Airlines of the Middle East: Emirates
The past decade has heralded a transformation in air travel – the rise of Middle Eastern airlines has been an extraordinary story of rapid growth and expansion. Many of these airlines have revolutionised in-flight service and defined “best in class” product offerings. By raising the bar in service and quality on the ground and in the sky, travellers are reaping the benefits.
In this series we review each of the major airlines from the region and dish the goss on what they have to offer the flying traveller.
Hub: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Fleet size: 176
You must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of this conglomerate with its spectacular rise in popularity over the past ten years. The hub of Dubai is often quoted as being the perfect location for travellers requiring a transit point, with the majority of travellers being able to get to their destination with just one stop. First and business class travellers receive complimentary hotel accommodation in Dubai during their transit if they choose (and who wouldn’t want to… Dubai is a fantastic destination!). The carrier has the largest fleet of A380′s with 21 currently in service with a massive 69 on order. The remainder of the fleet comprises various 777, A340 and A330 wide-body aircraft.
On the ground
Before a flight, first and business travellers are treated to complimentary chauffeur transfers from their home to the airport and on arrival at their destination. Lush airport lounges indulge first class, business class and high status passengers with a wide choice of Arabic & Western food and and a range of beverages such as Veuve Clicquott. Priority check-in and boarding is executed well with the carrier.
Those with money to blow will be hard pressed to find a more refined first class offering in the skies. The A380 and some other of it’s newer aircraft are fitted with the suite product in a 1-2-1 layout. Those travelling on the A380 can also treat themselves to an onboard shower, which was a first in air travel. Unfortunately older aircraft in the Emirates fleet are fitted with an older (and less spectacular) seating product in a 2-2-2 layout. The Emirates website has a great tool to tell you what aircraft is scheduled for your flight and this is recommended for travellers to ensure they aren’t disappointed.
The food and beverage offering is as extensive as you would think. Delicious champagne, fine wines and cocktails are available whenever you want to wet the lips. The seven-course degustation will keep passengers from being hungry also.
Emirates featured in our ’7 Heavenly First Class Experiences’ story – read it here.
Emirates followed Virgin Atlantic’s lead by installing a bar on it’s A380 aircraft for it’s first and business class travellers. The area at the rear of the upper deck can comfortably fit up to a dozen or so passengers so it’s quite roomy and a good place to stretch your legs (or – to get a martini).
Like first class, there are different variants of business class seating depending on the aircraft. The A380 has flatbeds and each seat has direct aisle access. The older aircraft have shell seats, which although fine for shorter trips don’t lie completely flat.
Some passengers have commented that the overall business class offering has been in decline and the large size of the business cabin on the A380 makes the experience impersonal. Catering quality appears to be in decline also according to reports.
Economy will always be economy and as such there isn’t a huge amount to rave on about here. The standard baggage allowance is 23 kgs and those passengers with status can use the lounges at the airport – those without status must loiter in the terminal with the masses. The Emirates bean counters were increasingly tight with their inclusion of a 10 abreast seating layout on it’s 777 aircraft with a 3-4-3 configuration. Other airlines have opted for a 3-3-3 layout which provides more seat width for travellers. Those flying on the A380 are also subject to the 10 abreast layout however the size of the aircraft means the cabin feels more spaciousness than that of the 777.
The seat pitch (distance between a specific point on the seat in front to the same point on the seat behind it) is an acceptable 32” – not market leading, but better than other carriers.
This is where Emirates excels as it’s ICE entertainment system is renowned for it’s extensive selection of entertainment options. In fact, this writer would hazard a guess that the Emirates system has the most content of any carrier. Up to 1000 channels of entertainment including movies, television, games and audio will keep you occupied during your journey.
Emirates pays most of its attention to passengers in the premium cabins whilst those in languishing in economy receive little (this is stated in a number of online reviews from economy passengers). Travelling in first class is an amazing experience however and travellers not wanting to part with so much cash can opt for business class, though the business service may not be as refined as on other carriers. Some say that Emirates is becoming a victim of its own success by becoming impersonal with slipping standards of quality.
Have you travelled with Emirates? What did you think? Do you feel that they are in decline?