I get this question a lot from people interested in Dubai Tourism packages or Business, which of the UAE airlines offer the best flight service to Dubai? Both Airlines offer great service, have good safety record and are aggressively competing against their long established European and American competitors. My travel agency counterparts think it’s a pretty straight forward comparison, they’d usually advice you go with Etihad if you’re on a tight budget but if you have an issue with not flying directly (flying to Abu Dhabi and connecting Dubai by Road) or the one hour bus ride offered by Etihad to connect Dubai from Abu Dhabi and have the extra money to spare then go with Emirates. I don’t totally agree with that, so this blog post will try to x-ray some of the key elements to evaluate, in the end you’ll be the judge. Just a few caveats before I start;
This evaluation is just for the Lagos – Dubai route, it does not include other destinations
This is my opinion, I can understand any difference in view so please feel free to join the conversation and share your Dubai Tourism or Business trip experience in the comment section
I will look at the following elements;
Flight Check-In Process
Airport Experience/Duty Free Shopping
This is one of the clear cut parts of this comparison. I was utterly disappointed when Etihad reduced flight frequency last year; I was even more disappointed with how they handled the rescheduling of already scheduled flights (they didn’t offer adequate palliative and left most of the legwork to the Travel agency). We were actually expecting them to increase frequency to two daily flights(from one daily flight), that way they’ll have one morning and one night flight, that would have really put them ahead of Emirates which offered afternoon and Night flights(the afternoon flight isn’t a very good schedule for Dubai tourism packages). Presently Etihad offers six flights per week compared with two and one daily flights respectively from Lagos and Abuja daily offered by Emirates. There’s really no comparison here, it’s a KNOCK OUT!
Emirates is usually about thirty to sixty thousand Naira more expensive that Etihad. Etihad is rarely more expensive. If you consider the impact of the price difference on the entire Dubai tourism packages, especially if it’s an entire family, you’ll agree with me that it is substantial. Some folks will try to justify this with the fact that you’ll be flying to Abu Dhabi and connecting Dubai by Road when you fly Etihad. This segment should be called Value for money but that’s the objective of this entire post so you can decide at the end of it which of the two airlines offers more value for money. Additionally there are some exclusive deals you can get on Hotels if you flight Emirates for instance there are Emirates exclusive rates for Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Burj Al Arab.
This one really beats my understanding, Emirates’ check-in area is usually a lot more organised than Etihad’s. More often than not, Etihad’s check-in area looks like an Oshodi or Obalende, yes really crowded and a little disorganized, don’t get me wrong, the people are not unruly or anything like that(they have a good class of Nigerians flying Etihad) but it’s just always over crowded, there’s obviously something they’re not getting right
This one clearly goes to Etihad though I wouldn’t call it a knock out as there’s still room for improvement…actually a lot of room if you consider how much shopping Nigerians do in Dubai. A good number of folks that buy a Dubai tourism package do so for the shopping opportunity that it offers
Emirates’ Standard allowance:
30kg in Economy Class
40kg in Business Class
50kg in First Class
Excess baggage rates per kilogram: USD 35(plus applicable taxes) – This can be purchased both from a travel agency and online
Etihad’s Standard allowance:
2 X 23kg in Economy Class
2 X 32kg in Business Class
2 X 32kg in First Class
Excess baggage rates per kilogram: USD 35(plus applicable taxes)
3rd to 6th Piece of not more than 23kg per piece purchased via;
Online/Travel Agency: $140
Contact Centre: $160
Airport Experience/Duty Free Shopping
This is one of those overhyped things not just for Dubai but for all countries, you’d be surprised how often you pay more for an item while thinking you’re getting a bargain because you found it in duty free shop. I’d advice to buy only things you have a good idea of the price, that way you can tell if it’s a bargain or not. This one goes to Emirates, yes that’s one of their strengths, the duty free shopping experience, and the entire airport experience is actually way up there. Etihad is a smaller airport and doesn’t offer half as much options as you’ll get at Emirates DXB Airport. The DXB airport feels like a major hub which it truly is. Several Dubai Tourism Package customers have complained about being treated discourteously at the Abu Dhabi airport, that’s just another reason why I prefer the Dubai airport experience.
