Do Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Serve Alcohol During Ramadan?

Ramadan runs from June 18 through July 16 this year. I fly the “big three” Gulf carriers quite often, and there are many aspects of their experience which are superior to what the competition offers… including the alcohol selection… typically.

With that in mind, how do these Gulf carriers reconcile respecting their “roots” while also serving non-Muslim international passengers, many of whom are traveling exclusively between non-Muslim countries?

AusBT has a great rundown of how Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, are adjusting their protocols during Ramadan.

Alcohol service onboard during Ramadan

Onboard Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar flights you can expect it to be “business as usual” during Ramadan. Which is to say that alcohol should be served to all destinations except Saudi Arabia, which is the case year-round.

Emirates-business-bar

Alcohol service in lounges during Ramadan

While it’s business as usual onboard, that’s not the case on the ground.

Of the three carriers, Emirates is the only one which doesn’t adjust their policies during Ramadan, including in their lounges in Dubai.

Emirates-First-Class-Lounge-Dubai-10

Etihad, on the other hand, will not display alcohol in their foreign lounges during daylight hours, and won’t serve any alcohol during daylight hours in their Abu Dhabi lounges:

Etihad will continue serving alcohol in its international lounges including in Sydney, London and Paris, but this “will not be displayed in the bar area in the usual manner during daylight fasting hours”, an Etihad spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller.

However, the airline’s lounges at its Abu Dhabi hub will not serve alcohol during daylight fasting times “out of respect for local customs,” with the lounge’s bars open only from 7pm to 3am daily until Ramadan concludes.

Etihad-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi-13

Lastly, Qatar Airways is taking the strong stand, as they won’t be serving any alcohol in their Doha lounges throughout the end of Ramadan:

A Qatar Airways spokesperson advised that “in respect of the Holy month of Ramadan, alcohol will not be served in (Doha’s) Hamad International Airport during Ramadan.” This means that, in effect, Qatar lounges at Doha will be an around-the-clock ‘dry zone’ until Ramadan’s end on July 16.

Al-Mourjan-Lounge-Doha-16

Bottom line

Of course this isn’t a big deal, and I recognize airlines have to find a balance between respecting their Muslim roots and also serving the non-Muslim community.

But I figured this was worth a post, in particular because I’ve long raved about the Krug on offer at the Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Lounge in Doha.

Krug

If you’re looking forward to enjoying an adult beverage in one of the “home” lounges of Etihad or Qatar, you’ll instead want to have an extra drink or two aboard.

Qatar-Airways-777-Business-Class-08

What do you think is the correct “balance” for airlines to strike when it comes to alcohol service during Ramadan?

Comments

  1. “this isn’t a big deal”

    if i were paying $20k for a ticket it would be a big deal for me… lounge is part of the experience too.

  2. The “right” policy is the one that works for the company. They walk a line between pleasing premium passengers, avoiding bad publicity at home (especially important for state entities) and maintaining market share throughout the region.

    I’m interested in how the companies’ policies change year to year, as they absorb feedback and adjust to the forces I cited above. I’ll bet at least one of the three will change the policy next year and another will change theirs the year after.

    I’m alright, Jack. I don’t use alcohol anyway.

  3. @Lantean

    Good job leaving out the rest of Lucky’s sentence. Even though I’m not religious at all, I think it’s great that airlines are respecting their religion and finding a balance. Besides, it’s only a month and not the end of the world. If you can afford to drop $20k on a ticket I’m sure you can spend a bit more on spirits outside of the lounge and bring it for your own consumption.

  4. “if i were paying $20k for a ticket it would be a big deal for me… lounge is part of the experience too.”

    If you could afford to pay $20k a ticket you could afford to buy as much Krug, JW Blue and Hennessy Paradis as you’d like on the ground, in countries where Ramadan doesn’t affect your ability to buy alcohol. Might be an inconvenience, but really rich people have access to stuff like this all the time. They aren’t play-acting being rich people by using their miles.

    So I’d guess this is a bigger issue for the folks who drop 200,000 miles instead of 20,000 US dollars…

  5. What I dont understand is – alcohol is forbidden by Islam year round, whether its Ramadan or not, right? So why does it make a difference to serve it during Ramadan? Is it any less ‘wrong’ the other 11 months?

    Also – why do the airlines serve shellfish but not pork?

  6. First of all, it is a big deal. I will be visiting the Al Mourjan a couple times the next 2-3 weeks. I feel a product I have already payed for suddenly is reduced.
    Maybe I should go over to Emirates. I find their policy much better.

