Booked: Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Economy Class Direct Comparison

This one has been a long time coming! Lately, it feels like I’ve booked half the people I know on Qatar’s Stockholm to Doha flight, and I’ve been starting to question my decision. Sure, I know Qatar business class is one of the best in the sky, but what about economy? Similarly, people rave about Emirates and Etihad, but how do we know which is best?

Well, I’ve finally set out to get an answer. I’m three weeks from starting college and can’t resist the temptation of one last trip that’s a little too crazy to do over a weekend. šŸ˜‰

I started by basing my trips from India to get a fair comparison, which turned out to be a bigger problem than anticipated (I’ll have another post on that soon). Instead, I worked around one flight on Qatar from Doha to Beirut, and managed to build the following itinerary:

The red flights are on Emirates, the purple on Qatar, and yellow on Etihad. Then I’m flying home from Muscat to Frankfurt on Oman Air. The criteria for my comparison are as follows:

  1. Flights need to be on aircraft that dominate the fleet of each airline and are used on long-haul routes.
  2. At least two flights on each of the ME3.
  3. Spend at least two hours at each airlines’ hub airport.
  4. No lounge access or premium benefits allowed so I can accurately test the experience of “your average traveler.”

In the end, I booked the following flights:

  • Zurich to Dubai – Emirates A380
  • Dubai to Delhi – Emirates 777-300ER
  • Delhi to Doha – Qatar 787-8
  • Doha to Beirut – Qatar A330-300
  • Beirut to Abu Dhabi – Etihad 787-9
  • Abu Dhabi to Muscat – Etihad A320

I’m hoping the flights on Etihad will be enough. Given that I’m trying Qatar and Emirates’ flights to India, and Etihad commonly uses their A320s on Indian routes, it should be a fair comparison. For positioning to and from Zurich and Frankfurt, I booked a roundtrip award ticket on SAS, since last minute prices were outrageous.

I’ll have an introduction with ticket prices and more soon. I look forward to sharing my experience with you all!

Comments

  1. That is actually a very interesting comparison. I’ve done all ME3 in biz and first but to be fair never in the back of the bus. Good luck and looking forward to your report!

  2. I’m an Etihad enthusiast (albeit in J&F) but I don’t think you’re giving fair run to QR, because the ME3 certainly provided a superior service to Europe than within the Middle East/India.
    Similarly the ‘prime’ routes for EY are LHR, CDG, JFK, SYD and perhaps NRT, MEL and SIN. AUH to Beruit and Muscat won’t be a far comparison to an EK A380 to ZRH.

  3. This should be fun. I look forward to the reviews!

    Personally, I’ve flown EK Y JFK-MXP, MXP-DXB and DXB-JFK and they were all pretty great.

    I was able to get a row of 4 seats in Y to myself for DXB-JFK so I spread out and slept. I liked it better than AA J MXP-JFK on their 767’s staggered seats.

  4. Phew!! For a second I thought it was Ben who was going to fly economy. Not sure he could survive it. He’s like “where’s the Krug?”

  5. Flew Emirates Economy on the A380 from Sydney to Christchurch, Etihad economy from Abu Dhabi to Male. Both great flights. I’m expecting this comparison to be close with no clear cut winner.

  6. I’ve flown both EK and QR in coach. EK from DXB-HYD-DXB was really mediocre. Uncomfortable seat due to an IFE box, indifferent service, poor catering. I actually really liked QR’s long-haul Y from IAH-DOH. 9-abreast in the 777 is so much better than the 3-4-3 configurations spreading like weeds; I actually managed about 6 hours of good sleep. Service was also friendly and responsive. Really looking forward to your reviews!

  7. Please let us know how full the flights are as well. I’ve flown in Y on all three airlines longhaul to/from JFK and I’ve found the experience to be quite different when the flight was sold out and when the flight was half full.
    Good for you on flying Y as well as J/F. Personally, I think the only way to truly appreciate J/F is to fly Y from time to time. šŸ˜‰

  8. Did you book them on your own or use someone to do it for you since apparently you can’t book your own flights on your own anymore since you’re such a big shot now.

