Review: Le Meridien Dubai (Emirates Dubai Connect Hotel)

Filed Under: Starwood Preferred Guest

During our layover in Dubai we took advantage of Emirates’ Dubai Connect program, where you can get a free hotel stay if your transit meets certain conditions.

Who qualifies for Emirates Dubai Connect?

One of the purposes of the Gulf carriers is to promote their home countries, and one of the ways they do that is by offering free stopovers to passengers. While you could potentially stay for a few days, several Gulf carriers go out of their way to make even a quick transit pleasant. In the past I’ve written about my experience booking a free hotel using Qatar Airways’ stopover program, and in this post wanted to share my experience booking one through Emirates.

Emirates offers a free stopover, including accommodation, meals, ground transportation, and visa costs, under the following circumstances (of course terms and conditions apply, this is subject to availability, blah blah blah):

  • First and business class passengers “for whom the best connection time is not available and who have a transit of more than six hours and less than 24 hours”
  • Economy class passengers “for whom the best connection time is not available and who have a transit of more than eight hours and less than 24 hours”

Only Emirates or Qantas issued tickets qualify, so a partner award ticket wouldn’t qualify for this offer. Emirates’ website says that accommodation is provided at the Copthorne Hotel Dubai, the Le Meridien Airport Hotel Dubai, the Arabian Park Hotel Dubai, or another alternative at their discretion. It’s my understanding that first and business class passengers are typically put up at the Copthorne or Le Meridien.

My experience booking Emirates Dubai Connect

If you are eligible then you should be able to book this directly through Emirates’ website in the “Manage My Booking” section. I’m not totally sure I get what they mean by “for whom the best connection time is not available,” though based on Emirates’ website:

  • We were eligible for Dubai Connect for our outbound, where we had a layover of about 14 hours, but intentionally didn’t book the next flight from Dubai to Milan (where you’d think we wouldn’t be eligible, since we chose to have a layover that long)
  • Were not eligible for Dubai Connect for our return, where we had a layover of about 11 hours, and booked the next available flight from Dubai to Los Angeles (where you’d think we’d be eligible, since we didn’t choose a layover that long, really)

Anyway, it could be that they would have allowed it if I asked, as websites don’t always provide correct information. Fortunately it didn’t really matter to me, since I had different plans for the return (I wanted to try out the airside transit hotel on the return to compare it, and that’s not included as part of this).

The process of requesting the hotel is super easy. You just fill out a quick form, and then it confirms that you’re eligible. I figured there would be more to the process, but there wasn’t. The confirmation is instant.

However, you don’t actually find out where you’ll be staying until you check in for your flight at the airport. When you check in you’ll be printed your hotel voucher as well as vouchers confirming that you receive free meals. So upon checking in at LAX we learned that we’d be staying at the Le Meridien Dubai, located near the airport.

Emirates Dubai Connect Hotel review

Upon landing in Dubai we passed through immigration and then turned right to the Emirates chauffeur drive service. We hadn’t reserved a car in advance (there was no option to do so online), but they gladly booked us a car to the Le Meridien, as ground transport is part of the offering.

Emirates chauffeur drive service Dubai

There’s an area in the chauffeur drive area where you can sit, though they have a huge line of cars ready to take you anytime, so there’s really no need to ever wait.

Emirates chauffeur drive service Dubai

You just head straight outside, give someone the receipt that they print for you, and they drive you to the hotel.

Emirates chauffeur drive service Dubai

Emirates chauffeur drive service Dubai

The Le Meridien Dubai has a few different areas. There’s a beautiful club tower, which is a totally separate building. Then there’s the main part of the hotel. And then there’s the Emirates entrance, which is by far the least nice of the areas. It’s interesting to walk into a hotel that’s fully Emirates branded.

Le Meridien Dubai Emirates entrance

Just inside the entrance is the reception desk, again, exclusively for Emirates passengers. The check-in process took a while, not because the ladies working the desk weren’t friendly or efficient, but because there were just a lot of people, and there was also quite a language barrier for some.

Le Meridien Dubai Emirates reception

Le Meridien Dubai Emirates reception

Within a few minutes we were issued a room key — we didn’t even have to provide a credit card! We were even given a meal voucher for both dinner and breakfast.

I was impressed by that. They don’t just force all the passengers to eat at the same buffet, but rather you get a three course meal at your choice of just about all of the hotel’s restaurants, and there are lots to choose from, including a Chinese restaurant, Thai restaurant, Italian restaurant, pub, and more. This aspect of the experience really impressed me.