    Second, Krug is long gone from Al Mourjan. Several ppl have confirmed that in the comments in the Al Mourjan review on this blog. It will not return either.

  7. @Mark

    “payed for suddenly is reduced”

    should be

    “paid for is suddenly reduced”

    Your original wording means you paid very quickly and unexpectedly whereas the correction means a rapid reduction in value for something you already paid for.

  8. Good measurement to get a balance between their tradition and the way to serve their customer.

    While I believe to a certain extent that they are not making any major disruption of service, customers will still credit to their effort

    However, they should provide some background or some kind of promotion about the Ramadan History to give more travel experience to their travellers.

    A good travel experience is not only about services, drinks and food, but with more cultural

  9. @Lantean: Like you will pay $20k for the ticket. You will only fly them on award tickets and take advantage of what they offer and of course complain about it. For people like you is that airlines should just stop offering award tickets in business and first class. Yes, you can still use your points and miles but sitting in a middle seat in a row of 5 seats close to the bathroom. Then you would have more important things to worry than complaining and respect their policy during an important holiday for them.

  10. At least they’re reducing the prices in accordance with the forced reduction in service. Oh, wait…

  11. I feel like an ass; I asked for Krug at the QR Doha lounge and he served it to me. My mistake for not knowing it is Ramadan. My resort is half shut down here in Oman bc of the holy month. Maybe a blessing since my bill will be less and my liver less inflamed?

  12. “why do the airlines serve shellfish but not pork?”

    Because there is no full consensus on whether or not shellfish is allowed for muslims or not. Whereas pork, there is no debate. They can’t eat any pork products.

    “You will only fly them on award tickets and take advantage of what they offer”

    Or find a rice queen to foot the bill…

  13. Ben, you’re not starting another fair minded topic with decent, useful information that likely turns into another religious, holy war topic, are you? *grabs popcorn*

  14. I’m with @alex, in a way, I think.

    My initial reaction was one of disbelief, but now I’m just curious. (And take this with a grain of salt, because I am not Muslim and don’t claim to know everything.)

    I understand alcohol to be haram (prohibited) year-round, not just during holidays or fasting. If this is the case, why would it matter that it’s Ramadan? What a non-Muslim foreigner does to his body shouldn’t have any impact on the integrity of a person’s fast, should it? So the obvious question is: if alcohol is served year-round for non-Muslims, why would it not be served during Ramadan for non-Muslims?

  15. I’m an atheist, but I actually have respect for people who follow their religions and don’t make exceptions for convenience. If these airlines are officially Muslim and Islam states that the rules should be applied to all, then the rules of Ramadan should apply to all passengers. And in that case I simply wouldn’t fly them during Ramadan, and maybe they’d pick up Ramadan-ing passengers who prefer a flight that doesn’t have the taunting sights and smells of foods during daylight hours.

  16. Alcohol is haram(prohibited)for Muslims. It is prohibited not only to consume but to sell or in any way deal with alcohol. It applies to every month of the year in a Muslim persons lifetime and this rule is not specific to Ramadan.

    These airlines owned by Muslim governments are serving Alcohol round the year why should they stop doing so in Ramadan? It’s plain hipocracy.

    At least Emirates is not being hipocratic here.

    @Alex – a very valid point made.

    @Ben – As I am a practicing Muslim I appreciate your write up on this topic without being judgemental about the whole issue.

  17. @Lantean : you mean you are entitled based on a free ticket from your Credit Card churning and M$ ??? oh now you probably paid $27 taxes
    Wow ..

  18. When i book a tiket and short of time ordering a special meal and when i realise they only serving Porc do i make a fuss??or when the airline forgot to arrange my Hallal meal do i make a fuss???i dont drink alcohol but when i see those travellers abusing the alcohol in lounge and inboard i feel sorry for them, Champagne is to be drunk in moderation not emptying the bottle cause its free, lot of First and Business travellers lacks the Etiquette.

  19. I don’t see how any of these airlines can serve alcohol in the first place. What’s the purpose of their air hostesses having their heads closed when they serving alcohol. Its still not allowed in Islam. Not serving alcohol during Ramadaan is not respect as you should respect the religion 24!

  20. What’s the problem with serving alcohol to non-Muslims at any time? There is no compulsion in religion remember? If they really wanted to enforce Islamic traditions on everyone during Ramadan, they wouldn’t serve meals either during fasting hours. And we would all cram into the aisles to pray at certain times.

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