Bittersweet: My Last Emirates Flight With Toby

Bittersweet: My Last Emirates Flight With Toby

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On Tuesday I flew Emirates’ A380 first class from New York to Milan. While flying Emirates first class is always a treat, there was a special reason I took this flight — it would be my last flight on Emirates with one of my best friends, before he leaves the company in a few weeks. Fortunately this isn’t the end of our friendship, though it is the end of experiencing Toby’s textbook perfect service on one of my favorite airlines.

How I became friends with Toby

I took my first-ever Emirates A380 first class flight in December 2012. This was back at a time when redeeming miles for Emirates first class was virtually impossible (so much has changed since then). I was on a British Airways award ticket from London to Dubai, and a flight delay caused me to be rebooked in Emirates’ A380 first class. To say I was over the moon would be an understatement.

I remember my first flight in Emirates’ A380 first class!

But the most meaningful part of this flight was getting to meet Toby. At the time he had just been promoted to purser, so it was one of his first trips leading the 26-strong A380 crew, and he was simply so professional.

We immediately hit it off, as during boarding he noticed I had British Midland luggage tags on my carry-on (miles & points old timers will know the beauty of British Midland Diamond Club… RIP). As it turned out, Toby had worked as crew for British Midland before moving to Emirates.

As I noted in my trip report at the time, Toby was by far the best crew member, and really seemed to love his job. Not only was he ridiculously professional, but he was also a huge avgeek.

How did we actually become friends, though, as we didn’t exchange contact information on the flight? Long story short, an OMAAT reader met Toby, and told him he recently read a review of Emirates first class. Toby realized that review was from his flight. The reader then let me know about this funny coincidence, and at that point we were connected.

And I’m so happy it worked out that way — Toby is genuinely the kindest and most positive human being I know, and I’m lucky to call him one of my best friends.

My friendship with Toby over the years

Over the past decade or so, I’ve seen Toby in countless countries:

  • Whenever practical, I love booking myself on the flights Toby is rostered on, because there’s nothing quite like flying with a friend
  • When Toby has a layover, I love to see him if I’m in the same place (or similar area), as we’ve overlapped everywhere from Fort Lauderdale, to Frankfurt, to Melbourne
  • I’ve taken several trips with Toby over the years, as he loves flying with other airlines as well, to see how their service compares; for example, he joined me on my recent return journey from Muscat to Miami, flying Turkish business class and SAS business class
I recently flew with Toby on Turkish Airlines

Toby’s aviation geekiness knows no bounds. Like, he’ll finish working one of the longest flights in the world, and then if he has a few days off he still wants to fly somewhere, even if it’s just to try a new airline.

Also, getting Toby’s observations on other airlines has always been hilarious. Toby takes his job (and delivering a great passenger experience) seriously, so when there’s a flight where that passion is missing, I love hearing what Toby has to say.

I remember once flying with Toby on an American Eagle regional jet, and we were seated right by the galley. The flight attendant (who was not particularly hardworking, to put it mildly) was talking to her colleague about how she thought she wanted to go work for Emirates, and I remember us both thinking “good luck.”

One last flight with Toby…

After being at Emirates for over 15 years, June is Toby’s last full month at the airline. When he sent me his last roster, there was a May 31 New York to Milan flight on there, which was a great fit in terms of our schedule for needing to get to Europe. When there were also two first class award seats on the flight, I figured it was meant to be.

What a privilege and pleasure to fly with Toby one last time. It’s not just that it’s really fun to fly with a friend, but as someone who enjoys a good passenger experience, I love observing with how much respect he treats both passengers and colleagues.

My last flight Toby
Toby & Ford at the Emirates A380 bar

This is a huge loss for Emirates, because Toby genuinely cares that every single passenger on his flights has a great experience. And he does all this while motivating and supporting his colleagues and making them feel valued in situations where passengers act out of line.

I can only imagine the mixed emotions he’s having. As many airline employees can attest to, it’s hard to give up the lifestyle. But at the same time, I’m sure he’ll quickly appreciate being able to sleep regularly and have a more structured schedule.

Toby has an exciting next chapter in his career, and I’m looking forward to taking many more trips with him… just not in uniform.

Bottom line

My good friend Toby will be retiring from Emirates after over 15 years at the airline. We’ve been friends for nearly a decade now — it started with my first Emirates A380 flight, and the rest is history. While this is obviously not the end of our friendship, I’m grateful I had the chance to fly with him one last time.

