Flying During Ramadan On Emirates, Etihad, And Qatar

The month of Ramadan 2016 has officially kicked off, and this year it runs from June 5 through July 5. 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, I figured it would be worth posting a reminder of what you can expect over the coming weeks if you’re flying Emirates, Etihad, or Qatar. I figured it’s especially timely, given that a lot of people are connecting in Abu Dhabi to try Etihad’s new first class lounge, which just opened.

Etihad-FIrst-Class-Lounge-1

For the Gulf carriers it’s an interesting balance between respecting their “roots” while also serving non-Muslim international travelers, many of whom are traveling between non-Muslim countries, and simply using the Gulf as a connecting point.

It’s my understanding that the policies for the Gulf airlines are the same as last year:

Alcohol service onboard during Ramadan

Onboard Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar flights you can expect it to be “business as usual” during Ramadan. That’s 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
Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai

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-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi-13
Etihad Airways Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi

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

Qatar-Al-Safwa-Lounge-Doha - 3
Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha

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.

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. What about food spread? I have a 14 hour layover in Doha in the daytime this week and plan to just remain in the F lounge.

  2. Of course there’s that other thing about getting off the plane completely wasted and stepping into the UAE.

  3. Lucky. I want to thank you for this piece of balanced reporting. People need to do their research and temper their expectations accordingly. Still in my mind some of the best airlines in the world. Just know when Ramadan comes some changes are expected. Well done sir.

  4. My friend used to fly for Gulf Air (now flies for EK). He said some of the local Bahraini pilots he flew with used to fast while in command in the cockpit!

  5. Any idea about the Turkish lounge in Istanbul… traveling through there in a couple of weeks just wondering what their policy was. Thanks

  6. Alex, in airports (not only in the lounge) it’s business as usual everywhere past the security, therefore also in Doha there’s no difference. The rule for Muslims is that during travel and sick days people are exempted from fasting, but eventually they’d have to recoup any days lost. So food wise at the F lounge in Doha it’s no issue. Years back also Alcohol wasn’t an issue but don’t know if still the same.

  7. IMHO the beverage selection with Qatar Airways in the air and in the lounge has started to go down hill. Up until a few months ago I could get Krug in the biz lounge. Not anymore! Qatar Airways also had its own 1974 vintage Port. It was fantastic. Again, not any more.
    During Ramadan, if Qatar does not serve alcoholic beverages in its new lounge at Dubai’s DXB Concourse D, I would take that as a thinly veiled attempt to save a little cash over the month rather than for any religious consideration.

  8. It makes no sense that EY will serve alcohol in their AUH lounges, but only at night during Ramadan. I don’t think that rule follows from anything in the Koran.

  9. @Lucky,

    What is your source for this?
    I remember passing through DOH during Ramadan in both directions, and champagne (Krüg) was on offer both during day and night?

  10. I am also interested in what Turkish Airlines policy is.

    Ben, do you know? I’ve looked around and haven’t found anything, so I’m presuming it’s unchanged? I’ll be flying with them in J next week.

  11. Fly to Qatar in two weeks. Will be VERY interesting to be there during Ramadan even if its only for one night

  12. Silly question – but if alcohol is forbidden in Islam why is it any worse to serve it during Ramadan? Presumably someone who chooses to fast is also someone who refrains from alcohol no?

    I’m not Muslim not have I ever been to any of the ME3 airports but to me this seems as silly as El Al serving cheeseburgers in the lounge every day but Saturday. Observant Jews won’t eat a cheeseburger either way but non Jewish passengers could eat one seven days a week.

  13. @Jeff,

    The mini-bar in your room is probably the only option.
    Please be advised that the alcohol ban is strictly imposed in customs.

  14. @Alex, it’s not a choice. No one can eat or drink in public during Ramadan, regardless of religion or lack thereof. It’s illegal. So non-Muslims can drink alcohol and eat all they want, just not in public during daylight hours. Hopefully I understood your question!

  15. Flew last year during Ramadan.

    QR F lounge in DXB served alcohol and food. QR did not serve alcohol on flight to Doha, nor in the lounge at Doha, but did serve food (although time was during evening hours). QR did serve food and alcohol on the onward flight to CPT, inclusive of breakfast.

  16. About Turkish Airlines and Turkey in general, it’s a much more modern and open society than the rest of Arab world and alcohol consumption won’t be a problem at the lounge in Istanbul or otherwise. Of course, the current regime might mirror turkey to rest of Arab soon, and the day that happens, the world would have lost a shining star!

    PS: as a foreigner living in Istanbul, I just love the country but sad to see the politics play through. Make no mistake, EU is to blame here on many accounts, unfortunately 🙁

  17. Hi Lucky,

    I enjoyed reading some of your articles and am interested in knowing more about using points. I’d like to know more about loyalty programmes for Asia, specifically, Thai Airways vs Malaysia Airlines.

    I’d like to bring up a couple of things you haven’t mentioned about Ramadan and a few corrections. First, the easy stuff: The carrier you refer to as ‘Qatar’ is called “Qataria” or you can call it “Qatar Airways” in the same way as you can call, “Saudia”, “Saudi Arabian Airlines”. You oughtn’t really call it ‘Qatar’. This is a country, not an airline. Also, the correct name of the airline based out of Abu Dhabi is “El Etihad”, not ‘Etihad’.

