Airline Emirates

Airline Check Emirates: Premium desert airline with a definite envy factor

Esther Nestle
22.11.2019
2 pictures
4 minutes

The passenger in the Emirates worlds floats nobly above the clouds towards his destination: Will it be the lounge bar? A private suite? Or have a shower? Exclusive food and drinks? When First and Business Class passengers are escorted through the doors to their cabins, they are immersed in a luxurious world that gives an Arabian Nights’ fairy-tale feeling to all those for whom money is not quite no object. There is so much fairy-tale luxury in the rarefied upper-class air that more than a touch of it radiates down into the Economy Class. However, storm clouds have recently started to form around the top-of-the range airline.

“Don’t just fly, fly better”

… is Emirates’ advice to its website visitors. Around 60 million passengers a year do not have to be told this twice. With more than 3,600 take-offs and landings per week (that’s about 515 a day!), Emirates is not only one of the world’s best airlines but is also among the world’s largest. Like its similarly luxurious sister companies of the Gulf region, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, the airline, which was founded in 1985, is domiciled in the Middle East and flies to the rest of the world from its home airport in Dubai.

Big, bigger, biggest

Emirates owns almost half of all Airbus A380 superjumbos. The passengers love these four-engined giants as well as all flights of the state desert airline with its logo emblazoned in large gold lettering! Some of its competitors, needless to say, love it less.

High up on the passengers’ favourites list

Four times in the last 15 years, the renowned Diners Club magazine has awarded Emirates the title “Airline of the Year”. The highly esteemed aviation institute Skytrax, whose coveted World Airline Awards and Rankings in the airline industry have Oscar status, ranks Emirates “only” in fifth place in 2019 (it must have been a fairly bitter pill for Emirates to swallow that the first place went repeatedly to their neighbour, the Qatar airline). Three years have now passed since the noble ‘Queen of the desert’ was last able to call the coveted World Airline Award ‘Best Airline of the Year’ its own.

Cattle-class flair you can get anywhere – but not here

Emirates currently has an unbelievable 104 of these sky superstars in service, much to the delight of the passengers. Anyone who takes a seat in the two-storey high-flyer is in for a treat even in Economy Class: Plenty of space! Peace and quiet! Hardly any turbulence. Smooth take-offs. Soft landings. And an excellent safety record – few incidents, no fatalities.

The many connecting flights from Emirates via Dubai Airport are popular, making it easy to fly on to the Far East, Australia and New Zealand. At least theoretically: For the transfer procedure two passengers wrote down their slightly different views for us, see the end of the article.

The times are changing

But now headwinds are approaching and growth at Emirates is decelerating (source: Handelsblatt). The desert airline would like to add new flight connections to its programme. However, like their sister airlines, Etihad and Qatar, it seems they have somewhat outstayed their welcome. The three noble Gulf sisters are too ubiquitous, they cream off large numbers of passengers at the expense of other airlines; they also “poach” heavily in their home regions.

At the same time, they are more dependent on external markets than other airlines: The surrounding deserts around Dubai and Co are not home to nearly as many people as the Gulf airlines would need to fill their jumbo-sized planes. At the latest since the figures for the last fiscal year became known, with profits falling by around 35 percent to 610 million euros, the desert sheikhs of the skies, so accustomed to success to date, cannot fail to realise: The high flying of the last years is now over.

Strategic turnaround

The relationship with Airbus has deteriorated. The A380s proved to be increasingly uneconomical, which is why Emirates took a U-turn and cancelled 39 superjumbos already ordered. Orders for smaller and more flexible twin-jet aircraft are now the order of the day. When the A380 key account of Emirates announced in February that it would only be ordering 14 instead of the original 53 giants by 2021, Airbus CEO Tom Enders finally jettisoned the A380.

The change in strategy makes it clear where Emirates is heading: towards smaller but more efficient long-haul jets such as the A330, A350 and B777. To what extent will these luxury worlds with their thousand-and-one-nights’ fairy-tale feeling make it into the new era?

Two Emirates passengers report for WingMag

Two Emirates passengers report exclusively for WingMag readers on three Emirates Economy Class flights between July and September – from Frankfurt to Dubai (onward flight with FlyDubai) / from Dubai to Colombo / from Colombo via Dubai to Frankfurt:

Emirates Frankfurt-Dubai in the A380

Large gap between window seat and aircraft wall, so that one cannot lean against it. Free space to the front seat is okay, but not unusual. The entertainment system is good and offers a wide selection of international movies. Wi-Fi costs extra. All in all fine, but no special experience.

Over-punctual landing in Dubai at 6 a.m., on Terminal 3. The problem: Our connecting flight with FlyDubai leaves from Terminal 2 – for this we have to go through Border Control, take a taxi, drive once around the airport and leave the Emirates in Terminal 2 (for budget airlines). We knew this in advance, but for people who don’t know it, it’s certainly not a pleasant surprise.

Emirates Dubai-Colombo B777-300

Comfort significantly higher than in the A380, although this time we are sitting in the middle of the plane. Legroom felt much better than in the A380.  Service staff friendly, even extra wishes were attended to.

Emirates Colombo-Dubai B777-300

Before departure, the aircraft interior is disinfected, passengers are instructed to close their eyes and hold their breath for the duration of the process. The plane is flown by a female pilot, which we find worth mentioning with an airline from the Middle East.

Emirates Dubai-Frankfurt B777-300ER

Luckily again in the 777 and not the A380 – the latter didn’t feel more comfortable than average for us in economy class (see above).

Our verdict

Emirates good, but not extraordinary. Large western airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France or KLM are not inferior to Emirates (at least on long-haul flights).

by Esther Nestle

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