The Varying Consistencies of Emirates (Flight Reviews)

This post was supposed to be your typical trip report until I heard Tim Clark (President, CEO) talk about future of Emirates and his view about airline alliances among many other things within that 30 minute podcast/interview on Emirates IFE (known as ICE) channel no #1500, the default start on the home screen.

Let me take you back to where this all began. I was flying from New Delhi to Barcelona in early May and during the DXB-BCN leg this post took a life of its own.

I was completely mesmerized by the sheer beauty of this Boeing 777-300, regal on the outside & luxurious on the inside. (Barring the bone crunching 3-4-3 seating arrangement of Emirates).

Emirates Boeing 777-300 IFE ICE

The IFE on this aircraft was state of the art in its truest sense and I can safely say the best IFE I have experienced till date on all 32 airlines I have flown in. The system is based on 3000i from Panasonic Avionics Corporation.

Even the handset had a small touch screen on it, and was capable of displaying information on its own without interrupting content on the main screen. We were served breakfast and lunch on this flight by a very efficient crew, both meals were good and above par.

EUREKA! EUREKA!

& It was during this flight I had my eureka moment. Hearing Tim Clark talk about Emirates future plans, their new destinations, that even with current network they are only half done & of course why Emirates is averse to joining any Airline Alliance.

The meat of his answer revolved around the fact that Emirates was averse to joining any alliance because alliances never helped an airline much, and Emirates feared that transferring your pax from one airline to the other may give them inconsistent experiences, completely opposite to their vision of seamless, comfortable and world-class hospitality that Emirates wants its customers to feel across their network & at their home in Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3.

Fair enough I thought & agreed with his thought process in my mind as I disembarked.

The LIS-DXB flight of this trip was also on a B773.

I had an Open-jaw ticket & was returning to Delhi via Lisbon. The security and immigration was pretty painless, but the walk to the flight gate, which was actually the last of the airport, was quite a walk. Dare I say, it would have dwarfed the walk at Delhi Airport’s T3.

After an efficient boarding process I moved to my seat to see the same world-class IFE greeting me & I remember thinking to myself, “consistently world class indeed”.

Emirates Boeing 777-300 IFE ICE

But the biggest surprise of the flight was when Cabin crew armed & cross checked doors and I was sitting next to 2 empty seats.

Emirates Boeing 777-300 vacant row of seats

Suddenly the Aviation Geek in me woke up & I stood up to have a look around the cabin to check for loads. It was a Saturday evening flight, with just about 50% occupancy in economy. The guy in the next middle row had all 4 seats for himself.

Emirates 777-300 handset display for avgeeks An AVGeek’s ideal handset display

As we rose up over the balmy and beautiful evening of Lisbon, I fired up ICE and got to hear Tim Clark again. I must admit I loved hearing him speak; his voice was like a gentle massage to my eardrums with a soothing accent. He had me completely sold on Emirates vision and their reasoning for it.

Our crew for the flight was nice and chatty, and the meal service for this flight served as Dinner, was yummy. I had my first Indian meal in 8 days & the chicken tikka masala did not disappoint at all.

Emirates Economy Class Meal

The crew also served drinks just before landing into DXB. Overall a flawless flight from Emirates.

AT DXB T3

But then we landed into DXB. We arrived slightly before time & I had 5 hours & 45 minutes left for my early morning connecting flight to New Delhi. Transfer and security was much better this time compared to my outward leg.

Here’s my take on Dubai International T3 after been there 6 times now. I find DXB as one of the world’s most boring airport/terminal. DXB sadly offers nothing for the traveler but shopping. I think that’s where it should take a cue from airports like Munich, Zurich, Amsterdam, Seoul and Changi. Shopping is just ONE part of the experience, not the ENTIRE experience. Being a hub airport for one of the largest airlines in the world should carry responsibilities with it & so far DXB T3 has failed on my watch in many aspects.

With my tired limbs & stressed mind I hopped on the train towards B Gates. I reach our scheduled gate only to hear an emirates employee shouting loudly that our flight is delayed by an hour and 30 minutes, with a gate change.

Later on an Emirates employee tells me all delays at the airport were due to unseasonal fog, which enveloped DXB in the morning & has had a knock on effect on flights throughout the day. Our aircraft was scheduled to arrive from Dammam & its arrival was delayed by 2 hours due to the same problem.

But there’s another dimension to this thought. As the disruptions have been on since morning, Emirates must have known about possible delays for our flight to DEL as well, then why it decided to inform passengers at the very last minute, at their boarding gate?

