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Review: Emirates First Class 777-300ER Dubai to Riyadh

a stuffed animal on the seat of an airplane

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Emirates First Class 777-300ER DXB to RUH

Emirates First Class is one of the most iconic and aspirational first class products out there. With doors that close, more gold than Nefertiti’s tomb, and an endless amount of blogger press hyping it up, it’s certainly on a lot of bucket lists. And it had been on mine until two days prior to this Emirates First Class 777-300ER experience from Dubai to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

It was then that I got to experience my very first Emirates First Class flight, ultra long haul, from San Francisco to Dubai aboard the A380. It was the first leg on this journey which ultimately took us to Saudi Arabia shortly after the country opened to tourists. More than that later. The first leg was on an updated A380 that was fit with refreshed, but older configured, seats and exceeded every expectation that I had had. It was a true Emirates First Class experience, unlike this 90 minute flight which, while great, doesn’t afford the luxuries found on longer flights.

We booked the journey with Alaska miles. It’s an absolute fortune, but you save taxes and we happen to be quite flush with Alaska miles since we have pivoted our loyalty there and maintain elite status. In total, it was 150k Alaska Miles + $78 to fly SFO-DXB-RUH with a baked in, 2 night, stopover in Dubai.

 

Flight Details:

  • When: November 2019
  • Where: Dubai to Riyadh
  • Flight: EK 813
  • Cabin: First
  • Booked with: Alaska Miles
  • Plane: 777-300ER
  • Seat: 2A
  • Flight Time: 90 mins

Booking

While I don’t have a screen cap of my booking, it’s quite straight forward and easy to search for availability on the Alaska website. You can book online, but know that you cannot change any legs of the flight after you’ve flown the first one. Mine looked something like this ( this has a second leg different from mine but you get the gist ). You can also build the stopover in by selecting multi-destination and choosing flights on the days you’d like.

a screenshot of a phone

Check-in

If you’ve never flown Emirates out of Dubai, it’s insane. Not only is there an exclusive terminal for premium check-in, but I’ve never seen more check-in counters anywhere in the world. Business Class seems to go on forever and there were numerous first class counters as well.

Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai

Nothing is small in Dubai and the Emirates First Class lounge, which will have its own review, could quite possibly have its own gravitational pull. It’s basically an entire airport terminal in and of itself. It’s conflicting luxury tho. It’s so big that it lacks intimacy, and I believe because of its size, it feels like an old mall that needs a reno. It has almost anything you could imagine from sushi bars, waiters bringing endless drinks, premium coffee, buffets, showers, prayer rooms, and even rare liquors.

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Boarding

Emirates did something that I’d never seen done prior to this flight, and it left me a little confused until I saw the method to the madness. Once we saw our gate was boarding we headed over. Staff scanned our tickets on one level, but it became clear that we would need to head downstairs to board. They started with First and business class, but much to my chagrin they wouldn’t let premium passengers down the escalators, only economy. Usually this would be the other way around, but quickly it became clear what was happening: we were being bussed.

Once the First and business class busses arrived, we were quickly ushered down and on to our busses. Have you ever seen a bus quite like this?

We then arrived plane-side, and popped up the stairs. The second set of 3 windows are mine.

a close up of an airplane

Cabin First Impressions

We entered into business class, turned left, and saw the glorious, 1-2-1, first class cabin that would be our home for the next couple of hours. There were two other passengers in the cabin, seated in 1A and 1K, but otherwise…wide open. Notice there are no overhead bins, but there is plenty of storage intra-seat.

a stuffed animal on the seat of an airplane

If you’re an Emirates first class aficionado you’ll notice that this is not only the older first class, but also the older version of the older first class. Yes, it’s still blinged out, but the IFE is much smaller, as is the control panel that operates it. Incredible, but has seen better days for sure.

the inside of an airplane with a screen on the wall

Seat 2A

I chose Seat 2A so I could have a great view out the window, snatch quality cabin photos, and I’d say 2nd row window seats are the most private. It’s just ridiculous – look at all this space and just a 90 minute flight. If you’re more concerned about enjoying the experience as a couple, the center seats provide a cool joint experience. Note…Emirates doesn’t have companion dining that you may see on the likes of Qantas, Etihad, Cathay, etc.

