It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Emirates. Partially, this is because Emirates was the airline that would rescue me from horrible trips, that would take me home, that would offer me a glass of bubbly after a whole week in a dry country, that would fly me to the most amazing places. And if Emirates is great at one thing is recognizing its best customers and over the years they had plenty of fantastic gestures which I remember till today. I am not only talking about free upgrades, even to First Class, but also about boxes of chocolates for submitting feedback, free flights in any class for any date to any destination to recognize my loyalty and of course, great customer service, flexibility and true concern for my satisfaction.
But I also believe that Emirates offers a great economy product because of factual reasons.
Over the years I have flown with numerous airlines – Lufthansa, Air France, British, Cathay Airways, Etihad, Qatar Airlines, Kenyan Airlines, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Quantas, Air New Zealand, Fiji Air, Air Tahiti Nui, Scoot, Tiger, Air Asia, ANA, United Airlines, Iberia, Vueling, Alitalia, South African Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Fly Dubai, Kuwait Airways, Middle Eastern Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Air Malawi, and so on. I have as much experience in Economy as I have in Business and Emirates stands out only comparably to Etihad or Qatar. When it comes to service, value and infrastructure the Middle Eastern airlines are a notch above the rest. I love Singapore Airlines too and I have flown them regularly for the last 4 years but their pricing is high and I find their level of service and aircraft design not as good, if still fantastic.
So why is Emirates economy class the best there is?
Emirates Airlines Economy Class: The Good
1. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: Space
Even in Economy their seats are never too crammed and on their new A380 the 3-4-3 configuration is extremely spacious. The airline has a fourth of its fleet made of A380 aircrafts.
I flew the A380 from Singapore to Dubai two days after my ANA and United Airlines Business Class flights from San Francisco and Tokyo on a Dreamliner and B777 respectively and the Economy seat of Emirates was almost as wide.
2. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: The best entertainment system
ICE, Emirates’ entertainment system, is fantastic. It has a huge selection and is offered in Economy as it is in Business Class. The choice of movies, TV series, documentaries and music is stunning, even on the longest of flights and even for the most seasoned of travelers there is always something to watch. And if you can’t find a program you can always play games. ICE is by far the best system I have seen.
Aside from the hardware and software being great the TV screen on the A380 is almost the entire width of the seat so that is about 30cm, one of the widest I have seen.
What makes the overall Entertainment even better is the fact that it can be played from the moment you board until you touch the ground so you don’t have to wait until reaching cruising altitude or get switched off half way through your favorite program 15min before landing.
However, make sure to bring your own headset because the crew will pass around to collect it half an hour before landing leaving you half way through that thrilling episode of How I met your mother.
3. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: Free flow of alcoholic drinks
This is not so common anymore, even on long-haul flights, with most of the European or American airlines but Emirates has a large selection of drinks including alcoholic for Economy passengers and usually on unlimited re-fill. Only champagne is charged.
4. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: Seat electronics
On a long flight your laptop, your e-reader or your tablet will run out of battery and even in Business, not all airlines offer plugs on your seat to recharge electronics. In today’s connected world, this has become a critical necessity. How many times have you tried to send last emails and update everyone on your trip before taking off only to find out that your battery is running out. You land at your destination and you no longer have access to your phone to check reservations or get in touch with your loved ones. Not with Emirates. Most seats are equipped with regular plugs an with a USB port to plug phones too. Even on the older planes there are USB plugs on every seat row to share among passengers.
5. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: No request is too bothersome
Flying Economy in many airlines often times feels like battling against the tired and uninterested crew. They don’t seem willing to help out and if you start asking for things that are more Business-type of requests you are not likely to get helped out. With Emirates I never felt that was the case. The crew were helpful and willing to accommodate any request even in Economy. For example, if the luggage compartments are full they’ll help you store your luggage in the closets; if you want your jacket hanged they will do it for you; if your seat is not reclining they will help you bring it down. You ask, they’re here to help.
6. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: You won’t go hungry
I don’t eat a lot of food but I have found in several flights that the Economy meal is truly economic with tiny portions that leave you hungry. On a long flight this may be an issue because there is no other food to be had. I found that with Emirates their portions are always filling and there are plenty of treats to keep the hunger entertained. They have recently introduced their “Bites” with small portions of spreads and crackers of various types that are a nice touch. Although I don’t think Emirates has the best food, they have dramatically improved since I stopped flying them on a weekly basis and at the very least, you won’t disembark hungry.
7. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: The beauty of the small details
There are a few nice touches throughout the flight that are more common of Business Class than of Economy.
To start off you will be given a hot towel. The food choices are laid out on a nice menu rather than blurted out by the crew as they approach your row. You get a cushion to rest on. The seat recline is much better than on most aircrafts and the head rest can be adjusted and bent over so you can rest your head without continuously falling off in your sleep. This is, for me, a massive improvement on overnight flights and the single reason why I sleep on Emirates better than on any other airline. The ability to rest your head on this bendable piece does wonders to my sleep. As do sleeping pills of all sorts, obviously
8. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: Young fleet
Emirates’ fleet is one of the newest at 6,5 years on average. They were the second airline to receive a delivery of A380 after Singapore Airlines and it is the largest operator of its type with more pending orders as existing in their fleet. Planes are clean, well designed, modern and usually spotless. Most importantly, they have been designed with the frequent flyer’s needs in mind. The bathrooms are spacious and new too and the entire seat area is ergonomic and well thought-out.
Emirates focuses a lot on the quality of its fleet and it is one the things that I loved the most about them. And that is after having to suffer most of their oldest planes which they fly to the destinations I used to take where there was no competition: Sudan, Kenya, Lagos…
9. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: Stay connected
Back in 2008 Emirates already offered in-flight mobile coverage under the umbrella of On-Air. You could make calls and send SMS from the plane and if you had the usual international roaming plan that most residents in the UAE had this was included in your rate at no additional cost.
Later on this evolved into full on internet and you even get 10MB for free on their A380 (except for three of the aircrafts) and can buy 500MB for an additional $1 only. Now, that’s connectivity!
Emirates Airlines Economy Class: The Bad
Although I love Emirates, I am not blind to the strangely annoying things on board. But bear with me because these may well be just my personal pet peeves. So here are my 5 things I dislike from Emirates.
1. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: An overkill of announcements
The amount of announcements and videos played before, during and after take-off are an overkill. They also play videos pre-landing. And since this is all needed in English and in Arabic all videos play twice. This amounts to over 15min total per flight, well above most airlines. I listened to some of them so many times that, even if I did not speak any Arabic, I found myself memorizing some of the parts, even the Arabic ones, by heart. That’s why they are also top of my list for longest airline announcements.
2. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: Arctic temperatures
The temperature on the flights is always around freezing point. Ok, maybe I am exaggerating but it is always very cold. I regularly see entire cabins with everyone wearing sweaters and covered with blankets. I never understood the rationale but it is a very consistent issue.
3. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: TV on, headsets off
So, as I mentioned above, Emirates lets you use the ICE system until landing and from the moment you board. But, a big BUT, they take the headsets away from you. It is the only airline that I know who does that. About 30min before landing, when they start descend, the crew will collect them so bring your own so you can continue to enjoy ICE.
4. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: Blankets back
This is because a lot of blankets go stolen, I know it for a fact, if you walk around the Dubai airport in the middle of the night, when it is busiest, you will see an incredible amount of people wrapped around in the beige blankets. They are not the best, in fact Emirates blankets are some of the industry’s worst, but plenty of people steal them so the airline has resorted to collecting them when they collect the headsets. You are going to freeze for a few minutes before landing. If you ask the stewardess to keep it because you are really cold, they will let you.
5. Emirates Airlines Economy Class: Thick windows
This may not affect anybody else but travel bloggers but the windows on the A380 are so thick and double glass that it is very hard to take photos as the aperture of the window is pretty small and very far away from where you stand. That being said, the windows are always much cleaner and with less scratches than most planes, probably because they have a newer fleet.