Emirates’ CEO Doesn’t Mind 18 Hours In Economy

Filed Under: Emirates, Media

I’m a huge fan of Emirates, and find their management team to be sharp and reasonable. In other words, when they say something I listen more than when Qatar Airways’ Akbar Al Baker opens his mouth, whether it’s about a super business class product or something which he claims will be a “historic announcement.”

Emirates’ talking head is usually Tim Clark, the airline’s president. However, the airline’s CEO, Sheikh Ahmed, also sometimes has interesting insights.

Emirates is about to launch flights between Dubai and Auckland, which will be the world’s longest flight, at about 16 hours eastbound and over 17 hours westbound (Qatar Airways claims they’ll launch flights between Doha and Auckland, which would be longer, but the details of that haven’t materialized yet).

Sheikh Ahmed has some funny stuff to say about the new flight, claiming he already flew it in economy (even though it hasn’t yet launched). He claims he doesn’t mind economy on a 17-18 hour flight because he “likes to be close to people.”


Via Arabian Business:

Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed has revealed he tested the airline’s new 17-hour flight to Auckland – in economy.

Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Sheikh Ahmed said: “I have tried it [the new route] – 17-18 hours in economy.”

He added that he does not mind the prospect of flying in the back of the plane, because he “likes to be close to the people”.

Now, given that the route hasn’t actually launched, I’m not sure how the Sheikh would have flown it in economy. Perhaps they flew a plane over empty to test out the route, and maybe he sat in an economy seat for five minutes to say he tried it. Or maybe at some point the Sheikh took another flight in economy. But for some reason I highly doubt the Sheikh flew 17-18 hours in economy, and I highly doubt the Sheikh likes people so much that he’d voluntarily sit close to them for 17-18 hours.

Something tells me he’s fine with the distance from others in the below seats as well. 😉


Perhaps equally interesting in the article is that Emirates is apparently planning an “exciting new in-flight innovation,” which will launch either late this year or early next year:

The chairman and CEO also revealed that Emirates is planning an exciting new in-flight innovation expected to launch either by the end of this year or beginning of next. He declined to comment further. The airline was the first to introduce in-flight showers in first class when it was introduced in 2008.

This I’m very curious about. Unlike Qatar Airways, Emirates doesn’t usually fabricate announcements, so I’m sure they really have something up their sleeve. In May 2014 Emirates announced that they’d follow Etihad’s lead and introduce first class bedrooms, though we still haven’t heard more about that. I’m not sure following Etihad’s lead would be much in the way of “innovation,” though, so I suspect it may be something else. If it’s half as innovative as their onboard showers, color me excited!


Bottom line

I want to see the pictures of Sheikh Ahmed in economy on a commercial flight surrounded by strangers, who he loves so much. 😉

I’m also very curious about what “innovations” Emirates is announcing. I guess we’ll find out soon.

Do you think the Sheikh really spent ~18 hours in economy? And what do you think Emirates’ innovation will be?

  1. If he loves economy so much, maybe he can fly in economy for the inaugural flight to Auckland? And no visits to the bar or the showers during the flight, either, and only economy food. Then we’ll see how much he “doesn’t mind” it…I mean honestly, we have a better chance of seeing Lucky fly in economy on that flight than we do of seeing Sheikh Ahmed 😉

  2. Never, but than again, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum – is of course able to do this stunt. He is very young vs. his actual age, he is fit, and has probably someone taking care of him at the “arriving” station.
    Being in cooperation with both Tim & Gary, he would never fake anything vs. his “best-man” in Qatar.

  3. I used to work at Emirates (years ago) in a fairly senior capacity, and had a number of dealings with Sheikh Ahmed. He is actually a very down to earth individual and is very much a man of the people. Even at big VIP events he typically drives himself for instance.

    Although I have only known him to fly in premium cabins, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see him sit in economy, particularly if the Y cabin was relatively empty and he could have a row of his own, for example. He is the type to gladly mingle with Y class passengers on an A380 even if seated in F. Whether he has actually done it (especially on a long flight), who knows, but it certainly wouldn’t shock me.

