Emirates vs Etihad

Emirates vs Etihad

Should I choose Emirates or Etihad?

The two UAE owned airlines are renowned for their onboard facilities especially the legroom, recline and in-flight entertainment (IFE). With innovative premium cabins most can only dream of travelling in; including private suites and even a butler service on Etihad’s Residence class – they are leading the way for premium and business travel. But which has the best economy class?

Having travelled with both, and worked as crew for one of them for many years, I know them well, but which airline is better, Etihad or Etihad?

This ultimately depends on what your needs and requirements are from each airline. This article takes a look and compares Etihad vs Emirates :

  • Airline hubs – where they are based location wide and accessibility.
  • At a glance comparison: the seat width, recline, TV screen and other facilities
  • In-flight service: meals, travel gadgets, inflight nanny and more
  • Pre- booking seat charges
  • Baggage comparison
  • Airport facilities Dubai (DXB) v Abu Dhabi (AUH)

Emirates and Etihad hubs location.

With both airlines flying similar routes with hubs in the UAE; Emirates in Dubai and Etihad in Abu Dhabi, and only a short distance between the 2 cities (approx 150 km), there is plenty of flexibility – allowing passengers to choose the airline which best fits their price and schedule.

Both locations have a lot to offer for a stopover or as a destination in their own right.

Etihad and Emirates airline both provide a complimentary shuttle service for passengers holding a flight ticket and traveling to and from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and Dubai and Al Ain (Emirates) and Abu Dhabi and Al Ain (Etihad)

Etihad offers 160 routes compared to Emirates 339 routes. Etihad has a modern fleet of A380’s, B787, B777, A320, and A330’s. Emirates has a fleet consisting of A380’s and B777’s only whether you are flying long or short haul.

However, if it’s all very similar, who do you choose? Is there really much difference in terms of their economy product? Below is my Etihad vs Emirates economy class review.

etihad vs emirates economy class comparison of their seats, in flight service, TV and more. This image shows the Etihad seat and TV screen next to the Emirates airline seats on the A380.
Etihad vs Emirates – Etihad A380 and Emirates A380 cabin Images copyright Etihad and Emirates

Emirates economy vs Etihad economy at a glance.

ECONOMY FACILITIESEMIRATES B777 EMIRATES A380ETIHAD B777ETIHAD A380ETIHAD B787-9ETIHAD A330/A340ETIHAD A320/A321
Short haul
Seat Pitch32-34 inches32-34 inches 31-33 inches31 inches31-32 inches31.5-33 inches32 inches
Seat Width17 inches18 inches17.5 inches17.5 inches17.2 inches17.5 inchesA319 - 17 inches
A320 18.1 inches
In Seat powerYes and USBYes and USB Yes and USB YesYesYes and USBNo
WiFiYes, from $4.95Yes 20MB for free, rest chargeableAvailable from $4.95 Available from $4.95Available from $4.95Available from $4.95Not known.
TV screen size13.3 inches.13.3 inches10.6-inch touch-screen TV 11-inch touch-screen TV (Economy Smart Seat)
11-inch touch-screen TV (Economy Smart Seat)
10.6-inch touch-screen TV (Economy Seat)This has now been removed but you can use your own device.
Amenity KitYes on selected flights, toothbrush and toothpaste, eye shade, socks and ear plugs. Yes on selected flights, toothbrush and toothpaste, eye shade, socks and ear plugs. Selected flights. Dental kit and eyeshades on request.Selected flights. Dental kit and eyeshades on request. Option to purchase Christian Lacroix sleep wear ($35) and kit bags $22) on ultra long haul flights. Selected flights. Dental kit and eyeshades on request. Option to purchase Christian Lacroix sleep wear ($35) and kit bags $22) on ultra long haul flights.Selected flights. Dental kit and eyeshades on request.Selected flights. Dental kit and eyeshades on request.
Family friendly features
Further details here:
Kids movies, TV & games, amenity packs, child and baby meals can be requested.Kids movies, TV & games, amenity packs, child and baby meals can be requested.Sky Nanny provided for free.
Kids movies, TV & games, activity packs for over 3's, child and baby meals can be requested.
Sky Nanny provided for free.
Kids movies, TV & games, activity packs for over 3's, child and baby meals can be requested.
Sky Nanny provided for free.
Kids movies, TV & games, activity packs for over 3's, child and baby meals can be requested.
Sky Nanny provided for free on long haul flights.
Kids movies, TV & games, activity packs for over 3's, child and baby meals can be requested.
Kids movies, TV & games on MOST aircraft. Activity packs for over 3's, child and baby meals can be requested.
Choose seat for free?
*See more details below
*You can also choose a standard seat for free at check-in, up to 48 hours before your flight.*You can also choose a standard seat for free at check-in, up to 48 hours before your flight.*Standard seat is free 24 hours in advance. See below for more details. Fee applicable for preferred seats*Standard seat is free 24 hours in advance. See below for more details. Fee applicable for preferred seats*Standard seat is free 24 hours in advance. See below for more details. Fee applicable for preferred seats**Standard seat is free 24 hours in advance. See below for more details. Fee applicable for preferred seats*Standard seat is free 24 hours in advance. See below for more details. Fee applicable for preferred seats
Is the bassinet seat for free if with an infant?YesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Bid for upgrade or Neighbour-Free Seat serviceSky bid is coming soon.Sky bid is coming soon.YesYesYesYesYes

