Join me for a mid-pandemic flight in the world's best first-class suite
Few travel experiences have actually improved during the pandemic — Emirates' first-class service from New York-JFK is a very rare exception.
On its daily flight from New York, Emirates has replaced its superjumbo Airbus A380 suite with the airline's latest wide-body product, the affectionately named "Game Changer" onboard the Boeing 777-300ER.
First-class flyers can score their own self-enclosed suite every night from the U.S. to Dubai (DXB) — a rare opportunity to experience the world's best suite while traveling in what's arguably the most isolated product in the commercial aviation industry.
As I experienced during a recent flight, which you can catch in the video above, little has changed onboard. Service remains on-demand, with flyers experiencing the same level of luxury they always have, with an added COVID-19-friendly touch.
That means beginning a culinary journey with caviar and Dom Perignon Champagne, then enjoying a mid-flight feast capped off with $1,000-a-bottle cognac, before changing into the fancy airline-provided pajamas, closing your suite door and sliding into some of the most plush bedding you've ever encountered at 30,000 feet.
Best yet, you can currently redeem points and miles for your adventure, giving you access to an almost private-jet-like experience for a tiny fraction of the usual price of roughly $14,000.
You don't even need a gigantic Emirates balance in order to book. The airline's Skywards frequent flyer program partners with a handful of credit card programs, making it possible to boost your balance — instantly, in some cases.
You can currently transfer points to Skywards at the following rates:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards – 1:1
- Amex Membership Rewards – 1:1
- Citi ThankYou Rewards – 1:1
- Capital One Venture miles – 2:1
- Marriott Bonvoy – 3:1 with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred
For the time being, I actually recommend searching for availability using Alaska Airlines' website, though that'll no longer be an option once Emirates restricts access to first-class awards in April.
Once you find dates with first-class availability, I recommend heading over to TPG sister site ExpertFlyer and confirming the seat map — Emirates flies two versions of the 777-300ER, and the one you want has a total of six first-class suites; not the one with eight.
As of now, Emirates plans to continue flying the 777 to JFK through March 27 — it's possible the Airbus A380 will return after that date.
Note that aircraft substitutions are always possible, especially during the pandemic, so you could end up seeing the seat map above and still landing an older 777-300ER, which offers a slightly less private (but still fantastic) version of the airline's suite.
Be sure to check out the video up top for the mid-pandemic suite experience, and don't miss my colleague Zach Griff's detailed review for more.