What’s it like to fly long-haul on Emirates Airlines in Economy Class, with an overnight layover in Dubai?
We give you the honest scoop here in our Emirates Economy Class review and review of the Dubai Airport transit hotel in Terminal 3.
Emirates Airlines flights to Dubai
Emirates flies from several major cities in North America to Dubai, including Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Toronto.
On our recent trip to Africa, we flew Economy from Seattle to Dubai, then on to Lusaka, Zambia. (In Lusaka, we flew to Mfuwe for our walking safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park.) On the return, we flew from Cape Town to Seattle via Dubai, also in Economy.
Layovers at the Dubai Airport transit hotel
Both ways, we stayed overnight at the transit hotel at Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3, to break up the long trip – highly recommended!
True, we didn’t have the luxury of a private First Class suite on our flights. Nor could we shower onboard (which First Class passengers can do on several long-haul Emirates Airlines A380 planes).
But at least we got a proper night’s sleep in a decent hotel mid-way through our flight journey.
And because the Dubai Airport transit hotel is located within the airport’s security gates, we didn’t have to go through security again for our onward flight. Hotel staff even met us right at the plane to escort us quickly to the hotel.
Okay, let’s start first with our review of Emirates Airlines in Economy Class. Then we’ll get to the review of the Dubai Airport Hotel, Terminal 3.
Emirates Economy Class review
Best seats on Emirates 777-300ER?
The Seattle-Dubai planes are Boeing 777-300ERs
Economy Class seats are configured 3-4-3. If you get stuck in a middle seat in the middle row of four seats, you’re probably going to feel a bit confined. (We prefer a 3-3-3 configuration, which makes the cabin feel less crowded. Also, the 3-4-3 configuration means the seats are narrower.)
For our flight from Seattle, the Emirates gate agent kindly gave us an aisle and a window seat and blocked off the middle seat, so we had three seats between the two of us; that helped make the 14-½ hour night flight more comfortable.
The seats offered decent legroom (perhaps 33 inches?) and reclined quite a bit (everyone has to recline though, or you feel squished with the seat in front of you right in your face).
Emirates has three different layouts for their 777-300ERs (see here). For the best seats on Emirates’ 777-300ER planes (latest version), see SeatGuru; you can also check the other two layouts on SeatGuru too.
The interior of the planes looked as if they had been upgraded – the bathrooms had wooden cupboards and accents. When the cabin lights were turned off, twinkling stars shone on the ceiling, and the soft “mood” lighting turned from pink to mauve and aqua hues.
Emirates Economy amenity kits:
Everyone in Economy Class was given red-and-white amenity bags with socks, eye masks, ear plugs and toothbrush/toothpaste. And we received a large-sized blanket and pillow.
Emirates Economy Class food:
What’s the food in Emirates Economy Class like?
We found our meals quite tasty.
For example, on the night flight from Seattle to Dubai, we had menus and a choice for the dinner entrée (we chose lamb kofta with rice). A fresh salad (no limp brown leaves) accompanied that. We also had three choices of red wines – two French and one Spanish. Cutlery was metal; we didn’t have to saw away with plastic knives. Mid-flight, a pizza service was offered. Before arriving in Dubai, we received a hot egg-and-cheese omelette.
On the next leg from Dubai to Lusaka (6-½ hours), we had a (cold) egg-salad croissant and fruit salad for a light breakfast. Later, we were offered a hot lunch (a choice of beef in mushroom sauce with herbed polenta and stir-fried tomatoes, or creole chicken in tomato sauce with steamed rice and vegetables), accompanied by potato salad with green beans. Dessert was apple upside-down cake with vanilla sauce.
Emirates inflight entertainment:
We give high marks to Emirates’ ICE entertainment system, which the airline is quite proud of. (ICE stands for information, communication and entertainment.) You can watch the news, send emails and watch movies. It’s apparently the best in the world, with 2,500 channels, including over 95 movies. In the Skytrax “World Airline Awards, Emirates has been named the airline with the best inflight entertainment for the past 13 years.
We liked the big screens (almost as wide as the seat back in front) and big cushioned earphones (not the little buds that fall out of your ears). Unfortunately, the sound streaming into one ear was broken for both of us on one of our flights – so we had to listen to our blockbusters lopsidedly.
Overnight in Dubai at little cost – brilliant!
All Emirates’ flights from North America (e.g., Seattle, San Francisco, Toronto) to Africa or Asia stop in Dubai, its hub.
Dubai is one of the seven kingdoms making up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Emirates Airlines, the Dubai airport and the Dubai International Airport Hotel are all owned by the Dubai government.
Surprisingly, there’s enough to see and do to justify spending seven days in Dubai. And in future, we’d like to spend more than just an overnight in Dubai. But if you don’t have the time to visit properly, it at least makes for a great stopover to get some sleep.