Emirates transit hotel meal voucher

Emirates transit hotel meal voucher

There was a small lobby off the reception area, though this isn’t the hotel’s main lobby, but rather just the seating area for Emirates passengers who are waiting to arrive and depart.

Le Meridien Dubai Emirates lobby

We were handed keys for room 2204, though finding the room took 20 minutes, and we only eventually found it after a hotel staff member walked us to the door. This hotel has a horrible layout with more wings than a flock of birds. They really should hand you a map with directions when you check-in.

The problem is that none of the signs actually pointed us to our room. Which way would you go for room 2204? We figured maybe the next sign would have our room number, but nope. Maybe we were just jetlagged, but my gosh…

Le Meridien Dubai room signage

It seems to me like this hotel is in about 15 different stages of renovation. I know the club tower is beautiful (I’ve stayed in it before), the main lobby is very nice, but all the other halls of the hotel seem to be different. For example, below is what our hotel room door looked like.

Le Meridien Dubai room exterior

And then below is what the door across from our room looked like. Presumably these aren’t intentionally mismatched, but rather the sides of the hallway are at different phases of renovation? That’s sort of concerning, because it seemed to me like our entrance was fresher-looking, meaning maybe our room was actually renovated?

Le Meridien Dubai room exterior

Anyway, the room itself was… fine. I don’t want to complain about something that was ostensibly “free,” but this wasn’t luxurious… at all. The room had an entryway with the bathroom to the right, and then some of the most mismatched and outdated furniture I’ve had in a hotel in quite a while.

Le Meridien Dubai room entrance

Le Meridien Dubai room

Le Meridien Dubai room

Le Meridien Dubai room

Le Meridien Dubai room

Le Meridien Dubai desk

I’m not trying to be shady here, but was the couch designed to have this sort of color coordination? It looked coordinated enough so that it didn’t seem like they were using totally random pieces of different furniture, but that’s about all I can say.

Le Meridien Dubai couch

The room had a coffee machine, three bottles of water (one next to the coffee machine and two in the bathroom), and a minibar.

Le Meridien Dubai in-room coffee & water

Le Meridien Dubai minibar

The bathroom featured a sink, a walk-in shower, a shower/tub combo, a toilet, and a bidet.

Le Meridien Dubai bathroom

Le Meridien Dubai bathroom

Le Meridien Dubai shower

Le Meridien Dubai toilet & bidet

Toiletries were the brand standard ones from Malin+Goetz, which were probably the nicest aspect of the room.

Le Meridien Dubai Malin & Goetz amenities

While the Emirates lobby wasn’t very nice, the main lobby of the hotel was very nice. If only the rest of the hotel had decor this nice.

Le Meridien Dubai lobby

Le Meridien Dubai lobby

Le Meridien Dubai lobby

Le Meridien Dubai lobby

Our layover was short and just overnight, so I didn’t have much time to check out the facilities. The hotel does have multiple pools.

Le Meridien Dubai pool

This should give you a general sense of the layout of the hotel:

Le Meridien Dubai map

We had a lot of options to choose from for dinner, and ended up eating at Long Yin, the Chinese restaurant.

Le Meridien Dubai Long Yin Restaurant

The restaurant was cute and empty.

Le Meridien Dubai Long Yin Restaurant

We presented our vouchers, and were then offered a set three course menu (branded as a “travelers set menu”), which read as follows:

All soft drinks are included, though we just had water to drink. As soon as we sat down we were brought some nuts and veggies.

Emirates transit hotel dinner

We both had the hot and sour soup with chicken to start.

Emirates transit hotel dinner

Then we had the stir fried diced chicken with black bean sauce, served with fried noodles with mixed vegetables.

Emirates transit hotel dinner

For dessert we had the chilled mango pudding, and ordered a coffee to go along with it.

Emirates transit hotel dinner

Emirates transit hotel dinner

We were offered fortune cookies upon the conclusion of the meal.

Emirates transit hotel dinner

The meal was good and filling.

We got an alright night of sleep, and ended up heading to the airport early to have breakfast at the lounge, so we missed the breakfast at the hotel. While we had a private chauffeur from the airport to the Le Meridien, on the way back we shared a van with other passenger.

Emirates van back to the airport

It was one of those Mercedes vans where the seats face one another. I absolutely love these, but only if there are no more than three people in the back. With six people seated in the back, legroom is worse than on Spirit.

