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Premium Class Comparison on the World’s Longest Flights

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If you’re going to redeem miles for a premium flight, you might as well enjoy the onboard amenities for more than a few hours. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen takes a look at ten routes that help you maximize the first or business-class experience.

Last month, Emirates announced that it will launch new nonstop service from Dubai to Panama City, Panama in February of 2016. At 8,588 miles, this flight will take the title as the longest in the world, edging Qantas’ Sydney-Dallas route by just 10 miles. Spending anywhere near 15 hours in the air may seem like an eternity to some readers, but the time flies if you’re traveling in first or business class. In this post, I want to give you a sense of what to expect in the premium cabins of these ultra long-haul flights in case you’re fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be booked on one of them in the near future.

Emirates' new flight to Panama City will be operated by a three-class Boeing 777-200LR.
Emirates’ new flight to Panama City will be operated by a three-class Boeing 777-200LR.

1. Emirates Flights 251/252, Dubai (DXB) to Panama City (PTY)

Key Stats

  • Distance — 8,588 miles
  • Time — 17 hours, 35 minutes (DXB-PTY); 15 hours, 45 minutes (PTY-DXB)
  • Aircraft — Boeing 777-200LR
  • Schedule — Daily

First Class
Emirates is most famous for its A380 aircraft, which TPG flew from Dubai to New York back in 2013. However, the carrier’s 777-200LR also has some luxurious premium cabins. The 8 private suites in first class are situated in two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration, and include up to 2,000 channels of on-demand entertainment on the individual widescreen televisions. While menus haven’t been loaded online for these specific flights yet, first-class dining on Emirates typically consists of an incredible spread complete with canapes, caviar, Arabic mezze and regionally inspired main dishes. The carrier currently pours Dom Perignon 2005 in the air along with several red and white options to pair perfectly with your meal.

Business Class
Emirates business class may not have the bling factor of first class, but it’s still a very comfortable way to get to your destination. This aircraft is equipped with 42 lie-flat seats in a 2-3-2 configuration with the same extensive in-flight entertainment that first-class passengers enjoy (though on a slightly smaller screen). You’ll also enjoy a multi-course meal and a solid wine list with selections like Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne and Sonoma-Cutrer 2013 Chardonnay.

Redeeming Miles
Alaska Airlines is likely the best option for redeeming miles on this route, though Mileage Plan doesn’t publish an award chart for flights departing out of Central America (and the route doesn’t show up when searching for awards online). These flights will likely cost the same as flights from North America to the Middle East, so you’d be looking at 72,500 miles each way for business-class awards and 90,000 miles each way for first-class awards.

Qantas is just one of several options you have to fly to Sydney.
Qantas flies an A380 aircraft from Sydney to Dallas on what is currently the world’s longest route.

2. Qantas Flights 7/8, Sydney (SYD) to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)

Key Stats

  • Distance — 8,578 miles
  • Time — 15 hours, 35 minutes (SYD-DFW); 16 hours, 50 minutes (DFW-SYD)
  • Aircraft — Airbus A380-800
  • Schedule — 6 days a week (doesn’t operate on Tuesdays)

First Class
Qantas was the first carrier to launch A380 service to Dallas-Fort Worth, and this flight will be the longest in the world until Emirates starts the above flight to Panama City. First class on the A380 consists of 14 suites in a 1-1-1 configuration located at the front of the lower deck. Qantas has partnered with the Rockpool Group to design an exquisite eight-course tasting menu for international first class, though you can also dine a la carte and even enlist the help of a Sommelier in the Sky to assist with your wine pairing (in case the Taittinger Champagne doesn’t match your mood). You’ll also enjoy an extensive array of on-demand in-flight entertainment on your 17-inch monitor.

Business Class
Traveling in business class on Qantas’ A380 is also quite luxurious, consisting of 64 flat-bed seats in a staggered 2-2-2 configuration occupying most of the upper deck. Rockpool has also designed the menu for Qantas’ international business class, and you can also utilize the carrier’s Sommelier in the Sky (though you can’t really go wrong with the Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne). The A380 also includes a separate onboard business class lounge to relax with existing friends or make new ones in-flight. You’ll have plenty of entertainment at your seat courtesy of the 1,500+ options viewable on your 12-inch screen, and on this ultra-longhaul flight, you can even take advantage of turndown service before catching some shut-eye.

