Emirates business class upgrade guide

Emirates business class upgrade guide

If you’re stuck in economy to Dubai and beyond with Emirates, your stash of Skywards miles can be swapped for a much more comfortable flight in business class.

Upgrades can be requested on most Emirates economy bookings with a 176 ticket number, including on award seats snapped up with Skywards miles but excluding from the least-expensive Economy Special tickets.

The number of miles needed for an upgrade depends on whether you’ve purchased a Saver, Flex or Flex Plus fare.

Between Sydney and Dubai, you’ll churn 54,000 Skywards miles to bump up from Flex Plus; 70,200 miles from Flex or 127,500 miles from a Saver seat, while the cheapest Special fares again can't be upgraded with points.

Emirates upgrades can also be confirmed in advance – unlike the Qantas system which more closely resembles an ‘upgrade lottery’.

Read: Qantas business class upgrade guide

From the east coast to Auckland or Christchurch with Emirates, a mere 5,000 Skywards miles will wing you that business class upgrade from Flex Plus economy, or you can stump up 16,250 miles and move forward from a Flex fare or 45,250 miles from a Saver ticket.

Onwards from Dubai to the likes of London, Paris and Frankfurt, passengers can upgrade for either 30,000, 39,000 or 57,500 miles – but if you’re making the day-long trek from Australia to Europe, you’d be wise to upgrade the full journey.

Swap that cramped economy seat for a lie-flat bed for just 62,500, 81,250 or 171,000 Skywards miles from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Europe, and you’ll save up to 27,950 miles over upgrading separately… here’s how it’s done.

Emirates business class upgrades

Emirates upgrades are all one-class – meaning economy passengers can move forward into business class and enjoy the inflight bar, but only travellers booked into business class have a shot at moving up to the first class suites and their indulgent showers

Miles can be swapped for a better seat through the Skywards website. The number of upgrades is limited on every flight, but if there's one available and your request is made at least six hours before take-off, it's yours.

If you're on the Emirates Airbus A380, be sure to grab a drink at the bar...

Excluding short hops across the pond, the complimentary Chauffeur Drive service is available to upgraded travellers, as long as their business class seat is confirmed at least 48 hours before wheels up.

If you’ve lucked out on an upgrade or you’ve made a last-minute booking, you could try your hand at business class when checking-in – albeit obviously too late to enjoy that free transfer to the airport.

(We should point out that if Dubai is your final destination and you're unable to pre-book a driver, you can still take advantage of the free service by visiting the Chauffeur Driver counter on arrival in Dubai.)

Even on board, Silver, Gold and Platinum members of Skywards can nudge the crew for a better seat for themselves and any companions, as long as they’re willing to cough up enough miles.

Requesting your upgrade

Most tickets can be upgraded immediately after the booking has been finalised, although some of the cheaper fares don’t permit this until check-in, with others not allowing it at all.

The Emirates website makes it very clear when making a new booking, so you’ll see this if your flights can’t be upgraded until closer to departure:

Top tip: In this instance we'd snap up a business class seat during online check-in before heading to the airport, rather than picking up the scraps when dropping off your luggage.

To get things moving, load up your reservation through the ‘manage existing booking’ section of the Emirates website and go from there.

The site will automatically attempt to upgrade every passenger on your booking, so if you’re travelling with colleagues, give Emirates a call on 1300 303 777 and ask the agent to leave your workmates in economy.

If you’re late to the game and only ponder an upgrade after pulling up at the kerb – or even once you’re in the air – just speak to a check-in agent or a member of the crew for assistance.

Business class on the Emirates Airbus A380

Whether confirmed in advance or bumped up on board, upgrades cost the same number of miles.

In some cases, government taxes and fees can differ between business class and economy – in which case you’ll also be asked for a credit card to cover the difference.

A few pitfalls...

If your upgrade to business class is successful, you’ll earn both Skywards miles and tier miles as applicable to your original economy fare.

Also, for Blue-level members, upgrades aren’t available when travelling on Emirates flights sold by other airlines, including Qantas, even if an Emirates (EK) code appears on the booking.

That same principle applies to partner frequent flyer award tickets – so if you’ve used your Qantas points to book an economy flight with Emirates, you can’t then use Skywards miles to upgrade.

Skywards upgrades for Blue members also don’t happen on codeshare flights, so if you’ve booked an Emirates flight but with a Qantas (QF) flight number, you’re also out of luck.