    Regarding Ramadan: certain airlines never offer alcohol such as Saudia and Kuwait Airways – either on the ground or on board – so that’s two of the six Gulf countries. “Etihad Airways”, called “El Etihad” in Arabic is likely to have restricted hours at airport lounges and no alcohol at their outbound hub; similarly, restrctions will most likely apply at the Gulf Air and Qatar Airways “hubs”.

    Secondly, fasting / and in reply to one of your respondents above who mentioned a Captain who was fasting while on duty: This is requires a more lengthy explanation: In my experience of working in the Middle East for nine years, I found that fasting was voluntary while travelling – a personal choice. Having said this, the incidence of driving and construction accidents spikes during Ramadan in all the six Gulf countries. There are many reasons for this. With regard to flying, airlines will change rotas to accomodate their staff. I wouldn’t worry too much unless I were travelling to/from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait….and for that reason would choose to fly with EK.

    I have never flown with El Etihad and probably wouldn’t due to what I consider a ground transportation issue going back to when they started. They now allow passengers to check-in at Dubai International Airport which makes things easier. However, passengers still have to face that interminable drive down what we used to call ‘The Abu Dhabi Road’ which was, essentially, a three lane death trap. This highway now has six lanes leading out of Dubai, but this has only taken 15 minutes OFF the old drive time of 2 hours. This highway remains a troublesome and dangerous route. And lo and behold you if your airport transfer has to get through rush hour traffic! There are few alternative options if any; and no-one likes sitting in traffic, even if you think the plane will wait.

    Keep at it! I still enjoy your articles….!

  18. DL should send some extra flights to Qatar during the month and create a commercial with Charlie Sheen sitting at an A380 bar with only soda and water. Then he wakes up from a bad dream and the DL flight attendant is refilling his champagne glass.

  19. Every year Doha News publishes a decent article about what will be available and where.
    I’ll be flying QR on Thursday and I know that air side of the terminal, food wise everything will be business as usual. All food and drink remains the same on their international flights. Depending on the time of the flight they will make an announcement when to break fast and those who are take their meals then.

    If you get a chance to spend an evening in Doha during Ramadan it is worth it (as long as you don’t mind missing a drink!) There is always lots to do in the evenings and all the hotels put on huge iftars. Just cant get a drink anyway, pretty sure that includes hotel mini bars! Its a good job I stock up last week as with no bars open, there’s always plenty of house parties!

  20. @Turkish Airlines & Turkey,

    Apparently as a foreigner living in Turkey, YOU HAVE NO RESTRICTION OR BAN on any activitiy or anything. So stop casting false arguments and targeting the current “selected government”! RESPECT! This is not a regime or a monarchy!
    Look at England or Denmark or else for that!
    I am sure you will be way happier if Turkey had got back to its DARK days, when it banned freedom of beliefs, religion and practices and jailed many just for their religion.

    Right now you keep saying there’s worry on press freedom but the only 7 people in jail that alleged to be journalists, are either inside because they bombed somewhere or attacked the security forces with guns..

    @Ben, you should definitely not given all your ears to the leftist, secularist section in Turkey which HATES the selected government (by majority) just because they don’t like the views of it and slander it all the time.

    Turkey has shown a tremendous development in every field since the start of the last era. And People of Turkey see this and re – elects the governing leaders to lead the country further ahead!

  21. just experienced this at the start of Ramadan. was in the US departure lounge at AUH with Etihad. 0300 was the start of Ramadan and they offered us a last call. My welcome drink on the ground in EY 1st class was poured in the galley, the flight attendant explained that she wouldn’t bring the bottle. In the air, it was a different story. Excellent article.

  22. @Bart – Their policy of stoning homosexuals is no where near as severe as my policy of sewing the lips shut of bigoted butt heads so that they can’t spread their disease ridden vitriol by mouth anymore.
    You. Are. A. Schmuck.

  23. On my flight from Algeria to Doha with Qatar Airways last week on the second day of Ramadan the crew notified me that there was no alcohol on the aircraft due to Ramadan, not many westerns on the flight so they picked me for a personal explanation. The flight departed at 4:00 pm during day light when Muslims are fasting, that didn’t deter the majority of the Muslim passengers eating the inflight meal during daylight, I believe they were of the Muslim faith as they wore the burka, so no glass of wine for me, but the rules are changed when a free feed is on hand, it was actually a good meal in business class. And no there was no alcohol at the first or business lounges in Doha, but there was alcohol on the Doha to Perth flight. Regards Scott

  24. I am currently in Doha in business class lounge. Alcohol is not available. Also they have all alcohol hidden at all the duty free shops. Doha is totally dry during Ramadan. I respect the fact that they do this. They are able to hold on to their religious and cultural beliefs yet still deliver top notch service.

  25. Can confirm that Al Safwa First lounge in Doha and inbound flight on Qatar both totally dry (typing this in the lounge drinking tea)

  26. Yep, the Qatar Airways business class loungenin Doha is as dry as a dead dingo’s donger. Its a pity as i was loking forward to this lounge.

  27. …but outbound flight on Qatar from Doha definitely not dry! Chilled glass of Krug in my hand within 30 seconds of taking my seat…

  28. Please can you tell me if Qatar airline serves alcohol in economy class? If yes, do they serve alcohol during the flight in the period of Ramadan? I have flights booked for June and July 2017 and it would be great to know if I will be able to have a few drinks on board…. thanks

  29. just wondering if the same policies apply now? i have a stop over in Abu Dubai on the 9th June 2017 flying Etihad and wondering if we can drink and eat?

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