Review of Emirates

Pilot Report: Emirates flight EK383, Hong Kong to Bangkok

Class: economy
Fare paid: $185
Length of flight: two hours and 15 minutes

After all the hype I’ve spouted about Emirates, punctuated by its garnering of Patrick Smith’s highly prestigious Airline of the Year award this past January, it’s high time I actually rode an Emirates flight to see if I know what the hell I’m talking about. Not to worry, as all expectations were met or exceeded during my short trip from Hong Kong to Bangkok, part of the carrier’s continuing service to its home-base hub of Dubai.

The interior of the Boeing 777-300 was spotless, the 10-abreast economy chairs upholstered in calming patterns of lavender, pink and teal. The textured sidewalls were an attractive touch, and the lavatories were cleaner than the first-class cabins of most U.S. airlines. Each seatback was equipped with a 7-inch video screen. The handset control was mounted directly beneath the unit, a simple but ergonomically fluid gesture that other airlines would be wise to employ — especially those that insist on housing the controls in the armrests, which is both uncomfortable (sometimes downright painful) and awkward.

My headrest was movable both vertically and horizontally, with side wings that swung out close to a full 90 degrees. Every seat had both an electronically controlled lumbar support and — my favorite — a heavy-duty, fully adjustable footrest. And we mustn’t forget the fold-down cup holder and garment hook.

And this was just economy class! It might have been the first short leg of a longer segment, but even in coach we were served a three-course dinner with choice of entrees. The eight-page menu on embossed stock was fancier than the premium-class menus on many carriers. Service was gracious, swift and unpretentious.

Female flight attendants wear a stylish adaptation of a Muslim headscarf, but the Emirates cabin staff (the cockpit crew as well; ours was a Dutch expat captain) are an eminently multinational lot. Prior to takeoff the purser announced a roster of available languages. He and his 12 assistants were proudly fluent in at least one of Arabic, English, French, German, Thai, Farsi, Sinhalese, Urdu, Cantonese, Mandarin and — most impressively if not inexplicably — Maltese!

Check-in and preboarding: C
(25-minute wait for seat assignment offset by extremely friendly counter staff)
Punctuality: A-plus (departure and arrival precisely on time)
Aircraft cleanliness and decor: A-plus
Seats, amenities, and accoutrements: A-plus
Food and service: A-minus (usable metal cutlery to boot)


This article is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.