How Emirates First Class Service Will Be Changing

Filed Under: Emirates

Update: Emirates will be increasing onboard service again as of October 15, 2020, and you can find all the details here.

Curious to see how service will evolve in international first class on one of the world’s top airlines? Well, I have the details!

Emirates resuming regular flights tomorrow

As of tomorrow (May 21, 2020), Emirates will be resuming flights to nine destinations, with flights to Australia, Europe, and North America. Furthermore, the airline will begin accepting transit passengers.

In late March 2020,Ā the United Arab Emirates banned flights, causing Emirates to suspend operations for a period of two weeks. While the airline resumed flights in early April, they were really just repatriation flights of sorts. These flights only carried people from the UAE, and no transit passengers were allowed.

Emirates is resuming regularly scheduled flights tomorrow

Emirates’ new first class service standards

Understandably airlines have greatly reduced service inflight in order to minimize person-to-person contact. Not only that, but I’d also expect airlines to do a bit of cost cutting over the coming months, given how dire the situation is. For example, Emirates is eliminating free Wi-Fi and live TV for the time being.

Emirates is eliminating live TV for now

A lot of readers have asked what kind of service to expect in international first class, and I’ve now had the chance to review Emirates’ new service guide for first class, and there are some interesting things in there. As of now there’s no end date published for these new policies.

Note that Emirates has set new service standards for both the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777, even though the A380 won’t be flying for the airline anytime soon. Nonetheless I’ll cover the changes to expect on the A380.

First for some context on what service is usually like (pre-COVID-19), see here for an Emirates A380 first class review, see here for an Emirates old 777 first class review, and see here for an Emirates new 777 first class review.

Emirates’ famous A380 shower spa

I’ll share eight of my key takeaways from the new service standards, in no particular order:

  • Emirates will be closing down the A380 onboard showers, onboard bar behind business class, and onboard social area in front of first class
  • While dine on demand will still be offered, all service will be done on trays; the appetizer and main course will be served on one tray, and the dessert/cheese/fruit on another
  • Crews should encourage passengers to use the call button or room service button, in order to minimize interaction and movement throughout the cabin
  • The actual selection of food won’t be reduced significantly, though do expect some cutbacks in terms of drinks; for example, passengers will only have their choice of two whites and two reds plus the sommelier’s choice, rather than the usual selection of four whites and four reds plus the sommelier’s choice
  • Expect a lot more plastic and packaging, as crackers and bread will all be packaged, and cutlery will come wrapped; on top of that, passengers will be asked if they want all their other dishes served with covers or not
  • Crew are not required to provide turndown service; interestingly the guide doesn’t say that they can’t or shouldn’t, but rather says “crew are not required to make customers bed”
  • While each seat will continue to have a minibar, the little snack basket at each seat won’t be present, but rather individual items will only be available on demand; similarly, there’s a snack box if you want the snacks that would usually be in the social area
  • Don’t expect service to be too personalized, as crews “MUST maintain minimum interaction with customers for social distancing purposes”

Expect food to be presented differently going forward

Bottom line

I’d say Emirates’ new first class service guidelines are roughly in line with what I was expecting. We don’t know how long they’ll last, but across the board we shouldn’t expect flying to be as fun as it used to be anytime in the near future.

While the products being offered will more or less be the same (with the exception of wine), the way they’re presented will change. Expect food to be served on trays, expect less interaction with the crew, don’t expect turndown service, and expect a lot more packaging for everything.

The lack of A380 showers and bars will be disappointing for some, though the reality is that Emirates isn’t even flying A380s in the immediate future, so that’s a moot point for now.

How does this compare to what you were expecting from Emirates’ updated service?

  1. Glad they are still able to offer a decent level of service / variety of wine and menu options. Shame about the closing down of the bar / showers but this is understandable. So the turndown service may now be better on AA for the time being! (jokes).

    Ben out of curiosity, if you do travel to Iceland, would you route to a US city to catch Icelandair or hop over to Europe first?

  2. @ John K — If I went I’d want to minimize my time on a plane, and would fly straight to Iceland on Icelandair. I guess I’d have to connect in another US city, but that still seems easier than connecting at a major European hub. šŸ™‚

  3. @ John
    Your question was directed at Ben, I realize. I will stick in my two cents as I dealt with these decisions so many times.
    It depends on the passenger and their physical makeup as well as the timing of flights. I personally prefer getting all the travel and transits done before the night flight. Since we are speaking of a destination with flights that are on the European schedule it would be my preference to transit in north America.

    There are those with more stamina that prefer transit in Europe while I expect to be in a bed soon after landing.
    Obviously different rules apply when flying to a different area with different schedules.

  4. @ Ben — Is it correct that US citizens can currently enter the UAE at DXB and the UK at LHR, but none of the other locations shown on the map above?