Emirates van back to the airport

Emirates Dubai Transit Hotel bottom line

On the plus side, it’s nice that the Gulf carriers offer this service for their passengers. With other airlines you’re on your own if you have a long layover, while Emirates gives you a place to sleep, feeds you, and even transports you. The dining options also exceeded my expectations, given that you could choose where you wanted to eat, and for most restaurants it was a la carte rather than just a buffet.

That being said, the Le Meridien Dubai has seen better days. It’s not a bad hotel, though at the same time if you are going to put first and business class passengers up somewhere, it seems you’d want to do so at a hotel that’s actually nice and that they enjoy.

Please don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that they offer it at all, and maybe I should just say “it’s free, so I shouldn’t judge it.”

But personally I don’t think I would use this again. Why? Because Dubai has so many luxury hotels that can be booked for cheap, especially in summer. Like really, really cheap. For our night in Dubai a stay at the Park Hyatt Dubai or St. Regis Dubai would have been about $150, I would have earned an elite qualifying night and points, and I could have received a $100 property credit by booking through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts or Virtuoso. So for me personally I’d pay that for a luxury hotel rather than staying here for free, but that’s just me.

Or maybe I would have booked my own room at the hotel for $70, and as an SPG Platinum member I would have gotten a room in the club wing (which is much nicer), and would have received points and elite credit. Then I could have still used the meal vouchers that Emirates provided.

Again, it’s nice that they offer this benefit, I just thought the Le Meridien was really dated.

Am I being unreasonable for critiquing the stay at all, given that it was “free,” or…?

  1. Thanks very much for this comprehensive review. Last year, I booked my mom on EK Business from Canada to South Africa that required an overnight layover in Dubai including the free Connect hotel. I was worried a bit about how that would work for someone who is not as travel-savvy. It ended up being totally fine, but this sort of post would have been super helpful at the time.

  2. You’re right, really can’t complain in this situation. I did like the desk area/nook. Dinner looked nice, too.

  3. I looked up the hotel, and the rooms seemed to be renovated for those paying. Emirates contracted room that weren’t renovated. I think that the hotel is fine. I have stayed in it before, and found it totally acceptable. (I was in paid first from Cape Town for $2,100)

  4. Hi Ben,

    This time I think you just went over with the critique since you were comped for your stay, yes I know you flew First and that you should have gotten maybe something more luxurious than what you received, but still all in all, the hotel was decent, food was decent and you were transported to and fro from the hotel and airport.
    I know you are used to more luxurious places and properties, but what was offered is really decent and I would say appropriate even for a First class passenger on a paid ticket.

    On the other hand, since you now know what you will be getting, and you can afford it, maybe it’s better for you to book your own selected hotel the next time for your long layover.


  5. I think you’re completely in the right to be judgmental of the accommodation. In my opinion it was not free; you didn’t pay directly for the room and board, rather it was rolled into the price of the ticket. If EK is going to offer this service, then need to manage their brand much, much better. It’s…cute…that the hotel is (overly) branded in EK gold and mahogany and gauche EVERYTHING, but both Le Meridien and EK should do a better job of ensuring F and J pax feel like they’ve received what they paid for during the entirety of the experience, not just at the airport and on the plane.

  6. I will flying tomorrow from Toronto, will forgo the free hotel and stay at the Ritz carlton Jumeirah beach for our 22 hour layover (booked through Amex FH&R). After reading this review I feel like we made the right decision.

  7. We took advantage of this service flying paid business class from Fort Lauderdale to Cape Town via Dubai in February and found it to be quite pleasant. Was it the most luxurious hotel in the world? Of course not. However, it was nice to have a pre-arranged spot to go after a looooong flight, especially with a quick dip in the pool to refresh. We also really enjoyed the breakfast.

    It’s worth noting that we were actually given two rooms, since I was traveling with my wife and daughter. For families looking to use this perk, be aware that the Emirates section of the hotel does NOT have connecting rooms, so we were forced to split up for the night. Wasn’t a huge deal, but when we requested connecting rooms over the phone 6 months in advance and didn’t find out they weren’t available until check-in, it was a bit frustrating.

  8. Yeah, it looks kind of dated, but at least not cramped. Selecting meals and cuisines in this situation is pretty sweet, though.
    I’m afraid I don’t get the comment about the couch. To me it looks fine. Nothing too stylish, of course.