Conversations (38)
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  1. I'm 42 Guest

    How about you do a report on how bad the EK Business Class level of service, meals, conditions of planes has become. Also let pax know exactly how dated their lounges are.
    Fellow pax on my recent flights were actually calling it Business Cattle, and TBH, I'd have to agree.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ I'm 42 -- I've documented how I think Emirates business class isn't great, including in this report:
      https://onemileatatime.com/reviews/emirates-business-class-777/

      While Emirates has a great first class, I largely agree with you that the business class lags, especially compared to airlines like Qatar Airways.

  2. Liza Fontelera Guest

    What an amazing friendship you have, thank you for sharing! Many are jealous of you and Toby’s friendship - I am one of them! I’ve only flown Emirates, with full admiration of the aircraft and its service.
    Good luck, Toby!

  3. Andy Diamond

    Although I've not (yet) become friends with any cabin crew, I like to meet some cabin crew again. As a regular IB long haul flyer, I know several IB "sobrecargos" (i.e. pursers) and even one or two captains (before the pandemic, IB captains used to come to the J cabin to greet passengers personally). Or also a couple of BA and AC cabin crew I got to know, although I'm flying these airlines less frequently now, due to a change in work.

  4. Carrie Member

    I love you even more having read this post (in a non threatening, non stalking, non creepy way) ....... and all Melburnians ARE absolutely gorgeous !!!!!!!

  5. Dude26 Guest

    Sweet story. Also - this guy is quite easy on the eyes:)

  6. JDee Diamond

    Great story, Ben - now I'm wondering if you're still friends with the female SIA cabin staff member you mentioned several times in some of your Reviews from years ago. You had a meal with her at Changi Airport, if I remember correctly

  7. Sam Guest

    Nice pics lucky! Didn't realize they were allowing guns on planes these days

  8. Jo & Paul Lawrie Guest

    Hi Ben.. Toby has been this professional throughout his aviation career..it’s in his blood! We’ve been lucky enough to be part of his career since the beginning when he sent me his CV to submit to bmi just before his 19th birthday.. prior to that, we’d known each other via telephone while he worked for a travel agent.. his professionalism knows no bounds & it will be a great loss for EK.. our only saving...

    Hi Ben.. Toby has been this professional throughout his aviation career..it’s in his blood! We’ve been lucky enough to be part of his career since the beginning when he sent me his CV to submit to bmi just before his 19th birthday.. prior to that, we’d known each other via telephone while he worked for a travel agent.. his professionalism knows no bounds & it will be a great loss for EK.. our only saving grace is that he is like family to us & we know he’ll always be a great part of that family.. we know he’ll be successful in his future career & that travel will always be a massive part of his life.. but it’ll still be a sad day when he hands in his wings ❤️❤️

  9. Len Guest

    Is this the same Toby that has been handling all of my bookings via Ford? If so, he’s absolutely wonderful and Emirates is losing a gem. Cool to learn about his now-past career!

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Len -- It is indeed, and perhaps that's a good foreshadowing of what's to come for him.

  10. John delaney Guest

    Is he really retiring from a dram job for many of being forced to retire as they do with so many FAs after reaching a certain age?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ John delaney -- 100% voluntary! Say what you want about Emirates, but they do let people stick around for a long time, and Toby is nowhere near reaching that threshold anyway.

  11. edan Guest

    Is Toby an Aussie? Melbourne originally? Can’t tell with the mask, but I would swear he was the purser on my DXB-BNE flight last month. Amazing dude.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ edan -- Yep, that was him! Happy you had a good impression! :-)

  12. Brandon Guest

    Can you please explain how you found award space on this flight? All emirates seemed to be completely booked out for basically the whole schedule. Do they open up extra space for you?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Brandon -- No, no space was opened for me. I went to emirates.com and booked the award space that was available. Emirates does often make award space available closer to departure on this route.

    2. Brandon Guest

      if you try to search for any award space for the next few days or any other day that can be loaded nothing comes up. When did you book the flight?

      I'm a huge fan of this blog, but this just doesn't seem believable to me. The only awards that are available are 142,500 one way in business class (not first) and have $1100+ fuel surcharges and none of those seats are available for June...

      if you try to search for any award space for the next few days or any other day that can be loaded nothing comes up. When did you book the flight?

      I'm a huge fan of this blog, but this just doesn't seem believable to me. The only awards that are available are 142,500 one way in business class (not first) and have $1100+ fuel surcharges and none of those seats are available for June (i bring this up b/c you said that they make award space available closer to departure).

    3. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Brandon -- I booked our flight on May 26 for a May 31 departure, so I booked five days in advance. At the time only three of the 14 seats were assigned in first class. As of the time that I'm making this post, I see award space on the same flight on June 10, roughly the same amount of time before departure.

