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One of my favorite things about being a frequent flyer is being able to compare the different levels of services airlines offer on their served destinations. With the Amman-Dubai route served by Emirates, Royal Jordanian and flydubai, we wanted to give the Emirates first class experience a shot. The route is served by their 777 aircraft, with eight first class seats — for this flight, it was just two of us in the cabin.
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The check-in experience really is an experience. Unlike most airlines, Emirates doesn’t have a separate desk for first and business class passengers ... it has a whole separate check-in area.
From the second you walk past the doors under the first class terminal, you realize you’re somewhere completely out of the ordinary. Red carpets lead you to the check-in counters with the word “First” emblazoned in gold.
Even though we were some of the only passengers in the terminal on New Year’s Day, virtually every station was manned.
Processing through check-in and baggage drop-off was quick and uneventful, as was security and immigration. We were on our way to the lounge in under 10 minutes.
Just before you walk into the lounge, you will find the Timeless Spa. When flying on a first-class ticket, you are entitled to a complimentary 15-minute service of your choosing.
Options ranged from an Indian head massage to a relaxing back massage and mini-facial. I opted for the Thai body stretch and was not disappointed.
Up the elevators after passing through security lies the desert oasis that is the Emirates First Class Lounge. I don’t have any words to describe this lounge other than impressive, both in magnitude and level of service. Not only because it is a perfectly relaxing place to have a drink (or three), but because it’s so incredibly large and deserted that you’ll feel you’re on your own.
The lounge encompasses the length of the entire terminal. Within it, you’ll find a duty-free area, a cigar smoking room as well as dining areas, waiting areas and all the other areas you could think of, exclusively for first class passengers.
For those connecting and in need of a refresh after a 10+ hour flight, the lounge has showers to take advantage of before you head to your final destination. (That is, if you didn’t get the chance to experience the shower onboard one of their A380 aircraft.)
For wine drinkers, there is the Le Clos Wine Cellar, which houses some of the rarest vintages.
There are over a half-dozen dining areas, where you can take a seat while you rest and order from the a la carte menu. The options are plentiful and staff are happy to customize some of them to your liking, as well as suggest wine pairings.
The one slight annoyance I've noticed every time I visit this lounge is that they do not have a printed menu for their cocktail options.
Still, I’ll be honest — I’m guilty of overeating when I travel. I ordered a few items off the menu fully knowing I’d be enjoying the onboard meals in a couple of hours. (It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!)
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If there’s one convenience factor I’m in love with, it has to be the fact that boarding your flight does not require leaving the lounge. Dubai airport is a rather busy hub, so the main areas do get crowded at the busiest times. But you don’t have to worry about that in the lounge, because all you have to do is head to your gate area within the first class lounge. Once there, a gate agent will scan you in and escort you to an elevator that leads straight into the jet bridge.
That way, you really can board whenever you want, as you will not be waiting behind anyone on the jet bridge. This ensures you can spend more time chilling at the lounge and maybe sipping a few more drinks.
As mentioned before, the Emirates 777 houses eight seats in first class, and we were the only two people on this flight. Birdseye maple adorns every single surface, from the private minibar to the massive entertainment screen.
Fresh orchids are placed at your seat, and as soon as you’re seated, you’re offered a glass of Dom Perignon Champagne.
Since the crew knows that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people, they’re more than willing to take pictures of you. Our purser on the flight offered to take no less than two dozen pictures, insisting that she had to get “just the perfect angle.”
The seat itself is thick and well-cushioned, and controls can all be accessed by the tablet at the side of your seat. Lighting, massage, air vents and the TV controls can all be managed on the device.
There is a minibar at your seat as well, just in case you can’t be bothered to push the call button to get something from the flight attendant.
One notable feature of the cabin is the lack of overhead storage. This gives the cabin a cavernous feel, providing the sensation of being on a private jet.
Apart from the Dom Perignon, this flight featured two red wines, two whites and a dessert port. I felt compelled to make sure that the bottle of port dessert wine was finished off, since port is my favorite.
Menus change all the time, but no matter the time of day or year, you’re assured to get a five-star dining experience unlike any other.
On my flight, I was offered an appetizer of roasted tomato soup, Arabic mezze or a salmon salad. All were accompanied with bread that was baked fresh that morning.
For the main course, the options included a Mahshi (eggplants and cabbage with lamb stuffing), grilled kingfish, vegetable lasagna or a chicken kofta casserole. I opted for the soup and the kingfish.
Not to be outdone, the desserts were equally spectacular. There is a simple selection of Arabic pastries or seasonal fruit for the less adventurous, but I opted for the Raspberry Royale, a white chocolate mousse with raspberry filling on a layer of almond genoise.
ICE (information, communication, entertainment) is Emirates’ in-flight entertainment program, offering hundreds of movies and full TV series to watch. There is absolutely no reason to get bored on any Emirates flight.
There are thousands of channels of distinct entertainment to watch — so much in fact that I spent a good 20 minutes just scrolling through the options trying to decide on one.
If you get bored with thousands of hours of movies, you could watch one of the tail cameras to see the world around you. I love watching those as we land, as it provides a truly unique experience as opposed to just looking out the windows around me.
If you’ve got the cash, by all means, feel free to splurge on this flight. A one-way ticket in February for the flight from Dubai to Amman will set you back $2,431. You could also or miles of a partner airline, like Alaska.
We used our for the flight. Since Alaska charges the same amount of miles from the U.S. to anywhere in the Middle East, we were able to tack on the Amman flight for free once we booked the U.S. - Dubai flight.
The cost to book a flight from Houston to Dubai and connecting on to Amman was 150,000 Mileage Plan miles and $31.80 in taxes and fees.
That’s it — just $31.80 plus a big chunk of miles. The key here is that if you want to go on a trip like this, start saving, have a plan of action to earn those miles and set the time aside.
Remember that is also a transfer partner for Marriott Rewards, so you can always move your Marriott points into Alaska Airlines Miles.
Photos courtesy of Ben Nickel-D'Andrea.
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