Though I have flown on Emirates before, it was in their luxurious first class cabin aboard their A380. I had heard good things about Emirates economy cabin and I recently had opportunity to try it out for myself. As of now, they are the only carrier that flies year round between Greece and the US (Newark <-> Athens) so I will actually be flying on them a couple more times as well. Here is a review on my first flight in Emirates economy class onboard their 777.
Emirates Economy Class Review On the 777
- Excellent food
- Great service
- Really nice amenities
- Great entertainment system
- Nice seat recline
- WiFi is not good
- The 777-300 could use an upgrade on some of the components in their planes
- Some people may find the width of the seat too tight
- Emirates 777-300ER
- Travel: From Athens to Newark
- Time: 11 hours and 30 minutes
- Class: Economy Class
I purchased the ticket for $662, using a mix of Chase Ultimate Reward points and cash. Since I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I get 1.5 cents per point towards travel booked through Chase. The ticket was for Athens to Newark, roundtrip.
The other ticket I have with Emirates is actually a much cheaper ticket, thanks to better deals on the days for the other one. I paid $400 and used US Bank Altitude Reserve points to pay for those. Keep in mind that Emirates runs at least a couple of sales per year for Newark – Athens roundtrip for under $400!
As an Alaska MVP Gold 75K member, I was curious to see what kind of benefits I would receive as a result of the partnership between Emirates and Alaska. You do get a mileage bonus on the miles earned but I was also hoping that I would be able to get early boarding due to how full the flight was.
Unfortunately, there were no benefits I received at all! I was even in boarding Zone 9, which I believe was the final boarding group. I was near the front of the economy cabin so that would figure why I was in the final boarding zone. As it turned, I had no problems stowing my bag either (and even had an empty seat next to me).
I chose an aisle seat in the middle section. More and more, I am actually preferring seats like this on routes that I normally fly. I love the window seat for sleeping (and it is my preferred seat for overnight flights), but I also drink a lot of water during the flights and do not like to disturb my seat mates to get up for the bathroom.
I was one row behind the bulkhead and found the seats to be quite comfortable. I generally regard economy seats as fairly similar but I did like the fit and feel of the Emirates economy seats.
Seat Width and Pitch
According to SeatGuru, the Emirates economy seats have 32″ of pitch, compared to 31 on United for the same route. But, the seat width is 17″ while United offers a little more. I had no problem with a 17″ width. To be honest, I thought it was roomier than that! Still, if you do not like narrow seats, check for a carrier with another inch or so in seat width.
At the Airbus factory last year, I saw what these airplane manufacturers are doing to make travel more comfortable, especially for the economy passengers. I know this is a Boeing plane but it was really interesting to see the technology that many carriers are using to improve the flight experience with seats.
I had a passenger behind me that pushed back when I put my seat back. It turned out that he wanted to use his laptop and he didn’t want me reclining into it. I always recline slowly so never hit it. But, I did ask him if we could see how far back I could go and still let him use the laptop since I was trying to get some sleep.
I was really surprised to find that the recline was quite nice. It wasn’t exactly premium economy but it still went back far enough to allow for some sleep without really disturbing the passenger behind me.
Food and Service
This is the part that I felt was up there with some of the lower-tiered business class offerings. I have flown between Greece and the US many times and it is definitely one of the worst European routes to have when flying to the US. The reason is that it is a really long flight, for being Europe to the East Coast. It is a little over 11 hours long!
Some airlines really do not do a good job of giving good food and service on these longer European-US flights. But, Emirates did a great job.
To start with, they handed out menus – that’s right AA, Delta, and United – MENUS in economy class! They followed that up with the first meal that was really good. In fact, it was the best economy meal I have ever had and almost as good (if not better) in quality to some meals I have had in business class on international United flights.
When the meal was served, we all had actual metal silverware! I do not ever remember getting metal instruments in economy on any other airline! It was really a nice touch to provide something like that.
While the meal presentation was not the same as business class, the food was very good. And, there was a decent amount of it!
We were served 2 full meals on the 11+ hour flight with sandwiches and snacks available for the taking from the galley in between the meals. The flight attendants came through every 2-3 hours to check on people for drinks and were very polite at all times.
Oh, and you actually get a little amenity kit – in economy class! It is a small bag with a pair of socks, sleep mask, ear plugs, and a toothbrush and toothpaste. All in a bag that I didn’t throw away at the end of the flight.
All in all, the service and the meals were top-notch, something I would find in some business class cabins. Well done, Emirates!
The Tech Side – Entertainment and WiFi
Emirates is known for having an impressive offering of entertainment on their planes in the system they call ice. The screen is decent quality for economy and the selection of shows and movies is really extensive. I went through all of the options to see just how many things were available and found something I never really see on other airlines – complete (or mostly complete) TV seasons.
On many airlines, you may click on a TV series – only to find 3 episodes from 2 different seasons. With Emirates, they had pretty much complete seasons of shows. That doesn’t mean all 6 seasons of a particular show but if they have season 2, it is probably the full season. That was something that I am sure many would enjoy, especially being on a plane for over 11 hours. It would be nice to go through a tv series in a row rather than bouncing around.
The one downside of the TV was that the touch sensitivity on the edges, particularly the right side, was not good. If I was trying to select something, I would have to actually move to a different part of the screen to select it and not push right on it. With as much touching as a screen like this sees in a year, I was not surprised but I do think the screens are probably do for an upgrade.
Emirates charges (unless you are a Skywards member, then it is free or discounted) based on the amount of data you use, not the length of your internet session (like others). I was really disappointed in the Wi-Fi aboard Qatar’s A350 last year as it was basically unusuable for basic internet work (like blogging). I was hoping that, since Emirates charges for data and would likely want you to use it up to buy more, Emirates would have better service.
Nope, again, it was really bad. I had purchased the 500MB package ($15.99 for non-Emirates Skyward members, $10.99 for basic members, and free for upper elite members) because I really had to get a bunch of work done. There is a page that lets you track your usage so you know how much of the cap you are using.
It was absolutely horrendous! Speed was non-existent and simple pages would keep resetting or becoming completely disconnected, thanks to how bad the internet was. In the end, after trying for several hours, I had only used 90mb. Not because I wasn’t doing much but because the system was just that bad.
At the end of the day, Emirates got me to my destination without a problem. When we fly economy, we are really just paying for the transportation. But, with things like Emirates economy class, they do a nice job of making it be as good of an experience as possible.
I have 3 more flights with them on this same route over the next month or so. I will be eager to see how each compare with each other. For now, I am just eager to try it out again since my experience, and the food, was just that good.