Emirates Series: Unique Features

Nov 30, 2013

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After this month’s announcement of Emirates as the newest American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner, and as part of our Emirates Series, TPG contributor Jason Steele discusses how you can earn and redeem your Skywards miles with the airline’s partners. Other posts in the series include: The Basics of Earning and Redeeming, Using Miles To Upgrade, Award Chart Sweet Spots, Elite Status and Good News: Amex Points Transfer to Emirates Instantly, Skywards Partner Earning and Redemption.

As we’ve seen in the first three parts of this series, Emirates Airlines tends to do things a little differently. For a carrier that just won the 2013 Airline Of The Year award from Skytrax, that is a compliment. Here are some of the unique features that Emirates offers that give it such an outstanding reputation.

Emirates luxurious First Class cabin is not out of reach thanks to SkyWards.
Emirates luxurious First Class cabin is not out of reach thanks to SkyWards.

First Class service Onboard. Emirates first class competes with the service offered by private jets (it offers that too). It was one of the first commercial carriers to feature private suites in first class, and the only one that offers in-flight showers on its Airbus A380 super-jumbos! Private suites are available in first class on the A380 and some Boeing 77-300 models. Open suites are on the A340-500 and 777-200LR.  Some 777-300ER aircraft have a lie-flat first product, while the standard 777-200, A330 and A340-300 are used on shorter routes and have angled lie-flat seats.

First Class lounges. Terminal 3 at Dubai features an expansive first class lounge. Among its many features are a wine cellar, a spa, a kid’s play area, and three separately themed seating areas: Arabian, Mughal, and Asian. Needless to say, a full buffet as well as a la carte dining is provided to first class customers. At Dubai airport’s Concourse A, the lounge runs the length of the terminal and passengers board their aircraft directly from the lounge.

Business Class Onboard. As unique as the Emirates first class product is, it can be easy to look past its exceptional business class. Full lie-flat seats are available on all A380 and some 777 aircraft, with others offering an angled lie-flat product (mostly on shorter routes). Business class passengers receive access to drinks and hor d’oervres in the A380 on-board lounge, while the in-flight entertainment system, called ICE, offers 1,500 channels of on-demand content.

Emirates' business class is pretty over-the-top too.
Emirates’ business class is pretty over-the-top too.

Business class lounges. Like the first class lounge, the business class lounge in Dubai Concourse A runs the length of the terminal and allows passengers to board their aircraft directly. Business class lounges offer an extensive buffet, spa and beauty treatments, business areas, and dedicated children’s play areas.

In-flight Dining. First class dining options are over the top. Passengers can use the telephones in flight to order food or drinks at any time, which are served on fine china, of course. Sample menus include such delicacies as wild Iranian caviar and glazed duck breast. In business class, travelers are served five-course lunches and dinners including champagne and vintage wines (no alcohol is served on flights to Saudi Arabia). Even the economy class options look pretty good, and can include smoked tuna appetizers and lamb brochette. All three classes of service feature an extensive wine list.

Upgrades. Upgrades can be obtained in several different ways, including right on-board. Mileage upgrades are available in advance: From the North America east zone, 115,000 miles for a single class, round trip upgrade from a Saver fare, and 90,000 from Flex fares. From the North America west zone, the rate is considerably higher; 165,000 miles for a single class, round trip upgrade from a Saver fare, and 227,500 from Flex fares. In addition, travelers report receiving emails with paid upgrade offers in advance. Instant upgrades with miles may be available at check-in. Finally,  Silver, Gold, and Platinum members may even use miles to upgrade once on-board, which is a rarity in the world of frequent flyer miles.

Chauffeur-driven service.  At select cities, Emirates will pick up business and first class passengers in a chauffeur driven vehicle. Reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance, and the service is offered by a third-party provider. Unlike other airlines that only offer airport transfers to paying passengers in premiums classes, this service is offered to travelers flying on award tickets as well, just not those who upgrade at the airport or on-board. In North America, this service is available at all airports serviced by Emirates. If you’re flying certain routes – like exclusively on the short-haul from Bangkok to Hong Kong, this service is not offered. Read the full terms and conditions here.

Emirates' chauffeur service is one of its flagship offerings.
Emirates’ chauffeur service is one of its flagship offerings.

In-flight Wi-Fi. Emirates is one of the first carriers to roll out in-flight Wi-Fi access on international, over-water routes. This service, called OnAir, is available for a mere $2.75 (USD) on smart phones, and $7.50 (USD) tablets and laptops.

Young Flyers. Emirates ranked in the top tier of the family friendly long haul international carriers I recently looked at. Its Young Flyers program includes kid friendly electronic entertainment options, children’s amenity kits, and specially prepared meals for children. These amenities includes toys with characters from their ‘Fly With Me Monsters’ collection, surf-styled Velcro wallets from Quiksilver brand, and fun-fact game cards. Also offered is a Dr. Seuss story book, Emirates’ own “e-kids” magazine, color pencils and rucksacks or cooler bags, and eye shades for flights over five hours. Also, their Skywards frequent flyer program even features a Skysurfers children’s program that offers toys and children’s activities for rewards.

Family Bonus. Emirates has a unique program called Family Bonus that allows members to nominate eight others as part of their family, and the “Family Head” will receive a 20% bonus on their travel, even when he/she is not part of the reservation. Status is not taken into account, and only regular miles are accrued, not tier status miles. Think of this like the travel arrangers bonus offered by some hotels, or the corporate travel arranger bonuses offered by Emirates and some other airlines. Eligible family members include one’s spouse, parents, siblings, children, grandparents, grand children, in-laws, step parents, step children and maids.

Dubai Connect. Emirates goes so far as to offer passengers connecting at its Dubai hub a free hotel room in certain circumstances. Its Dubai Connect program offers a room to first and business class passengers with a connection time before the first available flight of between six and 24 hours. Even economy class passengers with connection times between eight and 24 hours receive this service. Emirates web site even states that “Dubai Connect may also be offered in other cases, such as Skywards Flex redemption bookings.” Rooms must be requested at least 24 hours prior to departure. A credit card may be required at check in to cover incidentals, and transfers are included.

Although many of these features are for passengers in premium classes, Emirates still offers several unique amenities to their economy flyers as well as a consistently high quality of service that make flying them a higher-end experience than your average airline, and have won the airline numerous accolades over the years.

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