A Final Emirates First Class Farewell!

A Final Emirates First Class Farewell!

CABIN: First
DATE: July 2022
SEAT MAP: 777-300 ER V.2
BEN SAYS: What a privilege it was to fly Emirates first class on the retirement flight of on one of my best friends!

As I outlined in the introduction post to the series, I had a very special Emirates Boeing 777 first class flight from Orlando to Dubai…

Celebrating Toby’s Emirates retirement flight

In late May, I flew Emirates’ A380 first class from New York to Milan for a very special reason. One of my best friends, Toby, was getting ready to retire from Emirates after a 15+ year career. His last flight would be on July 2 from Orlando to Dubai, though I was planning to be in Europe until after that date, so I figured that would be my last flight with Toby… well, or at least that’s what I had Toby believe. 😉

I’ve had the pleasure of flying with Toby many times before, and not only is he incredibly professional, but he’s also an all-around awesome person and a great friend. So I couldn’t not be on his last flight, especially as there was Emirates Skywards award availability in first class.

I decided that it would be more fun if I didn’t actually tell Toby I was on the flight, but instead just showed up.

Convincing Toby I wouldn’t be on the flight

Toby and I often message about travel related things. I had just flown from Stockholm to New York in Finnair’s new A330 business class the day prior, and I remember several times almost messaging Toby about that. But I then reminded myself that he wasn’t supposed to know I was flying to the United States.

I do feel sort of guilty for lying to Toby on July 2. Ford was flying home from Europe that day, so while I was actually sitting at the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport a few miles from Toby, I was messaging him the pictures that Ford was sending me, pretending they were my own.

Yes, as you may have guessed, this was shortly after Lufthansa lost its Skytrax 5-star rating.

And yes, Ford had booked the Marriott Frankfurt Airport, and at check-in they tried to put him in the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport, as they allegedly had no rooms. A room suddenly opened up when he reminded them of Marriott’s Ultimate Reservation Guarantee. #Bonvoyed

Anyway, I think I had Toby convinced…

Deciding how to approach Toby

I was trying to decide how best to approach Toby to maximize the surprise. Based on our messages, it was clear he had no inkling that I’d show up.

On the one hand, I figured it would be fun if I just boarded the plane and went to my seat as if nothing was going on. On the other hand, I assumed that once he got on the plane he’d have a list of passenger names, and might be looking at how many passengers were in first class, etc., and might notice.

I headed to Emirates check-in at around 5:30PM, for the 9PM departure to Dubai. I cleared security and headed to The Club at MCO, which is the lounge that most airlines in the terminal use. OMG it was packed, and it was almost entirely full of Virgin Atlantic and British Airways passengers. It’s unbelievable how many flights Virgin Atlantic has to Orlando in summer.

I knew that Toby’s crew bus was going to arrive at the airport around 6:45PM, so my plan was to just approach him after he cleared security.

I took the tram from the concourse back to the main terminal, without realizing that you can’t actually stay airside once you take it (obviously I wasn’t thinking). At this point I knew Toby wasn’t far away, so I rushed to get back through security.

As I was waiting to go through the security checkpoint, I suddenly noticed the Emirates crew coming up right behind me, with Toby at the very front. I quickly headed through the metal detector, and then a second later Toby passed through, still not realizing I was in front of him.

At that point I turned to him and said “oh, you’re also flying to Dubai?” He didn’t know what to say, but I’m happy that he was definitely caught off guard. We all took the tram to the concourse Emirates departs from, and I got a great picture with the entire cabin crew.

Toby’s awesome crew for the flight to Dubai

Onboard Toby’s retirement flight

I’ve reviewed Emirates first class many times before, including Emirates’ A380 first classEmirates’ new 777 first class, and Emirates’ old 777 first class. I won’t be doing a traditional flight review, but rather will be focusing on what made this flight special, which is Toby’s retirement.

I boarded the Orlando to Dubai flight shortly after 8PM. The flight was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER. While it didn’t have the new first class, it was one of the newer “old” planes (and there are some subtle differences, as Emirates frequent flyers can attest to).

