Introduction: To The Middle East… The Very Long Way

Filed Under: American, British Airways

It’s time for me to get caught up on some old trip reports before I go on my upcoming adventures. This trip report dates back to last October, when I went to the Middle East. I’ll be writing about the portions of the trip which I think were most interesting, given the amount of reports I have to catch up on.

Booking the flights

The planning for the trip started last April, when British Airways published a cheap first class fare between Dubai and Austin. The fare priced out at ~$1,700 one-way, which was a deal I couldn’t turn down. Tiffany and our friend Andrew B. were also interested, so we all ticketed the following itinerary:

10/10 QR1003 Dubai to Doha departing 5:30AM arriving 5:40AM
10/10 QR3 Doha to London departing 7:45AM arriving 1:15PM
10/10 BA269 London to Los Angeles departing 4:15PM arriving 7:20PM
10/11 AA292 Los Angeles to New York departing 6:00AM arriving 2:25PM
10/11 AA67 New York to Austin departing 5:29PM arriving 8:33PM

Qatar Airways A380 first class

That’s some nice backtracking to get from Dubai to Austin, if you ask me (especially proud of stopping in Los Angeles on the way to New York).

On top of that I ticketed the following flight from Austin to Los Angeles after a night in Austin (which cost ~$100):

10/12 AA17 Austin to Los Angeles departing 12:15PM arriving 1:31PM

We didn’t plan an outbound flight at the time.

Several months later Ford and I decided to visit the Middle East. Since he hadn’t yet flown Emirates first class, I figured that would be a fun way to get there. We redeemed 90,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles per person for the following flight:

10/02 EK222 Dallas to Dubai departing 12:15PM arriving 12:00PM (+1 day)

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Emirates A380 first class

Then we booked a $59 ticket from Los Angeles to Dallas for the night prior:

10/01 AA2459 Los Angeles to Dallas departing 7:25PM arriving 12:28AM (+1 day)

Since Ford hadn’t taken advantage of the Dubai to Austin fare, I just booked him a return from Dubai to Los Angeles in Emirates first class for 90,000 miles.

I won’t be reviewing the Dallas to Dubai flight, given that I’ve reviewed the route before. Furthermore, Ford shared his thoughts on the flight from Dallas to Dubai (which he really enjoyed).

In this trip report I won’t be reviewing the domestic flights from Los Angeles to Dallas and Austin to Los Angeles either, since they were in economy.

Furthermore, I won’t be reviewing the Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Lounge Doha and the British Airways Concorde Room London, given that our layovers are short and my opinions on both lounges have already been expressed (at the time of this trip, the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge wasn’t yet open, though I’ve reviewed it as well in the meantime).

Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Lounge Doha

While I’ve reviewed Qatar Airways first class between Doha and London and British Airways first class between London and Los Angeles, I’ll be reviewing those flights again, since there can be a huge variability in flight quality depending on the crew. The last time I flew from Doha to London was on the inaugural Qatar Airways A380 flight, so I wanted to see what service was like on a less “special” flight.

In the end, my routing looked as follows:


Booking the hotels

Ford had never been to the Middle East before, so we had planned about a week on the ground. We ended up splitting our time between three places.

We spent our first couple of nights at the Six Senses Zighy Bay, located in Oman. It’s a roughly 90 minute drive from Dubai Airport.

Zighy Bay, Oman

I managed to book a media rate there, which I’ll be sharing more details about in the actual installment. Stay tuned for that.

Villa plunge pool at Six Senses Zighy Bay

Then we spent two nights at Al Maha, which is the SPG Luxury Collection resort located near Dubai. Redeeming points here is usually outrageously expensive, but Starwood had a promotion for 35% off select resort redemptions (which is actually still available through March 8, 2016).


That meant the cost of a redemption at Al Maha decreased from 60,000 Starpoints per night to 39,000 Starpoints per night. That might sound like a ton, but the standard room at this hotel is a standalone villa, and rates include full board and two activities per day. And it was one of my favorite uses of Starpoints ever.

Private villa at Al Maha

Al-Maha-Resort-Dubai - 5
Private villa at Al Maha

Lastly we did a few nights at the Park Hyatt Dubai, which I booked using Points + Cash. As a Category 5 property, that cost 10,000 points plus $125 per night. I won’t be reviewing this hotel again, given that I’ve reviewed the Park Hyatt Dubai several times, including in a Park Suite and a Park Deluxe Room. In this instance we were assigned a Park Deluxe Room.