I kinda find Emirates cabin crew to be less helpful and fashionable than Etihad’s. The crew at Emirates consistently act phoney when you ask for a second helping of a meal or drink. I’ve been lied to (oops we’ve run out!! But then you still see them serving it) and even avoided (they promise to get it and just avoid you subsequently or pretend to not recognize you afterwards). Etihad’s crew are usually fashion on point, perfect dress size, perfect make up etc while Emirates usually have petite, slightly bland and unfriendly Asians. Both airlines lack local content, I’ve never seen or heard of a Nigeria crew or heard of a crew that speak a local language, I actually find it quite offensive when they boast about having a crew that can speak several languages including Punjab, Hindi etc Hello!!!! This flight is from/to Nigeria, besides English we speak Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and over 50 other local languages, is it too much to ask that you speak one of the local languages or maybe pidgin English? No offence to folks from India but your Punjab and Hindi language skills is not useful to Nigerians as we do not speak or understand it.
I’ll lean slightly towards Etihad on this one as I prefer the user interface, screen responsiveness and general usability of the E-Box (Etihad’s In-flight Entertainment system). Don’t get me wrong ICE (Emirate’s in-flight entertainment system) is great and offers a whole lot of variety just like the e-box. I particularly like the fact that you can place your Duty Free Orders via the E-box. I noticed a few Nollywood movies on Emirates, while I’m not a big Nollywood fan, I think lots of Nigerians will find it interesting. They should make efforts to improve their Nollywood content, I believe IrokoTV has rights to a very impressive selection of Nollywood movies, the best out there I might add, it shouldn’t be difficult for to arrange a deal for their rights. I was also slightly put off by how much commercials that ran on ICE advertising top resorts like the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Atlantis etc
You’ll most probably eat some curry or cheesy stuff on both flights, while this is not a problem for me; it is for most Nigerians so both airlines need to substantially up their game in this department. While the curry and cheesy stuff are great, our poundo/Amala with Egusi or vegetable soup taste better to us. It’ll be great to have rice and plantain too. I learnt Emirates now offer rice, Eforiro etc Way to go guys! Based on that I’ll give this one to Emirates. You can have your Travel Agency put in a special meal request which is subject to approval for both airlines. Our travel agency has however not ut in a request for a local meal before, we will try this in the next days
This evaluation so far is as seen and experienced by me, add to that also the fact that I work for a travel agency, so customers also share their Dubai Tourism travel experience I’d really let to get your opinion of both airlines, feel free to drop your comments
I love traveling!!!! Yes I do, don’t we all? But I don’t exactly like travelling….in the later case I’m referring to the journey, particularly the preparation, getting to the airport on time, “Nigerian Customs”( I still wonder why they have to stick their hands into your luggage as against using a scanner), queuing up at passport control and the boarding gates and the restlessness caused by the thought that you must have forgotten something etc. This restlessness can only get worse if you aren’t well prepared for the flight, not having enough to make the time you spend on the flight feel shorter than it actually is or more generally speaking more fruitful. Here’s a guide on what items can come in handy, really good stuff I’d say;
Irrespective of the temperature in your origin or destination countries which I assume you have prepared accordingly, airplanes can get cold, if you consider that the air conditioner is always on, it can easily get cold. The airlines would usually provide thin and not very wide blankets so it will be very helpful if you have some warm clothing on to make up for the inefficiencies of the provided blanket, you can bring on a jacket/pull over/sweater so you can remove it when it gets too warm. The ladies can bring a pashmina which can be stylish while still providing the utility value.
What Clothes to Wear
I'll always advise to keep it comfortable and simple. It is also important not to keep it too simple as that might affect your perception especially if you'd like to be considered for a possible upgrade (Please see our post on how to get a free flight upgrade here), while your pajamas will be super comfortable, you might look a little silly walking around the airport in them. I'd usually go loose fitting stuff, preferably cotton, leggings should work for the ladies, a comfortable sweat suit, a pullover or casual jacket should work.
What Shoes to Wear – Shoes
You should still keep it comfortable, something smart, quick to wear and easily adjustable should work. Slip-on, sandals, easy to wear loafer etc should be adequate. You need to consider that there could be a bit of feet swelling especially during the long flights so it should be very easy to take off the shoes to do a bit of in-set exercise to manage the swelling. Putting them back on afterwards shouldn't be difficult too. As for shoes, opt for something quick and adjustable like sandals or slip-on. Please don't try to go to the toilets bare footed, a lot of stuff you don't want to know can be on the floor.
Skin Care Products
Dry recirculated air can dry up the skin making it white like during harmattan season, you can find a moisturizer in the toilet but those are usually low quality and might smell odd so you might want to bring yours with you. This has to be in a very small container or you'll risk having it confiscated by airport security. Lip balm and baby wipes are good additions. Ensure that they are in leak proof containers that are not filled to the brim as liquids tend to expand during flight and can spill into your bag.