Redeeming Miles
American typically offers the best option for award redemptions on Qantas from the US to Australia, charging just 62,500 AAdvantage miles each way in business class and 72,500 AAdvantage miles each way in first class. Availability tends to be quite limited, but is searchable on AA.com and also appears on ExpertFlyer (look for availability in P for first class and U for business class).

brian-kelly-the-points-guy-delta-one-jfk-istanbul
TPG enjoying a glass of Champagne in Delta One (business class) on a flight last month

3. Delta Flights 200/201, Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB)

Key Stats

  • Distance — 8,439 miles
  • Time — 15 hours, 40 minutes (ATL-JNB); 16 hours, 22 minutes (JNB-ATL)
  • Aircraft — Boeing 777-200LR
  • Schedule — Daily

Business Class
Delta doesn’t offer a first-class cabin on its international flights, but flying in the carrier’s newly re-branded Delta One is still a comfortable way to travel. On the 777-200LR, you’ll have fully flat beds in a 1-2-1 herringbone configuration, giving all travelers direct aisle access and personal TVs with a full collection of entertainment options. Enjoy regionally inspired dishes and wine lists selected by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson, and when you’re ready to sleep, you can drift off on Westin’s Heavenly in-flight bedding.

Redeeming Miles
Delta SkyMiles are a natural choice for award redemptions on this flight, but keep in mind that the carrier removed award charts from its website earlier in the year, and finding low-level availability (80,000 miles each way) is exceedingly difficult. In fact, this route made Jason Steele’s list of 5 award flights that don’t exist at the saver level. At the time of his post, 93.5% of the flights on this route were only available at Level 5 (175,000 miles). Believe it or not, things have gotten even worse since then. As I write this post, there’s not a single day with Level 1-4 availability in both directions. In fact, as of June 1, 2016, flights from Johannesburg to Atlanta jump to an astonishing 375,000 miles each way in business class. If this is a sign of what’s to come with Delta’s most recent changes, count me out!

I ordered the mezze platter to start.
Etihad typically serves traditional Arabic mezze in its premium-class cabins.

4. Etihad Flights 170/171, Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Los Angeles (LAX)

Key Stats

  • Distance — 8,390 miles
  • Time — 16 hours, 35 minutes (AUH-LAX); 16 hours, 5 minutes (LAX-AUH)
  • Aircraft — 777-200LR
  • Schedule — Daily

First Class
Etihad’s 777-200LR includes 8 closed first class suites in a 1-2-1 configuration, complete with a personal wardrobe and chilled drinks cabinet. You can enjoy 750 hours of on-demand entertainment on your suite’s 23-inch flat-screen TV, and take advantage of the airline’s in-flight chef for a la carte dining. All wines are hand-picked by experienced sommeliers, and typically come from boutique vineyards (as opposed to the mass-produced varietals found on other carriers).

Business Class
Business class on Etihad’s 777-200LR aircraft consists of 40 flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration (ensuring aisle access for all passengers). You’ll have access to the same in-flight entertainment menu, though you’ll have to settle for a TV screen that measures a mere 15.4 inches. The dining options can be enjoyed at any time, and when you’re ready to take a snooze, you’ll have access to a plush comforter and full-sized pillow.

Redeeming Miles
American AAdvantage is your best bet for redeeming miles on Etihad; you’ll need 67,500 miles each way in business class award and 90,000 miles each way in first class. Check out my guide to booking Etihad awards for more insight on how to book these awards. The following posts can also provide more information on this flight:

You can fly Emirates A380 first class for less than $2,000 each way.
First class on Emirates’ A380 isn’t just style over substance; pouring Dom Perignon is a good way to ensure customer satisfaction!

5. Emirates Flights 215/216, Dubai (DXB) to Los Angeles (LAX)

Key Stats

  • Distance — 8,339 miles
  • Time — 16 hours (DXB-LAX); 15 hours, 50 minutes (LAX-DXB)
  • Aircraft — Airbus A380-800
  • Schedule — Daily

First Class
Emirates operates four of the ten flights on this list, and the carrier’s daily flight to Los Angeles is on its signature A380-800 aircraft. First class on this monster of a plane consists of 14 suites at the front of the upper deck in a 1-2-1 configuration. Passengers will enjoy the same in-flight entertainment, extensive meal service and wine list as those on the 777-200LR described above, but the Emirates A380 takes luxury even further. First-class travelers can enjoy a shower at 38,000 feet in the Shower Spa, staffed by a designated shower attendant. You can also visit the onboard bar, situated between the first and business class cabins, to socialize with other passengers or grab a drink between courses. If you’d rather stay productive, all Emirates A380 aircraft are equipped with in-flight Wi-Fi.

Business Class
The business-class cabin of the A380 is also a luxurious place to while away 15+ hours in the air. Taking up the rest of the upper deck of the plane, the 76 seats convert to fully flat beds and are arranged in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, offering each passenger direct aisle access. Like in first class, you’ll enjoy the same food and drink options listed above on the Dubai-Panama City flight, though you can also check out the onboard bar at the front of the business class cabin.

Redeeming miles
Like with the Dubai-Panama City flight, Alaska Airlines is your best bet for premium-class redemptions. You’ll need 72,500 Mileage Plan miles for a one-way business-class award and 90,000 miles for a one-way first-class award. Remember that you can use ExpertFlyer to set alerts and find this award inventory (Z for first class, D for business class), and then visit AlaskaAir.com to actually book the flight.