  5. Hopefully this is a short term effort to get the public back to flying. Not interested in paying the same amount if not more money for Premium class just to have the overall experience permanently diminished. If that is the new norm then I’ll probably just stick it out in economy and put the money towards a nicer hotel experience at the destination.

  6. yeah, I will wait until its back near 100% before spending cash or points on First. The lounges will probably be a disappointment as well for the next few months.

  7. @roman. Fully agree and worse still with Qatar saying their crew will be wearing full PPE. Rather go watch a horror movie. Airlines need to sort this out soon before Iā€™ll fly

  8. You’d be stupid for paying anything over premium economy at this point! Why pay for services such as food if your not going to get a quality presentation like they were known for? Forget it!

  9. “Emirates will be closing down the A380 onboard showers, onboard bar”

    There goes the two big reasons to fly EK.

    “passengers will only have their choice of two whites and two reds plus the sommelierā€™s choice, rather than the usual selection of four whites and four reds plus the sommelierā€™s choice”

    Remind me again how does this have anything to do with social distancing or preventing the virus?
    All I can see is cost cutting by blaming the pandemic at its finest.

  10. What EK is doing makes sense. It seems like the soft product won’t matter much anymore in the next few months when flying in premium cabin due to social distancing and minimizing interaction between crew and pax. All that matters now is the hard product (seat).

  11. How many want to bet minimal service, including reduced food/beverage options, will be the new model for years to come?

  12. Ok no shower, bar or entertainment that Emirates is famous for. So why would anybody go out of their way for a stopover in this environment. I doubt these changes will be popular, as people use Emirates for the experience, not for the convenience. I might as well use BA or United if it is going to be like this..

  13. That’s too bad. The best part of flying Emirates is waking up and taking a shower before landing imo. But since 380 isn’t flying anyway I guess it doesn’t matter. I’ll book Emirates again with points when 380 flies again with shower room operational.

  14. Now no difference between Emirates and other global carriers. DL and AA are looking better every day.

  15. Will other airlines be operating out of DXB as well? I mean, forget the service, is there any point in transferring visa DXB if no other airlines will be operating at that airport? Unless you really want to fly ORD-DXB-FRA or are flying to Australia from North America or Europe…

    “Now no difference between Emirates and other global carriers. DL and AA are looking better every day.”

    Well, the seat in first class still trumps what you get on DL or AA…even DL’s suite.

  16. I think this makes perfect sense. I have no issues with this and will continue to pay (w/cash or points) to fly up front since a) I value the hard product much, much, much more than the soft and b) the risk of covid-19 seems lower in lower density cabins.

  17. You people saying you’d fly AA or DL because EK is altering the experience make me laugh. The service on those USA carriers in first is worse than in economy most elsewhere. They shouldn’t even call it first.

  18. No, thank you. I can’t see the point to pay for so called “first class” – which is all about the service. Seat is not enough I am afraid. I understand lounge will be closed for a long time as well?

  19. Love that airlines are responding ans sort of understand those that are considerin PPE .. but unless they mandate a change after every passenger interaction there is no point.. infact more dangerous as it will give everyone a false sense of security…arghh
    Let me fly soon

  20. Has anyone checked out the fares? Are they comparable to the ā€œoldā€ ones or seriously discounted?

  21. Don’t see the value in flying in F with these changes. Maybe J for a more comfortable seat, but I’m not eager to earn miles to use on flight experiences that are extremely diminished. Seems like a terrible time to travel.

  22. This makes no sense at all. The airlines are using the COVID 19 situation to diminish their service offerings. I wouldnā€™t even consider first class offerings as they have removed the primary reasons for booking in the first place.

  23. I live in Dubai, expat out of the USA and also work in the industry (not at an airline). Fly a lot Multi years Platinum with EK. Have flown US airlines, but not too much in recent years as I travel to pretty much everywhere except NA. If I travel to NA, prefer ME or EU airlines if they are options. Sounding arrogant, yeah, I know. Have to say tho, I find it astounding that anyone can compare US airlinesā€˜ product with EK or others in the region, even with the expected ā€œdeclineā€ in on board services (which I have not experienced yet as limited flying is resuming today). I am surprised they are able to do that much. After seeing pics of packed airplanes in the USA, I would hesitate to fly. Transit only via DXB, to enter into the country need approval via the govt, which is not happening. Stranded residents outside the country need to apply via website for permission to come home, then quarantine, etc. Will be interesting to see how much transit pax are actually happening as many of the departure countries have similar restrictions. I suspect the loads will be many returning to their home countries. #staysafe #stay2metersapart-except on US airlines.

  24. Like others have said, and I heard it from a hotel executive, this is just a reason to cut back on service. You want to convince people things are returning to normal, then function like it. For the life of me I can’t imagine being on a QR flight and having people around me who look like they just left Chernobyl.

    I’m ready to return to flying, but not if this is how it’s going to be.