You have many options when booking your flights through Dubai. From Seattle, we could have flown all the way to Africa with an approximate 3-hour layover in Dubai; the same was true for our return flight.
But for about the same ticket price, we could overnight in the Dubai Airport transit hotel before our onward journey. This was a very attractive option for us – just an extra $200 to $250 USD a night for the hotel, and a nice treat to ourselves. (And way cheaper than a Business Class seat with a lie-flat bed.)
Both ways, we arrived in Dubai in the evening (local time), and our onward flights left the next morning about 9:30 am.
Review of the Dubai Airport transit hotel
Talk about convenience!
Normally you have to go through security on an international layover to overnight in a hotel.
But the transit hotel at Dubai International Airport hotel (called the Dubai Airport Hotel or Dubai International Airport Hotel) is right inside security – a true transit hotel.
This means you don’t have to throw out liquids and go through security again when you board your next flight. You simply walk direct from your room to your departure gate, getting there the required 30+ minutes before boarding begins. (So for a 9:30 am departure, you can sleep until 8:00 am.)
It’s the only airport hotel we know of that is completely within security.
Need to know (Dubai Airport transit tips)
- Because this is a Dubai Airport transit hotel – within security – you cannot collect your checked luggage (or you’ll exit security and not be able to get to the hotel). Your checked bags should be checked through to your final destination. (They’re automatically stored during your overnight layover in Dubai.)
- Be sure you have what you need for your hotel stay in your carry-on bag!
Location of the Dubai Airport Hotel:
The hotel is located in Terminal 3 of Dubai Airport.
There are three concourses (A, B and C) in Terminal 3, and the hotel rooms take up the top two floors of each concourse.
Each concourse has its own hotel reception – so it’s like three separate hotels.
Rooms are just above the flight departure gates; a thick glass wall is between the room corridors and gates below, so rooms are well sound-proofed. Each of the three hotels has its own spa and small swimming pool with hot tub.
Is one concourse nicer than the other?
Not really. We stayed in two different concourses, and while the room décor and color scheme differed between the two, they were much the same otherwise.
The hotel is considered 5-star.
Most important are the beds – comfortable, with cool white linens and duvets. (Note: The lower-category room type we booked offered one queen bed or two twin beds, not a king-size bed.) You’ll find toothbrushes, hand lotion, shaving gear, etc. in the bathroom (useful in case you don’t have those with you in your carry-on bag). Air conditioning is strong and quiet.
For an airport hotel, it’s a great hotel, but not as luxurious as you’d want for a 5-star city hotel or resort. (The hotel is very busy, so there’s a lot of turnover and that translates into some “wear and tear.”)
Despite arriving at night (early in the wee hours for the second stay), we were processed extremely quickly. Hotel reception staff are adept at getting you to your room in record time.
Tips for booking the Dubai Airport transit hotel
- The Dubai International Airport Hotel says it aims to meet all guests at the plane, but it can’t promise this. We emailed the hotel in advance, asking for a staff member to please meet us at the plane – and and we were met both times. (Really nice!)
- Dubai’s airport is MASSIVE, and it keeps on expanding because there’s so much wide open flat land (desert) around. (It’s the second largest building in the world by floor space.) Terminal 3 is dedicated to Emirates flights only, and there are three huge concourses or buildings (A, B and C) in Terminal 3 alone. Ideally, you’d book your overnight hotel room in the concourse where your flight departs the next morning. But the Emirates departure gates may change from day to day. Your best bet is probably to book in the middle in Concourse B.
- See the hotel website here.
Emirates has a good reputation. The world’s fourth largest airline, it’s rated one of the 20 best airlines in the world.
We were impressed with our Emirates Airlines Economy Class flights. For the most part, it was a comfortable experience (in as much as flying economy can be called “comfortable”).
Our return flight connections are where we downgrade our Emirates Economy Class review.
We had a seriously long (9+ hour) layover in Seattle on our return home. We hadn’t planned on that. When we booked our tickets, our Seattle layover was going to be 3 hours, (before the final 30-minute hop home to Victoria). Our flights were changed on us unfortunately, after we’d booked and paid – resulting in this 9+ hour layover – and Emirates wouldn’t put us on an earlier flight home from Seattle because that was a non-partner airline. Needless to say, we were very unhappy about this…
As for the Dubai Airport transit hotel? Excellent!
All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except where noted)
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We paid full regular fares for our flights and airport hotel stays, and we weren’t paid to write this review of Emirates Airlines Economy Class and the Dubai Airport transit hotel.
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We’re Janice and George Mucalov, professional award-winning travel writers, sharing tales of luxury travel with a twist of adventure.