A taste of how the other half fly
Sometimes it pays to be late.
Travelling in a media group of five, I arrive at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport 20 minutes after my colleagues have checked in for our flight en route to Dubai.
I hardly utter a sound as I load my luggage at the check-in counter and then something truly unexpected happens.
The Emirates check-in officer looks over my passport and says some magical words: "Mr Lane, today we can offer you an upgrade to travel first class."
My face creases over in utter delight while my colleagues cannot comprehend my luck as they stare at my boarding card in disbelief. I shrug innocently. After all, this was random and not pre-organised, but it doesn't console them.
I settle into seat 1E and look around my suite. There is a vanity mirror and a selection of premium toiletries next to the entertainment system, as well as a mini bar, reading light, writing kit, snack basket and ample room for storage both at the front and back of my seat.
The legroom is superb, and privacy dividers on either side of my seat ensure I can get a few hours of decent sleep (something I never manage on planes), which is also thanks to a lengthy flat bed-seat.
As for entertainment, the choices are impressive. Emirates' award-winning Ice (Information, Communication and Entertainment) system provides more than 1500 channels, including live BBC news headlines, an excellent selection of new release films, with a sprinkling of golden oldies (I settle on Hitchcock's 1958 classic Vertigo), plus satellite telephone, SMS and email access.
It's time to eat and before I look at the menu, the flight attendant is offering a glass of Dom Perignon champagne. I can't say no first-rate French fizz.
An a la carte menu, where you can eat when you want, has an Arabian accent to its choices. Starters include caviar, chicken terrine and an excellent Arabic mezze, with mains such as beef fillet, free range roast chicken and seafood machbous, a rice dish popular in many Gulf countries.
The wine list is a quality selection of European heavyweights from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace and the Rhone. The sheer opulence of enjoying Trimbach's Cuvee Frederic Emile 2006 Riesling ensures my dinner is as pleasurable I've ever enjoyed on a flight.
As if things couldn't get any better, there's a decadent selection of international boutique cheeses, fresh fruit and chocolates to round things off.
The flight lands in Dubai but the first-class treatment isn't over just yet. A VIP shuttle bus arrives, complete with individual leather seats, to provide a quick, air-conditioned transfer to the arrivals gate.
All of this luxury made the flight seem not like travelling at all. I hardly noticed the six hours pass. A miracle? No, that's the real attraction of flying first class.
ROUTE: Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) to Dubai International Airport (DXB)
PLANE: Boeing 777
DEPARTURE SCHEDULED FOR: 13.55pm
CLASS: First Class
SERVICE: Professional and courteous
MEALS: A la carte menu. Last hot meal orders taken an hour and 30 minutes before landing.
ENTERTAINMENT: A good selection of magazines from the UK, Europe and US, plus Emirates Ice entertainment system providing more than 1500 channels with satellite telephone, SMS and email access.
The writer travelled as a guest of Emirates.