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There are a lot of people who have been feverishly booking premium . We have the United devaluation (that had been postponed until tomorrow) and a recent fare sale on Etihad Airways first class and business class travel (dead now, but details can be found here). Premium class travel is one of the reasons that people get into the miles and points game. It gives people the opportunity to travel in a state of luxury for little or no money.
The reason that most people choose premium cabin travel is for comfortable seats/suites on board the aircraft. That is certainly what I like about flying in business and first class. It is amazing how little it feels like you are flying when you are in relative seclusion on a commercial and seated in a comfortable chair with good food. I mean, who wouldn’t want to sit in a place like this all day while traveling thousands of miles? 🙂
However, for me, it is not always about the seat that draws me to premium class travel. For me, it is about the ground game.
The Ground Game
My trip to Dubai was on Etihad Airways in business class (no Diamond First Class on my flight, unfortunately). Yes, the seat was very comfortable and the service wonderful. However, the best part to me was the ground service. I have had the comfort of enjoying ground services from the big three Middle Eastern airlines – Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar. Of those three, I have had the chance to use the limo service from Emirates and Etihad. It is extremely convenient and comforting to be able to visit a foreign city and know that you have luxury, personal car service to take you anywhere you need to go – for free! That is what I was able to have with my recent trip.
I flew into Abu Dhabi which was about 45-50 minutes from my first hotel in Dubai. I disembarked and headed to the Chauffeur counter where I gave them my name and they handed me a card to give a driver. I walked outside and an attendant flagged one of the cars and put me inside and I was off! Having made my reservation already, I didn’t even need to give them my destination (though more on this on the review of my trip!). It was very convenient to not have to deal with driving in that traffic myself.
Etihad actually provides bus service for their economy passengers to a couple of locations in Dubai as a complimentary service. However, the chauffeured car service is only available for their premium class passengers. This car service will deliver you to any address in the Emirates. It also offers the car service in 25 cities around the world. First Class passengers while their elite passengers traveling in business class receive the service at all points throughout their journey.
The cities served can be found here as well as the details about their chauffeur service. In the US, they offer the service at JFK (up to 60 miles away), Washington Dulles (up to 60 miles away), and Chicago O’Hare (up to 70 miles away). The car service uses late model luxury cars to pick you up or drop you off. The best part about it all is that you do not have to do anything about it when you arrive at the airport but to go to the special counters and it costs you nothing! To have taxi service in any of the cities served by this service would cost a lot of money and that is not even in the nice cars that you have here.
As for Emirates, they also offer limo service in 55 cities for pickup or drop off. I was able to take advantage of this last year in Dubai and was equally simple to access and wonderful to enjoy. You can access the page with their chauffeur service here. It was also a really nice car and they picked me up at my hotel on-time and dropped me off at the premium terminal at Dubai International Airport.
At the airport
Then, of course, you have the service at the airport itself. I put a little less emphasis on this, however, since even elite passengers traveling in economy can take advantage of the ground services at the airport (however, Emirates and Etihad are not part of formal alliances so your elite status within an alliance will not help you with them). I always enjoy the priority handling I receive at the airport because of my elite status. However, airlines like Emirates and Etihad take that up quite a bit. While Etihad’s premium entrance and lounge at Abu Dhabi was nice, it is nothing compared to the first class and business class terminals with Emirates at Dubai. Granted, I did not visit the business class terminal last year but have heard from others who have and said it was awesome. For me, the first class terminal in Dubai was unbelievable! I still remember the incredibly spacious terminal that was devoted to only first class passengers – are there were only about 6 of us in there at the time! They had shops and restaurant options all over the place! Then, when I had to use the restroom, I was going to take my bags when an attendant told me not to worry but to leave my bag right there at my seat in the cafe. I was so used to US airport rules about bags that it surprised me and made me hesitate for a moment at which the attendant assured me that no one would touch it – which he said with a bit of a smile at my caution.
The handling of the premium passengers by these airlines at the airport is just amazing. The lounges blow US lounges away (though this can be said for most foreign lounges as well). The attention to the passenger is excellent but the car service itself is something that made me book premium cabins on my last trip. I do not take taxis or car services because I normally find them to be too costly and I like the feeling of being in control. 🙂 However, when you present me with a 1.5 hour ride in a Lexus (from the Park Hyatt to Abu Dhabi) for free – I cannot say no to that! Especially when the equivalent trip with Uber (which had similar cars for transport) would have cost me over $130! There will be more about how you can book award travel simply on Etihad next week.