From the table above, there is not much difference between the seat width, recline & TV screen. However, Emirates just beats Etihad, particularly with the seat width; a generous 18 inches on the A380, compared to Etihad’s 17.5 inches. Emirates A380 also offers the first 20MB of WiFi for free and a much bigger TV screen at over 2 inches wider. If you are wondering if Etihad does have wifi – then yes they do but currently it is chargeable.

For this Emirates v Etihad comparison, I think Emirates pulls in front…just. But what about their inflight service?

In Flight Service

In flight service wise, the Middle Eastern airlines dominate with little touches in economy such as menus, amenity packs, and headphones (noise reduction for Emirates and noise cancellation headphones with Etihad). The Emirates vs Etihad economy in flight service is similar but each have some unique features which make them particularly popular with families.

Emirates even provide child size headsets and a Lonely Planet Kids Activity Pack including a blanket, socks, eyeshade etc. Etihad provide a kids’ pack too, with a few games, but it is not quite as extensive as the Emirates one.

However, Eithad do provide a Sky Nanny! The Sky Nanny can make arts and crafts, puppets, run competitions, do face painting, magic tricks etc. Don’t expect her to whisk your children away so you can get some R&R though!

In most feedback that I have had regarding the Sky Nanny, there have been too many children for her to spend much time with them. She is also part of the crew attending to all the other normal service routines so you may not see very much of her at all! A great idea in theory but arguably lacking in substance.

Kids Sleeping on Emirates and Etihad

If you are flying with Etihad or Emirates, it is likely to be for a long haul flight and if you are flying with kids, then getting them comfy and to sleep well on board will likely be a priority. There are great travel gadgets for kids such as the Planepal, Flyaway and Bed Box.

Unfortunately, Emirates do not allow them at this time (Jan 2020) but Etihad do permit them (hurrah!) as long as they do not attach to the seat. Etihad versus Emirates on kids sleeping on planes – Etihad wins this hands down!

Airplane bassinets

Emirates bassinets

Both airlines provide airplane bassinets. The Emirates bassinets are approximately 75 x 33 x 22cm cm (29.5 x 13 x 8.8 inches) in size. The Emirates bassinet weight limit is 11kg kilograms (24.2lb pounds).

Note the Emirates website does state, “Whilst our bassinets are designed for babies up to two years old, we won’t be able to provide one if your baby doesn’t fit safely. Please note bassinets are limited in number and subject to availability.”

Etihad bassinets

Etihad bassinets are also suitable for babies up to 11kg. Cabin crew will confirm that your infant fits comfortably and safely in the bassinet before affixing it at your seat position, so if you have a long legged baby, you may not be allowed to use it.

To compare with other airlines bassinet measurements, see here.

Emirates vs Etihad
Emirates headphones. Copyright Emirates

Meals are similar in taste and choice, as are the child meals. Child Meals consist of fruit, biscuits or crackers and cheese, a drink and usually a hot pasta type dish for kids. Both airlines give you the option to pre request special meals – which must be done at least 24 hours in advance.

These can range from baby and child meals to Vegetarian Hindu, Jain, Gluten free, fruit platters and more. Similarly to all airlines, you can’t for example, order a vegetarian gluten free meal. You need to choose one or the other.

