Flying with Emirates in business class or first class? Chances are, you can take advantage of the airline's complimentary Chauffeur Drive service: whisking you from your front door to the airport lounge in style.
Australian Business Traveller put Chauffeur Drive to the test on a recent journey with Emirates – here's how it fared, along with who's eligible, and how to book a free driver on your next trip.
Complimentary Emirates Chauffeur Drive: who's eligible?
Whether you'll have access to Emirates Chauffeur Drive depends on many factors including how you booked your journey, where you're travelling to, where you're sitting on board and the flight number on your ticket.
Those eligible include:
- Emirates business class and first class passengers when booked on an EK flight number, with a few exceptions including journeys solely between Australia and New Zealand; between Bangkok and Hong Kong; and between Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
- Business class and first class passengers travelling on a Qantas QF codeshare flight operated by Emirates – such as Sydney-Dubai-Paris – excluding the routes above and also Emirates' Sydney-Bangkok, Melbourne-Singapore and Brisbane-Singapore routes, which only provide Chauffeur Drive when booked on an EK flight number.
- Emirates Citibank World Mastercard customers when flying with Emirates in economy on an EK flight number, except between Australia and New Zealand and on flights booked using frequent flyer points. Limit of one complimentary return transfer per year in Australia only for up to two guests in the same car, when the journey was purchased using the Citibank credit card.
- Emirates iO (Invitation Only) members when travelling with Emirates in any class of service.
For business class and first class travel, tickets booked using Qantas Frequent Flyer points or Emirates Skywards miles are eligible for the complimentary chauffeur service, but tickets booked using miles from other frequent flyer schemes, such as Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, are ineligible.
Specifically in Hong Kong, Chauffeur Drive is only offered to passengers travelling in first class (to/from Dubai), not in business class.
Chauffeur Drive can also be used at a mid-point in the journey when in transit for 24 hours or more – so if you're flying from Sydney to Dubai, spending some time in Dubai and continuing onward a couple of days later, you can enjoy free airport transfers on departure in Sydney, on arrival in Dubai, when departing Dubai and also when arriving at your final destination.
Do the same on a return trip and that's up to eight complimentary transfers included in your ticket!
Qantas also operates its own Chauffeur Drive service for passengers travelling aboard Qantas aircraft (including on EK codeshare flight numbers) – you can read our review here.
Complimentary Emirates Chauffeur Drive: how to book
Think you're eligible for Chauffeur Drive? Then head to the Emirates website, click 'manage an existing booking' from the options to your right, key in your flight reservation details and click 'retrieve booking'.
You should then see a list of flights on your reservation. Before moving to the next step, double-check your travel class (business class or first class), and that your flight shows as 'confirmed'.
If you're currently 'waitlisted' or have a standby ticket, you won't be able to book Chauffeur Drive just yet, but you can try coming back later when your booking has been finalised.
Assuming you're good to go, you should be able to scroll down further where the option to book your chauffeur appears:
Simply click 'book', provide a contact number for the driver just in case you can't be found, and nominate your preferred pick-up time and location. Easy!
Mileage limits apply in most cities – above which, additional charges may apply – but are usually enough to cover most transfers. For example, Chauffeur Drive offers the following on a complimentary basis:
- Up to 40 driven kilometres in Sydney
- Up to 45 driven kilometres in Perth
- Up to 60 driven kilometres in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide
- All travel within a 75-mile radius of your London airport (Heathrow or Gatwick)
- An unlimited distance within the UAE, when travelling to/from Dubai Airport – including journeys not just to Dubai, but other Emirates such as Abu Dhabi and Sharjah as well.
However, most chauffeur transfers must be booked at least 48 hours prior to departure – so if you're travelling on a last-minute journey, you may not be able to secure the chauffeur for your outbound flight, but should be able to lock it in for your return.
There's a longer booking window for transfers in Dubai, which can be arranged until four hours before travel for first class passengers and six hours in advance for business class flyers.
When heading to a different Emirate in the UAE, such as Abu Dhabi, Chauffeur Drive can be booked by first class passengers up to eight hours before travel, and by business class passengers up to 12 hours before departure.
If you're arriving at Dubai Airport and forgot to book your chauffeur earlier, you can also make a last-minute reservation at the Emirates Chauffeur Drive desk, found to the right as you exit the customs hall.
Emirates Citibank World Mastercard holders travelling in economy class should instead phone Emirates on 1300 303 777 to make their Chauffeur Drive booking.
Complimentary Emirates Chauffeur Drive: going for a spin
We put Emirates' Chauffeur Drive service to the test on a recent return trip between Australia and Dubai: departing from Sydney and returning into Brisbane.
It got off to a bumpy start – as we didn't receive our flight reservation for the Sydney-Dubai leg until the day before the trip, there was no option to book a car from the city to Sydney Airport.
As above, bookings for the chauffeur service in Australia (and most other destinations) can only be made at least 48 hours in advance, so despite being on a business class Flex Plus fare, we made our own way to the airport this time.
The rest of the trip ran much more smoothly, with our three other complimentary transfers – from Dubai Airport to the hotel, from the hotel back to the airport and on arrival in Brisbane – running like clockwork.
After clearing passport control on arrival in Dubai, we followed the clear signage to the Chauffeur Drive service zone, where a quick flash of our boarding pass was met with a slip of paper to hand to the driver:
Chilled bottled water is offered, and it's only a brief walk across to the pick-up area where our BMW 520i Touring was ready and waiting, with our journey to the Conrad Dubai hotel taking only 10 minutes.
On departure day, a Volvo V70 arrived to pick me up about five minutes ahead schedule – considered 'on time' for most professional drivers – and as the cars used for Chauffeur Drive in Dubai tend to feature the Emirates logo, they're easy to spot:
(If you're concerned about privacy or security, Emirates has some 'unmarked' cars in the fleet as well, which you can request on arrival at the airport, or by calling 04 214 4444 within the UAE for your transfer back to the airport.)
The driver dropped us off right outside Emirates' dedicated business class and first class check-in lobby, but as we were only flying with carry-on baggage, had completed online check-in and had a boarding pass on our phone, we walked straight through to security and passport control, and into the lounge a few minutes later.
After touching down in Brisbane and breezing through the airport formalities courtesy of an Emirates-supplied Express Path card, we exited customs, noticed a line-up of drivers with red Emirates signs over to the left-hand side, and kept walking along until we spotted our name.
Our driver Trevor took care of our carry-on baggage and led the way to his Audi A8L for the final ride home, where the back seat offered chilled bottles of water and individual temperature controls for maximum comfort.
Overall, Emirates' Chauffeur Drive service makes for an easy start or finish to your journey – creating a 'door to door' experience rather than just 'gate to gate' as with most other airlines.
However, the 48-hour advance booking window in most destinations does reduce its utility for business travellers taking last-minute journeys, and we'd love to see this pushed back to 24 hours so that more high flyers can take advantage of the service.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Dubai as a guest of Emirates.