Emirates has an extensive network of flights out of its hub in Dubai and oftentimes relatively low prices. As such, chances are that if you are looking for, let’s say, flights from the United States to Southeast Asia or from Asia to Europe, the airline will show up in your search results.
Before deciding whether to book the flights – or even after doing so – you might be wondering what flying with Emirates is like. Is it a good airline? What will the seats and meals on your flights be like? Continue reading to find out.
Is Emirates a Good Airline?
Overall, if you are seeing Emirates as one of the options popping up for your next trip, you should consider booking – it is a good airline to fly with. That said, your overall experience will depend on the route you take and the resulting flight time and, more importantly, the travel class you book.
Emirates is a great airline to fly with in economy class – both in terms of hard and soft product. There are many better options when it comes to flying in business class, though. After all, there aren’t many airlines other than Emirates left still flying aircraft with middle seats in business class on long-haul flights. While I haven’t flown Emirates first class yet, it consistently receives good reviews from other bloggers and YouTubers.
Also, regardless of the class you travel in, you will be able to enjoy Emirates’ amazing ICE in-flight entertainment system which has more content selection than any other airline.
Emirates Punctuality & Reliability: Will You Arrive on Time?
When flying with Emirates, just like with all airlines, there will be times when your flight might get delayed or canceled for one reason or another. That said, in general, you can expect your flight to operate and be on time. Personally, I don’t remember any significant flight delay on any of my 20 or so flights with the airline.
On a larger scale, according to flight data provider OAG, Emirates’ on-time performance (defined as arriving within 15 minutes of scheduled time) was 81.13% in 2022 which placed it 20th globally among the airlines tracked. That translated to second place in the Middle East after the much smaller Etihad Airways.
Emirates’ 2022 flight cancellation rate was 0.02% – just 2 flights in 10,000 – according to the same data, placing the airline among the top five globally in this regard.
Flying with Emirates: What Is It Like?
Now that you know you are very likely to take-off as planned and arrive at your destination on time, let’s take a look at what your flight will be like.
Passengers transitting in/departing from Dubai can use Emirates’ spacious lounges in Dubai. Both the first class lounge and business class lounge are located above the main departures level and what makes them unique – besides all the amenities – is that they are like mini-terminals with direct access to some of the departure gates.
In addition to the lounges at its base, Emirates also has an extensive network of outstation lounges. These can be found in almost 30 airports around the world including Bangkok, London, New York, Sydney, and Tokyo Narita. To get an idea of what these smaller lounges look like, check out my review of the one at Narita airport.
One thing worth noting about Emirates lounges – including the first class one – is that passengers that are not eligible for free access can pay to access the lounge for up to four hours before their departure. Prices currently range from $100 plus taxes for access to outstation lounges all the way to $300 plus taxes for access to the first class lounge in Dubai.
Other ground services worth noting in addition to industry-standard things like dedicated check-in desks for premium class passengers include:
- Free chauffeur drive up to a certain distance for business and first class passengers excluding those traveling on award tickets
- At-home check-in service in Dubai and Sharjah for first class passengers where staff visits the passenger’s home or hotel to take care of check-in formalities and pick up checked luggage
While there are differences between seats in some of the different configurations in which Emirates operates its Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, overall, they are all perfectly fine economy class seats. All offer decently sized IFE screens with ample content (more on that later) and other than some 777s, the airline’s aircraft are equipped with power outlets/USB charging ports even in economy class.
Where the experience gets inconsistent hard product-wise is in business class. All Emirates A380s are equipped with nice staggered seats. These offer plenty of privacy and each seat offers direct aisle access. On the other hand, its 777 business class seats are subpar. They are in a 2-3-2 layout which means not only that those in window seats have to step over the passenger next to them if they want to get out of their seats but also that there are middle seats – something that is not at all common in business class nowadays.
Lastly, Emirates offers nice first class suites. The original suite which can still be found on most aircraft is not as unique as it used to be back when it was first introduced. That said, it is still extremely nice. The new suite which can be found onboard select 777-300ERs is unique in that it offers floor-to-ceiling walls and is in a 1-1-1 layout instead of the original 1-2-1 layout.