Etihad features a café service where hot chocolates and cappuccinos are offered as well as tea and coffee. Emirates do not offer cappuccinos in economy.

Do they serve alcohol on Etihad and Emirates?

Yes, they both do and it is free with the exception of champagne. Drinks are offered in between services.

ordering baby child meals etihad airways
Etihad child meal

Etihad Economy Seats

Etihad offers an innovative ‘Economy Smart Seat’ on its newer long haul planes – the B787 Dreamliner and the A380, with a ‘fixed wing’ headrest on each seat to give a little more privacy and some stability to rest your head.

Seats also have an adjustable back support for a more comfortable flight. There is provision to charge your device and watch the E Box – Etihad’s entertainment system with movies, TV shows, music, read magazines and play games. On the A320, this can be streamed to your device, as the A320’s do not have seat back TV screens.

Etihad seats with the fixed wing headset.
Etihad A320 economy seat
Etihad A320 new economy seats no longer have TV’s but are used on mainly short haul regional routes (photo copyright Etihad)

Video of the Emirates economy seat on the B777-300

Emirates Economy Seats

Emirates seats vary slightly between the A380 and B777. The video above shows the adjustable headrest, the USB port and the large TV screen for their inflight entertainment on the B777.

Both airlines offer economy passengers free coach services to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain when arriving to, or departing from, Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Both airlines offer free airport strollers for transit and disembarking passengers at their hub airports.

Pre-booking seat charges

Do I have to pay to choose my seat on Emirates flights?

  • “If you’re travelling in Economy Class on a Flex Plus fare, you can select a regular or a preferred seat (except on A380 upper deck) through Manage a Booking at no extra charge, from the moment you purchase your ticket. You can also pay to select a Preferred Upper Deck on A380, Twin or an Extra Legroom seat.
  • If you’re travelling in Economy Class on a Flex fare, you can select regular seats through Manage a Booking at no extra charge, from the moment you purchase your ticket. You can also pay to select a Preferred, Twin or an Extra Legroom seat.
  • If you’re travelling in Economy Class on a Special or Saver fare, there is a charge for seat selection. You can use the Seat Selection tool available through Manage a Booking to select, view the cost, and pay for your chosen seat.”
  • Passengers travelling with infants in the same booking are exempt from seat selection charges on all regular seats, bassinets and adjacent seats on a bulkhead row, even if in a preferred area. Customers opting for other Preferred and Twin seats before online check-in will be subject to seat selection charges.

Do I have to pay to choose my seat on Etihad flights?

  • Yes, a small charge is applicable IF you want to know where you are sitting before 24 hours of departure and have bought an Economy Deal, Saver or Classic fare. However, if you don’t wish to pay the fee, then between 24 hours and the time of departure, seats can be booked as usual at no additional cost during the on-line check-in process.
  • The seats at the front of the economy class – which are now dubbed ‘preferred seats’ – will cost AED 130 to reserve, compared to AED 520 for extra legroom seats.
  • There is no charge for requesting a bassinet seat if you are flying with an infant.
  • Etihad have a bid for a free neighbour seat system. With Economy Neighbour-Free, you can bid for one, two or three neighbouring seats to stay passenger-free for the duration of your journey. The higher your offer, the better your chances are of an upgrade. There is no guarantee that you will get the extra seat and if you have a booking of 4 people, you cannot bid for any additional seats, as the maximum seats in one row is four.

Baggage: Etihad vs Emirates Economy Allowances

Baggage Allowance – Emirates Economy

Checked Baggage 

Emirates Baggage Policy (Updated 2019)

The weight concept below applies to all routes, excluding travel to or from destinations in Canada, North America and South America. One piece is allowed, per person.

  • Economy Special 15kg
  • Economy Saver 25kg
  • Economy Flex 30kg
  • Economy Flex plus 35kg

If your journey includes any destinations in Canada, North America or South America, or you are flying from Africa, different baggage rules apply. The total dimensions (length + width + height) of each piece must not exceed 150cm (59 inches).

  • One piece up to 23 kg in Special*
  • Two pieces up to 23 kg each in Saver, Flex, and Flex Plus

Emirates Cabin Baggage

  • As a general rule Emirates Economy Class customers are permitted one (1) piece of carry-on baggage that should not exceed 22 x 15 x 8 inches (55 x 38 x 20cm) and must weigh no more than 7kg (15lb).
  • Customers in any class of service who are travelling with an infant are permitted one extra piece of checked-in baggage that may not exceed 22 x 15 x 8 inches (55 x 38 x 20cm) in size or 22lb (10kg) where the weight concept applies and 50lb (23kg) where the piece concept applies.