Things to Keep Busy With
The entertainment system on most international flights usually have lots of entertainment materials from movies, to music, this might not be to your taste or you might prefer to busy up differently so it is a good idea to bring your own reading material, paper back, magazine, newspaper etc. If you'll like to do some laptop work, it will be helpful if you have a universal travel adapter to ensure that you're able to connect to the power source if they're available. Ear plugs, eye mask and neck pillow are some really important carry ons you'll like to consider for additional comfort if you plan to sleep.
A Pen and a Notepad
This comes in handy for filling in immigration or custom declaration forms, being able to fill those forms will help you get on the queue on time and reduce your wait time so it's important you always have one handy.
Children, Toddlers and Babies
This might be a sticky one especially if they are get air sick easily. A lot of this depends on what works for the specific child but I've come to realize that the simplest and least expensive thing like mega blocks, legos, picture books, colour books, activity books and small toys can keep them happy for a while.
There are strict rules about what liquids you can bring with you. Sadly Nigerian immigration more often than note are not upto date with this so they will usually take the blanket approach to stay safe. Consequently despite the fact that you are allowed to carry liquids (perfume,cream, gels etc) in 100ml cans packed in transparent ziplock bags, Nigerian immigration/airport security might not let you bring them with you. When they do, it's usually due to an oversight which actually happens really often. This applies to only Nigerian airports, internationally you be okay.
Exceptions to Above
If you’re traveling with an infant, you're actually allowed to carry on baby formula, breast milk and baby milk that is more than 100ml, you are also not required to carry them in transparent zip lock bags. All you have to do is to actually declare them for inspection at the security check point.
Medications are usually allowed irrespective of the form, you might want to bring your prescription with you as such things are taken seriously abroad. There are also exceptions for other items of medical purpose like walking stick and crotches. The general rule of thumb is to declare all the items that the exception apply to.
The policies governing what can be brought on keep changing as the security personnel learn news things so be sure to check airline website or airport website to get the latest policies that are applicable before your trip.
I've run into plenty of Nigerians that had a British or Schengen or American visa applications denied, for some strange reason, they all still wanted to still leave the country, not like relocate but just go some where for a short holiday. They'll usually head to a Ghana or Gambia, the more buoyant ones will head to Dubai
Folks that go to Dubai usually come back feeling really happy,they seem to have their expectations exceeded because the relatively easy Dubai Visa process got them thinking "This might not be such an interesting place to go to. There's actually 43 countries that a Nigerian Passport holder can board a flight headed there without a visa, find the list below;
1. Vanuatu (Visa free for 30 days)
2. Uganda (Visa on arrival)
3. Tuvalu (Visa on arrival for 30 days)
4. Togo (Visa free)
5. Timor-Leste (Visa on arrival for 30 days)
6. Tanzania (Visa on arrival)
7. Sri Lanka (Electronic travel authorization)
8. Somalia (Visa on arrival)
9. Sierra Leone (Visa free)
10. Seychelles (Visa on arrival for 30 days)
11. Senegal (Visa free)
12. Samoa (Visa on arrival for 60 days)
13. Palau (Visa on arrival for 30 days)
14. Niger republic (Visa free)
15. Nauru (Visa on arrival)
16. Mozambique (Visa on arrival for 30 days)
17. Micronesia (Visa free for 30 days)
18. Mauritius (Visa free for 90days)
19. Mauritania (Visa on arrival)
20. Mali (Visa free)
21. Maldives (Visa on arrival for 30 days)
22. Madagascar (Visa on arrival for 90 days)
23. Liberia (Visa free)
24. Kenya (Visa on arrival for 90 days)
25. Iran (Visa on arrival)
26. Haiti (Visa free for 90 days)
27. Guinea Bissau (Visa free for 90 days)
28. Guinea (Visa free)
29. Ghana (Visa free)
30. Georgia (Visa on arrival)
31. Gambia (Visa free for 90days)
32. Fiji Island (Visa free for 4 months)
33. Dominican (Visa free for 21 days)
34. Djibouti (Visa on arrival)
35. Cote d'ivoire (Visa free)
36. Comoros Island (Visa on arrival)
37. Chad (Visa free)
38. Cape Verde (Visa on arrival)
39. Cameroon (Visa free)
40. Burundi (Visa on arrival for 30days)
41. Burkina Faso (Visa free)
42. Benin Republic (Visa free)
43. Barbados (Visa free for 6 months)