On entering the Emirates lounge for a 2 hour stop over I found that I had a lot of difficulty connecting with a broadband connection firstly from my notebook via the Emirates WI Fi service and from an Emirates desktop computer located in the business lounge. With both devices the services was painfully slow. On one occasion it took me 3 attempts and up to 8 minutes to log onto my Google Mail account.
On the leg between Dubai and Frankfurt I was switched to an old Boeing 777 300 aircraft.Gone were the large touch screen and the massaging business class seats. Instead I got a business class seat that would not fully recline into a sleeping position, a wonky TV screen that folded away into an armrest and when pulled out one had to hold it in place to view the onscreen content.
Also missing was the hundreds of movies at the touch of a button. Instead one was given a list of movies and the option of an archaic video tape system that worked by placing a video tape into a player located in the armrest. While the onboard service was good the aircraft was a big difference from the Airbus A340-500 aircraft flown on the first leg of the journey.
On the return journey I was shunted onto an Airbus A300-200 aircraft from Manchester in the UK for a 7 hour trip to Dubai. The quality of the content on the ageing in seat LCD screens was appalling. It was grainy and difficult to see. During take off from Manchester airport the live cameras were pumped to a large LCD TFT screen located on the bulkhead and to the small in seat screen. The large screen was crystal clear with the runway lights and yellow centre line showing up clearly. On the in seat screen the image was blurred and hard to see. Movies shown on the in seat screen were blurred and it was clear that the use by date for these screens was well and truly up.
But it not just the Emirates entertainment service that was lacking. When I first checked in with Emirates at Manchester airport I asked for an Isle seat. "No problem said the lady at reservations. On boarding the aircraft I found myself in a centre isle seat that was smaller than the two isle seats either side of me. Also at Manchester airport there is no priority boarding for Emirates business class passengers.
After a 3 hour stop over in Dubai it was back onto an Airbus A340-500 aircraft for the final leg down to Sydney. I was looking forward to returning to a big 15" in seat screen. But not so, along with at least a dozen other business class passengers I was forced to access the entertainment system via a tiny old fashioned 10" screen that one had to pull out of an arm rest.
Amazingly no where in any Emirates advertising for their business class service were any of these screens featured? When one raised the issue with the on board Emirates staff a steward said "We have this problem all the time. We write our reports, we log the complaints but management don't seem to take notice of what we say. We are the ones who have to listen to the customer complaints not them".
Another Emirates steward said "We get a lot of complaints about the different levels of business class services that Emirates delivers across the fleet. Most senior Emirates management fly first class where the service is a lot better than business class so they don't get to see the difference in Emirates business class services. We also find that Australians who have normally flown with Qantas or Singapore Airlines on the long haul routes notice the difference compared to UK nationals or ex pats flying between the UK and Dubai. They often think the service is okay as they know no better. I use to work for Virgin and they know what real customer service is. Emirates have gone from being a new airline with old aircraft to a growing airline that have now major problems with the consistency of service across multiple aircraft of which some are old aircraft that have been refurbished, especially on long hauls routes".
What Emirates claim is that they are a superior airline. They are not, they are very much an inferior airline who has a lot of catching up to do. And while they are making a bucket load of money from business class passengers it is at the expense of customer service. To fly 3 different aircraft with 3 very different levels of service is not acceptable especially when the levels of in flight service differs so much. With Qantas, Singapore Airlines or British Airways you are often flying on the same Boeing 747 jumbo jet between Australia and Europe with only one 90 minute stop over for fuel. On board the aircraft one has the luxury of the same business class sleeper seats between Australia and Europe irrelevant of whether one is flying out of London, Manchester of Frankfurt. One also has access to excellent in flight entertainment systems.
Would I fly Emirates again? No. This is an airline that is clearly and knowingly not delivering on their advertised promise. They are deliberately discriminating between business class passengers. In their online marketing they describe their business class as of a high quality this is far from the truth as it differs from where one is seated. Their entertainment systems are not consistent from one aircraft to another and while they tell you this they do not tell you that the screens quality between aircraft differs significantly. On board screens play a vital role in a customer's experience of the entertainment system. There is no point in having a great content management system and lousy on board screens.
So for me it's back to good old and reliable Qantas, British Airways or Singapore airlines for my next trip to Europe.
NOTE: Several people I spoke to during my flight with Emirates were not happy with the level of service offered. One customer an Australian lawyer now working in the UK told me that he was set to lodge a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for false and misleading advertising. (See Emirates web site description of their http://www.emirates.com/a340/businessICE.asp?subMenu=bcICE&navPoint=bc4&menuSelect=3)
If you have a comment re the Emirates business class service email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.