Many years ago, when I flew Emirates for the first time—to India via Dubai—my experience was a revelation. This was the early days of the Middle Eastern carrier’s expansion, and it hadn’t yet entered entered into the global consciousness as a world-class brand. Yet here was a thoroughly modern experience: brand-new aircraft product; a sophisticated, international flight crew; some of the best entertainment, dining, and amenities in the air.
On that trip, I flew both in business and in first class—first was especially noteworthy, with semi-enclosed cabins which at that time were a totally new phenomenon—and both were exceptional experiences. I felt I had definitely experienced an airline on the up and up, an assessment that proved correct.
Fast forward to today and, despite that positive early experience, I haven’t actually flown Emirates too much over the years. Although the airline’s rapid expansion of routes and fleet—including its enthusiastic and early embrace of the Airbus A380—make routing through its Dubai hub easy, for those of us who guard our status in one alliance or another, the inability to earn miles/points from Emirates flights on most of the major carriers serves as a not insignificant deterrent. (If you’re a loyalist of Alaska, Virgin America, or JetBlue, or a handful of international carriers like Korean Air, Quantas, and Japan Airlines, then you’re in luck, but those with status on American, United, or Delta won’t accrue points from Emirates flights—no matter how long.)
So a few months ago, when Emirates offered to fly me in business class to the Seychelles via Dubai—the carrier has some of the easiest connections to the Indian Ocean nation—I decided to give it a go, to evaluate whether it’s worth it for most travelers to forego the miles in exchange for what is meant to be an exceptional experience.
My conclusion is that Emirates, at least in business class, still stands out relative to other carriers in certain aspects and is on par with top-tier competitive products in most others, and it’s therefore well worth considering, particularly in instances where direct flights from the U.S. to your final destination are not an option and the routing through Dubai provides a convenient connection.
Read on for a step-by-step description of the experience on one leg of my journey: flying home to New York from Dubai on an A380.