  9. This seems totally fine for a Business Class fare. Business Class airfare = business class/4-star hotel is logical.

    However, I agree with @Lucky that if flying in First Class, it seems like Emirates could go a bit further. First-Class is meant to be Luxury and so one should get a Luxury standard hotel, especially since they’re fairly reasonable in Dubai. My Wife over-nighted at the nearby Park Hyatt during a missed connection when travelling Economy, which our travel insurance covered and that seems like the right sort of standard that should be included in a Dubai connection for 1st class airfare.

  10. Last week I had a 13h30m layover in Dubai, travelling paid First, and although I did not select the Dubai Connect option in ‘Manage My Booking’, I was provided the vouchers at the check-in counter at LHR. When I said that I did not require them because I had made my own arrangements for the layover, they insisted that I take the vouchers as I did not have to use them.

    Having read your review, I think I did the right thing to make my own arrangements, although the offer from Emirates is appreciated and most welcome. One never knows when one has to use it!

  11. I flew F Toronto to Milano via DXB on 18 June 2018.
    Emirates sent me to the J.W. Marriott about 15 miles away. No food voucher and unless they had a recent sand storm, the widows were deplorably filthy. It wasn’t my dime so no complaint.
    There was also confusion over the limo return to DXB almost making me late. Just to let you know.

  12. @Lucky – Are there specific rooms set aside for Emirates passengers or do they just give them any available room?

  13. I have to say, I fail to see anything wrong with that room, provided for free for an 11hr stay. It looked comfortable and well provisioned. I feel you are probably expecting an awful lot of you don’t feel that was an appropriate standard room.

    Food and Drink seem very generous.

  14. Just flew LAX-DXB-MXP- used Dubai Connect and was also assigned the Le Meridien. When checking in at the hotel I gave them my SPG platinum number and they not only gave me a renovated room (which was very nice), but I also ended up earning points and night credit for the stay.
    Also, for anyone that booked the YVR-LAX-DXB-MXP deal, you likely had a schedule change on the WestJet flights.. Emirates is very generous with schedule changes- they allowed me to drop the Westjet flights completely, so I didn’t have to waste a day flying to Vancouver.

  15. When we flew F from LAX – SGN through DXB, I asked the FA during our first leg to confirm our stay at Le Meridien, which she did before our arrival. Apparently, the vouchers are good for a number of hotels, including several in the city. We chose to stay at the airport for our early departure the next morning.

  16. I would not be disappointed by the hotel. But then, my personal standards are not geared towards high-end travel. Different people will have different expectations. I think the review is fine.

  17. @Lucky

    Did you inform them you are a Platinum guest? They seem to honour status even on these complimentary stays and as you already know, that transforms the entire experience here.

    Not sure why you should feel hesitant assessing them, it’s your profession, if other carriers also offer stopover hotels than it absolutely makes sense to compare across these options.

  18. @ Vineet — I asked if I could add my SPG number to the reservation and they said no. I didn’t explicitly mention I’m a Platinum member, so maybe I screwed myself over by doing that.

  19. Thanks for yet another good review! Even though I can understand some might think you’re a bit spoiled (no offence!), I totally understand that an Emirates F passenger should get a better hotel experience than this.

    As a contrast, I recently transferred in Istanbul (Ataturk) with TK C and used their complimentary stopover program for two nights. They gave us a VERY nice room at the Marriott Renaissance Istanbul (where they happily applied my Marriott Gold card to the reservation) and private transfers to and from the airport, as well as free meals. Everything went super smoothly and I truly felt that I got a luxury experience for free. Very impressed.

  20. Lucky, my wife and I are flying Emirates first into Dubai in January. We are spending two nights and then flying Oman Air to Doha. I am assuming that we don’t qualify for this program?

  21. I have been at the Le Meridien twice through Emirates, in May 2017 I had a room like the one shown in the review and in May 2018 I had one of the newer renovated rooms 2012 which was smaller but beautiful. I think that this is a great feature offered by Emirates and is much better than paying for a room at a hotel of your own choice especially if you land at something like 3am and fly out at 11pm and sure beats 6-23 hours at the airport even with its lounges.

  22. I flew EK F and paid $9200 for the RT ticket and they put me up in this hotel too. I was disappointed, to say the least. It’s Dubai after all, why not send F passengers to a fancier hotel?