  9. To be fair, I think you should have compared economy class on each of the ME3’s A380, that will actually provide a fair battlefield. Then you could have taken other flights on the aircraft that actually dominates the fleet, however that will still represent a huge challenge given the inconsistencies in terms of hard products, especially on Etihad and Qatar

  10. C’mon mate. You need a Etihad long-haul in there before you can start comparing. You’re only going to be experiencing Etihad ‘regional’ service… It will still be fab!

  11. @a
    The writer name is written just below the title. If you can’t read on understand that, do waste more of your precious time mister snowflake. Hahahaha

  12. I flew and reviewed Etihad and Emirates economy out of LAX though never Qatar so it should seem like an interesting comparison to see your take. Though I would’ve recommended booking out of the same city to have a proper comparison. Like maybe Paris to Doha, Paris to Abu Dhabi, Paris to Dubai. Just as an example. Because I don’t think it’s fair to compare on different routes where the demands and service are to be different for sure. That’s why I hope to compare all out of LAX for the most even comparison. Another reason why I say Paris is because all 3 ME 3 carriers operate their a380s there so you can get a good take of each airline’s updated economy class and the same routing too. But of course should be interesting to read nevertheless.

    PS: don’t be surprised if some of EK and EY’s Y class desserts taste just as good as desserts you’ve had in J or F class because that’s the experience had . Daniel, hope to see some corresponding YouTube videos as well. Cheers!

  13. I agree with Luis that for the best comparison would be to try all three A380’s. Although I know that would have been harder to arrange.

    As a regular flyer with Qatar their best economy is on the A380 and A350. The 787 has some of the tightest seats for a long haul flight and the A330 is dated with the older entertainment system, no power/USB ports etc

    So I don’t think you will see the best of Qatar. The service however, should be the same.

  14. I’ve flown Qatar Y from both LHR (on the 777 if I recall correctly) and EDI (on the 787) and both were pretty decent. Food was OK and the service was excellent. I would even get a a personal welcome as a lowly QR silver card holder (One World Ruby equivalent!). I also noted that some of the crew didn’t really seem to understand the concept of a measure of spirits. I fondly remember being given a nearly full cup of whisky or brandy!

    Now that I mainly fly QR J one observation I would make is that the champagne previously served in Y (Jacquart Mosaique), has found its way into the J cabin!

  15. As a Brit living in Australia for 8 years I’ve had the “pleasure ” of flying Etihad and Emirates many many times both solo and with a young family. I would have to say that they are almost exactly the same when flying in economy. As for Qatar we fly back to MAN from BNE in September. I’m expecting not much difference to be honest.

  16. It’d be much better to compare all three’s Boeing 777 Economy Class seats. All are 3-4-3, and with the exception of Emirates, they are the plane you are most likely to find yourself on.

  17. Great to see some balance on this blog. Daniel – you’re a great addition and picking an Emirates 773 and A380 would be a good comparison and provides balance overall.

  18. @Oscar
    “Itā€™d be much better to compare all threeā€™s Boeing 777 Economy Class seats. All are 3-4-3, and with the exception of Emirates, they are the plane you are most likely to find yourself on.”

    Yes, the same thought had occurred to me. I realise it would be boring for the reviewer, but I’d also go with flying all three to/from the same destination (LHR, CDG, etc), with a layover in the home “hub”. There are too many variables in Daniel’s proposal for a definitive conclusion. But I still admire his energy and commitment – I wouldn’t want to do this. Even in J!

  19. @Paul @Oscar – QR still uses a 3-3-3 config on some of its 777s. Of course with all their equipment swaps, it’s almost impossible to predict if you’ll get one.

  20. Daniel, I am most concerned about the flight attendants. Which one of these three you find consistently have the most attractive ones.

  21. Hi Daniel,

    When are you at ZRH?

    Zurich Airport is in my opinion one of the nicest in Europe. The Airside Center is very generous and you wont miss a lounge here. You have to visit “SprĆ¼ngli Chocolatier & Confiserie” on level 2 in the Airside center, right after security check, through the Duty free and there on second level.

    Go there and have a coffee and/or some chocolates before taking the train for the E-gates (non-schengen)
    You will have plenty of time, security checks are a breeze in ZRH!

