Qatar, Emirates and Cathay Pacific, have been my three favourite airlines for a while now (although I have some misgivings regarding Qatar following revelations last year of their employment practices). Nonetheless, these carriers bring back the pleasure of airline travel providing me with reminders that air flights do not have to be a barren bus like experiences! Today’s flight (my 994th ever) was the epitome of how phenomenal Emirates are.
Booking: 9 out of 10
I actually booked my ticket through Qantas. Despite being the same seat on the same plane, Qantas were selling it a cheaper price than Emirates. Being a Qantas ticket, I was entitled to Qantas Frequent flyer points and the benefits associated with my One World sapphire status. It is nice to take advantage of the Emirates-Qantas partnership! It is often worthwhile checking what code share options are available when booking a flight. Sometimes the savings can be substantial.
Having said that, the Emirates website is easy to navigate. Unlike some, airlines which seem to hide their booking engine, Emirates has a bright red button on the right hand side of their website: Book a flight. Passengers can choose between lowest fare, specific date or flexible dates. I chose my seats on the Qantas website.
This particular flight originates in Christchurch and stops in Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur before its ultimate destination of Dubai. Its the long way round from Dubai to Christchurch! I think it would be faster to fly direct from Dubai to Sydney and then change to a Christchurch service. Passenger loads do not seem to be at the high end – yet. On this day, I was flying them to KL, then switching to a Malaysian service to Bangkok. Also, a long way around but a flight that fitted with my schedule and gave me a $1500 saving during the busy Easter holiday period in Australia.
Check in: 8 out of 10
Being a Qantas code share, I could not check in on line at either the Qantas or Emirates. At 1130pm, there was a long line at the Economy Check in but the Business and First lines had no one waiting. Service was warm, welcoming and efficient. The lines at security and immigration were very short. I commented on this and the immigration agent told me that the situation had been very different a half hour before.
Lounge: 9 out of 10
Knowing I am heading toward the Emirates Lounge always puts a spring in my step! Emirates take great pride in their lounges. The gleaming Melbourne lounge consisted of:
- seating area with comfortable reclining chairs
- Business area with desk cubicles,. photocopier and printers
- Dining area with tables, chairs, self service meal area, coffee machine, dessert cabinet and bar with the Emirates amazing champagne range! (yes I had a glass!)
- Bathroom area with three showers available (men, women and unisex disabled)
Staff were very friendly and welcoming, even supplying me with a paperclip (to change my Iphone sim card) with a smile and no smart comments. I made a mess of the coffee machine when I misplaced the cup and the waiter reassured me that everyone else did it too! (why no instructions then?). I was disappointed with the lack of vegetables or salads in the meal area.
One observation is that if there was an Airbus A380 at the airport, I could imagine there could be long queues for the shower facilities.
Boarding: 9 out of 10
I was the very last to board. Boarding had been very quickly done, reflecting the flight’s lightish load. There was a line up in the gangway and in the 777’s aisle which delayed my boarding by a few minutes. I could not see the cause of the bottleneck. It did not take long to get to my seat being in the very front row of Business! There was plenty of space for my luggage which I had stowed away in seconds. A flight attendant with a tray of drinks was by my side and I snaffled (another) champagne. There was also a 600ml of mineral water waiting for me in my magazine rack.
Staff were very friendly throughout the boarding process from gate to crew at the aeroplane door.
On Board: 10 out of 10
The 777 is one of my favourite planes even though Emirates cram ten seats across in the Economy section. This three class version was 2.5 years old and had
- Eight closed First Class suites with 69″ of leg room and a width of 20.5″
- 42 angle-flat Business class seats arranged 2-3-2 with 60″ of pitch and 20.5″ of width. The 2-3-2 configuration means both window and middle seat passengers have to climb over the passenger next to them to get to the aisle.
- 304 standard Economy seats (32″ pitch and thanks to the dreaded ten across seating (3-4-3), a mere 17.5″ of width
The purser who welcomed me on board offered to move me from 8F to another seat as he warned sometime my seat can get bumped by passengers wandering to and from the lavatory. I was happy enough to take the risk and I was fine for the flight.
The Business class seat comes with a small fold down drinks table and a larger table folds out from the side. There are two cupholders in the centre armrest. There is a basic seat control which gave me the choice of takeoff and landing seating, reclining chair and bed. The touchscreen controller has more detailed settings and controls for the built in massager.
Soon after the meal, cabin crew rolled out the mattresses which fit on the seat when fully reclined. With blanket and pillow, it gives a very good opportunity to sleep.
Pushback was a whole seven minutes late (surprising seeing the load was lightish). After a short taxi, we departed smoothly into the dark Melbourne night. I love the Emirates feature of being able to watch the takeoff from your TV screen.
Entertainment: 8 out of 10
A digital widescreen TV with a touchscreen remote gave me access to the 1,600 channel ICE system. I found the remote more irritating than useful and didn’t bother with it much. Each seat had two USB ports and a full universal power point. I find the comedy selection more limited than Qantas but there were more than enough dramas and I watched six episodes of Under the Dome!
Meals: 10 out of 10
We were offered an evening snack and breakfast. Being full from the lounge, I was happy to not have much! For breakfast I chose an omelette which proved to be delicious.
It was served with a delicious yoghurt, fruit salad, roll and croissant with butter and jam. Breakfast, for me, started with champagne and concluded with hot chocolate.
Meals were served on the large table with a starched white table cloth.
We landed smoothly into a Kuala Lumpur dawn. The taxiway was a little rough as we rolled to our gate. Minutes later I was enjoying a refreshing drink while waiting for my next flight onward to Bangkok.
My Flight Rating: Overall 90% (4.5 out of 5).
My Overall rating of Emirates: 94% (Cathay gets 92% from me and Qatar averages out at 98%)
Skytrax: Emirates has a 4 star rating from Skytrax. I remain genuinely puzzled as to why Stytrax only rate Emirates as four star. They are every bit as good as Qatar and Cathay which Skytrax says are five star airlines. I note Emirates customers on Skytrax give the carrier a rating of 7 out of 10 which seems low.
Positives: Crew, Website, Business Class Seats, Entertainment system, meals, Lounge
Negatives: 10 across in Economy
Would I fly them again? Yes