Going the Extra Mile: A Review of Emirates’ A380 in Economy From Dubai to London
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I was delighted to find out I would be flying and reviewing the Emirates A380 from Dubai to London Heathrow as part of our showdown of the three major Middle Eastern airlines. I had never flown Emirates before and was very much looking forward to seeing what all the hype was about. I also love flying A380s, so was intrigued to see how Emirates’ version compared to my previous experiences on other airlines. I’m pretty sure my experience will win over my colleagues’ experiences with Etihad and Qatar.
No matter where you live in the UK, there’s probably an Emirates flight departing from an airport near you. You can fly to Dubai (DXB) and connect onto the rest of the world from Birmingham (BHX), Edinburgh (EDI), Glasgow (GLA), London (LHR, LGW, STN), Manchester (MAN) and Newcastle (NCL).
The cheapest you can find is actually flying from Stansted Airport, where you can get return direct flights to Dubai for as low as £329!
Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW) are only a couple of pounds more expensive, starting at £331, which is a reasonable price indeed.
If you’re an Emirates frequent flyer, you might have racked up a few air miles with them. TPG UK’s current valuations consider Emirates Skywards Miles to have a value of around 0.9 p. Interestingly, Emirates price outbound and inbound flights differently. Based on this, an economy redemption for the outbound flight would have a cash value of £399 (£203 worth of Skywards plus £196 in tax).
The return leg would cost £445 (£349 worth of Skywards + £95 in tax).
That means in total you would be paying the equivalent of £844 for a ticket that only costs £331 in cash — this one is a no-brainer.
The check-in area for Emirates in Dubai is huge. There were people from all over the world speaking dozens of different languages — it felt very cosmopolitan, and I liked it. To top it off, the check-in staff was notably friendly. It was an all-round nice experience.
As I was flying in economy, I had no lounge access, which meant I just had to hang out in the terminal. This was my least favourite part of the whole Emirates experience. The airport was just too big. I struggled to find anywhere to sit down, and the toilets were filthy. Shame on you, DXB!
The flight departed on time. Just as well, as I really wouldn’t have wanted to spend more time than I had to in that terminal. It was a pretty long walk to the gate, too.
Cabin and Seat
My initial impression was that the cabin looked pretty clean (but not immaculate) and still quite new considering the aircraft was 7 years old.
The size of the A380 cabin allows for more space between each seat and wider aisles. But even with the extra space, the tray table seemed annoyingly on the small side, which made working on a laptop a little clunky.
One of the nicest and most surprising things about this whole experience was the washrooms, which felt considerably business-class-like.
There were lovely smelling amenities from The White Company and other little extras like combs and proper hand towels.
Most surprising of all, though, as it was something I’d never seen before on a plane, were the extra amenities for women — the extra thought and consideration by Emirates here really made a good impression on me.
Amenities and IFE
All ready and waiting at my seat were a great-quality, locally made pillow and an equally good blanket.
I was initially impressed with the headphones I was given, as they looked a lot better than the usual rubbish you get in economy cabins. This was a definite case of not judging a book by its cover, as they certainly felt a lot cheaper than they looked and the quality was just terrible — zero noise-canceling capability, for sure.
The poor sound quality might have had something to do with the two-prong AUX connection — not a fan. Seatback USB connectivity was standard throughout the cabin.
Food and Beverage
Unlike in many other economy cabins, I was handed out a menu. It wasn’t as extensive as you find in premium cabins, but it was nicely presented, and a member of the cabin crew made their way through the cabin handing them out individually. This was a little touch that really made the experience a lot nicer and more personalised.
There was one main meal and one snack shortly before landing.
For the first meal, I chose the Malwani chicken, which was a spicy chicken curry served with rice. The second meal was an “afternoon tea” service, so it included the requisite sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and jam.
Both were really quite tasty. The presentation was nice too, in proper dishes rather than just foil trays.
An added bonus was the generous measure of gin that I was served.
The friendliness and professionalism of this crew shone through, even in economy.
This was probably one of the best parts about flying Emirates: The call button actually worked. About an hour or so after the main food and drink service, I pressed the call button, and less than two minutes later, a member of the cabin crew was at my seat. My requested gin and tonic was on my tray table a couple of minutes later.
What really stood out to me was the friendliness of the cabin crew. I noticed that they were talking Polaroid photos with kids and their families and handing out reading and colouring books to keep them entertained. I’d never seen anything like this on a flight before.
The money invested by Emirates and the time invested by the crew on board in this way is a great way of making everyone’s flight better. Going the extra mile to make sure that children are happy will make for a happier flight for everyone. I was very impressed indeed.
Despite the overwhelmingly big terminal in Dubai with dirty washrooms, the overall economy experience with Emirates was strong. I was comfortable (save for the small tray table), I enjoyed my food and the crew were a pleasure to deal with. I’m confident that Emirates will prove to provide the best economy product of the ME3 airlines.
All photos by the author.
Featured photo Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg / Getty Images.
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