I had the rare opportunity to try both Emirates & Etihad in my last trip. In fact, it was actually my first time flying with Emirates so I thought it would be fun to compare their premium cabin offering head-to-head. Although comparison of their flagship A380 products may be more useful to some, Etihad only operates a handful of them so I think it makes more sense to use the more common product (i.e., their ‘regular’ first class) for this comparison. Below is the summary of my thoughts:
- EK 16 Dubai to MAN and EY 878 Abu Dhabi to Tokyo (NRT) in First
- Flight time: 7h 50m and 10h 20m
1. Pre-flight service: EK > EY
Neither airline stands out in this area but the current Abu Dhabi airport is way behind Dubai in terms of access, facility and connectivity. EY also loses points as their lounge has less desirable setup for resting, and their complimentary chauffeur service is more restrictive. As for EK, being able to directly access the jetbridge directly from the super massive lounge (does not apply to all flights but plenty enough) is just cool.
2. Seat: EK > EY
It will come down to your preference but I like that the cushion in EK suite is more on the soft side and the seat pillow is bigger. Both airlines offer enclosed suites with great privacy but Emirates gets more point as they have electric doors and more storage space. As for the bedding, I have no trouble sleeping in either, though I like the super fluffy blanket in Etihad more.
3. Cabin design: EY >>> EK
Both has 1-2-1 layout with direct aisle access to all, but seriously, the bling in Emirates cabin is too much for me. The amount of faux wood used is just ridiculous although they do have the night star ceiling and mood lighting which helps neutralize the ‘gold’ radiance. On the other hand, I think EY has one of the most beautiful cabin design in the air. It’s elegant and represents understated luxury.
4. Dining: EY > EK
It’s a close race but more points to Etihad as their onboard chef seem to be more eager and has more freedom to arrange your meal. Also, their signature beef burger is my favourite snack in the air.
5. In-flight entertainment: Tie
With contents so rich, it’s hard to get bored up there. Both offers 32 inch screens with abundant choices of movies, tv series, audio and live news.
6. Onboard service: Tie
They say the experience is a gamble in Emirates but the crews on my flight were lovely and responsive so really can’t choose one over another here. This may be affected by the number of seats (14 in EK and 8 in EY) and the cabin load factor but I had more crews servicing my area in Emirates while on Etihad, it felt more intimate (e.g., the personal note and recognition by name).
7. Amenity: EK > EY
Regardless of the brand used (Bvlgari for Emirates and Omorovicza for Etihad), I like how EK amenities come with a durable, functional bag and a laptop/tablet case. As for pajamas, both offers them in basic/bland design and color.
8. Shower: EK>>EY
Both airlines only offer shower service on their A380, which means I did not have one in my last Etihad trip (the picture below was not taken by me since I couldn’t find one from my EY Apartments trip). However, even if EY had more shower rooms installed in their fleets, I think they wouldn’t be as good as what Emirates have: a spacious toilet/shower/dressing room with heated floor and a dedicated shower attendant. Either way, you will still get 5 minutes of water running but the overall experience on EK is just better.
Overall, I had two very comfortable flights with EK and EY. In a perfect world, I would love to ride an airline with Etihad cabin design and Emirates shower that has a hub like Dubai but for now, I’ll take what’s available.
On a separate note, I also tried both of their economy product – albeit in shorter flights. While Emirates product is still superior to many American or European carriers, I was extremely satisfied with the seat and service I got in Etihad, so kudos to them