Emirates Economy Review

From everything we’ve read online Emirates seems to rank fairly high on most people’s list for carriers doing a long haul flights from North America or Europe on-route to either the Middle East or Asia. We recently returned from our trip to India, which is a 15 hour flight from Toronto. We decided to take Emirates and break up our trip to include a free stopover in Dubai.

Mumbai to Dubai is only 3 hours away, which was fine when the trip began as we did the bulk of the journey in one day to Dubai and had several days there to get ready for our 3 hour flight to Mumbai. When our trip was over and we came home a few weeks later we left Mumbai at 10:00 PM and arrived in Dubai around 12:00 AM, we then had to to wait till 3:30 AM to catch a 13 hour flight to Toronto. It was a brutal day and left a sour taste in our mouths about booking economy with Emirates. It might have made more sense to book a direct flight from Mumbai on the way home or spend a day or two in Dubai before catching our flight home to Toronto. After we recouped and licked our travel wounds we realize that a lot of the annoyances we experienced during these flights were typical bad behaviours of other passengers in economy which become more apparent during long-haul economy flights. It’s kind of unfair to judge Emirates on things they have very little control over, but that doesn’t mean we were blown away by the customer experience or responsiveness of the staff on board to deal with some of these issues.

Even though we didn’t have the best flights or experience, we hope this information can help you make a better flight decision. Especially when booking long haul flights over 8 hours, which can be extremely draining.

The seats

Pros:

The seats on emirates are quite comfortable and the recline nicely.

Cons:

Emirates Airbus a380-800 is quite a large plane, the first floor is setup that is entirely for economy passengers while the top deck is business and first class passengers. Almost all of the seats in economy are a 3x4x3 configuration, and only a few seats are two seaters. Because there’s only a limited number of two seaters available, it can become quite costly to upgrade. It cost us roughly $175 (CAD) per seat, just for one flight. The pro of this upgrade is that you don’t have a third person beside you, which is great when you’re travelling with one other person. The con is that the seat is in the exit row and near the bathroom, meaning that people use this area to stretch their legs, lineup for the bathroom and occasionally knock over your entertainment system that pops out of the side of your seat. The two seater seats also have a hard divider between them, which makes getting comfortable very difficult. Overall, you’re paying to not have someone next to you, and that is very valuable but you’re also paying for a significantly less comfortable seat, which is frustrating. We recommend using SeatGuru when figuring out what the best seat is on a plane.

A typical 2×2 seat on Emirates a380. The hard divider between the two seats made it difficult to get comfortable.
Another shot of the legroom on the 2×2 seat on the Emirates Airbus a380.

If you’re looking to upgrade your seats on any of Emirates 770-300er planes, we would then recommend getting a two seater at the back of the plane as the plane is better configured to handle two seaters an there is no hard divider between the seats. We chose this upgrade from Dubai to Mumbai and vice versa and for the moderate fee of $35 (CAD) per person per seat, it was well worth the money for a 3 hour flight.

The food and drink

Typical vegetarian fare including quinoa, olives, tomatoes, cheese, crackers, rice, cauliflower curry, dal makhani and a tiramisu cake for desert.

The food on Emirates is very accommodating to people with specific diets, more so than typical airlines are for vegan and vegetarians. There are meals for Jains or those wishing to have a specific type of vegetarian or vegan meal. I chose to go to vegetarian on the trip and didn’t eat the meat dishes, but from what I saw the food looked good. I did however sample many of the free beverages on the plane, including rum and cokes, gin and tonics, Amarula and even Hennessy. I was surprised that top shelf liquor was included in an economy fare, so take full advantage if you plan on booking a trip with Emirates.

Top shelf liquor available to passengers in economy.

The entertainment 

This is where Emirates shines. The Emirates in flight entertainment system or ice has 3,500 channels and movies, with some notable gems such as the entire Harry Potter series. There’s games and music if you’re not into movies or television. It’s a great chance to catch up on some blockbuster films that are in or just left theatres. Aside from the movies and live TV, they also offer free Wi-Fi on the plane. Albeit, it was some ridiculously small amount, around 20 MBs per person. I didn’t even use it as if I went over I might feel inclined to buy one of their expensive data packages. Upgrading your cabin class will likely give you more data, if this is something you are thinking of wanting or needing for your flight. Another interesting thing to do to pass the time is to view the cameras that are attached to the plane, this is pretty neat when the plane is taking off or landing.

The entertainment system that pops out of the seat on the 2×2 seat. There’s over 3,500 channels and movies available on most flights.

Overall, Emirates does some things well. The amenities are solid but the service can and is questionable based on how busy the flight is and in our case if the flight attendant in your area likes you. We were given preferential service on our first flight, and noticed that other passengers who had caused the staff grief were being skipped when asked about food or drink. We had a chance to chat with one of the flight attendants, who told us that the flight between Toronto to Dubai is known as a particularly awful route to work, and that this was her first and last time doing it. If Emirates can be faulted for anything is that it fails to provide an upgraded economy experience without dolling out thousands of dollars to buy your way into business class. Many airlines realize that individuals can’t or don’t want to pay for business or first class, but can and want a better economy experience. Emirates fails to respond to this need and thus any long haul flight, regardless of the the above average amenities still feels like a cattle cart. Our advice is to check out other airlines and see what sort of premium economy options are available before booking an economy flight with Emirates, especially if the flight is longer than eight hours.

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