Emirates Boeing 777-300ER first class
Emirates Boeing 777-300ER first class
Emirates Boeing 777-300ER first class
Emirates Boeing 777-300ER first class

I wanted to pace myself on this 13hr45min flight, so since Emirates doesn’t serve Dom Perignon on the ground when departing the United States, I just ordered a sparkling water to drink.

Emirates first class pre-departure sparkling water

While I was initially the only person booked in first class, there ended up being two other passengers, seated in row two (I was in 1A). I believe it was a retired Emirates captain and his wife, and they were pretty low maintenance.

I lucked out on this flight not just because Toby was onboard, but also because Refka, the Tunisian flight attendant taking care of my aisle, was incredibly professional. Emirates service can be hit-or-miss, but she was textbook perfect in terms of her professionalism.

Unrelated to having the opportunity to fly with Toby, I was excited about flying Emirates out of Orlando. Having grown up in Tampa, I never thought Emirates would serve a destination so close to my home, so that was kind of cool.

Map after departing Orlando
Only 13hr26min left to harass Toby!

Of course I couldn’t help but document all of Toby’s professional “lasts.” Like the last time he had to present a passenger with a menu…

Toby presenting me with a menu

Or the last time he had to pop open a bottle of Dom Perignon (just kidding, I did a bit more damage than that, and wanted to make sure Toby could have that experience more than once on this flight).

Toby serving me Dom Perignon

Or the fourth to last time he did a caviar service. 😉

Toby serving me caviar

See, the beautiful thing about flying Emirates with Toby is that I don’t really have to order anything. He just knows what I’ll have. And even if I don’t want something he’ll serve it to me anyway, and then in the end I like it, so it works out great!

I started with a glass of Dom Perignon, along with the signature canapés and warm mixed nuts. The canapés included a poached prawn and guacamole tartlet, parmesan and truffle arancino, and confit duck with curried pineapple.

Emirates first class Dom Perignon, canapés, and mixed nuts

Then I had caviar (more than once, as Emirates is very generous with caviar). Toby asked if I wanted a shot of vodka to go along with my caviar. I felt like I didn’t need that, so he suggested another option, which was a shot of vodka in my Dom Perignon. You could say this was a classier version of the “Stoli-Bolli” — we can call it the “Grey Perignon” or “Dom Goose,” I suppose.

Emirates first class caviar service

I skipped any other appetizers and mains, and went straight to dessert. I wasn’t sure which to have, so somehow the crew ended up making all of them for me (seasonal fruit, chocolate marble cheesecake, and sticky toffee pudding).

Emirates first class dessert
Emirates first class dessert

Suddenly I became really tired (I can’t imagine why!!), so it was sleep time. Refka made my bed, and I quickly drifted off to sleep. I sure do love how Emirates has stars on the ceiling.

Emirates first class bed
Emirates first class stars on ceiling

I got several solid hours of sleep, until I was woken up by my TV suddenly turning on. Given the size of the screen and how bright it is, that can easily wake you up if you don’t have eyeshades on. Why did my screen go on? Well, I was getting a phone call from 17E.

A phone call woke me up

After doing some investigating, it appears that there was a little kid in that seat, so I’m guessing they just pushed buttons accidentally.

At this point we were approaching the UK, with just under seven hours remaining to Dubai. I was ultimately happy about the wake-up call, since sleep wasn’t the priority here!

Progress enroute to Dubai
Progress enroute to Dubai

Toby was still on his break at this point, so I ordered a coffee from the lovely Refka, which she served with some sweets (as if I needed any more of those).

Emirates first class coffee

Soon enough Toby was done with his break. About five minutes after Toby returned to work, I was served more Dom Perignon (as if I needed any more of that!).

More Dom Perignon in Emirates first class

Since the other two passengers in first class were asleep, I had the chance to spend some time talking to Toby, which was nice. Prior to the flight he said he’d probably cry at some point on his last flight, but I figured by keeping him busy we could avoid that, as I don’t think it had fazed him that this was really his last flight.