  23. @Lucky. Good and accurate review. I too agree that an F passenger would usually expect more, maybe even a business class passenger. The renovated rooms are nice, but not that fabulous and I do not think suites are available in the newer wing. (I have stayed there when not flying Emirates too.) The dinner and breakfast buffets are both very good. For breakfast one can eat outside, which is nice in the cooler months. In general, one comment I have about Emirates F is that while it is great in the sky and at the DXB lounge, the rest of the ground experience is not fabulous. It has been a long time since I flew SQ F and it was a much more special experience on the ground. You have also detailed the excellent AF experience, which I have never had. I once had a funny experience when flying F on Thai. There was a cart which met us for our connection (which does not happen on Emirates generally) and there was one other person. At first thought it was some VIP. We start talking and it turns out he was a doctor from Philadelphia doing a mileage run.

  24. I think the hotel is fine; perfectly adequate for a transit stay. They should have added your SPG number for incidentals ( mini bar, maybe alcohol with dinner) or dining if you’d chosen a different outlet to those on the free list. Then there’s always a chance that the system will err and credit a stay.

  25. We paid to stay here and it was dreadful. The first room we were given was very dated and stank of smoke. We were moved to a second slightly better room but I would never stay again even if it was a ‘free’ room

  26. I believe that those Mercedes six-seaters were the same (or else very close) to what Lufthansa offered early on when they offered shuttle service for people from the main airport to the FCT.

  27. Having stayed there as a business class passenger, I kinda get your point. It was fine for me seeing that it was like a 4-star hotel. But as a first class passenger, I can see why you would be expecting more. In fact I was surprised they put you guys up here. With all that said, maybe this review was a bit too critical. I mean it was free after all, and you can’t argue with that.

  28. Thank you for providing so much detail and also the photos. I read the fine print in the Terms and Conditions, but nothing beats a first-hand account! 🙂

    It helped me decide if I want to use the Connect service or not.

  29. Hey Lucky,

    I used to work for the airlines, then I was a consultant for 15 years and I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels. Ranging from super luxe in India to Best Westerns in New Jersey. I think your review was a bit harsh because I thought the hotel room to be perfectly nice. I mean its not Peninsula Hong Kong (vacation) or The Ritz Paris (honeymoon), but I don’t think I would have been that tough with my review.

    First world problems! 🙂

  30. @Lucky, we flew in paid first from SEZ-DXB-NRT and they gave us one of the updated rooms, which was actually quite nice. The room was arguably in better condition than the Conrad Dubai. I did have them enter my SPG number (gold), so I don’t know if that made a difference. I even earned some SPGs somehow from it… Don’t remember the room number now, but it was up the stairs immediately next to the lobby, then slight right and all the way to the end of the hall.

  31. I’ve been flying regularly between Japan and UK with Emirates for some years now and have used Dubai Connect several times. I’ve usually been given Al Bustan Hotel when flying in Business, both upgrade and paid, especially when it’s a short notice hotel reservation. It’s an excellent hotel with luxurious rooms and a really good buffet restaurant. No special Emirates check-in and no waits – but that may be something to do with my arrival time. Very much better than Le Meridien, but driving time is a little longer (perhaps 2x). Transit usually estate car outwards and cramped Benz Vito minivan inwards.
    Last stay (October 2018) wifi was free as standard – though had to negotiate to get free wifi on some previous visits.

  32. I just stayed at Le Meridian Dubai as part of Dubai Connect and I must say that I was impressed! My room (2077) was absolutely gorgeous and befitting a true 5-star establishment, modern and spacious with an excellent bathroom and amenities and a first class breakfast in the hotel. I was actually sad that my stay was just overnight before my connecting morning flight, as I could have spent a whole day there easy. Travelled WAW-DXB-BNE.

  33. I have just returned from my Dubai connect experience. I was in business class and got the Le Meridien.

    The Emirates Lobby is newly renovated. My room, attached to the Emirates Lobby was also newly renovated. It looks exactly like the Superior guestroom pictured on their website… Everything was nice and fresh. The bed was comfy, the bath has a separate tub, shower and WC area. Everything else in the room was just like any other 5 star hotel, including slippers and bathrobe.

    The restaurant choices were as Lucky posted. I chose the Beef bistro and had a wonderful NZ steak with French onion soup and ended it with a French cheesake and coffee. Service at the restaurant was impeccable as was the rest of the hotel.

    I had a good swim at the spa pool. The gym looked very well equipped.

    Emirates transfers both ways in a BMW 5 series… Overall a fantastic experience. I did see the block of rooms which Lucky got and I think they will soon be renovated.

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