However, this is still not the world’s shortest first class flight.
In a surprise move, Emirates will start operating to Penang from 9 April 2019. The daily service will be operated via Singapore using a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft offering three cabins.
Emirates is probably the world’s largest operator of fifth-freedom flights, given its reputation as the world’s super connector. However, there are still some cities that it is not serving at the moment, such as Penang.
After Emirates announced that it was going to pull its EK432/433 Dubai-Singapore-Brisbane flights, this new service came as a surprise, although not unexpected. Anna.aero has observed that with the cessation of the Dubai-Singapore-Brisbane flights, this new Dubai-Singapore-Penang service will allow Emirates to maintain the number of services between Singapore and Dubai at four daily.
Emirates will also be the only airline operating a widebody between the two city, and the only airline offering a first class service between both cities. This is, however, not the world’s shortest first class flight – that honour goes to Emirates’ Dubai-Muscat service, at 40 minutes long.
The service will operate daily with the following schedule:
Emirates will be using the Boeing 777-300ER for this service, similar to the ones that they are using for the Singapore-Brisbane and Singapore-Melbourne service.
The aircraft carries 8 first class seats, 42 business class seats and 304 or 310 economy class seats, depending on which variant you are on.
For those eyeing a business class redemption for this short haul flight, note that this is the 2-3-2 configuration, which is alright for a short haul flight but may not be worth the cash. (Read here for a review of the seat I took from Dubai to Singapore.)
In economy class, this will be in a 3-4-3 configuration, and I’ll be horrified to be disembarking in Penang with 300 other people on the same flight – the immigration facility there can be a little small so this will be a race to the front of the line.
Very affordable economy class fares
The launch fare for economy class is a very affordable… $117.10.
The $11710 price is in T class under the Saver fare family, with a base fare of $50. In case the T class fares run out, the next two fares, L & Q classes (also in the Saver family), runs at $70 or $90 respectively, so they are still very affordable after adding taxes and surcharges.
Redemption using Qantas Frequent Flyer
If you are thinking of splurging but refuse to pay $1,000 for a return business class fare, you can also use your Qantas points to redeem for Emirates flights.
Qantas and Emirates have a joint venture, which means that frequent flyer members of both airlines can use their points to redeem for virtually all flights on both networks.
While the flights have not been loaded into the award availability system, a look at QFF’s chart priced the flight at the following mileage:
|Class of travel||One-way QFF points required|
Note that Qantas imposes a surcharge for award redemption, so be sure to find out how much they are before redeeming your points.
But if you do splurge for a first class ticket, it’s a great chance to use the Qantas First Class lounge at Changi, given that Emirates customers and elite frequent flyer members will have access to Qantas’ network of lounges.
This is definitely a rather intriguing new service, given that Singapore-Penang has been served by low-cost carriers for a while now.
For the record, the other carriers on this route include Silkair, AirAsia, Jetstar and Scoot, with Silkair being the only full service airline.
It will be interesting to see how this pans out, given that airlines typically try new markets as a tag-on service, especially when they are not confident of the financial viability of the market. Using Singapore as the intermediary point, this will allow Emirates to soften the potential downside of the Penang route.
For now, I’ll be keen to hear if anyone is willing to blow $1,540 on a return first class ticket to Penang!