About three hours before landing I decided it was time for another meal. This time around I ordered an Arabic mezze and more caviar, which are my go-to orders on Emirates. While the fuel surcharges were high for this flight, I think I did a decent job recouping them, at least in terms of the retail cost of my consumption. 😉

Emirates first class mezze
Emirates first class caviar

I finished off the meal with a cappuccino.

Emirates first class cappuccino

There were some stunning views a few hours before landing.

View enroute to Dubai

With it being Toby’s last flight, we had to document the occasion, so we did a little photo shoot (without disrupting anyone). I also recorded all of Toby’s announcements (with his permission, of course), as he does great PAs.

Toby is the Emirates 777 first class cabin
One of us is a little tipsy, one of us isn’t

Before we knew it, the flight was coming to an end, and we were on our descent.

Toby’s final descent at Emirates
Landing in Dubai one last time
Landing in Dubai one last time

Toby treated this flight just like any other in terms of his announcements. As we pulled into the gate, the first officer made a PA announcing that it was Toby’s last flight at the airline, and passengers gave him a round of applause.

And before I knew it, I was saying bye to Toby one last time on Emirates (but it wasn’t actually a goodbye for this trip, as I’d see him for dinner a couple of hours later).

One last Emirates goodbye to Toby!

Toby leaving Emirates is bittersweet

I shared lots of background in a previous post, but I met Toby on my first-ever Emirates flight about a decade ago, and we’ve been great friends ever since. Toby is not only very professional, but an all-around amazing, kind, honest, funny human, and someone I’m lucky to call a friend.

It goes without saying that being cabin crew is also a lifestyle, especially at an airline like Emirates. You constantly jet around the world, and while you’re always tired, it’s still a pretty good gig, all things considered.

So I can only imagine the mixed feelings Toby has about this. I’m sure he’ll appreciate being able to sleep more regularly, having more schedule flexibility, etc. But understandably I’m sure there will also be things he misses.

The good news is that while this was my last flight with Toby that he was working, it’s most definitely not my last flight with Toby otherwise. He’s a full-on avgeek and loves flying all airlines, and I can’t wait to take more flights with him, as he’s down to go just about anywhere.

Maybe we can get him to write some guest reviews, to get the perspective of a former crew member.

Bottom line

I feel so lucky that I had the chance to be on Toby’s last flight with Emirates. He’s a one-of-a-kind person, and getting to be there for all of his Emirates “lasts” was a privilege. I look forward to many more flights with Toby (though probably with less caviar and Dom Perignon). 😉

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  1. Gareth Guest

    Why can’t the rest of the world see what we can. See- what a unique and inspired story.

  2. Alejandro Guest

    I have tears in my eyes. You are exactly what he world needs right now.

  3. meballard New Member

    That was a good story.

    Just FYI - you can stay airside at MCO after taking the tram (as long as you are staying behind the same checkpoint), but you need to not walk out the side that is closest to the edge of the checkpoint (or take the inner tram), but if you don't realize that (and there are arriving International passengers), it's really easy to get caught in that situation.

    1. Abdullah Guest

      What does this have to do with the story? Are you making fun of Toby??

  4. Chip Guest

    What a heartwarming story. The travel
    Blogs need more content like thiss.

  5. Jennifer Guest

    What a touching story Ben. The world is a better place because of people like you and Toby.

  6. Ghazali Mohammed Mijinyawa Guest

    Deep and very emotional. Only of many people will appreciate, recognise and reciprocate kindness lime u do, this world will be full of love not hate. You've earned my eternal respect. I wish Toby the very best in his future decisions. Ghazali Mohammed from Nigeria

  7. DEE Guest

    That was sooo Kool ...what is Toby doing now as he looks too young to retire!!?You should think about a flying meet up with your readers!!

