I recently had the rare occurrence to upgrade from economy to business class on Emirates flight from Milan to JFK. I have never flown business class internationally before and found the experience worth it on a 9 hour flight. I normally never upgrade owing to my supreme travel cheapness but when promoted by an email from Emirates for s $600 upgrade to business class, I acquiesced. It was bitter sweet, boarding the plane and diverting away from the confines of cattle class, my usual haunt, to the spacious luxury of the upper deck – yes, I was moving’ on up!
Emirates and other Middle Eastern carriers such as Qatar and Ethiad are making serious inroads into the European market. Their routine sub $800 fares to Europe are starting to put a hurt on the previous dominates of Lufthansa & American. Remember, these are the airlines that oil built, so they can pump a lot into new routes and stay competitive just because they can. When several airlines are duking it out in a a good fashion fare fight, it’s always a good thing for flyers.
If you have nerd flown a middle eastern carrier, they are great to check out. Most east coast flights leave out of NYC and some out of Philadelphia. My original round trip from JFK – MXP (Milan) cost $600, not bad for a trip to Italy in April. The upgrade was a another $600 for the MXP – JFK leg and if you do the math for a 9 hour flight, it’s about $65/hr extra for the upgrade. After a bit of research, I discovered Emirates is operating an A380 on the MXP – JFK route. For those who aren’t familiar, the A380 is a 2 story Airbus plane where business and first class passengers occupy the top floor. Emirates previously operated a Boeing 777 on this route. Many major ‘milers’ said this plane was a HUGE improvement in class and service so an upgrade was a no brainer.
Another way to get an upgrade is to cash in your miles. I am normally too cheap to spend 100k+ miles outright for one of these tickets but using miles to upgrade to business class would drop my mileage outlay to possibly 35k or 50k miles. This could be a very good option if you find a dirt cheap airfare like I routinely see to China (sub $600 out of DC if you can believe it). Having flown several 14 hr + flights on a full plane in economy, cashing in some miles for a roomier seat seems like a no brainer.
Ok, I have bullet pointed out some nice features of the experience:
- The seats lay almost completely flat, great for sleeping, napping and lounging.
- There is a shower but it is reserved for 1st class passengers.
- There is a bar at the rear of the plane serving snacks and cocktails for the duration of the flight with some additional lounge seating areas. I found it a great place to stretch your legs, stand and socialize with other passengers.
- Emirate’s meal service is no joke. Depending on the time of day you fly (afternoon is usually the best because you get dinner!) There is a standard 3 course meal featuring cocktail with starter (champagne), main course (steak + red wine) followed by dessert (chocolate mouse + red wine) and Godiva chocolates and an espresso (opted for cappuccino).
- If you want some shut eye, plush eye masks and socks are provided as well as mattresses for your seat.
- Meals are brought out to you on trays and a steward walks around with a wine caddy refilling glasses continuously.
- The Emirate’s swag bag consisted of Bvlgari bath products with lotions and of course a toothbrush. I was less than impressed as the items were not very useful, only brand bragging, but lotions smelled good and it’s Bvlgari.
- Only 55 of the 79 seats were occupied during my flight, the flight felt very empty so the bar was mostly abandoned for the flight.
- There is no Emirates lounge access for a business class ticket. I thought since some passengers can board straight from the Emirates lounge in Milan but no, no pre-boarding luxury is part of this experience.
I would not upgrade every time if the option was offered to me, there are some factors that come into play and things you should consider:
- What airline is making the offer? Some airlines offer a better product than others. Singapore being rated as on the of best business class experiences out there. If you ever got the chance to upgrade with this airlines, you would be insane not to take it.
- How long is the flight? Would I pay extra for a 5 hour flight, probably not, but a 10 hr+ flight, I would seriously consider it.
- What time of day is the flight? An upgrade makes better sense for an overnight flight where you can try and sleep rather than a day flight where you might only nap.
- Is there value in the offer? Similar to the 1st question but we all value these products differently. I would never pay $2500 for a business class flight anywhere – remember I am cheap – but others would not hesitate. My total flight cost was $1200 with 1 leg being business class.
- Can you use miles to upgrade the ticket? I would consider upgrading the flight with miles for long haul (10 hr +) flights. Look at sites like Expert Flyer that tell you if upgrades are available.
- What kid of plane is it? Research the plane used for the legs of your flight using Seat Guru. The reason I upgraded my flight was the feedback I saw for the A380’s business class product over Boeing 777’s.