What’s it like to fly between Seattle and Africa on Emirates Airlines in Economy Class, with an overnight layover in Dubai?
On our recent trip to Africa, we flew internationally with Emirates Airlines, traveling from Seattle to Dubai then to Lusaka, Zambia (where we continued on 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 on Emirate Airlines, also in Economy.
Both ways, we stayed overnight at the Dubai International Airport Hotel, Terminal 3, to break up the long trip – highly recommended!
True, we didn’t have the luxury of a private First Class suite, 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 International Airport 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.
By the way, we paid full regular fares for our flights and airport hotel stays (we weren’t hosted as media guests for this review of Emirates Airlines Economy Class and the Dubai Airport Hotel).
Review of Emirates Airlines Economy Class
Emirates’ planes and seating:
The Seattle-Dubai planes are Boeing 777-300. Economy Class seats are configured 3-4-3.
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 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).
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.
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.
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 is proud of its ICE entertainment systems – apparently the best in the world with 2,500 channels, including over 95 movies.
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.
Dubai overnight layover allowed – brilliant!
All Emirates Airlines’ 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.
You have many options when booking your flights.
From Seattle, we could have flown all the way through 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 before our onward journey. This was a very attractive option for us; really, just an extra $200 to $250 USD per night and a nice treat to ourselves.
Both ways, we arrived in Dubai in the evening (local time), and our onward flights left the next morning about 9:30 am.
Dubai International Airport Hotel Review
Talk about convenience!
The Dubai International Airport Hotel (or Dubai Airport Hotel or Dubai International 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*
Because the Dubai International Airport Hotel is 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 Dubai International Airport 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.
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”).
Emirates has a good reputation. The world’s fourth largest airline, it was named the top airline in the world in the 2017 TripAdvisor “Traveler’s Choice Awards”; it also won the “Best Economy Class” rating.
The only part of our Emirates experience we were quite unhappy with was the SERIOUSLY LONG (9+ hour) layover in Seattle on our return home. We hadn’t planned on that. When we booked our tickets, we were only going to layover in Seattle for 3 hours, before our final 30-minute hop home to Victoria. Our flights were changed on us unfortunately – resulting in this 9+ hour layover – and Emirates would not put us on an earlier flight home from Seattle because that was a non-partner airline.
As for the Dubai International Airport Hotel? Excellent!
Dubai Airport Hotel booking tips
- 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.
All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except where noted)
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