Also, from my point of view, If Emirates knew about this 2 hour delay much earlier, they could have even given me a hotel accommodation at DXB. Emirates has a policy of granting all economy passengers with a layover of more than 8 hours at DXB, a complimentary hotel stay. Needless to say I was physically exhausted after almost 15 hours of travel & would have loved some shuteye, even for couple of hours. My decision of not going to the Lounge at T1 came to haunt me.

I reach the new gate as per the re-scheduled departure time only to find that the gate has been changed again. So, I reach the 3rd gate of this journey & it finally seems to be the correct one. We start boarding 15 minutes after the re-scheduled departure time, and are already running late. Again. And there is no explanation from the airline staff as well. And to top it all of, we are transferred to buses. It seems our Airbus A330-200 has chosen to park remotely.

Emirates Airbus A330-200 to Delhi, boarding through stairs

Certainly not the world-class consistent experience that Tim Clark promised.

By the time I boarded my DXB-DEL flight, I had lost all sense of time, but it would be safe to say that the flight took off at least 2 hours and 15 minutes post-scheduled departure.

The boarding for this flight was completely mismanaged by the Emirates crew/ground staff. First and Business class passengers were requested to use the front staircase understandably but the entire economy class passengers were required to board the aircraft from the rear.

Even those with early economy seats were turned away from the front door to board from rear. Naturally that had many passengers agitated, as they had to carry their hand baggage from the back of the aircraft, almost to the front.

One of the few positives about the flight I immediately noticed was the 2-4-2 seating arrangement, with a window seat It seemed ideal for me. My luck continued with this flight as well as the seat next to me remained vacant.

But as I sat down, I immediately saw this staring back at me.

Emirates A330-200 Old IFE In flight entertainment

From the best to the worst, Emirates had provided me two extreme IFE options & the voice of Tim Clark talking about consistent world-class experience for passengers started ringing in my ears. You see having a mediocre IFE system is one thing, but this was the worst.

Just as we were all set for the taxi to runway, the captain informed us of another 20-minute delay. Apparently the control tower wanted us to wait, if we hadn’t waited enough already. Meanwhile I also took notice of one of the most uncomfortable seats I have been on in an aircraft (not as bad as my Ryan Air flight but close enough) with weird lower back support settings which made a thick uncomfortable cushion pop out & the seat itself was not the best.

Tim Clark & his voice came back to my mind & ears. Shouting.

We were served lunch on this flight & the butter chicken I opted for was very well prepared. The crew of the flight, barring the initial boarding process, was also very friendly and professional.

Did I mention that the IFE on this flight was almost repulsive & I never bothered to even use it once, preferring to read FT on Sunday, provided gratis by Emirates at the boarding gate.

Nothing else of much note in the flight as we had a smooth landing at Delhi and the captain apologized in the end for multiple delays.

One big question lords over my mind after these extreme experiences

Where is the consistent world class seamless (and other adjectives) experience that Emirates loves to boast about? This is not a one-off thing as Emirates operates this very A332 daily to Delhi? I haven’t documented my first flight, DEL-DXB in detail, again on A330-200, but if it wasn’t for catching up on sleep or a chatty co-passenger, I would have been horrified about that as well.

India is supposed to be Emirates biggest market, then why this huge inconsistency? Emirates flies more Indian passengers abroad than any other Indian carrier, Why the Indian passenger is almost taken for granted? Especially considering other global players like Lufthansa fly their top the line aircraft, the Boeing 747-8, to Indian cities.

And it’s just not me pointing out their inconsistencies; plenty of others are talking about it as well. Just that nobody else has devoted such detail to it.

I won’t be surprised if the more nimble (and smaller as of now) gulf carriers like Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways attract more Indian travelers to their much superior product in time to come. For Emirates, I only wish for a consistent passenger experience, only to live up to their own promise, which should be good enough for now.

Overall I would rate my 4 flights with Emirates as the following:

DEL-DXB – 6.5/10

DXB-BCN – 8.5/10

LIS-DXB – 9.5/10

DXB-DEL – 3.5/10

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15 comments

  1. Bhavneet

    Hi Vishal,
    Your article didnt come as a surprise to me. Whenever I go to India from Dubai, Emirates undoubtedly is always my LAST CHOICE. India bound flights are so hopeless, with poor service and not to forget the minimum lag space available ( i am sure even the worst cinema in delhi will have a better leg space). To add on to it, let me get you another weird fact about this airline. They overbook their flights (which is a trend nowadays), and if their is no cancellations, the stranded passengers are asked to wait for the next flight without any compensation. I am sure low cost airlines treat their “guests” better.

