Two ultra-premium airlines, both based in the UAE, both serving an array of international routes out of their Middle-Eastern hub, so what can be that different?
On the recent European Luxury Tour, we decided to fly inbound to Moscow with Etihad, and outbound from Paris with Emirates. This was solely done with the purpose to compare and contrast the UAE’s two leading airlines, which now serve many Australian travelers on the route to Europe (as well as many other global routes), yet each with their own pro’s and con’s to be considered. By flying into the east of Europe and flying out of the west, we were able to make our way across Europe and take advantage of open-ended flights, which are not only a time saver but also a money saver. All flights were taken in economy class.
Here’s what we discovered…
ETIHAD (Melbourne > Abu Dhabi > Moscow)
Upon check-in we learn there is an hour flight delay out of Melbourne. We are informed we will make our connection time in Abu Dhabi and given a $15 meal voucher (shared) to compensate, so this is not a problem for us.
Whilst waiting for boarding we notice the flight is further delayed, yet are not informed by staff why this is the case – nor when boarding time will commence. After repeatedly approaching staff to ask whether we will make our connection in Abu Dhabi, we are given no answers as to why there is a delay, when we will board, or whether we will be on the flight to Moscow.
After a 2 and a half hour delay we board the flight to Abu Dhabi. Staff on board still have no answers regarding the connection, yet we are informed they will be able to let us know when we are closer to Abu Dhabi. In the final hour of the flight we enquire in regards to the connection but staff are unable to offer any insight, and quite frankly disgruntled by the question.
Upon arrival we rush off the plane to make our connection, racing from terminal 7 to terminal 67 – through security and crowds to reach the Moscow connection. We arrive with only minutes to spare, have our boarding passes scanned, yet are informed we have been taken off this flight as we were not expected to make the connection due to the delay from Melbourne.
From there, we make our way to the service counter to hopefully be put on the next flight to Moscow as we have meetings to attend that evening. We are originally informed this is not possible as there are no flights until the following day. The customer beside us having the same issue is put on the next flight with an alternative airline. We then request the same, which is eventually negotiated, yet we are then sent to another customer service desk to receieve boarding passes. Once there, we are informed our baggage has been lost and we are thus unable to board the next flight with an alternative airline.
After 7 hours waiting for our baggage to be found, we are informed we have ‘missed’ the alternative flight and will need to catch the flight to Moscow the following day. Unfortunately this string of inadequacies in service by numerous Etihad staff leave a sour taste in our mouths and we vouch never to fly with Etihad again.
ON-BOARD ENTERTAINMENT, FOOD & BEVERAGE
The on-board entertainment system was average in comparison to other airlines I have flown with. Selection was poor and there were more ‘world’ movies than anything else. Despite having requested a vegetarian meal prior to flying (weeks earlier) this was not provided. However I must commend the staff for finding a substitute meal for the flight.
There is no on-board wifi with Etihad, though you will get this with Emirates.
Etihad is slightly less expensive than Emirates, though still one of the higher tier options when flying from Australia to Europe. We paid extra in the belief that we would receive better service and an all-round better flying experience, though it goes without saying we were unimpressed by almost all factors of the Etihad flight.
EMIRATES (Paris > Dubai > Melbourne)
The Emirates staff seem to possess a much more established presence on-board. Staff are incredibly welcoming and accommodating to your every need (even a second dessert was not out of the question!). There were no hiccups in either of our flights with Emirates.
ON-BOARD ENTERTAINMENT, FOOD & BEVERAGE
The movie selection was greater on Emirates, and the on-board entertainment system functioned better than the ones of Etihad. On this flight we were given a window seat, and noticed the windows on board were much bigger than those on other airlines. There is also a charging outlet for your devices, including full power plug to charge your laptop (not available on Etihad). You are also provided with stickers to place on your chair that label whether you would like to be woken up for your meal or left undisturbed. Wifi is available on-board for a small charge of around $3-4 USD.
Slightly more expensive than Etihad, though worth every penny.