If you think of the world’s most luxurious First Class cabins, I’d wager that Emirates would feature in the list somewhere. It’s certainly on mine. The cabin’s glittering (and some might say, blingy) burled wood panelling sets the scene for practically unlimited caviar and top-shelf Dom Pérignon.
Then there’s the massive suite (yes, three windows and a built-in wardrobe, please and thank you). The service defines the word ‘personalised’. Nothing is too much trouble, and the cabin crew have that uncanny sixth sense to know what you’re after before you quite know yourself.
Pleasingly, all Emirates flights between Australia and Dubai are now back on the Airbus A380, meaning you’ll get practically the same seat and service as I did, but with the added benefit of basking in an onboard shower before you land!
Such indulgence does come at a price – expect to part with around $1,700 in carrier charges on a redemption from Australia to Europe. But Qantas Points are one of the only ways to book Emirates First Class with points, and you’ll still enjoy excellent value, despite the hefty fees.
And if you really want a taste of the First Class lifestyle without the hefty price tag, we’ll let you in on a tip later on. Read to the end to find out.
Flying in ultimate First Class luxury, courtesy of Qantas Points? Let’s go.
Free-flowing Champagne from land to air
The VIP treatment starts at Perth Airport. The dedicated (and empty) lane for First Class and Platinum-status passengers means our luggage is promptly tagged and we’re off to the lounge within minutes.
Emirates’ lounge in Perth stocks two Champagnes and boasts over a dozen premium hot and cold dishes. We toast our first post-COVID overseas adventure with glasses of Moët & Chandon.
When it’s time to board, we’re invited to hop on first. As newbies to Emirates First Class, we eagerly accept and are escorted straight onboard. We’re warmly greeted and then shown to our dazzling First Class suites by our dedicated cabin crew.
The seat is far more spacious than I imagined. You know you’re in First Class when there’s a wardrobe behind the screen and space for a cabin bag in the footwell.
Next comes a dizzying array of pre-flight goodies: more Champagne, Bulgari amenity kits, moisturising pyjamas, a comprehensive snack basket, and a serving of Emirates’ signature Arabic coffee and dates.
Fine dining and wining on demand
At cruising altitude, one of the cabin crew comes over to ask how I’d like to spend the flight. Dining is completely on demand, so I can eat whatever I want from the menu, whenever I want. How is that for the ultimate inflight flexibility?
As this is an overnight flight, I opt for a light supper before going to sleep. But ‘light’ doesn’t mean less fancy. Not on Emirates.
Now that we’re in the air, we can finally crack open the star Champagne onboard – the legendary Dom Pérignon 2003 Plénitude 2. This is a rare second release of the 2003 vintage, retailing for around AU$800 a bottle. I gently savour the earthy notes of this exquisite Champagne, knowing full well this isn’t a drop I’ll be buying from the local Dan Murphy’s anytime soon!
After a tasty surprise amuse bouche, I start supper with the caviar course. Beautifully presented with a mother-of-pearl spoon, the generous serve of caviar is accompanied by blinis, crème fraîche, chopped egg whites and egg yolks, and more.
The porcini mushroom soup exceeds expectations – it’s creamy and rich, without being too overpowering. But the tea-smoked duck, which comes with lashings of mustard dressing and pickled cabbage, is even better. There’s just so much ‘umami’ in this dish.
But First Class doesn’t just offer fine dining. We’re also given a movie snacks menu which includes favourites such as wagyu beef sliders with caramelised onions and cheddar. In fact, I order them for breakfast later on, and it’s a great light bite.
Sleeping on clouds
When it’s time for a nap, the cabin crew efficiently make up my bed with a mattress pad and thick blanket while I’m changing into my Emirates First Class pyjamas (made of fancy self-moisturising material, incidentally). With the motorised suite doors closed and the cabin stars twinkling on the ceiling, I’ve got my own slice of paradise in the sky.
Later on, I wander to the front of the plane and spot a bottle of Hennessy Paradis at the bar. Retailing at over AU$1,500 a bottle, this extra rare cognac is the perfect way to end our flight to Dubai. It’s another signature Emirates First Class touch.
A first-rate transfer in Dubai
Perth to Dubai is ‘only’ 10 hours, but there’s no doubt that flying First Class makes the journey pass in no time at all. Not long after waking up and enjoying breakfast, we touch down in Dubai.
We’ve been sent to a remote gate. But never fear – Emirates whisks us to the terminal in a dedicated First Class bus just as Business Class passengers start disembarking. From there, we’re met by a member of the ground crew who takes us to our pit stop: the Emirates First Class Lounge in Concourse B.
The First Class lounge in Concourse B is massive, but it isn’t even the biggest Emirates lounge in Dubai (that honour belongs to the lounges in Concourse A). Here, we’re quickly ushered into the restaurant, where we ask for a small plate of sushi. Obviously their concept of ‘small’ is different because we’re treated to an entire platter of fresh seafood. Time to loosen the belt buckle!
All guests in this lounge can also enjoy a complimentary 15-minute treatment at the Timeless Spa. I opt for the shoulder and neck massage, which helps melt away the tension.
When it’s time to head to the gate in Concourse C, Emirates has one more surprise in store. First Class passengers may be offered a free ride when transiting in Dubai, especially when the next gate is far away. We’re bundled into a waiting buggy and chauffeured between concourses. My partner cheekily remarks to me that she can tick ‘VIP airport buggy transfer’ off her bucket list. I do so too.
