There’s no doubt about it, Emirates one-upped everyone in the first class department when they unveiled their brand new suite on the 777-300. Sure it’s a smokescreen to cover up for the 2-3-2 configuration in business class, but the fully enclosed first class suite is something else!
Unfortunately for collectors of frequent flyer points, there’s no chance to redeem your points for one of these new suites as Emirates is actively blocking them for redemption.
There are only 2 routes right now which feature the new first class cabin, and those are Brussels and Geneva to and from Dubai. While Geneva gets 2 reconfigured 777-300’s every day, Brussels only gets one. It makes logical sense as the Geneva route is far more premium oriented (Swiss watch shopping anyone?).
For those of us that geek out over new first class seats, the only way to try them right now is by opening the wallet and dropping a casual $7,146 on a one-way ticket,
or you could snap up a “bargain” on a return flight for only $10,898 for what is a 6h 55m flight.
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What if there was a better way?
Naturally there are only a select few people who don’t flinch at those eye-watering prices. But what if there was a better way, a cheaper way…with more first class airtime?
Well there is, and it comes in the form of a small-ish developing country off the Indian coast called Sri Lanka. I’ve never been, but from some research and first-hand reports, it’s a very nice place! Great beaches, palm trees, epic surf and not many tourists.
Cheap First Class Travel From Colombo, Sri Linka
Apart from that it’s also one of the cheapest places (if not THE cheapest) to depart from, especially in premium cabins. Colombo, the capital, is actually rather well connected and has more premium airlines departing from it than a lot of first world countries.
Emirates has a few daily flights on the old 777-300 on what is a flight of just over 4h. The best thing about Colombo is the discount you get for booking a first class ticket! Instead of dropping $7,146 on a one-way flight from Dubai to Geneva, you can snap up a one-way ticket from Colombo to Dubai and then onto Geneva for ‘only’ $2,909.
According to my 1st-grade math skills that’s a saving of 59.29% + an extra 4h in the older but still fantastic Emirates first class cabin, which is almost identical to the A380 minus the shower.
The same flight is also possible to Brussels but came in at around $3300 so even though my end destination is Brussels it makes economic sense to fly to Geneva first and buy a cheap $80 economy ticket for the 1h flight to Brussels (which will be enough time to reflect and savour the economy experience).
A return flight to Geneva is of course better value for money (well…I mean it’s less than the 10k for the same flight from Dubai) and comes in at $4909 return.
Where I will be crediting my points earned
It’s not often that I fly on a fully paid ticket, so I don’t hold any status to factor in. Emirates is a partner airline with Alaska Airlines (who also have a great frequent flyer program). My Emirates first class flight is booked as “First Flex” which according to the Where To Credit calculator will net me a healthy 17,852 Alaska Mileage Plan points (according to the https://www.wheretocredit.com/calculator calculator). Since you only need 30,000 Alaska miles to fly one way from Australia/NZ to Hong Kong in business class, that’s a significant value in my book and helps me to justify further spending what is still a lot of money for this flight.
Something to keep in mind
The reason flights from and to Sri Lanka are so cheap is mainly due to taxes but also because it’s a developing country, the average means are obviously lower compared to countries such as Dubai or Switzerland. I calculated that the airline taxes on my particular flight were less than $100 which is significantly lower compared to most countries around the world. The only problem with this is that the tickets can’t be booked via a foreign travel agent and must be booked locally.
I was hoping to book my flights using the Amex Platinum travel concierge (since this service doesn’t charge any surcharges for credit cards and earns triple Amex points) but they were unable to book this fare as an international travel agent. The easiest way is to book directly via Emirates and pay either in the local currency or work out if it’s cheaper to take their conversion to AUD over your credit card.
How to get to Colombo, Sri Lanka
For me, the easiest way was a points redemption with Singapore Airlines, for only 55,000 KrisFlyer points and just over $89 in taxes I snapped up a business class ticket on the new 787 from Perth to Singapore and then onto Sri Lanka which is around 4h flying from Singapore.
Although this is not something for everyone and the $2909 cost of the ticket is by no means a bargain, for those of us that enjoy experiences like this it is money well spent. Even though award bookings in first class aren’t possible at this stage, you can opt to fly the new business class from Dubai to Geneva for 50,000 Qantas points and more than $600 in taxes which isn’t exactly great value since the same business fare from Colombo can be had for around $2000!
Let me know what you think, would you go out of your way to try the new Emirates first class?
To price up your own Emirates First Class Fare via Colombo, click here.