  22. Good idea but I too feel you should have chosen very similar routing on all carriers.

    For example,

    Europe -> DXB -> SE Asia (EK)
    SE Asia -> DOH -> Europe (QR)
    Europe -> AUH -> SE Asia ((EY)
    SE Asia -> MCT -> Europe (WY)

    You can use different cities in Europe and SE Asia if you wish.

  23. @Daniel, BEY-DOH is NOT a ‘long haul flight’. It is considered regional. Your comparisons will hold little validity. BTW, how are you able to pay for these trips, do you not have a job that you need to pay for college?

  24. Earth to the people nicking Daniel for not having perfect comparisons on the exact routes / planes used.

    Get real (and a life).

    He is a university student with I am strongly assuming limited time and funds. The fact he is doing this at all is cool. It isn’t like if he proclaims Qatar for example the winner (and I doubt there will be a winner, just positives and negatives), it is nulling anything positive about the other airlines in some kind of set in stone way. He isn’t SkyTrax (not that they really matter).

  25. Having done two round trips BHX-AKL via MEL and BNE before the direct Dubai to AKL started, these 777-300 and A380 steerage class reviews will be interesting. Not too bad an experience, I found.

  26. Eager to see the outcome: have done this in real life for the last years to the degree that results should be statistically relevant for QR and EK, but not necessarily for EY but still more than 2 sectors can tell.
    I have flown QR FRA-DOH-PER (A350/B777) and ADL-DOH-FRA (A350/A350), as well as FRA-DOH more than once and then regionally one-way to/from several destinations repeatedly (CAI: B777/B787, JED: B777, DMM: B787/A320, DXB: A320). Long distance on EK FRA-DXB and on to EBB/NAI mostly B777, regionally JED (now A380, formerly B777), DMM (B777) and AMM (must be B777). I used EY only twice on roundtrips FRA-AUH (A330) and FRA-AUH-AMM (A330/A320). The only thing I remember they woke me up for their average meal despite at least 2 ā€žDNDā€œ stickers at seat and arm/shoulder.
    The subjective order is as follows:
    QR long haul: ok seats, flawless service without an exception, food appropriate for duration of flight and good quality, ok IFES.
    EK long haul: sometimes very good service and great attendants but at least on 2 flights the crew member serving me was rude; overall food quality has reduced recently (not only less, but less choices and lower quality), huge choice on IFES but dated screens on B777. The B and C concourses of DXB terminal 3 were a construction site this week and the place is very noisy at this time. The difference in Y between B777 and A380 is slight (if any), but J in B777 setup and seats are inferior to A380 (different topic). (QR J on B777 is not the same as A350/B787, but still worth using.)
    Regionally EK and QR are on par.
    EY comes with a commodity economy class that would either have to be cheaper or offer time savings in order to be considered. Not better than RJ but not a bad airline.
    The real difference is flying QR to Nairobi. This is done with an A320 and this overall feels like a different airline (at least 1 level lower compared to their services to Europe and Australia). Minimum pitch and low-end food but nice crew. This only takes 30 minutes or so less than FRA-DOH. Almost painful except that one time when there were 29 (twenty nine) passengers on the plane only.
    Enjoy your trips!

  27. I have traveled on all 3 in economy, on both short-haul and long-haul. Hands down the best winner is Emirates in terms of service and on-board product. Emirates has more consistent service, while the other two it was hit or miss. On-board product, Emirates has a better entertainment section, better seats, and better selection of food while the other two the items varied from sector to sector (although some sectors had no change for over 2 years). I wrote full descriptions on my blog and I look forward to reading your reviews.

  28. In order to make it fair, you should review their longhaul products on their newest long haul aircraft (or best aircraft). Personally I like Emirates economy on the A380 than the 777!

  29. Fun. I start university in a few weeks and I have some free time left. I think about doing something similar (Only maybe in Business). On the flights on sas to zurich I have to agree. i was looking for a short trip to scandinavia and the economy prices were all at 1k +. Really outrageous.

  30. The problem is out of the bunch Qatar is the only one in an alliance group and they are in the American alliance anyway. Skyteam and Star Alliance have more partners around the world making travel easier. To fly relatively long flights on airlines with no loyalty, the price would have to be super cheap!

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