27,600 miles for 90 minutes of luxury? Emirates award space to Penang now available

Emirates' new fifth freedom route from Singapore to Penang allows you to experience both the Qantas First Lounge and the Emirates First Class suite, but neither for very long.

Ever since Emirates announced its plans to launch a fifth freedom route from Singapore to Penang, I’ve been toying with the idea of redeeming a First Class award just to experience both the Qantas First Class lounge (which Emirates passengers get access to) and the Emirates First Class seat, albeit on a very short flight.

Designer: How bling should the seats be? Emirates: Yes | Photo Credit: Points Hacks NZ

The missing piece of the puzzle was how much awards would cost. Emirates hadn’t loaded award space yet, and their online Skywards calculator was refusing to price the route.

Award space from Singapore to Penang is now available

Well award space has now gone live, and Emirates Skywards is charging 17,500/27,500/37,500 miles respectively for a one-way Economy/Business/First Class ticket from Singapore to Penang. You’ll pay S$52.30 of taxes and surcharges, regardless of cabin.

Given these prices, you’re much better off using Qantas Frequent Flyer, as you’ll pay 8,000-27,600 miles instead. 

One-way PriceQantas Frequent FlyerEmirates Skywards
Economy8,000 + S$52.3017,500 + S$52.30
Business18,400 + S$52.3027,500 + S$52.30
First27,600 +S$52.3037,500 + S$52.30
Which banks allow points transfers to Qantas Frequent Flyer and Emirates Skywards? See the full list here

Although Economy Class awards are available virtually every day I looked, First Class awards only seem to be released for April and May.

Red= Economy, Gold= Business, Silver= First

Is it worth a redemption?

There are two big highlights of flying Emirates First Class on this route. And unfortunately, you won’t have much time to enjoy either.

Qantas First Class Lounge

Qantas First Lounge Changi Terminal 1

Emirates First Class passengers enjoy access to the Qantas First Class Lounge in Changi, which in my opinion is now the best First Class facility in the whole airport. Beautiful interiors, individual shower suites, and the best dining experience I’ve ever had in an airport lounge make this a bucket list worthy item.

A la carte dining at the Qantas First lounge in Changi. Yes, it’s amazing

This is something I’d happily come to the airport hours early for, but therein lies the problem.

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EK348 from Singapore to Penang departs at 3.35 p.m, which means that boarding starts at 3.05 p.m. The Qantas First Lounge opens at 2.30 p.m, so even if you’re get there on the dot, you have maybe about 30 minutes to enjoy the place. That’s far from ideal.

Emirates Lounge Singapore | Photo Credit: The Shutterwhale

You’ll more likely be spending time in the Emirates Lounge instead. This was renovated in 2017 and is a decent lounge by all accounts, but not at the same level as the Qantas First Lounge.

Emirates First Class seat

EK348 is operated by a B777-300ER, which has Emirates’ older First Class seat installed.

Emirates B777-300ER First Class | Photo credit: The Points Guy

It may not be as amazing as the updated First Class seat, but it’s still an extremely luxurious way to fly. Think personal mini-bar, privacy doors, a 29-inch wide bed, and enough bling to make a chav blush.

The thing is, you won’t have very long to enjoy it. EK348 is blocked at 1h 40 mins, but based on what I’m seeing for other SIN-PEN flights, the journey is often completed in just under 1h (talk about schedule padding).

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This barely seems like enough time to serve a snack, let alone a full meal. So don’t expect caviar, but you should at least get some Dom Perignon champagne. You also shouldn’t expect to receive pyjamas or an amenities kit, although if you ask nicely you might get a leftover from the DXB-SIN leg prior.

90 minutes of heaven?

Assuming you spend 30 minutes in the Qantas First Lounge and 60 minutes in the air, you’ve got 90 minutes of heaven waiting for you. Is that worth 27,600 miles? Only you can decide for yourself, but I’m leaning towards no.

I’d seriously consider redeeming this if the flight timing allowed about 3 hours in the Qantas First Lounge, but 30 minutes seems more of a tease than anything else. And as nice as Emirates’ First Class suites may look, what can you really do on a 60 minute flight? It’s not enough to watch a movie, the 777-300ERs don’t have a shower (and even if they did, Emirates doesn’t provision it on some ultra-short routes), and the only amusement you can have is trying to finish every bottle of Dom onboard.

Furthermore, you won’t enjoy some of the other ground perks as an award passenger, such as the chauffeur drive service to and from the airport.

Conclusion

I do have plans to revisit the Qantas First Lounge, but that’ll come in November when The Milelioness and I head to the Al Maha resort in Dubai. The Singapore to Penang flight just isn’t worth the miles required, even if it sounds like a fun idea in my head.

Of course, if any of you madlads are intending to do the #90minsofluxurychallenge, please post your experiences accordingly.

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Gabriel

You really need to find a chance to get naked at 40,000 feet in the air.

wkwloo

I toyed with this too – you could enter the Qantas First Lounge the day before and stay overnight in Changi Airport.

wkwloo

Looking at Qantas website – https://www.qantas.com/au/en/qantas-experience/at-the-airport/airport-lounges/qantas-lounge-access-eligibility.html#international-first-lounge, I don’t think that’s necessary. Those that require same-day flights are indicated (e.g. China Eastern flights for Qantas International Business Lounge).

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