We’ll pick up this series in Paris, where I was about to begin the third and final leg of my Emirates First Class extravangaza en route to Dubai.
I had used a little-known Alaska Mileage Plan trick to book New York–Dubai–Paris–Dubai in Emirates First Class for 150,000 Alaska miles, and by this point, I had already flown two legs on the spectacular Emirates 777 New First Class, featuring the fully-enclosed “Game Changer” suite that’s widely considered the world’s best.
Since I’ve already reviewed this product just over a year ago, however, I decided to simply enjoy the ride this time along.
Instead, I’ll share here a quick review of Emirates 777 Old First Class, which I flew on the final Paris–Dubai segment after a last-minute equipment swap.
Emirates operates a total of 130 Boeing 777s, and only nine of them have been equipped with the new suites as of now, so there’s still a fair chance that you’ll encounter these Old First Class suites if you book an Emirates flight operated by a Boeing 777.
Of course, you should ideally aim for the 777 New First Class or the A380 First Class featuring the shower and bar if possible, but the older product on the 777s is certainly no slouch either, so let’s take a look at how it compares to its more illustrious peers.
(By the way, the best way to find out which seat type you’ll be getting on the Emirates Boeing 777 is by looking up the Seat Map on a service like ExpertFlyer: if the First Class cabin has six seats, then it’s the new product; if it has eight seats, then it’s the old one.)
I arrived into Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport at around midday, and my departure would be at around 9pm. Since I knew that Emirates’s lounges around the world (except for a single lounge in Dubai) were still closed due to the coronavirus situation, I was expecting that I’d need to hang out by the gates during my nine-hour layover.
Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that an independent lounge, the Salon Paul Maxence, was open right next door and was welcoming Emirates premium passengers.
This must’ve been one of the only lounges open in CDG at the time, and it felt like some kind of well-kept secret – the lounge doesn’t even show up on the airport’s LoungeBuddy page!
It was a chic and comfortable lounge decorated in a very typical French style, reminding me a lot of my stay at the Hôtel de Berri just off the Champs-Elysées a few years back. There was a variety of communal seating zones and quieter nooks, as well as a central outdoor courtyard for smokers to get their fix.
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I ordered a boxed lunch off the à la carte menu, and then spent most of my time in the lounge closing my eyes for some much-needed sleep.
When I woke up, I ordered some coffee to sip on, got some work done on my laptop, unboxed a surprise package that had arrived in the lounge for me, and then headed to the gate to board the plane.
Emirates | EK76
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Cabin: First Class
Route: Paris (CDG) to Dubai (DXB)
Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Time: Departing 9:35pm and arriving 7:20am the next day
Duration: 6 hours 45 minutes
Boarding the Boeing 777 that would be bringing me to Dubai, my first reaction was one of surprise at the last-minute equipment swap.
Instead of the distinctive illuminated Ghaf tree design that you see on the New 777 First Class, I instead walked into a noticeably older-looking First Class cabin.
On these older Boeing 777s in Emirates’s fleet, First Class is arranged in a 1-2-1 layout across two rows, for a total of eight individual suites.
The visual look is very similar to what you’ll find on the Airbus A380: an abundance of bright lights, suede, shiny surfaces, and burl wood finishes, bringing about that signature Emirates look of over-the-top opulence.
(In terms of the cabin, the key differences between the old 777 product and the A380 is that the A380 offers a total of 14 First Class suites on the upper deck, and of course the onboard shower and the shared bar and lounge with business class passengers as well.)
For tonight’s flight, I had been assigned Seat 2A on the left side of the cabin. Arriving at my seat, I once again took note of how similar it was to the A380 product, with only a few small differences here and there.
As I settled in, I took stock of thee now-familiar seat surroundings ahead of me: the ICE entertainment system, the foldable vanity mirror revealing a Byredo skincare set, and the pull-out writing kit. Compared to the pre-pandemic era, the writing pad and pen both came wrapped in plastic film as an added layer of protection.
Moving along the side of the suite, we then arrive at one of the timeless Emirates First Class features: the in-suite minibar, which can be raised or lowered with the push of a button. The glass sitting in the middle of the minibar was wrapped in plastic as another precautionary measure.
