Flying mostly with Qatar Airways in The Middle East, I finally had a chance to experience Etihad Airways and Emirates economy classes last weekend, and I would like to share my experiences about the two premium Middle Eastern airlines based in UAE.
Before booking and flying with any airline, I check the airline’s safety ranking because safety comes before the luxury and comfort. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways being the best in safety ranking, it was followed by Emirates, Eva Air and Qatar Airways in 2016. Etihad Airways has been the 8th, pulling ahead Lufthansa, British Airways and Qantas.
So here is my review about both airline’s economy class to/from Dusseldorf, Germany from Doha.
Route: Doha to Dusseldorf
First leg: Doha to Abu Dhabi
Check in: Online check-in opens 48 hours before the departure so I checked in online one day before, and the online system let me select an exit seat which is not a common case for some airlines.
The aircraft: It was an old and small A321 probably because the flight from Doha to Abu Dhabi takes only 45 minutes. The legroom and seat comfort were good. There was no blanket or a goodie bag distributed to passengers which were not really required.
Cabin crew: As I mentioned above, I selected my seat online before, however, another passenger showed up with exactly the same seat number while I was already seated. We went to check with the cabin crew but all she said was it happens, and we could sit on an any empty seat. I would expect such a luxurious airline’s cabin crew to apologize and show passengers the seats, instead of giving this unprofessional attitude. Giving the same seat number is not something common and it gives an idea about how safety is important for that airline.
After the seat issue, all passengers were onloaded and the ground staff came to tell me to take my luggages out and follow them outside as I didn’t have a return ticket from Dusseldorf. All passengers were watching what was going on, and I told them I could book it right there and I don’t need to go out with my carry on luggage. Again, the attitude was unacceptable and I still don’t get why a passenger should have a return ticket to be able to fly to Dusseldorf. They told me the ground staff of Abu Dhabi ask for a return ticket but no one did. I booked a return ticket so I didn’t get out of the plane but the situation wasn’t managed well by the crew.
Generally, the cabin crew was not attentive or they just didn’t care much about the customer experience in a short haul flight.
Service: They distributed an express snack pack which was a small bottle of water and a cold sandwich.
Second leg: Abu Dhabi to Dusseldorf
Boarding at Abu Dhabi Airport: We were taken to a coach after getting off the plane in Abu Dhabi Airport which made me run to my next flight. Luckily, the boarding was just started when I was at the gate and there was a long queue of passengers. This is something Qatar Airways handles very properly. Passengers sit down, and they get onloaded according to their seat zone areas. Here with Etihad or in Abu Dhabi Airport, all passengers got in the plane after business class passengers which created a chaotic environment at the gate.
Aircraft: B787-9. The lighting, design, attentiveness of cabin crew, seat comfort and the leg room was pretty good. One of the things that I loved was the unique pillows that convert into neck pillows and the flexible headrests . Unfortunately they didn’t give any goodie bags but there was noise cancelling headphones as well as a blanket.
Service and meals: The service started with juices and tea/coffee with the express snack pack which was again a cartoon bag including a cold sandwich, sliced apple pieces and a small water bottle. Some passengers asked for coke and alcohol to drink with their sandwiches but the crew said they could only bring them after the service.
On-board Entertainment System: Entertainment system started only when the seat belt sign was off in the air, and the on-screen cursor was not really useful. There were new movies as well as TV shows but the variety of audio and video was less than Qatar Airways or Emirates.
There was no wifi on board, however you are allowed to use your mobile phone with roaming charges.
Route: Dusseldorf to Doha
First leg: Dusseldorf to Dubai (DXB)
Second leg: Dubai (DXB) to Doha
Aircraft: Both planes were A380s even though there were not many people traveling to Doha from Dubai, but it showed how rich the airline is or how they care about the customer experience.
The legroom and the seat comfort was as good as Qatar Airways A380s. Emirates didn’t give any goodie bag but a blanket and a cushion.
On-board Entertainment System: I can say that Emirates has the best entertainment system in terms of variety of videos and audios. However, the on-screen cursor was a bit difficult to use just as it was with Etihad.
Cabin crew: It was announced that the cabin crew speaks 7-8 different languages, and they were wearing flags of the countries they are speaking the language of. Emirates’ cabin crew nationalities were mixed while Etihad’s were generally Russian or eastern European, and Qatar Airways has lots of Asian/ South Asian.
Service and meals: The whole service was pretty good. The cabin crew was running around to bring whatever passengers were asking for even before the meal service started. They asked if I would like my water/coke with ice and brought them immediately.
Meals were pretty good. There were only chicken and meat options while Qatar Airways has meat, chicken and vegetarian options in the menu. The chicken I ordered was pretty good, and there were also Italian bread, a bun as well as crackers on the tray. The salad had fish even though it was a chicken meal. They served only one meal for 6 hours of flight.
On the negative side: My seat wasn’t working! I couldn’t lie the seat down all night long and it was a long flight. I was informed the aircraft was full so I didn’t have a chance to change seats either.
In short, I wasn’t very impressed with Etihad’s service but I would still use it if I have to. On the other hand, Emirates made me feel much more safe and welcomed than Etihad. The whole experience was very close to Qatar Airways’ and I would definitely consider flying with Emirates as much as I do with Qatar Airways.