  8. RL Guest

    So should Ford have kept quiet about the Marriott Ultimate Reservation guarantee? As in, if he had stayed quiet and let them move him to the Sheraton, could he then have claimed it after? Or do you have claim it at the time?

    I would happily move from a Marriott to a Sheraton for that compensation!

  9. Elizabeth Unuigbe Guest

    Toby fantastic guy from all I have read

  10. Danielle F Guest

    I would love to read some reviews by Toby! Congrats to him! You guys's friendship is so special!

  11. Lyn Guest

    Congrats Toby and good luck to your next journey

  12. Max Guest

    Congratulations Toby i really loved each and every moment here wish you all the best in your new chapter.


    Congratulations toby and happy retirement ✈️✈️ Rodger , aotearoa, new zealand

  14. Sebastian Guest

    I still remember my last flight as an EK first class crew and feel nostalgic... living in Dubai and worked in Emirates changed my life ❤

  15. Lea Baker Guest

    That’s so nice of you to be there on your friend’s last flight! Congratulations Toby! Him and I actually joined the same year but I only worked for 5 years for Emirates cause I settled down and moved to the US. Best of luck to your friend!

    1. Michael Fernandes Guest

      Such nice memories for Toby. Emirates I know is one of the best Airlines.
      I was there in Dubai when the Airline 1was in its early stages
      Wish Toby all the best.

  16. Dharles Kasonda Kuyokwa Guest

    Toby was super, he served me last month and I enjoyed the flight, his hospitality made me to love Emirates more and more

  17. Daniel Guest

    The way you speak of Toby, I am sure you are a couple.

    1. Clara Guest

      Best of luck on Toby in your new ventures! Your friendship is amazing and Light get it! But I am sad with some comments saying that you are a couple. You might or might not be, but first and foremost you are great friends;

    2. AA70 Diamond

      You know he is married to not Toby?

    3. TheBestBlackBrent Diamond

      Since when does that prevent you from being a couple with someone else?

    4. JS Guest

      Maybe they're a "throuple"!! :)

    5. Joke Guest

      Hahaha this comment got to stay?

  18. Betty Nassuuna Guest

    Toby is also lucky and deserves a friend like you...who appreciates one's efforts. Imagine if u weren't on his last flight ,it would be boring I guess.
    Toby enjoy ur free time out there.

  19. Devarsh Saraf Guest

    This is probably the most wholesome thing I have read today!

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Craig -- Toby is now working full time with Ford as a travel advisor. He was a travel agent before he became cabin crew, so he's staying in travel, but just a different aspect of it.

  20. SK Guest

    Will entire Emirates crew serve as background for a photo of any passenger upon request? Or is this abuse of position by Toby asking everyone to support?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ SK -- They have the right to say no, but based on my experience of endless flying with Emirates, they're almost always happy to pose in photos.

    2. Andre Guest

      Knowing Emirates well (fllew for them for 10 years), the whole crew'd probably more than happy to pose for Toby's final flight. I bet even they"ll snap some instant photos inflight, sign a card, and bought something from duty free to give as a gift.

  21. James Nolan Guest

    I have always enjoyed my flights on Emirates, it is a great airline and I have enjoyed the crew! Hope Toby enjoys his retirement!

  22. Bill n DC Guest

    I vote for Don Goose :-)

    Nice documentatiom

    BTW hows the house coming along?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Bill n DC -- Hah, thanks for asking. We're making progress, but still not living anywhere full-time, sadly.

  23. Randy Diamond

    Nice story - but the end has yet to be reported. Where does Toby go?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Randy -- Toby is working with Ford now as a travel advisor.

  24. Steven Elliott Guest

    What a perfect surprise from a friend - lucky both of you

  25. Eria Mwesigwa Guest

    It was a beautiful moment and thanks for being good to him also, wishing him the best.

  26. MoJoe Diamond

    Very nice of you (Lucky) to make the special effort to be there for your friend. (I'm sure being able to enjoy multiple rounds of caviar and Dom Perignon during the flight helped make that a super easy decision, lol.)