Booking a QF flight number on Emirates – while useful for Qantas Frequent Flyer members – keeps you stuck in economy.

However, Silver, Gold and Platinum members can side-step these restrictions by requesting their upgrade on-board, on all but the lowest Special tickets.

Also read: Emirates A380 business class review, Sydney-Dubai

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin (ChrisCh)

[email protected] / @ChamberlinChris

Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


  • airtraveladdict


    14 Jul, 2014 01:59 pm

    thanks Chris, these are handy tips! :)

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  • jetsetter86


    14 Jul, 2014 09:18 pm

    I struggle to fing any upgrade availability between Syd-Dxb... begining to think its non existent or minimal.. Any comments on how many seats they release on each flight?

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  • Brian Williams


    22 Jul, 2014 02:29 pm

    I did a lot of research on this after the July 2013 changes to upgrade policies, using Expert Flyer and a gigantic Excel spreadsheet to monitor changes week by week.

    The pattern for upgrade availability on the SYD-DXB and MEL-DXB runs shows that outside of low season it's very difficult to get an upgrade on the direct flights to DXB, but a little easier on the flights that go via SIN, KUL and BKK. The latter flights are all on 77W's as opposed to A380's, so the bed isn't as good, but it's a nice backup option.

    In most instances though, and especially if there are only 10-12 (or less) unsold J seats on the 380 in the days leading up to the flight, you've really got to wait until the final 24 hours before departure for seats to become available, if at all.

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  • Rod Harmer

    Rod H

    17 Jun, 2016 03:11 pm

    Upgrades are sometimes available but they still have the worst Business Class seats around.

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  • Pamela


    17 Jun, 2016 07:22 pm

    On  our first return flight with Emirates  my husband & i were given an upgrade on the Dubai - Brisbane flight .It was exceptional circumstances as my husband fell ill.He was moved to First class .when we reboarded on the Singapore / Brisbane continuation flight we were both given boarding passes for Buisness Class.  Thought this would never happen again but a year later on the dubai / London flight sector from Brisbane we again got upgraded to Buisness class . Enjoyed the experience & never used skyward miles .You enjoy the upgrade so much more when you recieve it before asking.

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  • trevor


    18 Jun, 2016 03:27 pm

    I'm not sure I would agree that the Qantas upgrade system is more like a lottery. Yes you often don't know until the eleventh hour, however, the designation to CL, P1, P, Gold, Silver, Bronze and finally bidders seems pretty sequential to me, rather than being a random process.

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  • Chris Chamberlin


    18 Jun, 2016 05:04 pm

    Lottery simply in that you don't know if you'll 'win' or not, not a granular analysis of the process.

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  • oneill


    20 Jun, 2016 10:16 pm

    Has anyone successfully asked on board and got upgraded (with points)?

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  • Sjobriann


    25 Jul, 2016 09:31 pm

    That last sentence in your article. Do you mean gold and platinum members in Emirates or Qantas?  I am asking because we bought tickets recently Perth/Oslo from Qantas and booked EK flight nr so we could ask for upgrades with our Emirates points. We are gold and platinum in Qantas and just Blue and Silver in Emirates.

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  • Chris Chamberlin


    25 Jul, 2016 10:15 pm

    "Upgrades (prior to departure) can be requested on most Emirates economy bookings with a 176 ticket number" – booking through Qantas means you'll have a 081 ticket number, not a 176 ticket number, so your only option to upgrade will be if the Skywards Silver member asks on board and upgrades both travellers.

    (There's no harm asking earlier at check-in, but expect to be told it's not possible.)

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  • aussiflyer


    13 Oct, 2016 05:26 pm

    Has anyone had much luck with cash upgrades on EK? One of my friends had an offer for $500 for a MEL-SIN from Y. When trying the offer had expired, but it seems like an awfully cheap way to upgrade.
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  • Jana Buvari


    30 May, 2017 11:24 am

    So just confirming... I'm platinum with Qantas FF. If I book a QF Emirates flight on the Emirates website - can I upgrade with my QF points or with money?
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21 Jul, 2018 12:20 pm

Which Qantas lounges can Air New Zealand Airpoints frequent flyer use?

Which Qantas lounges can Air New Zealand Airpoints frequent flyer use?

Air New Zealand's Airpoints frequent flyers will enjoy have access to Qantas Clubs around Australia under the newly-forged alliance between the two airlines.