If flying with a baby:

  • In addition, customers travelling with infants (and without a child seat) are permitted to bring one carry-cot or one fully collapsible stroller into the cabin if there is room. If there is no space for these items in the cabin, they will have to be checked. However, if checked, they will not count against your baggage allowance. Passengers travelling with infants in any class are also permitted one (1) handbag for inflight necessities and infant food (weight must not exceed 5 kg/11lb)
  • Emirates also provide separate family check-in desks for families travelling with young children.
  • Read my review on flying with a baby on Emirates.
Emirates vs Etihad
Etihad offer a sky nanny on long haul flights. Copyright Etihad

 

Baggage Allowance – Etihad Economy

Checked Baggage (see here for more information)

Maximum dimensions – to / from Canada and the US: 158cm (50x70x38)

  • Economy Deal 23kg x 2
  • Economy Saver 23kg x 2
  • Economy Classic 23kg x 2
  • Economy Flex 23kg x 2

Maximum dimensions – to / from all other destinations: 207cm (45x72x90)

  • Economy deal 23kg x 1
  • Economy Saver 30kg x 1
  • Economy Classic 30kg x 1
  • Economy Flex 35 kg x 1
  • The weight of each item must not exceed 32kg. Any item in excess of 32kg will not be accepted for carriage.

If flying with a baby:

  • To/from USA and Canada: 1 bag (up to 23kg)
  • To/from all other destinations: up to 10kg

Guests travelling with infants or children up to 11 years old are permitted to check in one stroller, pushchair, carrycot or approved car seat per infant/child as checked baggage. This is free of charge in addition to the ticketed checked baggage allowance.

Etihad cabin baggage

115cm (50+40+25), equivalent to 45 linear inches. In addition to your cabin baggage, you may carry one personal item.

Airport facilities Dubai (DXB) v Abu Dhabi (AUH)

Both airports are modern, well equipped and have all the usual things you would expect; pharmacy, shops, restaurants, play areas and airport hotels. If you need to stopover on the way to destinations further afield, there are several hotel options within both airports.

Transit Airport hotels in Abu Dhabi and Dhabi

Abu Dhabi

Dubai

Both airports in each airline respective terminals also provide airport strollers, which you can usually find when you disembark and at various places around the terminal. If you have a longer layover, you may prefer to bring your own cabin sized stroller.

Has this Emirates vs Etihad comparison helped you decide who to book? Why not take a peak at the latest fares to compare prices too?

Book flights with Etihad? or compare flight prices?

 

 

Pin for Later?

Who would you prefer to fly with? Etihad or Emirates? Do you think Etihad and Emirates economy class is any good?

Emirates or Etihad? Which of these airlines offers the best service? What are the differences? #familytravel

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9 Comments

  1. This is such an interesting comparison Carrie. I used to get asked this question all the time when I worked at the tour operators and to be honest alot of the time it just came down to flights times. I really could have made use of your statistics above!

  2. That must have taken you ages! It will be so helpful for people trying to make a decision though. I have heard nothing but good things about both airlines! 🙂

  3. What a fantastically useful breakdown of all the differences. We’ve flown both airlines (Etihad just the other week). If we were doing a stopover, we often prefer Abu Dhabi. But if we are travelling straight through with a short layover, we would always prefer Etihad as Abu Dhabi airport is hard work – it’s just so small and cannot cope with the capacity – always hectic there.

  4. There is always so much to think about when deciding which airline to go with isn’t there? We’ve never flown with a ‘luxury’ airline like this before but I’ll definitely be referring back to this post if we ever do decide to head to Dubai – it’s on my husband’s bucket list so I’m sure we’ll get there one day.

  5. These both sound very luxurious! It would be fab to have a choice of three dishes at meal times….very helpful to have the comparison.

  6. This is such a detailed comparison. I hadn’t thought of looking at things like seat size etc but actually these things are quite important. When we are heading in this direction I will be coming back to this post for reference

  7. Thank you so much for this, I am currently preparing for my first ever international flight with a toddler and pre-teen, so this information is really super helpful.

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