Introduction: A Secret Mission To Dubai

Introduction: A Secret Mission To Dubai

15

Hours after returning from our roughly five week adventure to Europe, it was time for one more quick trip. With this series you can expect a review of Emirates’ 777 first class (sort of), FlyDubai’s Boeing 737 MAX business class, Air Serbia’s “new” A330 business class, lots of lounges, and a few hotels.

Why I traveled to Dubai for 24 hours

As some of you may recall, in late May I flew Emirates’ A380 first class from New York to Milan. There was a special reason I took that flight, which is that my good friend Toby was the purser, and it would be one of his last flights at Emirates before he retires after 15+ years. I’m so happy that Ford and I had one last chance to fly with Toby.

Well, one last(ish) chance…

I knew Toby’s last-ever flight would be from Orlando to Dubai on July 2, and I thought it would be fun to surprise him and take the flight. I was supposed to be in Europe then, but this was an occasion worth returning early for. There was first class award availability, so I figured it was meant to be.

While I’ve flown with Toby many times before, I thought it would be a bit more fun if he had no clue I was booked on the flight. So I’ll share all the details of the flight, how well I managed to execute that plan (or not), and at what point he figured out I was onboard.

Of course I recognize that an Emirates first class review isn’t particularly novel (I’ve reviewed just about all versions of Emirates’ first class, from Emirates’ A380 first class, to Emirates’ new 777 first class, to Emirates’ old 777 first class), so I at least wanted to get a couple of interesting reviews in with the return journey.

With Toby & his excellent crew for the last flight

The airlines I flew

For the outbound portion of this trip I flew Emirates first class from Orlando to Dubai, which is a ticket I booked with Emirates Skywards miles.

Emirates 777 first class ticket

By the way, since my trip really started in New York (since I flew Finnair from Stockholm to New York), I flew JetBlue from New York to Orlando. I won’t be reviewing that, because it was your typical JetBlue flight — quite pleasant, but delayed as usual.

How did I return to the United States? Well, I’ve long been intrigued by FlyDubai’s Boeing 737 MAX business class product, so I decided to fly that from Dubai to Belgrade. Oh my, what a flight it was…

Sadly there are no efficient ways to redeem miles for FlyDubai business class, so I booked an economy ticket with cash, and then used FlyDubai’s upgrade bid program to secure a business class seat.

FlyDubai Boeing 737 MAX business class

Then from Belgrade I flew Air Serbia’s new(ish) A330 business class, as the airline recently traded in its A330 for a more economical one that originally flew for Aeroflot. I was also curious to see how the carrier’s soft product was holding up, with Etihad less involved in the airline.

Air Serbia A330 business class

Lastly after spending some time in New York, I flew Frontier Airlines from Islip to Tampa, so I’ll be reviewing that as well. That’s an experience I’m not looking to repeat anytime soon.

The hotels I stayed at

I kicked off my trip by spending a night at the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport, which you can’t beat for the convenience, as it’s literally in the terminal. I booked my stay using World of Hyatt points.

Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport terminal view

Then for my one night in Dubai I decided to book the new Dubai EDITION. To be honest, I booked this hotel thinking it would be a comically bad experience, given the drama when the hotel opened in late 2021. I’m looking forward to sharing how this really was. I booked this stay using the Marriott STARS program, so for the ~$200 nightly rate I received breakfast, a $100 food & beverage credit, and more.

The Dubai EDITION suite

Lastly, I had a very quick overnight in Serbia, where I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Belgrade. This is a Category 1 World of Hyatt property, so paying just 5,000 points for a one night stay was tough to beat.

Hyatt Regency Belgrade lobby

Bottom line

While my trip to Dubai was fast, it was also super memorable. I got to join Toby on his last “working” Emirates flight, and then managed to experience several other travel products that have been on my list, from the Dubai EDITION, to FlyDubai’s 737 MAX business class, to Air Serbia’s new business class. You can also expect several lounge reviews.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

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  1. Jamie Guest

    Can’t wait to read this. Thanks Ben.

  2. Johosofat Guest

    Nice, this is an old-school OMAAT kind of trip.

  3. RTBones Guest

    I enjoy these types of write-ups. A mish-mash of products, variety of airlines, quick trip - and you get to support a friend.

    Looking forward to the series.

  4. VT-CIE Gold

    I for one am eagerly waiting for the Etihad A350 review. Hope you get to fly it soon!

  5. Timo Gold

    Nice that you were able to surprise your friend. Just curious, is Toby staying in the travel industry?

  6. Carrie Member

    I love that you will travel anywhere in the world for a friend .... and it is the exact reason which ensures that I remain an avid reader. Anyone who is able to combine a travel adventure whilst marking an important milestone for a close friend is someone to be applauded and says much about you as a person.

  7. Schar Gold

    I love these kind of "random all over the place" trips/reviews. makes for interesting read and im sure theyre fun to do. cant wait to tune in!

  8. JorgeGeorge Paez Guest

    Just a thought but instead of using very light blue on a white background can you please use another darker color?
    It's hard to read.
    Thanks! Carry on.....

  9. Donna Diamond

    Heartwarming adventure and beautiful photo with the crew! It’s wonderful that you have established friendships with crew members over your years of travel. I’m also fortunate to have formed friendships with crew members on overseas routes I fly repeatedly out of PHL. These friendships have allowed me an inside look and different perspective on air travel. Crew stories are great fun to hear.

  10. Stvr Guest

    Maybe off topic but it’s kind of sad AA can’t find any award space to throw in with a 57.5K partner transatlantic booking. How much would it cost them to let you fly JFK MCO? This is one plane where United shines with XN inventory. I suspect (but not always the case) if this has been a SAS flight to JFK United would have found some XN Ewr-MCO. Of course it would have been more than 57.5K (80k?) so…

    1. Alec Guest

      I’m flying IST-LHR-JFK all biz for 57.5k biz in August

  11. Tomas Guest

    You said, “Stay Tuned” 4x in this article.

  12. David Guest

    It is very nice of you to support your friends in this way!

  13. JB Guest

    EK has sometimes operated their new First Class to Orlando, which would have been a fun treat. I've personally been wanting an EK First Class review out of MCO since I used to live there and it was a big deal when they started flying to MCO. Can't wait for this report.

  14. Eli Guest

    Ben, you rock. Love to read such colorful stuff

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.

Schar Gold

I love these kind of "random all over the place" trips/reviews. makes for interesting read and im sure theyre fun to do. cant wait to tune in!

1
Donna Diamond

Heartwarming adventure and beautiful photo with the crew! It’s wonderful that you have established friendships with crew members over your years of travel. I’m also fortunate to have formed friendships with crew members on overseas routes I fly repeatedly out of PHL. These friendships have allowed me an inside look and different perspective on air travel. Crew stories are great fun to hear.

1
Tomas Guest

You said, “Stay Tuned” 4x in this article.

1
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