Park Hyatt Dubai

Lastly, there were three airport overnights enroute. On the outbound we spent a night at the Grand Hyatt DFW Airport, which I’ve reviewed before and love. I won’t be reviewing it again, as my stay was virtually identical to the last one.

I then spent a night at the Sheraton Gateway LAX, which I’ll be reviewing since it’s my favorite LAX airport hotel, and they’re in the process of renovating their rooms. I got a renovated room for my stay.

Sheraton Gateway LAX

Then on the last night of the trip I stayed at the Hilton Austin Airport, which I will be reviewing, since it was my first visit.

Bottom line

When I see a great deal I can’t say no to, my strategy is always to ticket the reservation first and ask questions later. That’s how this trip started, with the amazing deal on the return flight. But it ended up being an amazing trip all around, between the awesome Dallas to Dubai flight in Emirates first class with Ford, to visiting what are possibly the two nicest “nature” resorts within driving distance of Dubai.

Stay tuned, as I’m going to have to get this report published quickly, before my next trip commences (where I’ll have another near-live trip report, much like on my recent Air India trip).

In the meantime, let me know if you have any comments or questions.

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  1. Been trying to search for QR F availability on the LHR-DOHA A380 route but I can’t find any award space for it whatsoever so I was wondering how you managed to find a space for that route?

  2. @ avery111 — As explained in the post, it was a revenue ticket. If you want to fly Qatar first class on an award, I’d recommend their routes to Paris or Bangkok, as there’s more space on them.

  3. Oooh, the Sheraton Gateway! Stayed there in December on the tailend of my LA/SF trip and loved it, even if the rooms weren’t renovated. Great bedding, friendly staff and good location, if only the breakfast spread were better.

  4. @ No Name — Realistically not happening. Has been too long and lost some of the pictures, unfortunately.

  5. Sad to hear that Lucky.

    Is Travis around or is he knee deep in nappies at the moment?

    The Explorer Norway deal he posted about last year is back, link are posted the Ask Lucky section of the site.

    Might be good with an updated article early enough in the year that people are able to make use of the offer?

  6. Are you going to do a trip report on the trip that you took with your Mom to Dubai and Barcelona? I would especially be very instested to read your report on the W Barcelona since you said it was a great property before the unfortunate scandle happened.

  7. I realize the fare was a great deal. But, how do you make that awesome route? Do you call the airline? Or, online? Does it increase the fare?

    I am new to this and would appreciate your explanation.

  8. Oh my gosh, Lucky, I spotted your flight to Dubai from Dallas. I’m a spotter based in DFW as @dallasforworthspotter on Instagram, and if you would like I could tag you in pics of EK222 from that day. I’m so sad they downgraded to a 77W yesterday, as I had flown Qantas to Sydney, and I dreamed of flying both A380’s out of DFW. Plus my pics are less interesting…

  9. for another “nature” resort in the UAE, HIGHLY recommend the Qasr al Sarab resort. It’s an Anantara resort. Excellent. don’t know how you’d redeem points, but it’s worth your while for sure.

  10. Lucky,

    Is your recent trip to New Zealand on your list of pending trip reports? That is one report I really am looking forward to, since NZ is somewhere I want to go. I also did a Hilton Diamond status match, so I was excited to see a non-US destination where I wanted to go, that worked with Hilton hotels.

  11. Meant to say, if you are doing so, wouldn’t redeeming EK F via JAL mileage bank make better sense as its much cheaper than Alaska. 180K Alaska miles vs 155K JAL miles for EK F class round trip

  12. The Al Maha Review is coming, I am incredibly excited since you and others on the blog have praised it as the best redemption for points ever made.

  13. My mom and I were in Dubai at the Park Hyatt and I think the first morning we had breakfast at the restaurant and it was pretty empty but there was a few people out on the deck area and I told my mom that one of the guys looked exactly like you.

    I didn’t say anything because I was like what are the chances and then saw shortly thereafter you talking about being at the PH. I regretted not saying Hi and thanks for what you do as I had based our entire trip on reading omat.

  14. I would like to second what Dave asked. How do you get that crazy route? Was it to increase mileage earnings? Were you earning miles all on AA?
    Also, I love that you fly domestic economy tickets to get to major hubs. I do it too, and people think I’m crazy to just not book one ticket, but it can save SO much money and relieve a lot of stress.
    Thanks for your wonderful trip reviews. You’re incredible.

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