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    • Vishal Mehra

      Thanks for your comment Bhavneet. Some of your observations like overbooking of flights from Emirates has indeed come as a surprise to me. Hope they correct their flaws soon and get as consistent as they are on other international routes

      Like

  2. rika (@Rika_SA)

    Hi Vishal, you raise some very valid points. Having flown on Emirates 6 times, I must say however that we have luckily always received consistent service. My latest experience on Emirates was just over a month ago where we flew DUR – DXB with a 6 hour layover and then DXB – IST. Apart from having to deal with a flight delay of about an hour and a half on our return to SA, we had no major issues. I personally love the airport but I do concede your point is legitimate – there is only so much shopping a person can do. We were also quite agitated and tired by the end of our 6 hour layover as our shopping was done and there was not much else to do as we had no access to any of the lounges. I was also also quite surprised to note Bhavneet’s comments on the booking system. I’m not sure what the procedure is here, but it’s quite alarming that such a system be implemented at all!

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    • Vishal Mehra

      Thanks for reading Rika. Good to know your experiences with EK have been consistent. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of their flights to Indian cities. I have had the chance to speak to various people after posting this and most of them had similar experiences to recount, including some senior journalists and other prominent personalities.

      DXB is a mess, which I hope they fix soon. To be honest the only hope is when they shift ops to Dubai World Airport, but that is still sometime away.

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  3. Gharondabhai

    It will be a good writing topic to interview few cabin crews and ask their opinion about India leg and few other legs. The inconsistency you mentioned (You surprisingly missed service quality) is quite generic (not just emirates) and there are many reasons to it, although none will speak openly.

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    • Vishal Mehra

      Thanks for reading Gharondabhai. Cabin crew is always hesitant to talk unless they know you personally, as they fear the airline may be testing them. I have mentioned service quality, which was good on all legs. EK plays up their cabin experience most as compared to other carriers, and getting a lackadaisical experience from them urged me to write this. Honestly I would disagree that all carriers suffer from the same, there are few asian, european carriers and other gulf carriers like Etihad and Qatar who have leapfrogged EK in many areas.
      As a passenger I truly hope airlines stop taking Indian pax for granted, that is my sole intention from this post.

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  5. Sumedh

    Excellent Read Vishal!

    In my opinion, it is not just Emirates who does that. Apart from LH flying their 748 to DEL, all foreign carriers fly their old planes with out-dates products to India. I was once coming from BKK and found that all their India bound aircraft were parked in a remote corner of the airport and everyone was forced to take a bus.

    I don’t think we can fault the carriers here. We are the ones who happily oblige and re-book Emirates, Thai, Lufthansa even though they provide such horrible service to India. Do we ever decide to book Air India (they have a brilliant product on their 777s which are flown to Europe and North America BTW) even after going through such experience with a foreign carrier? No. If we did, I am sure the foreign carriers will bring their better aircrafts to India.

    In the end, the average Indian traveler does not want good service, comfortable seat or any such thing. An average Indian traveler just wants the cheapest ticket and he will accept any sub-standard service in return for that.

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    • Vishal Mehra

      Thanks for reading Sumedh. Well I would agree and disagree with your observations. for example, British Airways flies their latest in-cabin product to BOM, similarly so does Virgin with their top-of-the-line A330s to DEL. There are other airlines who also fly their sub-standard aircraft to indian routes due to lower yield traffic. It’s a mixed bag out there. Also, I agree with your assessment about Air India, good hard overall product but slightly inconsistent soft product.

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  8. iHateIndians

    You know what? Out of all the nationalities in this planet, you Indians are the one who complains the most about EVERY SINGLE THING. Emirates has offered a lemon juice before departure, because they know India is their largest market. Small thing but a huge work for the crew.

    You guys are never been contented. You will find a way to complain about something that is not complainable.

    Firstly, that plane parked in the remote stand because air bridge wasn’t available. If it was, then the plane could’ve parked there. Second, that ancient Airbus A330 you took has been already retired. Emirates, as normal as other airlines, tries to refleet and retire their old planes, and it just happen that they have deployed this plane in your flight. And third, if you don’t like inconsistencies then try to fly with another airline so you will realise how consistent Emirates is, well somehow.

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    • Airboy

      My favourite comment! I hate Indians too! Can’t stand the lot of them. Stinky annoying creatures! Always meaning, India is a shit hole and they are complaining about a remote stand!

      Like

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