As of October 28, 2018, Airpoints Elite and Gold members booked on a codeshare flight with Qantas will find the doors swing open for them at the two dozen Qantas Club lounges in Australia's capital cities and regional centres. They'll also be permitted to bring in one guest.

But it won't be as easy as flashing your shiny Airpoints card, as the following conditions apply:

  1. you have to be travelling on a domestic Qantas flight
  2. it has to be booked under the Air New Zealand codeshare (those flight numbers will be in the NZ7xxx range)
  3. and this must be booked as part of a trans-Tasman booking

This arrangement replaces Airpoints access to Virgin Australia lounges following the dramatic bust-up between the two former allies.

However, there appears to be no Qantas Club lounge access for Koru Club members, nor can AirNZ frequent flyers cool their heels in the more upmarket Qantas Business lounges.

The Qantas / Air New Zealand alliance covers selected flights on the domestic network of each airline, however trans-Tasman and other international flights are excluded from the arrangement.

Read more: Qantas, Air New Zealand alliance will take on Virgin Australia

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • henrus


    20 Jul, 2018 05:31 pm

    Doesn't it seem a bit odd that Koru club won't get access (something that the VA deal provided) . I guess there will be no access for QF Club cardholders in NZ either?
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  • aviation


    21 Jul, 2018 09:27 am

    Correct, it's reciprocal in that QF Club card holders can't use NZ lounges. The VA deal was very unique as they were the only partner lounges Koru members could access without actually flying Air NZ.
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  • Uqsthom6


    21 Jul, 2018 08:05 am

    Looks like air nz ff get the raw end of the deal
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  • aviation


    21 Jul, 2018 08:31 am

    Thanks for the article, however, there are a few errors.
    1. It's not really an alliance, but a straight domestic codeshare agreement. Alliance to me suggests coordination on pricing, schedules, etc, of which is there is none of.
    2. Some codeshare flights on Qantas are in the NZ1xxx range too (namely the triangle routes)
    3. The codeshare flight can be used for any international journey originating in Australia, not just trans-Tasman (i.e. you could fly CBR-SYD-AKL-LAX or MEL-SYD-RAR)
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21 Jul, 2018 12:20 pm

What you can expect from Cathay's new business class dining concept

What you can expect from Cathay's new business class dining concept

Cathay Pacific will roll out its new 'business class dining concept' this month, with the meal service taking a step closer to a first class experience.

Meals will be individually plated and delivered to passengers by hand rather than by trolley, as the airline adopts more personalised and upmarket approach.

Cathay also expects this will result in a "quieter and calmer cabin environment", especially on late night flights.

Passengers will have a choice between three appetisers and "up to six main course choices" on flights over ten hours in the initial launch of the service to the likes of Chicago (on July 30), London/Gatwick (in August) followed by Frankfurt, Manchester and Washington DC (September); Amsterdam, Paris and Johannesburg (October), Madrid, Brussels and Barcelona (November) and London/Heathrow (December). 

And, being very much on trend, light and healthy 'wellbeing options' feature in every main course.

On flights from Hong Kong the menu will be changed every month, with a quarterly menu refresh for flights to Hong Kong.

Fights from Hong Kong (but not, for now, the return leg) will also see a new range of Hong Kong Favourites inspired by local dishes, such as

  • Hong Kong char siu pork with egg noodles, seasoned soy sauce, spring onion and ginger (shown below)
  • Wok fried seafood in lobster soup with ginger, spring onion, crispy and steamed rice
  • Beef brisket with flat rice noodle soup
  • Mango with pomelo and sago

But before all that eatings starts, business class passengers will notice the new-look menus.

Printed as eight pages on quality paper, they not only detail the meals and drinks available on that flight but include foodie-friendly articles such as 'Anatomy of a Laksa' and feature a local chef revealing their favourite eateries both in Hong Kong and around thr world.

There will also be a breakfast menu card which passengers will complete before hitting the hay, so that they can wake to what the airline described as a "hotel room-service" experience.

However, these are set menus rather than allowing travellers to pick-and-mix from a wide selection of items.

In addition to what's described as 'traditional' Chinese and Western breakfasts, there's also a lighter Continental breakfast plus a minimalist Express breakfast of a piece of pastry and a drink, which can be served 60 minutes before landing for passengers who wish to maximise their sleep.