Saudia's first class hard product looks very comfortable, though you'll need to make it through 16+ hours with no alcohol!
Saudia offers a first-rate premium cabin, though you’ll need to make it through 16+ hours with no alcohol.

6. Saudia Flights 41/42, Jeddah (JED) to Los Angeles (LAX)

Key stats

  • Distance — 8,332 miles
  • Time — 16 hours, 10 minutes (JED-LAX); 16 hours, 10 minutes (LAX-JED)
  • Aircraft — Boeing 777-300ER
  • Schedule — Monday, Thursday and Saturday (and Wednesday until September 10th)

First Class
Saudia’s 777-300ER aircraft includes an uncommonly large first-class cabin, with 24 flat-bed seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. Meal service begins with Arabic coffee and dates, and continues with several courses, though keep in mind that the carrier is completely dry (read: no alcohol). You’re also provided pajamas to change into prior to reclining your seat and drifting off to sleep.

Business Class
The aircraft includes 36 flat-bed seats in business class, also in a 2-2-2 configuration (you only sacrifice an inch of width but give up almost two feet of pitch). Though the carrier is dry, you can still enjoy a multi-course meal and numerous in-flight entertainment options.

Redeeming miles
Since Saudia is a member of SkyTeam, Delta is one of the obvious options for redeeming miles. However, remember that SkyMiles doesn’t allow you to book international first-class awards, so you’re stuck with business-class only. For this flight, that would set you back 70,000 miles each way.

Emirates A380
Emirates’ A380 is becoming a common site at airports across the US.

7. Emirates Flights 211/212, Dubai (DXB) to Houston-Intercontinental (IAH)

Key Stats

  • Distance — 8,168 miles
  • Time — 16 hours, 20 minutes (DXB-IAH); 15 hours, 5 minutes (IAH-DXB)
  • Aircraft — Airbus A380-800
  • Schedule — Daily

First and Business Class
Same amenities and redemption options as the Dubai-Los Angeles flight above

8. Etihad Flight 182/183, Abu Dhabi (AUH) to San Francisco (SFO)

Key Stats

  • Distance — 8,158 miles
  • Time —16 hours, 5 minutes (AUH-SFO); 15 hours, 55 minutes (SFO-AUH)
  • Aircraft — Boeing 777-300ER
  • Schedule — Daily

First and Business Class
Etihad’s 777-3ooER and 777-200LR aircraft offer similar first and business-class products (described in detail above). The best redemption option (through American Airlines AAdvantage) is also the same.

American's 777-300ER business class seats are new and in the popular reverse-herringbone configuration.
American’s 777-300ER new business class seats are in the popular reverse-herringbone configuration.

9. American Flights 137/138, Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG)

Key Stats

  • Distance — 8,123 miles
  • Time — Daily
  • Aircraft — Boeing 777-300ER
  • Schedule — Daily

First Class
The 777-300ER is one of the newest aircraft in American’s fleet. First class on this plane consists of just 8 flat-bed seats with 17-inch touchscreen monitors, and AC and USB power outlets at every seat. You’ll enjoy enhanced dining options (including an in-flight wine tasting) and a premium-cabin walk-up bar. These planes are also equipped with international Wi-Fi, allowing you to stay productive regardless of where you’re traveling.

Business Class
The business-class cabin on American’s 777-300ER aircraft is nothing to sneeze at, with 52 flat-bed seats in a reverse herringbone 1-2-1 configuration, again giving all travelers direct aisle access. You can also enjoy a multi-course meal and visit the premium-cabin bar, though your seatback TV is just 15.4 inches.

Redeeming Miles
Since this flight is operated by American, its primary redemption currency is AAdvantage miles. A one-way MileSAAver award will cost you 55,000 miles in business class or 67,500 miles in first class, while AAnytime awards can get up to 210,000 miles. American is another carrier on ExpertFlyer, though I’ve found that award inventory on this particular route is scarce. For more details on this plane, check out the following posts:

10. Emirates Flights 225/226, Dubai (DXB) to San Francisco (SFO)

Key Stats

  • Distance — 8,103 miles
  • Time — 15 hours, 50 minutes (DXB-SFO); 15 hours, 40 minutes (SFO-DXB)
  • Aircraft — Airbus A380-800
  • Schedule — Daily

First and Business Class
Same amenities and redemption options as the Dubai-Los Angeles flight above

Bottom line

Flying for 15+ hours may seem daunting, but as an aviation geek, I would love to take one of these routes (incidentally, I’ve flown from New York-JFK to Hong Kong in first class on Cathay Pacific, which is the 11th longest flight in the world at 8,072 miles). Traveling in first or business class ensures that you’ll at least be comfortable for these ultra long-haul flights. Keep in mind that these 10 flights pale in comparison to the previous titleholder: Singapore’s nonstop all business class service from Newark to Singapore (which TPG flew back in 2013) clocked in at a whopping 9,534 miles!

Which of these routes would you most like to try?

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