Etihad vs Emirates

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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?

A lot.

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.


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.


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.

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    Faisal M
    March 30, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Etihad is an absolutely disgusting airlines. Unprofessional and downright unethical. They bumped my elderly mother and my 3 yr old toddler flying a long haul from melbourne to lahore. They had confirmed tickets and even had confirmed boarding passes, issues by their own staff. They made them wait 8 hours before just bumping them onto the next flight. NO amount of reason or argument seemed to deter them.

    Utter rubbish airlines.

    August 6, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I loved flying with Emirates and I am so happy you did as well. The experience I had with Emirates was one of a life-saving kind. I ran into major problems with excess baggage in Vienna en route to Nairobi because I had misread their baggage policy. The Emirates representative at the counter was overly generous, patient, and helped me sort the situation out (which in essence required me to empty one of my suitcases almost completely). After the hour or so ordeal, I was in line to board my flight and again I see the same smiling representative at the gate, at which point she greets me, takes my economy class boarding pass and hands me a business class one. “So you can get some rest” she says to me quietly. I couldn’t help but give her a hug! I’m not making any of this up. This really happened in Vienna, I will never forget it. Emirates forever!!

    July 28, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    In terms of the width of seat, Etihad provides more compare to Emirates. With 777-300ER, Etihad’s seat configuration per row is 3-3-3, while Emirates 3-4-3

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    Mary Moore
    December 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Totally agree. Flown Emirates twice and etihad twice. Both Melbourne to uae and return. Will never fly etihad again. They had two chances and stuffed up both times. Emirates scored much better both times. We even paid for extra leg room with etihad. Never again!

    Shumi Perhiniak
    December 28, 2014 at 2:38 am

    I have flown with both Emirates and Ethihad and found them both services excellent, sounds like you had a terrible journey Brooke ;(.

    Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home
    June 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Interesting… I’ve flown both Etihad and Emirates on a number of occasions and found them very comparable. I would probably fly Etihad over Emirates purely because of the price difference.

    joel snoke
    May 8, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    I fly emirates economy from Hamburg Germany to Adelaide, South Australia every month. So i know exactly how emirates economy seats are. I wouldn’t fly any other airline. Although i haven’t been on a etihad flight yet, i do say there better than all that i have experienced .

    May 7, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Just returned yesterday (May 6, 2014) from Europe on Etihad. They had wifi on board and charging outlets for my phone and laptop. Entertainment selection perhaps not as great as what Emirates provides but Etihad were fabulous in every way. No trouble with second helpings of anything. Hostesses friendly and accommodating. So perhaps we all have had one unpleasant flight experience with an airline and yours was with Etihad. I’ve not been impressed with Qantas on many occasions so I avoid them.

    March 4, 2014 at 10:11 am

    I haven’t flown with emirates, but flew return from the UK To Australia with Etihad last August and the best part of the flight was the code share with Virgin Australia! Despite requesting special meals for my allergic son, on both legs, we received absolutely nothing and the only saving grace was that I had packed some food myself. I would fly with Virgin Australia in a heartbeat, wish they did the full journey, their seats were bigger, entertainment better and staff outstanding. Shame ethihad didn’t measure up.

    restn tyutr
    February 28, 2014 at 7:42 am

    I disagree etihad is much better overall. Service is excelent and also the food. Emirates’ entertainment is slightly better but Etihad is cheaper and better

    February 24, 2014 at 7:51 am

    On the contrary, my sister is heading home from Amsterdam on Emirates. Her flight was delayed leaving Amsterdam, so she was going to miss her connection in Dubai. Emirates didn’t even organise a new flight. When it was sorted out, her new flight was 24 hours later and they didn’t give her a hotel to stay in. Considering they say that if you have a 5 hour layover they will provide a hotel room and yet this?

    All airlines have their issues and sometimes its not even their own fault, and I guess it’s just luck of the draw but in this instance there were hundreds of people stuck in Dubai all with the same problem.

    18 years flying with Qantas and not a single awful problem, so I’m definitely sticking to what I know!

    • worldofwanderlust
      February 24, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Yeah I agree every airline has their issues for sure…. Qantas have been good for me also – maybe it’s best to stick with the Aussies!

    Jennifer Lucia
    February 21, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Etihad is currently the world fastest growing airline! I have flew with emirates many of times and much prefer Etihad. Etihad has the best business class and their ecnomy is 100% better. Etihad provide your own chef onboard and nannies for younger children emirates dont! also the girls that are employed by emirates used to be so beautiful and classy and as the years go on they get poorer and poorer looking!

    November 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Etihad economy class is way better than emirites and why pay more

    • worldofwanderlust
      November 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      I completely disagree! Had a much better experience on all fronts with Emirates, especially in regards to service and a higher ratio of attendants to guests on flight!

    October 1, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Can you recall what model planes you were on for each airline?
    My parents are considering flying with Etihad (Business class) next time we all go to Europe, after using Emirates several times and Singapore airlines once (also Business).
    Despite their ‘airline of the year’ award, having read about your experience, I may suggest against it.
    I have had other friends travel with Etihad, and they have reported nothing but positive reviews for the airline, so I am sorry you had such a bad experience.

    • worldofwanderlust
      October 1, 2013 at 2:26 am

      I believe they were A380s or at least the Emirates plane was.

      We had the same high expectations for Etihad considering the numerous awards they have received in recent years, however I could not recommend the airline to anyone following the experience we had. We also met a number of other passengers at the airport who had experienced the same lack of service from Etihad prior to this occasion and this would be the last time they flew with them – it was surprising just how many people were saying the same thing! At the time of the occasion I also had a lot of people saying they had also experienced bad service with Etihad on social media. In regards to the lost baggage for 7 hours even the Etihad staff member explained they were a ‘relatively new airline’ and that this type of thing is ‘to be expected for such a young company’.

      Singapore airlines and Emirates are a certainly a cut above the rest, and its just such a shame Etihad have a public persona which would lead one to believe they are in the same higher class of travel. Following the experience all they could offer was their apology and a small number of frequent flyer points, which of course are of no use to us considering we would never fly with them again.

      I hope this helps!