    Toby seems to be entering his middle-age years, so wonder what his next career will be (and where it will take him). Best wishes to Toby as he starts the next chapter of his life.

  27. Weymar Osborne Diamond

    How lovely that you have been able to make such good friends on your travels and to share this experience with Toby! By the way, do you still keep in touch with Wong Chin/Janesis?

  28. Randy Burton Guest

    Congrats on the best wishes to you from the US

  29. dander Guest

    I alot of caviar there, hopefully its not from endangered wild sturgeon but farm raised sturgeon

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      You’re filling the “concern trolling for the sturgeon” role well. Bravo.

  30. Michael_FFM Diamond

    Sorry to say, but this is creepy as hell, like stalking Tony at the airport and beyond.

    1. D3kingg Guest


      I don’t think so. Had that been the case Bens friend would have laid low and worked another cabin. He was quite attentive.

      We prefer the term “obsessively challenged” here in the psych ward.

    2. J.Holmes Guest

      It has vibes of a strip club patron that thinks their favourite stripper is their 'friend' because they provide them with service while getting paid to do so.

    3. Never In Doubt Guest

      Strange take.

      Are you not familiar with the concept of having friends?

    4. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Michael_FFM @ J.Holmes -- Hmm? Y'all understand the concept of a close friend? I don't just see Toby when I'm onboard his flights, as that's not the extent of our friendship. I also take trips with him (not on Emirates), see him when I'm in Dubai, talk to him all the time, etc.

      So if you think surprising a friend somewhere for a special occasion is "creepy as hell" then... well, I guess we just have a different view of things, which is also fair enough.

    5. Merry Chris Moss Guest

      You sound like you have no true friends. What Lucky did was great. I would appreciate a friend doing this if I was a FA.

  31. AA70 Diamond

    This made me so happy. You came back from Europe just to turn around and head to Dubai all to surprise your best friend. Truly amazing how as much as we avgeeks are frequently on the move, we still manage to make meaningful relationships on our travels.

    I'd love to read some from Toby, especially an Emirates first flight as a passenger :).

    A great read while I sit at LAX waiting for my flight home.

  32. Uwe Guest

    When I had my very last flight as a flight attendant on duty for Lufthansa (ORD-FRA), I was so busy at my favourite working position 2LA (Business Galley on B747-400) with full house, that I had no time to realize the fact that this flight is really my last one....
    But ..oh shit...after landing in FRA...it was very emotional for me when I left the "Queen of the skies" forever...

    1. MoJoe Diamond

      I know, right? On a U.S. airline 777, they would probably have around 10 (or whatever the FAA mandated minimum is).

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Alpha Golf -- Sounds right. And that's Emirates' small crew, as A380s have (I believe) 23 flight attendants.

  33. Victoryman Guest

    Wonderful story and obviously written from the heart. I don't know Tony personally, but he comes across as a very special person through this writing. Wishing Tony good health and happiness throughout his future.

  34. Steven Lawrie Guest

    What a fantastic blog for a great guy that Toby is

  35. Burritomiles Guest

    This is very sweet, congratulations to Toby!

  36. Alex Johnson Guest

    Love it! The best reports are the ones where you can tell how much fun Lucky was having. Such a special trip.

  37. JetAway Guest

    it's a shame you weren't able to take a picture at some point without masks hiding faces. Without seeing faces and expressions the pictures become generic and loose a lot of their interest and meaningfulness.

    1. Julia Guest

      To us, maybe. Not to the people in them.

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ JetAway -- Fair. Maybe there are also some pictures without masks, but I also don't want to get anyone in trouble, so...

  38. RetiredATLATC Diamond

    Fantastic. Good luck to Toby.

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.

Burritomiles Guest

This is very sweet, congratulations to Toby!

Alex Johnson Guest

Love it! The best reports are the ones where you can tell how much fun Lucky was having. Such a special trip.

RetiredATLATC Diamond

Fantastic. Good luck to Toby.

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