Then we arrive at the tablet, which is where you can really discern that this is one of Emirates’s older-generation First Class seats. Most of the Airbus A380s have had their tablets replaced with a slimmer and more responsive model by now, but these clunkier rounded tablets are still the norm here on the older 777s.
An air nozzle is found adjacent to the entertainment controller, and then a set of storage compartments – one underneath a hatch for securing your belongings, and a more exposed one that’s designed to fit your bedsheets – complete our seat tour on this side of the suite.
There are additional seat controls on the aisle-side armrest (not photographed), which also allow you to open and close the suite’s doors when they aren’t latched for takeoff and landing. Then, on the actual exterior of the suite, you’ll find your closet for hanging up your street clothes during the flight.
Why would you hang up your street clothes? Well, because Emirates invites you to change into a comfortable pair of pajamas, of course. These pajamas, along with the amenity kit, haven’t changed much since I last flew Emirates in the summer of 2019, so I’d refer you back to my Emirates A380 First Class review for a more detailed look on the inside.
What has changed on these flights in November 2020, however, is the presence of a Travel Hygiene Kit on all Emirates flights.
I didn’t open this particular one, but here’s a picture of the hygiene kit from one of the previous flights along this journey. Each kit contains a handful of face masks, gloves, and sanitizer wipes for the passenger’s use.
Even though the older hard product on this seven-hour hop down to Dubai wouldn’t compare to the Game Changer suites I had experienced earlier, Emirates’s award-winning First Class soft product would thankfully remain consistent, beginning with a glass of Dom Perignon Vintage 2008 and some mixed nuts.
I sat back and relaxed for a bit prior to takeoff, looking out into the aisle and taking note of the fact that this legacy First Class suite was very much older, but no less ostentatious.
It’s one of those iconic looks that first attracted me to redeeming points for aspirational travel experiences many years ago, and it’s always a pleasure to find myself within these classy but costly confines.
Shortly before takeoff, the crew member stopped by my seat to take my meal orders from the menu, which read as follows:
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She also asked me for my preference in terms of how I’d like my food served: covered in plastic lids, or uncovered.
I personally had no problem receiving my food uncovered, but it’s good to know that there’s the covered option if you’d like to be more cautious.
This was also one of the few “reminders” of the pandemic that I encountered onboard this Emirates flight. On some other airlines, the pandemic-era onboard service tends to be different in so many ways. But here on Emirates, for better or worse, things still felt very close to what they’ve always been like, with only a few small touches here and there to remind you to practice good hygiene.
My meal began with a plate of caviar, although I skipped the additional glass of Dom this time, having drunk far too much over the course of the last two flights (including everything from detox juice to mango juice to Hennessy Paradis cognac to a variety of red and white wines).
Emirates normally serves caviar with a wide range of trimmings on the side: egg yolks, egg whites, chopped onion, crème fraîche, and lemon juice, along with the usual blinis and toasted bread crisps.
However, over several rounds of these delicious pearls, I had figured out the trimmings that I personally prefer: chopped onion and lemon juice, so that’s all I asked for. Delightful, as always.
Next up was the appetizer of seared prawns with wakame salad and goat cheese – a pretty typical East–West fusion dish.
I had noted in my previous reviews that as amazing as Emirates First Class is, one part of the experience that doesn’t quite live up to the incredibly high standard set by everything else is the onboard food quality.
Emirates First Class is obviously an exercise in over-the-top indulgence, but the food is sometimes only good or great, rather than truly outstanding, especially when compared to Emirates’s rivals like Qatar Airways or Etihad Airways.
On this journey, I came to similar conclusions with the meals on my first two flights, although I think the showing on this third flight from Paris to Dubai was the best of the lot.
Still, the seared prawns tasted amazing in conjunction with the wakame – as a purely Eastern-inspired dish. When the flavour of the goat cheese was mixed in there, however, I thought it all got a bit too confusing on the taste buds. For me, it would’ve been the perfect dish with just the seaweed salad alone.
Next up was the main course: the beef fillet with peppercorn sauce. I was really hoping to be impressed by this dish, and I’m pleased to say it did indeed score high marks.
Certainly, it’s tricky to serve a cut of beef in a pressurized cabin that isn’t a little bit on the dry side, but that’s where the peppercorn sauce comes in to balance out the texture.
