Emirates Airlines invests heavily in marketing to promote itself as a connection between Asia and Europe/Americas, through Dubai. Despite the abundance of direct flights between Hong Kong and major European cities, Emirates frequently comes up as a more cost-effective option for those who can afford a longer travel time.
On a recent trip to Dublin, I took flight EK385 on economy class. As of July this year, Emirates offer four flights per day from Hong Kong to Dubai, but one important thing to note is that this flight, EK385, actually stops in Bangkok on the way to Dubai (and Emirates know how to hide this information very well when you do your purchase on their website). While a stopover in Bangkok can add 3 hours to the overall trip, it seems like a harmless option for a flight that conveniently departs at 9.50pm. However, this can become a big problem, as I experienced firsthand.
Boarding on the Airbus A380 was on time, but due to the black rainstorm that affected Hong Kong on that day, several flights were delayed, so we were forced to wait on the tarmac for a bit more than one hour before the aircraft was allowed to takeoff.
Once inside the plane, one cannot deny that the plane looks impeccable with ambient lighting and a decoration with pastel orange and purple tones. Economy seats are standard, and the pillow is extremely thin and offers very little back or neck support.
Although the flight to Bangkok is only 2.5 hours long, they offer a full service dinner. The food was unremarkable, composed of bread, salad, main course and dessert. The beverage selection is quite good, and if you order something that is not available on the trolley, the attendants do check at the business class stock (but don’t expect them to prepare mojitos to economy class passengers). Speaking about service, Emirates’ flight attendants are definitely a bonus point: they have a young, energetic and diverse crew that serve you with speed and professionalism.
Emirates’ entertainment system is top notch: their ICE system have hundreds of movies, TV series, games and radio stations. The headset provided is the best I’ve ever seen for economy class, they are comfortable and block a bit of the noise.
Going back to my misadventure: in addition to the delay in Hong Kong, a thunderstorm was passing by Bangkok at the time we were supposed to land. The plane flew over the city for around 20 minutes before starting its descent among the thunderstorm. It was a scary landing with the thunderstorm turbulence and the lightning ‘flashes’ around the plane, but we landed safely. Unfortunately, the heavy rain in Bangkok also caused several flight delays, and combined with the disembarkation and boarding of passengers, the plane took off around 1 hour later than expected. By then, I was sure that I would miss my 1h15 minute layover in Dubai, but the flight attendants reassured me that any delays would be addressed as soon as we landed there.
A surprise layover in Dubai
And as expected, I missed my connection to Dublin. Upon leaving the plane, a gate agent promptly directed me and other passengers with missed connections to the Emirates counter, where they already had boarding passes ready for the next flights available.
In my case, the next flight to Dublin was only 8 hours later, but imagine my surprise when they not only provided me a new boarding pass but also a hotel voucher and a visa, so that I could go to said hotel located outside of the airport! As a Brazilian national, I’m not allowed to even request a visa unless I stay at least 12 hours in Dubai. But as Emirates is the official UAE carrier, I guess they can make things happen! It was definitely amusing to see an airline giving the ‘approval’ for a visa.
I passed through immigration quickly, and upon showing my voucher, a hotel shuttle bus promptly took me to the Arabian Park Hotel, located around 15 minutes away from Dubai’s airport. Emirates had a counter inside the hotel, and upon showing my boarding pass they swiftly handed me my room key, Wi-Fi password, offered one complimentary meal and informed me the time I should be at the lobby to take me back to the airport. I was definitely impressed.
After a yummy Middle Eastern breakfast, I went up to my room. It was simple, but it had the basic amenities and a comfortable bed, which is everything I could ask for after rocky start to my vacations. If I wasn’t so tired I could even try to explore the city. After some rest, I went back to the reception to wait for the shuttle, and the officer at the Emirates counter even offered me to have lunch there as well, which was a nice gesture. The shuttle bus came and the immigration process went without issues.
Fortunately the flight from Dubai to Dublin (EK163) was pretty uneventful, on a comfortable Boeing 777-300ER.
I’ve always thought that, no matter the airline, long haul flights in economy class are always bad, but after experiencing Emirates I’m rethinking this idea. With well-kept airplanes, an extremely attentive crew and a flawless experience in handling a delay (which, luckily for them, was due to bad weather), I can confidently recommend them. Just avoid at all costs the flight that stop in Bangkok, since it means that you have double chances of delay.
Have you flown with Emirates before? Share your experience on the comments section!