Sunday, August 10, 2008

Riding Coach on the Emirates A380

Last week I described the superior product Emirates has produced for passengers lucky enough to ride in Business or First Class on Airbus 380 flights. But what about everyone else? That is, the other 399 passengers flying downstairs in economy class.

Friends have asked, "is it worth flying the plane if you are not flying in luxury class?"My response is, while the luxuries are more prominent upstairs, there are plenty of enhancements and offerings for those riding downstairs, in economy, that do make riding the big bird an exciting experience, even in coach.

Economy/Coach Class
Thumbs Up:

  • Economy seating (see below) is configured 3-4-3. Seat pitch is 33" which is about 1"-2" larger than economy seating offered by most U.S.-based airlines.

  • A 10.6" seat-back mounted display screen is offered at each seat. Over 1000 channels of programming, including on-demand TV shows and movies, music and more is available using Emirates ICE entertainment system.

  • A USB port works with the entertainment system, allowing you to bring personal music, video or PDF files from home. Power

  • A seat-back mounted hook was added enabling passengers to hang a coat or sweater without the need of stowing it in the overhead bins, and providing easy access in the event the cabin cools during flight.

  • Tray tables, as expected, are included at each seat. In addition, a drop-down cup/drink holder can be used, making it unnecessary lower the entire tray table just to lay your drink down.

  • Exceptionally quiet in-flight experience. Conversations can take place in a normal tone and volume, without competing against excessive engine noise found on older aircraft models.
  • Three separate jetways (pictured below) allow concurrent loading/unloading of passengers on both the upper and lower decks.

Thumbs Down:

  • Rows 85-88; the numbers basically say it all. It's pretty far back on the plane. There is a general feeling of being cutoff from everyone else on the plane, in part because a center wall, which replaces where 4 seats would be located (3-4-3 configuration) causes an obstructed view to the opposite side of the plane. This areas of the plane is not for the claustrophobic! That said, these rows are sometimes reserved for flight crew, and would therefore be an infrequent problem for regular passengers.

Overall, Economy class on Emirates Airlines' A380 transcends the competition. Although far short of the generous amenities afforded to business and first class fliers upstairs, as you would expect, there is still a general "wow" feeling as you walk through the cabin. The massive interior, the unsoiled carpets, the smell of newness, all contribute to the experience.

Of course this same "wow" happened with the advent of the Boeing 747, and other grand additions to aviation history, but the A380 marks the latest and greatest in technological developments, and combined with the high standards of service Emirates has built its reputation on, flying the Airbus 380 on Emirates is simply an enjoyable journey not to be missed.

Click here for more pictures from Economy
Click here for more pictures from Business and First
Click here for pictures from the Emirates A380 arrival into SFO last week