The biggest difference between say this and the A380 seating is this seat doesn’t actually go completely flat. My seat was broken, but even in first class, it’s slightly angled.

a small table with a teddy bear on it

Storage

One thing in particular that I love about the Emirates Suite is the storage. You can see so clearly in the picture about how my roller and backpack easily fit under the IFE. In fact, I could fit another roller without any problem. In addition to that you have a small compartment that easily fits a wallet or any other personal items you’d like to take out of your bag and keep nearby.

Seating controls

Unfortunately my touch screen never worked. That meant I couldn’t move my seat nor could I operate my IFE. Had this been a longer flight I’d have simply moved seats, but being such a short ride, and having a full meal, it didn’t much matter. Big…had I paid for this flight or it been longer – big problem.

The controls seem quite dated as well when you see what they’re offering on the updated versions of this seat. On one hand, it’s really cool to see the graphics, but when it fails, it really fails.  It also meant that I couldn’t show you what it looked like when fully extended.

The IFE

The In Flight Entertainment system on my A380 flight was incredible. HD, huge screen, tons of selection. On this one…unfortunately it didn’t work, but the screen itself isn’t HD. I don’t know if you can tell it, but it’s similar to the old school televisions – pre-720p I’d guess.

a screen shot of a television

Amenities

90 minute flight but still tons of goodies. No there wasn’t PJs and an amenity kit per se, but still creams, lotions, and a writing kit.

The Iconic Mini bar

a group of bottles and cans in a row

Service

Absolutely fantastic. From the moment I boarded the plane it was beyond exceptional. I could not have been in my seat more than 15 seconds before I was asked if I’d like a some Arabic coffee and dates.

Since this was going to Saudi Arabia it was an alcohol free flight – so no crazy P2 Dom, but in just 90 minutes a full meal was served.

a bowl of nuts and a glass of liquid on a tray

The Meal

3 courses with a delicious Arabic Mezze, Shrimp Biryani, and mixed Arabic desserts. Plus some chocolate. It was FANTASTIC. In case you’re wondering, that is sparkling date juice.

a table with food on it

The shrimp biryani was flavorful however a bit dry.

a plate of rice with nuts and raisins

Arabic sweets

a plate of food on a table

Overall

In my opinion, It’s completely unnecessary to fly First Class for 90 minutes. In fact, I wouldn’t fly business. BUT, this flight was basically a freeby thrown onto an ultra long haul flight and the price is the same whether we flew this flight or not. Also…you can’t book this flight stand alone using Alaska miles, but you could obviously use Emirates own point  currency or pay cash.

One thing to note…this is the plane that you would be flying if you were to book the 5th freedom flight Emirates operates between Newark and Athens. Of course you’d get the fine wine and pajamas, but the seat, IFE, etc would all be the same. At just 85k Emirates points – that’s a hell of a way to fly across the pond. Watch out for those taxes and fees tho as you’ll fork over nearly $500 a ticket, but what a way to start off your Grecian holiday!

As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any questions – please drop us a comment!

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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4 Comments

  • Beth March 12, 2020

    Looks like an insanely luxurious flt. But, SO NOISEY!! I could hardly hear you most of the time!! (From the jet engines?) I WOULD BE GOING INSANE FROM THIS!! May I ask where you were sitting? In any event, I would LOVE to do this & am very jealous!;) Also, what is the cost?lol My fiancee lives in Jordan… I am in the U.S, So, maybe some day…. Thanks for sharing & I SO enjoyed flying w/you! Stay safe & God bless….

  • paul March 10, 2020

    I’ve flown A380 in F on Emirates and the best way I can describe it is both blingetty bling bling and iconic. Nice write up.

    • Miles March 10, 2020

      thanks Paul! I’ve got that one coming up as well – such a cool experience

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