Airline review: Emirates A380-800 economy class, Sydney to Dubai

THE ROUTE

Flight EK415 Sydney-Dubai

THE AIRCRAFT

Airbus A380-800

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Skywards loyalty program. Qantas Frequent Flyers can earn miles but not status. The trick is to book the flight with a QF flight number and you'll get more miles plus status points.

CLASS

Economy, aisle seat 53H

DURATION

14 hours, 30 minutes

FREQUENCY

Emirates flagship A380 flies from Sydney to Dubai daily. Flights to Melbourne on the Boeing 777-300ER operate four times a week.

HEALTH

Currently, passengers must be fully vaccinated and show a negative PCR test from an accredited lab taken within 72 hours of flying. (Histopath is reliable, offering suburban or airport testing with a quick turnaround.) The Australia-issued International Vaccine certificate will also be checked. Print out everything in case your phone runs out of juice. Masks need to be worn throughout the airport, except where eating and drinking, and throughout the flight. This can be a little uncomfortable at first, but you soon forget you're wearing one. In fact, a few times I absent-mindedly tried to drink water through my mask. Walking to the back of the plane later in the flight, though, I noted about about half the passengers had let their masks slip to their chins. Flight attendants are masked, but don't wear face shields. I didn't see much evidence of enhanced cleaning, although the cabin was kept reasonably sanitised.

CHECKING IN

Despite fears that there would be terrible lines due to the onerous task of checking people's documents, check in was just about the fastest ever. I arrived at the airport three hours ahead of the flight, as suggested by the airline, and was immediately directed to a desk, where ground staff looked at my documents and ticked them off against a list, handing me a slip of paper that I was to present at the counter. I was using the priority lane because of my frequent flyer status but economy passengers were processed the same way. In a blink I was through the immigration gates and standing on a very short security line.

THE SEAT

Economy seats are in a 3-4-3 configuration, have 32 inches (81 centimetres)of pitch and are 17.5 inches (44 centimetres) wide. It's comfortable for an economy flight, with decent padding and reasonable floor space if you want to keep a bag close by. The best seats are in the section in the front of economy where there's lots of space due to the stairs that lead to Business Class. I was in the second row of the next section.

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Unfortunately, I found myself in a sort of airborne creche, with about nine babies in the surrounding seats. Three of the poor tykes shrieked almost the entire flight. Next time, I'll avoid proximity to the bulkhead and the cots.

But I did score the economy class gold prize – a spare seat next to me on an almost-full plane. Passengers going on from Dubai to other destinations should note that the 777-330ER used for connecting flights is inferior to the A380 in terms of seat comfort and space. The seven hours to Paris felt longer than the 14 ½ from Sydney.

BAGGAGE

Up to 30 kilograms of checked baggage plus one cabin bag up to seven kilograms.

ENTERTAINMENT

Emirates ICE inflight entertainment boasts 4500 channels of premium entertainment including live TV, a very impressive selection of movies (although it's not strong on art house) and programs from streaming service HBO Max, so you can finally catch up on Mare of Easttown if you missed it this year. Emirates Skyward members can access free Wi-Fi and unlimited chat for the duration of the flight. The 13.3-inch (34 centimetre) screen means even the most cinematic films are watchable. And there's Bluetooth connectivity for headphones.

SERVICE

The service on this flight was very good. A male flight attendant immediately came to my aid with overhead luggage (almost unheard of in my experience). And a female attendant went to great pains to find vegetarian meals for a family that had ordered their meals too late. "We don't want you to spend 14 hours hungry," she said caringly when she'd sourced the meals from the crew. However, the days of flight attendants taking crying babies off their stressed parents to give them a break seem to be over, probably due to COVID.

FOOD

I try not to eat on the plane, so I didn't taste the standard beef and potatoes or chicken and rice options for dinner. Proportions seemed good, though. There were a few snacks in the galley and juice and water were brought around frequently. For breakfast, there was Bircher muesli or frittata with mushrooms. A flight attendant spilt hot tea on me at one point but she was very apologetic and I survived.

ONE MORE THING

Tickets bought before December 1, 2021 included free multi-risk travel insurance, including cover for COVID. For tickets purchased up until March 31, 2022, the global COVID insurance component is still included. If you contact the insurer, AIG, they'll send you a certificate.

VERDICT

A good, competent, well-oiled service on an aircraft I hope they never retire. It can be brutal in long-haul economy and Emirates makes it tolerable with pleasant, efficient flight attendants, engrossing entertainment options and generous seats on the A380.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★½

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See also: Airline review: Flying Qantas feels safer than going into a restaurant

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