Meals and Beverages
Regardless of the class you are flying in or the length of your flight, you can rest assured that you will not be getting of an Emirates aircraft hungry.
On a short-haul flight, Emirates still offers a light meal even in economy class. On a mid-haul flight, you can expect one proper meal and a pre-landing snack. On a long-haul flight, two proper meals. While for light meals and snacks there might be no options to choose from, for proper meals there are usually two mains to choose from. That said, like with any other airline, depending on where you are seated, your preferred choice might not be available as was the case on one of my recent flights with Emirates.
Naturally, in business class, the menu is more extensive. When I flew in business class from Tokyo to Vienna a while back, I found the meals to be decent but nothing extraordinary. Considering the fairly large business class cabins – especially on the A380 – service can also feel a bit “robotic,” similar to how it is in economy class.
While I didn’t have a chance to try it yet, where many agree Emirates shines is in first class which offers proper a la carte dining on long-haul flights.
You can see what dining options you will have on your next Emirates flight on the airline’s website.
The screen size and type of headphones provided differ depending on travel class. That said, all passengers traveling on Emirates have access to the same ICE (standing for Information, Communication, Entertainment) system which is arguably the best one in the industry.
In the first two sections, things like in-flight map and information about Emirates and Dubai can be found. The entertainment part includes thousands of pieces of content like movies, TV shows, music, and games. There are also some games and live TV channels. For the latest content selection, check Emirates’ website.
It’s also worth noting that while the amount of content available might differ depending on your aircraft’s configuration, in either case, you are going to have more than enough to keep you busy on many long-haul flights. While I haven’t tried it, it also appears that one can make a playlist on their smartphone in the Emirates app before departure and then sync it with the onboard entertainment system.
All Emirates aircraft are equipped with onboard wi-fi allowing passengers to stay productive regardless of the duration of their flight. Not only that but the pricing is decent too. As of the time of writing this article, it costs:
- $2.99 – $5.99 depending on flight length for a plan allowing unlimited text-only chatting via WhatsApp, iMessage, Messenger, WeChat, Line, and Viber
- $9.99 – $19.99 depending on flight length for a plan providing full internet access
- $9.99 for 30 minutes on selected flights
Emirates frequent flyer program members can get free wi-fi access to varying degrees depending on their status and travel class. For the latest details about Emirates’ in-flight wi-fi pricing, check this page.
Even though many other airlines stopped offering amenity kits in economy class, Emirates continues to do so on long-haul flights. The last time I flew with Emirates, the economy class amenity kit included earplugs, a dental kit, socks, an eyeshade, and stickers to indicate whether I wanted to be woken up for meals, etc. The amenities came in a nice EXPO-themed pouch.
While not applicable to most passengers, given how unique the feature is, it needs to also be said that Emirates first class passengers traveling on the A380 have access to an onboard shower. That said, the economy class lavatories on the airline’s 777s equipped with its latest cabins were the nicest ones I’ve seen in economy class. In fact, they were nicer than many (or even most) business class lavatories I’ve seen.
Emirates Flight Reviews
To get a better idea about what flying with Emirates is like, you might also want to check detailed reviews of the flights I took:
- Mid-haul economy class (Airbus A380 from Dubai to Vienna)
- Long-haul economy class (Boeing 777-300ER with new cabins from Tokyo Narita to Dubai)
If you are flying in economy class and Emirates pops up, you should strongly consider booking the flights unless they are considerably longer or more expensive than your other options. The airline has decent seats, a great in-flight entertainment system, and filling meals. In fact, it might be my favorite airline to fly with in economy class.
On the other hand, if you are flying in business class and you have other options like Qatar Airways or Singapore Airlines, then Emirates might not be your best option. Especially so if your flights are scheduled to be operated by Boeing 777 aircraft and you are traveling on your own.
Lastly, if you are flying in first class, well… Enjoy the onboard shower!