After I left the Emirates Lounge at Johannesburg, I headed over towards the departure gates for my flight to Dubai. Passport checks were done at the gate. I was on a one-way ticket to Toronto from Johannesburg.
Paying for this Flight
The flight was booked primarily using Chase Ultimate Rewards points. It was a very reasonable fare for a one-way business class ticket ($1,666.60 USD from JNB to YYZ via DXB) and I was able to cover $1,081.93 USD with Chase Sapphire Points (72,128 points redeemed). The remaining $584.67 I paid for out of pocket, which I actually needed in order to hit my $4,000 spend requirements for the Chase Sapphire Reserve 100,000 point sign-up.
Overall, I was very satisfied with this deal, and I was pleased by the mileage accrual that Emirates flights earn on Alaska Airlines’ program. With a 125% bonus, the total redeemable miles that I would earn for these two flights would amount to 25,456 Alaska miles, enough for a free round trip.
Thank you to all of the people who encouraged me to credit these Emirates flights to Alaska’s program.
This would be my first time flying Emirates.
Emirates offers 4 daily flights from Dubai to Johannesburg and return, all on the 777-300ER variant. The aircraft configuration is fairly dense / economy-class heavy with 8 seats in First (suites), 42 angle-flat seats in Business and 304 standard economy class seats.
I have received some feedback regarding the types of seat which constitutes “lie-flat” vs. “angle-flat” vs. “flat-bed” so here is my general rule of thumb when I use such terminology:
- A flat bed seat reclines to a fully-horizontal position (180 degrees) but it is not horizontal in relation to the ground. This is the same as an angle lie-flat seat. The reason why I use these two definitions interchangeably is because I feel that certain carriers (especially foreign ones) use both names to describe their products, for instance, AirAsia X considers their Premium class seat a “flat bed.” This may be just for marketing purposes, but I use them to prevent product confusion.
- A lie-flat seat is a seat that, when fully reclined, is horizontal in shape not only in its extended position, but also in relation to the floor (aka it is perpendicular). It is, by definition, fully-lie flat as if it were a bed. I believe airlines should call this, “full lie-flat” to distinguish it from an angle lie-flat seat.”
But I digress…for more information on the types of Business Class seats that global airlines offer, Seat Guru has a great breakdown.
Anyways, today’s flight on the 777-300ER would feature the older seat, which has a 60 inch pitch and 20.5 inch seat width arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration.
To be honest, it has been awhile since I have sat in a premium class seat that featured 2 seats on one side of the aisle (trying to say that without sound absolutely, horrendously pretentious is near impossible, I know) so that was a bit of an adjustment factor.
I selected the bulkhead window seat, 8A, and a husband and wife duet were on both aisle seats in 8B and 8D. The husband tried to convince me to swap with his wife so they could sit together, but I declined because I had selected the window seat intentionally.
Crowdsource / poll: I have mixed feelings about asking someone to swap seats with you on a long-haul, international flight in Business, or even Economy, for that matter. If it is a family with children, or one has a special need, ailment, injury or some other extenuating circumstance, I’d gladly switch seats. But for the sake of a couple wanting to sit together – I feel like they can deal. There is such a thing as advanced seat selection, unless they upgraded at the gate or were flying Standby. Regardless, they seemed to find two open seats towards the rear of the cabin so the situation resolved itself.
The seat offers an Electrical Outlet along with two USB plugs and a headphones jack. The screen of the PTV is large and beautifully designed. Passengers also have tablets that they can use to watch the AirShow or use to play games even when the main monitor is in use. How cool is that?
Flight attendants came around distributing amenity kits and menus for tonight’s service, along with a welcome drink.
The EK Business Class premium kit definitely wins the award among all of my travel carriers for this trip (American and British Airways were the other two). The kit features Bvlgari products with some nice creams, a razor, shave foam, eau de toillete and the usual tissues, toothbrush and aftershave balm. I like how this was a gender-specific bag because I found the shave kit useful when I landed in Dubai.
Since the flight left relatively late in the evening, the main event would be dinner service followed by a Continental breakfast shortly before landing.
After take-off, flight attendants were relatively proactive about commencing the bar service, which features a pretty extensive list of beverages. I decided to have a Kir Royale while I explored the Entertainment system.
For the starter, I requested to try both the Tamarind Prawns as well as the Chicken Tikka Salad. The main menu featured a small clip on Chicken Biriyani, which sold me on wanting to give it a try.
The Chicken Tikka Salad came first, and was served with Cucumber, Tomato, BeetRoot and Minted Yogurt. The combination of the flavors was definitely interesting and refreshing, and the salad complemented the dish well as a starter.
Next came the Prawns, which really was just two prawns served with some salsa (mango coriander) and smoked pepper cream. It was fine, nothing too earth-shattering.
The main event, the Biriyani, certainly packed a powerful and spicy punch. It was a very rice-heavy dish, and magnificently flavored one at that, so I was glad that I gave it a whirl.
Being completely stuffed, I skipped dessert. I was a bit surprised that Emirates does not serve Amaretto in J-Class.
Breakfast service, which was served prior to landing, was very basic. Part of me is slightly surprised given the fact that American serves two full meals in Business class on transatlantic red-eye flights, whereas Emirates does not? Hmm.
Crew and In-Flight Entertainment
Emirates’ ICE system, which stands for Information, Communication and Entertainment, is one of the best entertainment programs out there. I had heard raving reviews about it until I got to sample it in person, and I must say, even for someone like me who rarely ever watches TV, Films and Documentaries due to a lack of spare time, I still managed to find stuff that I would like to watch and explore.
You’ll literally find a multitude of films and movies in virtually every language. I am pretty sure that Emirates has more movies in German than Lufthansa offers in its IFE bouquet (being facetious here).
The crew, I felt were so-so. Per expectations, Emirates employs a global Cabin Crew, which is a great idea in theory, but I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews on how this has led to some service inconsistencies and slight variation given the massive size, scale and growth of the carrier. To be fair, I’m sure that individually, each of them intended to provide great service, but there was a personal touch and warmth that was missing.
For illustrative purposes, I felt that the dinner service was rushed and the cabin attendant seemed stressed. It seemed like it was a challenge for them to smile. I felt that the cabin crew on British Airways were far warmer than this crop, but sometimes I guess c’est la vie.
Arrival into Dubai
Descent into Dubai was beautiful in the early morning Arabian sunlight. Our routing took us over East Africa, the Horn and over the Gulf of Aden before crossing into Yemen, Saudi and then the UAE.
Arrival and landing into Dubai was smooth, and thankfully, immigration was super quick and easy, much faster than what I had experienced in Doha a few years before. I made my way to Duty Free to purchase some goods before taking the transit to the F terminal for my onward flight to Toronto.
Conclusions: Emirates 766 from Johannesburg to Dubai
For the price that I paid, I cannot say that I had a negative experience with Emirates, but I also don’t think it’s one of the best business class products out there on the 777-300ER.
I slept decently on the bed, hardly more than 3-4 hours, but sometimes I just have a harder time sleeping on flights over others. I’m sure that it would have been fine on a 16 hour nonstop flight to the U.S., west-bound, if it came down to that. There is a divider in the seat that makes it possible to get additional privacy when the seat is reclined.
I thought the Food and Beverage was just okay, and definitely falls beneath Qatar. The latter offers dine-on-demand and is catered to insure that they do not run out of food. Airplane food can also be a hit-or-miss sometimes.
That being said, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this flight to anyone. It is probably one of the more convenient routings to get back from South Africa to North America at a relatively competitive price.