Ultimate inflight luxury – all over again
We’re already having the time of our lives – but it gets better. We’re now on our second First Class flight, this time from Dubai to Vienna. In the words of ABBA, ‘here I go again!’ On this wholly daytime flight, we can soak up the incredible service even more.
This Boeing 777-300ER is noticeably newer compared to before. It features a gorgeous 32″ inflight entertainment screen and a modernised control tablet. But otherwise, the First Class seat is more or less the same wonderful, spacious suite.
The pre-flight service kicks off much as before: drinks (we’re off Champagne, for now), Arabic coffee and dates, Bulgari amenity kits, and another set of pyjamas.
Restaurant dining in the sky
My partner decides to have her lunch first. It starts with a fragrant chicken and lemongrass consommé, poured fresh at the seat. Next up is the traditional Arabic mezze which features a spread of local savoury dishes such as hummus, tabouleh, lamb kibbeh and much more.
The avocado and mango salad comes out looking like a Michelin-starred dish, while the lemon tart is dressed with coconut cream at the table. Talk about theatrics!
I’m ready for my lunch soon after, starting with another superb caviar course. After washing it down with my first glass of Dom Pérignon 2012, I want to try a local Emirati dish. The prawn machbous tastes so much better than it looks – the succulent king prawns are marinated in traditional spices, which are soaked up by the rice. It’s definitely a dish I’m hoping to order again on the ground.
Finally, I eschew dessert for another main – the pan-fried beef tenderloin. This version comes wrapped in veal rashers and served with truffled mashed potato.
It’s sensational, and easily one of the best steaks I’ve had recently. The protein is cooked to perfection and is just the right level of tenderness. Check out the photos below if you don’t believe me.
I know I sound like I have rose-tinted glasses on, but the food on this flight is actually that good.
How to earn points and book Emirates First Class
But all things must come to an end, and after six blissful hours, we land in Vienna. Our Emirates First Class experience from Australia to Europe is simply sensational. (And as a final perk, our luggage arrives third off the belt in Vienna).
Our journey is one that would usually retail for over AU$16,000 return – hence the indicative price of $8,116 one-way. But we manage to book a one-way fare to Vienna for only 170,800 Qantas Points + charges, per person.
This is actually a mini ‘point hack’, as most flights from Perth to Europe in First Class should cost 199,300 Qantas Points. But since Vienna, Rome and a few other destinations are closer to Perth than the rest of Europe, they price at the lower 170,800 points rate in First Class.
From Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, expect to part with up to 227,500 Qantas Points to fly to Europe or the USA in Emirates First Class.
Even with the increased carrier charges of ~$1,700 one-way, flying Emirates First Class with Qantas Points is still one of the most affordable ways to travel in opulent luxury.
We score up to 4.49 cents per point worth of value, while the new carrier charges drop it to around 3.72 cents per point. That’s still a decent redemption for First Class, given we value Qantas Points at 1.90 cents each.
Tip: Experience Emirates First Class for only SG$82 + Qantas Points
Remember how we mentioned at the beginning that there was a way to fly First Class without breaking the bank? Here’s the secret. You can also hop on Emirates’ newly-relaunched Boeing 777 service from Singapore to Melbourne for only 107,700 Qantas Points and SG$82 in First Class, one-way and per person. That’s exceptional value because there are no carrier charges on top at all!
For those new to point hacking, credit card signup bonuses are one of the quickest ways to amass a stash of points for travelling in style. In fact, my partner and I steadily earned over 600,000 Qantas Points to fund this lavish Europe trip (we also flew back in Qatar Airways Business Class).
If you’re not in a position to earn Qantas Points, you can also now buy and use Aeroplan points to book Emirates First Class rewards.
How to find Emirates First Class reward seats
It goes without saying that it can be a challenge to find Emirates First Class reward seats. It’s not as easy as when we booked during COVID-19 lockdowns. Premium travel demand is quite high, and both our flights had at least 70% of the First Class cabin filled.
At the time of writing, your best chance of getting First Class reward seats is in the weeks leading up to departure, or as far out as possible in the booking calendar. There are usually a few spare First Class seats released as reward seats each month. For example, here’s a (very) last-minute option from Melbourne to Vienna in First Class for two people.
Here’s a short video of how being flexible can make trips like this possible:
Consider starting out of Asia for better availability
If you’re not having luck booking Emirates out of Australia, an option for people with more time is to try to find flights out of Asia. For example, there are a few days in March 2023 when Emirates is offering two First Class reward seats with Qantas Points. These connect to flights in Europe starting from 149,800 Qantas Points.
Consider Business Class as a last resort
If all else fails and you don’t mind putting your First Class aspirations on ice, Emirates offers more availability in Business Class. The seats below are for February 2024, so you’ve got a year to plan your trip.
Yes, if you want to fly First Class, you’ll need to be flexible and be able to go at short notice. But if the stars align, you could enjoy one of the best experiences that points can buy.
Incidentally, this was my partner’s first-ever journey to Europe. And it’s safe to say that Emirates First Class has ruined her for long-haul travel. We’ll have to start building up our points balances again!
Eager to follow along as the Point Hacks crew traverse the globe up the pointy end? Then don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter.
Photography by Brandon Loo, who booked the flight with his own points. The comparison ticket price of $8,116 one-way is based on the cheapest available return First Class fare around our dates of travel.