Refreshments will be revamped as a selection of 'most loved dishes' available throughout the flight as a snack between meals on services to North America and Europe, including the airline's signature burger and popular soup noodles. These will also appear on the main meal menu.

Next year will see Cathay's 'new business class dining concept' extend to medium-distance routes, with plans to include Sydney and Auckland in February 2019 and Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide and Perth in May 2019.

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • Skipp


    20 Jul, 2018 12:48 pm

    Look forward to the new meal service in business class coming within the next 12 months - it will make a nice change.
    I just hope (for the future) that Cathay Pacific will stop serving the exact same economy class meals in "Premium" economy class.
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  • MissBasset


    20 Jul, 2018 01:34 pm

    Why bother with the white linen tablecloth if they are serving it on a plastic cafeteria tray? The promo pictures show all set up to eat off the tray. Euww.. I will take it all off the tray and set it up like other airlines J class. FAIL for presentation, CX.
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  • mrj


    20 Jul, 2018 02:42 pm

    I recently suggested to Cathay that their business classs food is amongst the worst of all airlines. Interestingly their response failed to mention this planned revamp.
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    20 Jul, 2018 02:57 pm

    I'm really glad they're going back to classy, glossy paper stock for the menus versus the uncoated groundwood paper they switched to a few years back. Now if they would only bring back that trademark chocolate box at the end of the meal...
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  • David Flynn


    20 Jul, 2018 03:25 pm

    I was on CX a few weeks back and the chocolates made an appearance on every flight...
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  • Manjit Sadhwani

    Manjit Sadhwani

    20 Jul, 2018 03:19 pm

    It's about time
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  • HKAus


    20 Jul, 2018 03:41 pm

    CX Catering is bar far the most outdated and leaves an overall cheap and poor guest experience of most International airliners. CX have unfortunately chosen over the last decade to reduce their overheads where guests can see and feel the difference. Personally after 5 years as a Diamond CX member I have moved to competitors; poor catering, moody crew members, consistently delayed flights (due to over use of planes with no margin for delays) and ridiculous pricing have enabled me to now enjoy such operators as KLM, Virgin Australia, Qantas & Lufthansa; all with an overall better "J"Class experience. Interestingly as a result of my change in travel I was dropped to Gold and this year even though I should have dropped another tier, they obviously are trying to get pax like myself back because they extended my gold status.
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  • Rkwm


    20 Jul, 2018 04:39 pm

    It was taken CX far too long to make changes to the atrocious F&B that has annoyed their long term supporters . The plastic cafeteria tray certainly brings the enhancements down a few levels can’t, understsnd who approved this inclusion . Totally agree with HKAus, supported CX for over two decades but over the last two years the deterioration in service , punctuality and value has been palpable.

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  • Tony OBERON


    20 Jul, 2018 04:48 pm

    Looks marginally better - but CX are you seriously going to use a plastic tray? At least put a cloth on the tray - if for no other reasons than hygiene! I’m a germophobe and I cringe to see cutlery sitting on a plastic tray, which cannot be washed at the same high temps as crockery. Lysteria et al here we come.
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    21 Jul, 2018 11:33 am

    I think everyone who travels Cathay agrees that the dining experience had to be upgraded, this looks the goods.
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21 Jul, 2018 12:20 pm

 Cartier Santos: the original pilot's watch, reimagined

Cartier Santos: the original pilot's watch, reimagined

Very few watches can claim true originality, and the Cartier Santos is among those few.

The Santos made its debut way back in 1904 as a personal timepiece for aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, making it both the first pilot’s watch and one of the earliest known men’s wristwatches.

The story

As we've previously detailed, the Santos was borne from a request by Brazilian flyer Santos-Dumont, who told his friend Louis Cartier – then a Parisian watchmaker – of the challenge of timing flights using the then-conventional pocket watch, as pilots needed to keep both hands on the aircraft controls.

In response, Cartier designed a large square-faced watch and fitted it to a strap so it could be worn on the wrist – quite a revolutionary concept at the time.

The first commercial Cartier Santos watches went on sale to the public in 1911 with solid gold cases and ultra-thin mechanical movements designed by French clockmaker Edmond Jaeger.

(In order to produce this movement for Cartier, Jaeger worked with Swiss movement manufacturer Jacques-David LeCoultre, a partnership that would lead to the birth of storied brand Jaeger-LeCoultre.)

