Showering at 35,000 feet is a sort of “holy grail” for many of us in the travel hacking game. First class travel is often incredibly luxurious to begin with, but being able to take a hot shower on a plane is equal parts awesome and absurd.
Where things get really crazy is that not only can you take a shower on a plane, but you can book that experience using your award miles! Only a couple of airlines, both based out of the middle east, have been thoughtful enough to offer their first class passengers showers on board. Thankfully, each of these airlines has one US based partner with which you can book awards.
The two airlines that currently offer you the opportunity to join the “7-mile high shower club” are Emirates and Etihad. Both airlines offer a hot shower to their first class passengers aboard their A380 aircraft.
Emirates is based out of Dubai, where gold ATMs are a thing.
While Etihad is based out of Abu Dhabi, which is most famous for being where the cartoon cat Garfield would routinely ship his kitten arch-nemesis, Nermal.
For brevity’s sake, I will cover awards on Emirates in this post and then cover Etihad awards in a follow up post; “Showering at Thirty-Five Thousand Feet, Etihad Style”.
In order to get the shower experience you will need to make sure that the award flight that you are booking is aboard an Airbus A380 aircraft. The A380 is the largest commercial passenger aircraft currently in use and the only model that features showers on board.
To start the process we head out to the Emirates website, so we can find the routes where they fly their A380s, and thus the routes where we can book a first class award and get to shower in the sky.
From New York it looks like they have 3 daily flights that have showers on board. There are 14 first class seats on each A380 aircraft, which means that there are 42 first class seats departing New York city each day. In theory, award availability should be great on this route, but in practice it can be challenging finding award space, though they do tend to open up more seats within 2 weeks of departure.
You can book an award on Emirates with either Emirates Skywards miles or with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles (you can use JAL Mileage Bank miles to book as well, but that’s a story for a future post). Considering that it costs 136,250 Emirates miles to fly one-way from New York to Dubai when using Emirates Skywards miles, versus only 90,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles, I would aim for redeeming Alaska miles for this particular award. Additionally, if you use Emirates miles to ticket this award you will be hit with exorbitant fuel surcharges and fees that can set you back over $1000, as compared to Alaska Airlines’ more reasonable $20 in taxes.
If you wanted to really maximize your shower-power you could book an onward flight from Dubai to South East Asia as part of your award and surprisingly the cost of the award increases by only 10,000 miles. Then you would have 2 flights and 2 showers on the A380, for 100,000 Alaska miles and $20. Considering my fondness for both fine caviar as well as SE Asia, I am much more likely to go with this second option.
Using the Alaska Airlines award search we can see that availability is actually not too shabby for the rest of the month of April. I did a search for one seat in first class on the New York to Dubai route and this is what I found (Emirates Awards are the ones priced out at 90k + $20):
After April award space gets pretty stingy until about September, when it starts to open up again.
A similar pattern emerges when we do a quick search for flights between Dallas and Dubai, another route where Emirates flies their A380s.
Holy crap that’s a good amount of Emirates first class award availability out of Dallas in September (18 days)!
Award space out of San Francisco is similar, but not quite as good as Dallas.
If, on the other hand, you live in Los Angeles…
Then you are going to have a tougher time finding award space for Emirates flights. October looks pretty good, but most of the other months aren’t looking so hot for award space out of Los Angeles. But don’t start crying into your locally foraged “Mother Grain” salad just yet! I have a solution!
Angelinos might want to consider trying to take a connecting flight to Dallas or San Francisco so that they can utilize the great award availability out of those cities. Considering that Alaska will allow you to do that at no charge (just additional taxes, if any), it’s a deal that can’t be beat.
The way to find that space is simply to check the “multi-city” box in the Alaska award search engine and then to enter in each segment individually.
With any luck, the search will return your Emirates first class segment along with connecting Alaska Airlines segments.
You can also use this trick to build in a stopover in the gateway city. Just set the departure date for your next segment for however many days you would like to stopover. Here is that Los Angeles to Dubai itinerary with a 6-day stopover in Dallas added:
This is a really nice perk of booking awards with Alaska Airlines; no other US based airline allows you to add stopovers to one-way awards, let alone at no extra charge.
So pack your rubber ducky in your carry-on and get ready for some flying shower action!
Hit me up with all your questions and comments!
If you’ve already got all the miles and just need some help finding space and booking the award, I have an award booking service that will get you all squared away. Find out more about it here.