Combined with a full-bodied glass of St-Estèphe from Emirates’s very own winery in Bordeaux, and this was one of the best meals I’ve had on Emirates First Class thus far (keeping in mind that the catering is one of the product’s well-documented weak points compared to all the rest).
Alas, 45 hours into this 51-hour Emirates First Class extravaganza, I had no more room in my stomach for cheese or dessert, so I simply asked for a light fruit plate and headed straight to the restroom to clean up before sleeping for the night.
Similar to the rest of the cabin, the restrooms on the older 777 product are a little bit more aged, with the burl wood pattern even making its way in here on the toilet seat.
Given the extent to which Emirates has been offering in-flight service close to the pre-pandemic standards, I was a little surprised to see that the in-restroom amenities, like the soft towels or Bulgari cologne, were absent.
But then again, on second thought, that seemed pretty reasonable given the likelihood of virus particles resting on such extraneous high-touch surfaces in tight quarters like these.
Emirates usually sets up a snack bar in the galley, although their current snack bar offering takes on a distinctly COVID-era look. The top-shelf liquor is no longer on display, and the grab-and-go snacks, fruits, and bread are pre-packaged out of necessity.
One more very minor inconvenience in this new era: when I asked if it was possible to make my bed in the empty Seat 2E opposite me, the crew member said that passengers must remain in their own seats at all times under the current policy.
This was despite the fact that I was able to move freely between two neighbouring suites on my previous flight from Dubai to Paris, showing that this policy isn’t being enforced consistently in the first place.
(It is, of course, the ultimate first-world problem that I wasn’t able to sleep in a separate First Class suite from my own. Oh no, Ricky, what will you do.)
With my mattress and bedsheets prepared in Seat 2A, then, I nibbled away at my fruit plate and green tea…
…before tucking in to nap for a few hours, intending to wake up shortly before landing in Dubai. Whereas on the previous 777 New First Class flights, I had tried (but failed, I might add) to sleep for as little as possible in order to fully maximize the experience, this time I had no regrets about catching up on some much-needed rest.
With no floor-to-ceiling enclosed suite this time, my frame of view was instead filled with a gorgeous starry-night pattern that Emirates casts on the ceiling in the First Class cabin. I was fast asleep in no time.
Waking up once again with only about 10 minutes before we had to make our descent, I asked the crew member to bring one final round of caviar and champagne – my fifth of this journey – in order to finish off the Emirates First Class extravaganza in style.
I devoured my plate just as the sun was peaking over the clouds along our descent into Dubai International Airport, which brought upon me a wave of blissfulness and gratitude.
For a moment there, as I watched the sunrise above the clouds with my champagne in hand and savoured the final moments of an outrageous 51-hour journey in Emirates First Class – it was a pocket of smooth airspace amidst the turbulent year we’ve all had.
Lastly, one more part of the new-and-refreshed Emirates First Class experience to tell you about: the airline has now introduced buggy service for First Class passengers upon arrival in Dubai.
A staff member greets you at the gate with a sign bearing your name on it, and you are invited to hop on a dedicated buggy operated by a second staff member. You’ll then be whisked away to either the fast-track immigration queue if your journey is ending in Dubai, or the First Class lounge (or airside transit hotel) if you have a connection.
It’s a nice new touch, if a little uncomfortable due to the fact that the buggy is constantly honking at other passengers who are walking along the concourse, causing them to look back one-by-one and gawk at the First Class passengers whizzing by.
In many ways, Emirates was the ideal airline to fly on my first international trip of the pandemic era. With the exception of just a few service modifications, the experience still feels very much on par with the Emirates First Class of old, and I absolutely made sure to savour every moment of the journey along the way.
On this particular flight (the third and final one of the series), it’s obviously never fun to get a last-minute product downgrade, but hey, when I think about the fact that I basically paid nothing to fly these extra segments from Dubai to Paris and back, I really have nothing to complain about.
Emirates’s drinks menu was as delectable as ever, while their food was a stronger showing this time around than on previous flights. The bedding was also excellent, allowing me to catch up on some much-needed rest at the end of this whirlwind roundabout journey.
If you’re booked on an Emirates Boeing 777 with the older First Class cabin, you might not be indulging in the pure excess and extravagance of the New 777 First Class suite, but rest assured that you’ll still be treated to an outstanding soft product on your way to and from Dubai.