The enduring design of the Cartier Santos was reimagined in the late 1970s as a luxury steel sports watch, later adding two-tone steel and gold and the now-iconic screwed bezel with exposed gold screws along the bracelet for a modern, industrial aesthetic.

The style

For 2018, Cartier has once again re-invented the Santos.

The distinctive screw-set bezel now tapers at both ends towards the bracelet to create an organic, integrated look.

The satin-brushed case features a wide mirror-polished bevel along its length, extending all the way to the gracefully curved crown guards at 3 o’clock. A square watch the Santos may be, but there’s hardly a sharp edge or straight line to be found.

The case has been slimmed dramatically from previous incarnations of the Santos, allowing this watch to disappear easily under a shirt cuff when needed.

The bracelet is fitted with a new 'QuickSwitch' system allowing for easy swapping with the included tan calfskin strap or Cartier’s alternative crocodile straps, providing some style versatility.

Adding or removing bracelet links has also been made easier with a new 'SmartLink' design which allows the wearer to expand the bracelet during a hot summer’s day without requiring a tool.

While the bezel, case and bracelet have all been modernised, the dial remains classic Cartier. With Roman numerals, a railroad minute-track and heat-blued hands, it’s hard to imagine a more traditional look.

The 2018 Cartier Santos can serve dress-watch and sports-watch duties equally well, and boasts a history that few timepieces can match.

The details

• In-house mechanical movement with automatic winding
• Seven-sided crown set with a faceted synthetic spinel
• Silvered opaline dial, blued-steel sword-shaped hands, sapphire crystal
• Water-resistant to 10 bar (approximately 100 metres)
• Medium version case width: 35.1 mm, thickness: 8.83 mm
• Large version case width: 39.8 mm, thickness: 9.08 mm
• Pricing from A$8,750 for the Cartier Santos Medium in steel, to A$52,500 for the Cartier Santos Large in solid pink gold with matching pink gold bracelet. For stockists, visit www.au.cartier.com.

Jason Swire

Jason Swire (Jason Swire)

[email protected] /

Jason Swire is a Sydney-based writer, watch collector and author of 'Timely Advice', a beginner's guide to fine timepieces. His non-watch passions include hi-fi and whiskey, in that order.

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21 Jul, 2018 12:20 pm

Finnair flicks the switch on free WiFi for European flights

Finnair flicks the switch on free WiFi for European flights

Finnair will launch inflight Internet on its European flights this week, with travellers able to enjoy the high-speed satellite service free of charge during a two-month trial period running through to the end of September.

The Oneworld airline has already outfitted six of its single-aisle Airbus jets with technology provided through partner Viasat, which also provided the backbone for Qantas' Australia-wide WiFi system.

By the end of northern summer some 20 aircraft will be upgraded, with Finnair's entire single-aisle Airbus fleet slated for WiFi by mid-2019.

The system will be available on a gate-to-gate basis, so passengers won't even need to wait for their jet to reach level flight – which will maximise time online for many of Finnair's relatively short European hops.

However, parts of some European routes will present black spots to the satellite network, including above the Bay of Biscay and the North Sea, while some restrictions also apply over Latvia, Lithuania, parts of Belarus and Russia.

Over the two-month testing period Finnair intends to "gather information on system functionality and feedback on the overall customer experience."

"In entering the passenger testing phase, we’ll be gaining the critical insights needed to further optimise our service to ensure Finnair customers get a unique experience built around their needs, interests and usage behaviours," explains Viasat vice-president Don Buchman.

The airline has yet to reveal what pricing it will charge for its sky-high WiFi once the trial period ends, although frequent flyers will no doubt hope that some sort of monthly pass is available as an alternative to paying on a per-flight basis.

Finnair already offers WiFi on its long-range 'intercontinental' jets, with the first hour free for business class and Finnair Plus Gold members, then €3 (A$4.70) for three hours or €20 (A$31) for the entire flight. Finnair Plus Platinum frequent flyers are provided with free Internet access for the whole flight.

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • eight10man


    20 Jul, 2018 06:19 pm

    Not sure how you can have black spots when using satellite internet.. especially when those black spots happen to be above the sea. Could it be this system is actually and ground-to-ground system maybe?
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  • readosunnycoast


    20 Jul, 2018 10:35 pm

    Just flew BKK>>>HEL, A350 with wifi. Couldnt get a connection of any sort. Just kept message, don’t close the browser. I do hope it gets better for the next lot of passengers
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21 Jul, 2018 12:20 pm


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