  25. Guys- is Emirates trying to cut costs? No doubt about it. It would be crazy not to. Every single airline is on the brink of collapse, and Emirates is doing the responsible thing that would help it survive.
    I get people tht say they wonā€™t fly F with this diminished experience, to be honest, neither would I. However, I think it is not just the inflight experience that affects that. The entire experience of travel, from airport security and immigration through taxis in a new city to car hire, all of it will be harder, more painful and very very far from fun.

  26. As both Australia and NZ are still closed to all international passengers except those citizens being repatriated and going into Quarantine for 14 days on arrival – I really donā€™t who will be on these flights ?

  27. In my opinion, the pandemic is a welcoming excuse for airlines to get rid of first class. Look at LH, for example, they had HONs testing their new F/Cl mockup and the feedback was a catastrophe! They put it on hold, and I wouldnā€™t be surprised if they cancel F/Cl for good. Closing the showers and stop turndown services make sense, but the reduced beverage selection? And just think of all the extra packaging, wrapping, and plastic wasted on a long haul flight…

  28. Okay, I just can’t believe that everyone is criticizing EK for removing onboard shower spa and the lounge! C’mon y’all. The world has changed. All the flights are grounded and it is at least heartwarming to see airlines flying back to the skies. I mean, what do you expect from EK First Class product? Emirates’ soft-product cuts have been taken for YOUR safety and not for theirs’. I bet the airlines wouldn’t want the shower-spa to rot, but this is a decision they are supposed to take. Are you seriously more concerned with the spas more than the virus? I bet Delta and AA are taking even more cuts and their already *average* service with their rude crews (I’m looking at you United), are gonna be super screwed up. If EK continues to provide the service they used to do before the COVID-19 era, then we might risk further virus transmissions (I agree that we cannot escape from the virus but we might be able to at least minimizing contact would be helpful) and re-grounding of aeroplanes, which is not something we would not want to see.

  29. I can understand why Emirates are being forced to do this but ā€“ as others have said ā€“ one of the reasons for choosing to fly with the airline is its incredible high-level of customer service. I fly to SE Asia for times a year and Emirates was always my choice airline. But now, I will be looking either at cheaper options (given that they are all going to be just as hellish) or flying direct and putting up with the plastic-clad environment for a shorter space of time.

    Emirates got its business model wrong with its concentration on hubs and acquiring A380s but compensated by making it such an incredible experience. Take away the fun of flying with Emirates and it will find it impossible to attract premium passengers unless they have a reason to go to Dubai or cannot find another more direct route.

  30. Good day. Iā€™ve recently flown first class, on ANA, from NRT to ORD and noticed no changes from their usual impeccable food(s), wines(s) and service.

  31. Yep, disappointing BUT I go along with Lukas…..the ‘hard’ product is what I go for more than a slap up meal.

  32. >A lot of readers have asked what kind of service to expect in international first class

    No doubt a huge overlap with the kind of people who mock and bully people who just want to be able to provide for their families again. “Oh look at the poor, protesting. Why won’t they just sit at home ike we told them to? So anyway, how WILL we ever survive First Class without showers?!”

  33. @ Matt Fortini — That’s BS. A lot of us are passionate about the passenger experience, and the question hasn’t been asked in a “woe is me” kind of way, but rather in a “I wonder what service will be like” kind of way. I was curious as well, not because I’m worried, but because I’m genuinely curious how airlines will handle this.

  34. @Ben, I apologize I didn’t word my (admittedly snarky) reply in specific terms. I fully understand why you’re covering this, and you’re – by far – the best resource in the world for this. You should indeed write about it, it’s what you do! šŸ™‚

    What I am indeed pointing out is the fact that just today, Scott Rasmussen wrote an op-ed in Newsweek about how it’s the higher-income cohorts who are the most content with continued shutdowns (and the difference between them and lower-middle class cohort is pretty significant – I think the WFH crowd like myself is doing mostly fine).

    I do think there’s a certain irony in that (presumably) same segment favoring shutdown by a wide margin while also being concerned with how the 1st class flight experience will be. I know you can appreciate that, too šŸ™‚

  35. Sad that services had to be diminished but understandable and it takes times for airlines to go back to it’s old glory specially if it will benefit them and flying passenger get use to it. I guess premium economy will be the new first.

  36. To be honest, I will continue flying first class because I can still have minimal contact with the rest of the people on board, therefore I feel safer. Also, I’m shock how cheap some of you are. I never had any interest on the food on board, no matter what still is airplane food, just plated differently. Those complaining about food and service belong in business quite honestly.

  37. @JO ā€œthose belong to businessā€. So those belonging to first are the ones scared of getting the virus like you? Stay home, you will happily die there one day, no reasons to run the risk to live, whatever class.

  38. Lucky, any idea whether roll on hand luggage is allowed in first class Emirates? My boss flies with them today Sydney – London and struggling to find anything about this for first class.

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