Emirates is a solid choice in economy class for backpackers on long haul trips to Asia, Africa, India and the Middle East. Here’s some good reasons why Emirates economy class stands out for us penny-bound nomads.
As far as economy class food goes, Emirates is up right there. You get a menu and that, to be honest, says something. Passengers can expect a good quality food tray and some basic choices, including fresh fruit and salads. For the longer flights, there are multiple services and Emirates crew are known to be fairly generous with the drinks. Beer, wine and spirit mixers are complimentary. Champagne was US$ 10 for a smallish bottle when I last flew. If you have special dietary requirements, it’s easy to order ahead using the “manage your booking” tool on their website. If you do this, you’ll get your food before anyone else – not a bad perk for the well-organized nomad.
Image credit: Rinse / flickr
Emirates leads the game in terms of in-flight entertainment. Big screens and lots of choice (at the time of writing, over 700 “channels”) define the economy class offering, a point upon which the airline has built its brand. You can watch the flight on an interactive map, catch up your favorite TV shows (presented as “box sets”) or hit up any number of the latest movie releases. The airline allows you to check what is being shown on your flight, using the online tool. If you’re not happy, you can even request that they add a show or a movie.
There’s a reason why parents say they have a hard time pulling their children off the flight, as you can almost keep a kid perpetually entertained on the Emirates ICE system. On at least one or two flights, I’ve found myself lightly annoyed at landing – as I’d not finished the season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I was watching. Darn.
One thing though – the standard Emirates economy headsets are pretty average and you may have to max them out to hear your movie above the din of the cabin and the engines. A good set of noise cancelling headphones is a sensible investment, if they will fit into your pack : )
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3 Service / courtesy
The drudgery of economy class can be amplified by the militant nature of some cabin crew, particularly on the US-based airlines. Even in economy class, most folks I know notice the difference with Emirates. I was talking to one nomad, a well-traveled guy, and he was pretty clear. “I’d rather be in Emirates economy class than American Airlines business class any day…” This was, he reckoned, just based on the attitude of the cabin crew. I can see that. Even in the back of the bus, Emirates crew generally manage to keep cheerful, chatty and genuinely helpful. On my last flight, one steward brought me another gin and tonic without any prompting – he simply said “you looked like you could use another one” and grinned. Not bad, a bit of empathy in economy.
Image credit: Brussels Airport
4 Connectivity from Dubai
If you don’t like flying, going Emirates is a smart move because of the one stop model they have out of Dubai (example above shows the options from Orlando, Florida). On most routes, you’ll have only one connection in Dubai and your connection will be closely timed (usually two or three hours maximum). This means you’ll avoid the five hours here and the eight hours there that is the norm when you fly into some other connection points. The range of destinations available through Emirates is also excellent, with about 150 cities served, and you’ll have most of Asia, Africa and Europe within easy reach. The choice of destinations within the US and South America is also getting better, although it is still a long ride out of the US, so you’d better be going to India or Africa or something.
Image credit: Emirates.com
Like Emirates economy class but wouldn’t mind trying biz? It’s achievable, with miles or through a cash upgrade. I’ve also heard of random upgrades, but you’ll usually need to be a member of their frequent flyer program. The good thing about Emirates is that they’ll often (not always, mind you) send you an email before your flight to upgrade for cash. If this is your one big trip, or you are just loaded, then this is a good opportunity to live the high life. Otherwise, wisdom for the rest of us says save that money for your destination. The availability of upgrades for those that have the miles is also fairly good.
Image credit: Andy Mitchell
I’ve always found Emirates seats to be decent, with enough recline and legroom to get you by. Certainly better than some other airlines. The amenity kits in economy class are also a nice touch. The headrests can be adjusted and you can tinker with the side supports to give your neck a rest. Sure, you still need to be strategic in your seat selection and have a few basics like a good neck pillow. Arguably, you’re better off on the A380 (34 inches of recline and 18 inches of seat width) than you are on the 777, which has slightly narrower seats (by 1 inch).
Nevertheless Emirates economy class is a safe bet in this department and you’ll enjoy little perks like seat power for your laptop and a USB port to recharge your smartphone.
Update (September 20, 2016): Emirates just removed free seat selection for certain economy class bookings. This means that if you buy the cheapest economy fare, you can’t choose your seat free of charge (as you used to be able to). This is a major value perk Emirates has removed, making them less “solid” on the seats… If you want to choose your seat, you’ll have to pay a fee depending on how long the flight is, from about 50 to 150 Dirhams. That’s about $US 14 – 40. If you want to risk a middle seat, you can choose from what’s left during online check in free of charge. I guess I’m grumpy because I always like to choose my seat ahead of time, key to my economy class survival strategy.
Image credit: Alina Sofia / flickr
7 Value for money
Emirates are pretty good on price, but now are getting edged out by other airlines keen for your business. Shop around and see where Emirates sits on the cash. You may be able to get a good deal elsewhere but you do know what you are getting with Emirates.
Image credit: Stux
Emirates economy class has simple and fairly generous baggage rules. The standard allowance for economy class is 30kg, beating the 20 or 23kg you sometimes see with other airlines. I’ve never had a problem with baggage and Emirates keep it simple, although if you go over you will have to pay a baggage fee.
Image credit: Sonia Belviso
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