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Choosing a first topic to post here looked to become a contentious decision, so we defaulted to the fairly sophisticated selection process of asking around. The London to UAE routes, particularly London Heathrow (LHR) to Dubai (DXB), offer a fairly delicious trifecta in the current climate, as it is a popular business location, vacation choice, and it features two carriers embroiled in multiple access disputes globally – topical indeed.

There is no method to our madness or deeper layer, meaning or conspiracy to our first, inaugural topic here. It definitely appears to be an overwhelmingly popular search on www.flightmaestro.net, and we have an enormous amount of data from customer reviews for these routes, which makes it a fantastic starting point. A final note before we dive into the depths of these routes: much like our method in choosing this first topic, there is no deeper attachment to our structure of reporting and analysis. If you have any requests for analysis, report structures, or existential life questions, please let us know.

London to the United Arab Emirates in Economy Class

The London to UAE routes are particularly well serviced ones. London’s popularity goes without saying, and I’ll spare you my attempts at articulating just what it is that makes this city so popular – I’m no poet. I will say that, living in central London, the roar of every type of aircraft imaginable is as native to locals as the ambient car traffic noise – an AvGeek’s wet dream.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai’s fairly favourable position as an East-West thoroughfare has certainly been decent to Etihad and Emirates as the local flag carriers, and this has culminated in is a high volume, high-amenity route with almost comical competition in the premium cabins. What is an interesting point, however, is this route features a number of full service carriers who, whilst definitely refining their premium options, have somewhat degraded the Economy Class experience (more on those later).

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Let’s get to it…

Emirates (no alliance)

This route’s current leader, Emirates services London via Gatwick and Heathrow airports. Emirate’s Seat score for DXB-LHR and LGW has improved markedly, given it has removed its very high-density B777-300ERs from these routes and now servicing London exclusively with its more spacious flagship A380s. Emirates has pumped a lot of money into its ICE entertainment system and it shows – it has received an almost perfect score for this point, and it is consistent across its main fleet (B777-300ER and A380). Its catering is a stand out on this sector, and unlike its code-sharing partner, the quantities won’t be leaving you hungry.

Virgin Atlantic (no alliance)

Despite its position below first, Virgin Atlantic puts in a stellar performance between London Heathrow and Dubai. It leads, comprehensively, in Service and Value scores, and most importantly is the Seat leader for this route. This will be a consequence of the relatively spacious A330-300 it has plying this routes, which is a passenger favourite. Virgin’s Value rating is backed up by pricing data, as they are consistently priced well below the competition on this route. Virgin, however, operates the lowest frequency between the two cities, so may not suit everyone.

Etihad (Etihad Partners)

The Abu Dhabi flag carrier, Etihad’s performance between AUH and London Heathrow is definitely on the way up, however it has been inconsistent to date. Scores on their A380 flights rate highly, however Etihad often substitutes the less successful A340-600 and very high-density B777-300ER onto this route (if we’re being honest, the A340 is a huge favourite of ours, however it is definitely trailing the pack in Paxex these days). As a result, customer experience varies almost comically depending on the aircraft used, and it would be wise to check this in advance if you are planning to book with Etihad.

Qantas (Oneworld)

A fifth freedom route for Qantas, originating from or heading to Melbourne and Sydney, it nonetheless has greater frequency than Virgin Atlantic between LHR and DXB. Qantas’ is consistent across the board on this route, with food and entertainment being the call-out performances. However, food quantity on Qantas is constantly called out in user comments, so may not be the primary choice of those pre-disposed to asking for second helpings. Their Seat score is fairly confusing for most: Qantas use their flagship A380 exclusively on this route – an aircraft almost universally associated with greater comfort. However, it should be pointed out that Qantas’ Economy class legroom is lower, significantly, than that found on their competitors on this route.

British Airways (Oneworld)

A distinct last place, British Airways operate a number of different aircraft between London Heathrow and both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. BA’s Seat score should be considered reflective of passenger’s disdain for the very high-density B787-9 Economy Class layout (9 across) which a lot of carriers have unfortunately opted for (this trend is reflective across all routes we track). Surprisingly, Seat score was BA’s best result, with alarmingly poor performance in Food, IFE, Service and Value. We’ll avoid excessive speculation here, however we’ll point out that BA has been cutting back on a lot of Economy class services of late, and this may well be the first manifestation of their effect on paxex.

So what?

Choice, as I’ve mentioned previously, is yours and I wouldn’t want to influence you either way. Absent preference for AUH or DXB, Oneworld members are well serviced between London and the UAE, however their choices do not perform well in regards to passenger experience. Star Alliance members lack any choice of member airline between these two points, however a number of Star Alliance airlines have partnership arrangements with Virgin Atlantic, who has performed well on this route.

Emirates is a stand out performer on this route with world-beating entertainment through its ICE system and superior catering. However, those looking for a bit more space around the knees and shoulders should look to Virgin Atlantic.

For those whom a constant schedule and good all-round experience is important, Emirates is a stand out performer on this route with world-beating entertainment through its ICE system and superior catering. However, those looking for a bit more space around the knees and shoulders should look to Virgin Atlantic if that is their preference.

Does this match with your experiences between the two points?

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Posted by Tom

Tom is a consultant and founder of FlightMaestro.net, the online travel tool that rates, ranks and dissects every facet of in-flight passenger experience. All views expressed are his own.

3 Comments

  1. Nice post Tom – agree with everything you say about BA!

    So what’s the best option for a OneWorld flyer? Book a QF flight operated by EK?

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  2. Cheers Dan! I think you’re spot on there – so long as your EK flight has a QF flight number, you should be credited all the miles and status points as an OneWorld frequent flier. Definitely the case for QF and BA, but worth checking for other member airlines.

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  3. […] class passenger. Unsurprisingly, Virgin is this route’s undisputed Service and Value leader, and this is backed up almost universally across its […]

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