Reading a recent Conde Nast Traveller magazine, I see that Dubai was awarded "Airport of the Year", and Emirates the Business Airline of the year. I don't remember who made those awards, but they must have been day dreaming! Dubai Airport has beena building site for more years than I care to remember - at least with the opening of Terminal 3 in 2009 the congestion in the terminal has been relieved a little. And with the two runways now open, no more circling around in the sky waiting for a slot. As for Emirates being a Business Airline, read on...
The other grumbles is that the Star Alliance lounge is only open for a few hours in morning and evening. No seats in the public area left, so best place is on the floor. Frequent blarring flight announcements, often contradictory. This must be one of the world's worst airports, however pretty they pretend it really is. And Duty Free shopping is ferociously expensive when compared with anywhere in Asia.
Emirates sends a limo to pick you up from home. While I'd always been perfectly happy with the Brisbane taxi service, it was a nice start to the trip to have a slightly more luxurious version of a Ford and a more pleasant driver for the journey. And if you stop in Dubai (which I was doing), they will provide a free limo service to anywhere within the UAE.
Emirates has changed a lot over recent years. In their early days of flying into Brisbane, Business Class was top notch, and competed with Singapore, British Airways and others in quality and class of service. The cabin crew made a point of knowing your name, ensuring comfort, and produced some of the best cuisine in the skies, all served on real crockery too. Nowadays, in 2009/10, this has all gone. Cabin crew are doing their jobs (always pleasant though), the cuisine matches Singapore economy class, and the overall experience is very down market, unfortunately.
A major disappointment were the seats. The squabs are almost completely flat and as hard as concrete, and not firm and supporting like, for example, Singapore Airlines (old and new) business seats. With head and lumbar support being almost non-existant, I found that I needed a few pillows to get comfortable. They also had barriers at the bottom of the seats (see photo) which prevented me from straightening my legs.
The seats on many aircraft have no laptop power at all - although they did say they had a laptop recharge facility on board. And this is meant to be business class? Definitely not an airline for the business traveller.
The entertainment system was very disappointing. Sets of video entertainment, changed every 2.5 hours with a very confusing A/B/C/D/E/F option depending on which direction you are flying in and destination you are going to. And even then, on a couple of my flights, they didn't play the option listed in the magazine. Why so hard to get right? Yes, multinational choice, but not that extensive. At least noise reducing headphones are provided, although they don't have a channel zero "silence" mode like United do. Video on demand is literally asking the cabin crew for a video tape to plug into the inseat system on the newer planes. The older ones have nothing (and smaller screens too). But the large screen, and forward and downward cameras make a slight difference. The 777 and A330 seat layout is 2-3-2, like Singapore's old layout. Airbus 330 planes have the business video screen in the seat back in front. Not sure how this is meant to work, especially if the person in front chooses to sleep! I saw several people give up in disgust when the passenger in front of them chose to recline their seat. Another design disaster.
Cabin ambience could be a lot better. They need to learn that people want to sleep on overnight flights. Singapore get this right, with catering noise kept to a minimum if anyone really does want to eat a full meal at 2am. Emirates makes the entire cabin put up with service noise and clatter - very thoughtless. And the pace of service for meals is desperately slow. On one flight the meal service lasted almost 3 hours. I appreciate the crew are looking for something to do, but the passengers I'm sure wanted to work or sleep, etc. Not good.
I'd definitely class Emirates as the discount full service airline of the world. Business on a 333 has 2-3-2 seating (barely more width than economy 2-4-2), but leg room is fine until the person in front tips their seat back when the screen (in seat back) is almost impossible to see. The 77W seats are still as hard as concrete (2-3-2 as well) and don't recline very far at all - no flat bed here. And the 345 (the supposed ultra-long-haul plane) also doesn't have flat beds, just standard reclinging seats - thankfully a bit more space at 2-2-2 like other airlines. I can't imagine sitting 16 hours in one of those. Last resort airline for me, I'm afraid.
Summary: Barely acceptable. So so catering and onboard service plus rather cramped outdated seating and entertainment options. They feel like an upmarket holiday carrier rather than being truely interested in the business traveller.
I looked into the Economy cabin on the 777s. And saw 3-4-3 seating. And shuddered. Only Thai and now Air France have this in their 777s, and you can read what I thought of that later on. But at least the legroom is reasonable. Seat back touch screen video (do you want to be kept awake all night by someone prodding your seat back?), same video system and programme choices as in business, just smaller screen.
Summary: I can see why people prefer Emirates across the Tasman compared with Air NZ, Qantas or Pacific Blue. Full service, choice of movies, seat back video, etc beats anything the others can usually offer. But then again, 10 across in a 777 is only good for really skinny people. Normal build and larger will have to hope the seat next to them is vacant. Have you seen any skinny Australians, New Zealanders, or Pacific Islanders??
Last updated by Philip Smith on Friday, 12-Mar-2010 05:10:35 AEST.