Emirates Airlines: Tops in Economy Class?
We often hear from travellers about the great experience they have had flying in Economy Class on Emirates Airlines (EK) - the Dubai-based carrier that is growing at a phenomenal speed.
We decided to give the carrier a try after an absence of several years. This time we travelled two relatively new sectors: Kyiv to Dubai and Dubai to Seattle. The airline utilizes the Airbus A340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER respectively.
The relatively short hop to Dubai was uneventful. Check-in and boarding was efficient and professional. Since this sector is still in development (and since traffic to/from Ukraine has been light in recent weeks) the flight was only about half full. We stretched out in the middle section with four seats across. The meal and beverage service appeared shortly after take-off. Two main courses were offered, as well as two rounds of the beverage cart.
As for the transit in Dubai (about four hours), we noted a very long walk to the transit and security area - something the airport authority needs to address, perhaps with moving walkways. Since we did not have EK lounge privileges, we opted for the paid Marhaba Lounge (no affiliation with EK). We found the lounge to be extremely congested, with poor quality food and no shower facilities. The wifi was slow and we found limited access points to power up our devices. For a fee of almost US$50 we were left extremely disappointed.
Once it was time to board to Seattle, we found a somewhat chaotic scene. One Dubai-based traveller reported severe congestion at check-in counters on the departure level. The chaos at the gate could have more to do with the airport than with the airline - but it made us wonder whether Emirate's breakneck growth is making it difficult for its hub airport to keep pace?
We also observed that every single seat on the Seattle-bound B777 was occupied. This becoming typical of many EK flights. So if your seat is unsuitable or has problems (as our seat did with a very cold breeze coming from the emergency door**), you may be out of luck. On the food and beverage side there were three rounds of the beverage cart, two meal offerings and a welcome pizza box offered prior to landing. Entirely suitable for a flight of more than 14 hours. We also found the galley stocked with snacks, fruit and drinks. The cabin crew were extremely pleasant, efficient and professional.
We enjoyed the ICE inflight entertainment system, especially the air show program. However, while EK offers inflight mobile phone and text messaging and seat-to-seat communications there is now wifi on EK flights. Emirates says it offers over 1,500 channels of inflight "premium entertainment."
Upon landing, we noted waits of up to one hour for bags to arrive on the baggage carousel. Seattle-Tacoma (SEATAC) Airport is clearly not keeping pace with the increase in international flights and the result is absolute bedlam in the customs/baggage halls. Our traveller experience a missing bag and found EK staff (both at SEATAC and at HQ in Dubai) extremely unhelpful. EK staff informed us that there is a baggage theft problem on the arrivals level at the carousel where Seattle-bound passengers claim their bags. Clearly this is an issue for the airport operator - the Port of Seattle - to urgently address.
**We checked with a Boeing engineer familiar with this model of B777 and were told that emergency doors should not produce the intensity of cold air that we experienced.