    No idea what the innovation is, but looking forward to it! I remember when the showers were announced – I thought it was a useless gimmick, but once I tried it 12 hours into a JFK flight I was totally converted. I’ve taken probably a couple of dozen showers over the years on the A380 and it is a real treat, so I’m really hoping that the next innovation is just as fantastic!

  4. I’ve flown on the DXB-SYD-AKL flight in Y a few times back in 2009/2010 and it really isn’t that bad with EK’s ICE inflight entertainment program. If there is something to innovate further, I really hope EK will do so in the economy cabin since there’s untapped potential there whether it be a play area or a prayer room or something where passengers can at least stretch out … especially in an ultra longhaul flight like DXB-AKL.
    Whenever I’ve flown the SYD-AKL EK flight, it was always half empty in economy. I wonder whether the DXB-AKL flight will be 50% capacity as well or even lower during non-peak seasons. If that’s the case, flying in Y and having your own row or economy ‘couch’ wouldn’t be that bad at all!
    If the Sheikh did fly in Y for that longhaul flight, kudos to him. It tells me he’s not out of touch with the average EK passenger who flies economy. As I always say, the only way to truly appreciate flying in premium cabins is to fly in economy. 😉

  5. What about making showers available for purchase in Business and/or Economy? adding a couple showers in a different section (rear maybe?) could add some value and increase revenue. Just a random thought!

  6. LOL…he hasn’t and he won’t be flying economy for 17 hours.

    However, if he did it would be easy to spot, as the only guy getting poured Krug in economy class 🙂

  7. 18 hours seems slightly more than my 13 hours dulles-dubai leg and then 5 hrs dubai-chennai on economy. Managed it with aisle seats on my last trip in 2013. Food and entertainment are so good and the crew kept on serving every 3-4 hours. In 2015, went on 2-4-2 configuration in lufthansa and paid extra to be in 2 seat row while food/entertainment was not on par with emirates.

  8. Don’t be silly. I would be more than happy to fly on the FA seat for 20hrs if I am paid €500k A year. 🙂

  9. He probably tried the flight out before announcement to see the viability and aircraft performance on the route. And he probably sat in the seat for takeoff and landing, while sleeping in first the rest of the joruney, then claim “Oh yeah, I can totally do economy”

  10. I do have to say, if you must fly economy, especially on flight more than 10 hours, you’d want to fly Emirates. It’s like the premium economy of some airlines. As for the CEO, It’s probably a novelty for him, flying economy. So it’s “fun” because that’s perhaps the only time he has, and will fly economy?

  11. Tim Clark is actually the Emirates CEO and President. Sheikh Ahmed is the CEO and Chairman of The Emirates Group who own the airline along with ground services companies and travel related businesses in Dubai.

  12. I have lived in Dubai since I born and have had the chance to interact with Sheikh Ahmed a couple of times. It also helps that my father works for Emirates, so I have a pretty fair impression of the man.

    He is a pretty simple, down-to-earth guy. Real gentleman!

  13. He might be down to earth, he might be a great guy…but if he did fly economy, it was probably as others mentioned, it was a near empty section of economy plus lots of special treatment and privileges that most economy passengers won’t experience. Just guessing. Of course, none of us were on that flight, so who knows?

  14. Economy on this flight could actually be decent considering it’s heavily weight restricted and they won’t be able to fly with a full cabin.

  15. Imagine you are able to travel in first class for your whole life, and suddenly you ‘have to choose’ to fly economy without experiencing the flat seat, leg room, privacy, shower, sky-bar, and even those starred foods FOR EIGHTEEN HOURS NON STOP?

    Like Lucky or these comments above, if His Highness really had to, it’d be in an empty row at least.

  16. There’s actually a picture online of Sheikh Ahmed’s grandson Sheikh Mansoor (son of current ruler Sheikh Mohammed) riding in economy with his friends. It looked like a smaller plane (maybe an 320) and he and his friends were sitting in the last row in a packed plane (with strangers!). Didnt seem staged at all!

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