      If you're wondering why there's not otherwise award space, it's because...

      @ Brandon -- I booked our flight on May 26 for a May 31 departure, so I booked five days in advance. At the time only three of the 14 seats were assigned in first class. As of the time that I'm making this post, I see award space on the same flight on June 10, roughly the same amount of time before departure.

      If you're wondering why there's not otherwise award space, it's because the flights are really full. I've never seen premium transatlantic demand like I've seen for this summer. As of the time of this post, the June 6 flight shows 11/14 seats occupied, the June 7 flight shows 10/14 seats occupied, and the June 8 flight shows 11/14 seats occupied.

      I'm not sure what you're suggesting by saying that my story isn't "believable?" I've already told you that no one opened award space for me, and I'll say it again -- no one opened award space for me. I don't think I've ever had contact with a single person in Emirates management, at least not in the past many years. I found award space the same way everyone does, by being really persistent. And fortunately I'm good at that.

  13. Tortuga Diamond

    Ben, I think you have captured one of the most wonderful aspects of modern travel. This is a great story.

  14. Clem Diamond

    This is a random question, but isn't it awkward to get on friendship terms with someone, but have this person serve you and be at your service on a flight he's working? I'm asking because I'm in a similar-ish situation and became great friends with someone at a restaurant, and whenever she is my waiter it's kind of weird since the relationship nature changes and they have to be professional.

    Best of luck to Toby for his next play!

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Clem -- Hah, that's a great question. Keep in mind that the purser at Emirates really primarily manages the crew, so on an A380 they're not directly serving any passengers aside from greeting them, etc.

      That being said, I think Toby and I get a bit of a kick out of it. He's his usual professional self, and I play the role of a very difficult and demanding first class passenger. ;-)

  15. Reno Joe Guest

    Excellent story.

    My wife and I do a particular long-haul route four times a year. There's a flight attendant who routinely works it and we've "worked" with him more than once. It turns out that he lives just a few miles from us. What are the odds?

  16. CXTraveller New Member

    Thanks Ben for sharing such a great story! Best of luck to Toby!

  17. Chandan Bhat Gold

    It would be great of you could get Toby to post some trip reviews here on OMAAT, would be amazing to get some ex-Emirates Purser perspectives.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Chandan Bhat -- Stay tuned! :-)

  18. Adil Guest

    Hi Lucky, I tried to find the review of your first Emirates flight: "I took my first-ever Emirates A380 first class flight in December 2012".

    Would it be possible to add a link to it? I'm sure your delight came through in the review :)

    Thank you!

    1. Alasdair Jones New Member

      Apologies- thud is the trip report https://onemileatatime.com/bling-it-on-emirates-first-class-london-heathrow-to-dubai/

    2. Stratosphere New Member

      Link to Dec-2012 A380 LHR to DXB

      https://onemileatatime.com/bling-it-on-emirates-first-class-london-heathrow-to-dubai/

    3. Adil Guest

      Thank you! Enjoyed the report. Lucky gave an honest opinion about the service.

    4. Lindsey sears Guest

      I would just like to say that Tobias is as kind and loving to his family as he is to everyone he meets .. he is the most amazing son and I am extremely proud of him..

  19. Bako Guest

    can you tell us what is he gonna do next ( i am just curios) , i find this a great story ...

  20. MKW Guest

    Will Toby be staying in the aviation field? Or will he be opening an entirely new chapter?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ MKW -- He's very much staying in the travel space. Stay tuned!

    2. Eskimo Guest

      Welcome Toby to the OMAAT family, or maybe PointsPros.

  21. Chris Guest

    What an amazing story. Toby sounds like a fantastic person all around, and how wonderful that you got to travel together on his final trip for Emirates. Thank you for sharing this!!

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Chandan Bhat Gold

It would be great of you could get Toby to post some trip reviews here on OMAAT, would be amazing to get some ex-Emirates Purser perspectives.

9
Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Chandan Bhat -- Stay tuned! :-)

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Jo & Paul Lawrie Guest

Hi Ben.. Toby has been this professional throughout his aviation career..it’s in his blood! We’ve been lucky enough to be part of his career since the beginning when he sent me his CV to submit to bmi just before his 19th birthday.. prior to that, we’d known each other via telephone while he worked for a travel agent.. his professionalism knows no bounds & it will be a great loss for EK.. our only saving grace is that he is like family to us & we know he’ll always be a great part of that family.. we know he’ll be successful in his future career & that travel will always be a massive part of his life.. but it’ll still be a sad day when he hands in his wings ❤️❤️

5
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