What's it like to fly with Emirates during the coronavirus?

As the UAE pulls back on airport transit restrictions, Emirates is bringing on more flights. Here's what to expect.

By Brandon Loo, June 12 2020
What's it like to fly with Emirates during the coronavirus?

Emirates is starting to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, as the Dubai-based carrier reactivates portions of its vast international network – including more flights to Australia.

It's helped by the United Arab Emirates' decision to finally allow Emirates (and Etihad) passengers to transit through their respective home airports, although foreign nationals are still barred from actually entering the UAE.

From 15 June, regular Emirates flights will resume from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, with connections to London, New York, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and more.

(Keep in mind that as of June 2020, Australia's borders are still locked down and residents need an exemption to leave the country).

But what will it be like to fly with Emirates during the coronavirus era? Here's how the airline is reshaping its travel experience, with regular input from medical experts, aviation regulators and passengers.

Before the flight...

There's no online check-in, so passengers are advised to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight.

At Dubai International Airport and on flights to Dubai, all passengers will be handed a special hygiene amenity kit consisting of masks, gloves, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser.

Also read: Amenity kits get the PPE treatment for a post-pandemic world

Masks and gloves are mandatory for all passengers and staff at Dubai Airport, while only masks are required onboard all Emirates flights.

Thermal scanning is in operation at various places in Dubai Airport, including for transit passengers when disembarking their flight.

Emirates lounges worldwide are still shut for now, but partner lounges in other ports may be open depending on local restrictions.

The boarding sequence is also now staggered according to row – from the last row to the first – with passengers boarding in small groups. 

During the flight...

One jarring change might be seeing the cabin crew swap their smart uniforms for full PPE. On flights over 1.5 hours (almost all of them), there will be a dedicated crew member to ensure lavatories are cleaned every 45 minutes.

In line with most other airlines, reading materials including magazines won't be available. Cabin baggage has to be checked-in and passengers can only bring essential items, such as a laptop, briefcase or handbag, onboard.

Hot meals will now be served again in all cabins, along with crockery and cutlery that is sterilised before every use. However, children's meals will only be available in business and first class. 

Passengers in those premium cabins will also notice many more changes, starting from single-use disposable menus and wine lists. Dine-on-demand remains, but with multiple courses combined on trays rather than coming out dish-by-dish. Expect fewer snacks and a smaller variety of beverages for the foreseeable future.

Though it's hardly an important issue in these times, cabin crew interaction and formalities will be kept at a minimum, so don't expect to be escorted to your suite/seat or to have your hand luggage stowed for you.

Emirates' popular 'dine on demand' menu will still be offered in premium cabins, freeing passengers up from a regimented meal service schedule and letting them choose what they want to eat at a time that suits them.

Dine on demand stays, but the way you dine, snack and drink is set to change.
Dine on demand stays, but the way you dine, snack and drink is set to change.

However, all service will now be done on trays: the appetiser and main course will be served on one tray, with the dessert, cheese and fruit selection on another tray.

Bread and crackers will be served wrapped in plastic, cutlery will also come in its own envelope, and the variety of wine carried on each flight will also be reduced.

The at-seat minibar will be stocked as usual but the snack basket will be swapped for an on-demand service. Likewise, snacks usually offered in the first class social nook will now be available in a prepared 'snack box'.

While Emirates currently has all 115 of its Airbus A380s grounded, if they return in the next few months, the two onboard showers dedicated to first class passengers will be closed,  as will the spacious business class bar and lounge at the rear of the superjumbo's upper deck, to preserve social distancing as well as reduce touchpoints which could help the coronavirus spread.

The A380's swish cocktail bar and lounge is now closed.
The A380's swish cocktail bar and lounge is now closed.

Complimentary unlimited WiFi –  previously a perk for all first and business class passengers, along with Emirates Skywards Platinum and Gold members in economy – has been axed, as has the "first two hours or 20MB free" offered to all economy passengers. In the short term, if you want Internet access during your Emirates flight you'll have to pay US$10 for 150MB or US$16 for 500MB. Live TV will be suspended for now as well.

Brandon Loo

Based in Perth, Brandon enjoys tucking into local delicacies, discovering new cocktails, and making aeroplane food look good on camera.

21 Jun 2020

Total posts 5

Thermal scanning and request mandatory testing 72 hours before passengers board flights not testing on arrival.

19 Jun 2020

Total posts 7

Just booked a flight for mid July , would love to hear some feedback to find out how everything goes from passengers that just travelled recently

Thank you so much!

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