 155,000 Skywards miles
- Houston to Dubai: 155,000 Skywards miles
Note that round-trip First Class tickets using Skywards Miles will always be double the required amount for one-way flights.
In addition to the required Emirates Skywards miles for First Class fares, any flights going to and from Dubai are subject to heavy surcharges on some of the most popular routes.
For example, the Toronto to Dubai route has surcharges of $1,097 (CAD), and Dubai to Toronto has $1,122 (CAD) in surcharges. Leaving or returning to other airports in North America will incur similar costs.
Flying on Emirates First Class and avoiding Dubai has significantly lower costs. This is where the fifth-freedom routes come into play.
For example, while New York JFK to Dubai would cost 136,250 miles and over $1,000 in taxes and fees, flying on a fifth-freedom route from New York JFK to Milan only costs 85,000 Skywards miles and $83.10 (USD) taxes and fees.
Similarly, Newark to Athens comes in at the exact same price: 85,000 Skywards miles and $83.10 (USD) taxes and fees.
Emirates Skywards Miles are easy to earn for those who dabble in US-issued credit cards, as Emirates Skywards is a transfer partner with all of the major card issuers.
The US loyalty programs by American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi all offer the option to transfer points to Emirates Skywards Miles at a 1:1 ratio. Furthermore, Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to Emirates Skywards at the optimal ratio of 60,000:25,000.
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas Frequent Flyer is the rewards program of Australia’s flag carrier. Unlike redeeming Emirates Skywards miles for flights, Qantas uses a flight reward table that is based on the distance flown, divided into 10 zones.
However, with a significant increase in surcharges, and a slightly higher higher cost in points than when using Emirates Skywards miles, it doesn’t make much sense to use Qantas miles to book Emirates First Class flights.
Qantas miles can be earned the exact same way Emirates Skywards miles, by transferring from most US-based credit card programs at a ratio of 1:1.
Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense to transfer points to Qantas rather than Emirates in order to book Emirates First Class flights, as you could just transfer to Skywards instead and pay less for the same thing.
Emirates First Class Award Availability
Unlike other airlines, Emirates doesn’t seem to follow a reliable pattern for when they make First Class reward flights available.
Some routes may have no award flights available, while others might have one or two made available at the start of the schedule. Furthermore, Emirates has been known to release additional availability sporadically, including close to the date of departure.
When searching for availability, remember that the Airbus A380 has 14 First Class seats, and therefore may have more award space than on the smaller Boeing 777 aircraft.
The best strategy? Search early and often, and make sure to maintain some flexibility in your travel planning to maximize your chances of snagging that coveted Emirates First Class suite.
Tips & Tricks for Emirates First Class
If you want to fly Emirates First Class while still maximizing your points and saving money on taxes and surcharges, your best bet may be to avoid Dubai.
As things stand, flying the shorter flights from New York to Milan or Athens will save you around $1,000 in taxes and fees as compared to flying from New York to Dubai.
Another way to get the most out of an Emirates First Class booking is to add a stopover of longer than 24 hours with Emirates Skywards.
One stopover may be added on one-way First Class redemptions by calling in to book. You may have to pay additional points for adding more distance to your journey, but it’d be cheaper than booking the two flights separately.
Two stopovers are allowed on roundtrip First Class redemptions, and can be booked online.
Lastly, you’ll want to consider the direction and timing of your flight to maximize the experience. Daytime flights or long-haul flights will afford you plenty of waking hours to soak it all in and indulge in all of the bells and whistles, while nighttime flights or short-haul flights will give you less opportunity to do so.
Emirates First Class is one of the best experiences available in the skies. It’s no wonder that it remains at the top of many bucket lists.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of flying Emirates First Class is sure to speak highly of the elevated ground experience, the ostentatious cabin oozing with luxury, free-flowing top-shelf Champagne, heightened cuisine, and, of course, the ridiculous shower in the sky.
Luckily, you don’t have to be rich to book Emirates First Class. All you need to do is collect a few Emirates Skywards miles and plan in advance, and you’ll find yourself looking forward to the experience in no time.