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Emirates vs. Qatar Airways: Which One is Better?

Emirates and Qatar Airways, the two dominant airlines in the Middle East, stand out as favored choices for travel. They are especially popular for journeys connecting diverse destinations such as the US East Coast to Southeast Asia and Europe to Asia.

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By Eglė

Published: Aug 28, 20237 min read

Emirates vs. Qatar Airways: Which One is Better?

If your decision hinges on substantial fare disparities or more favorable flight schedules between Emirates and Qatar Airways, feel free to make your selection based on those factors. Both airlines offer commendable economy class services. However, if you find yourself indecisive, I invite you to delve deeper into a comprehensive comparison of these two aviation giants.

COMPARING SEATS & INTERIOR: EMIRATES WIN

When considering seats and the interior, Emirates takes the lead. The comfort you experience on board, in addition to the airline itself, varies based on the type of aircraft used for your flight.

A key distinction between Emirates and Qatar Airways is that Emirates operates mainly large twin-aisle planes – specifically the Boeing 777 and Airbus A380. In contrast, Qatar Airways has around 30 single-aisle Airbus A320s alongside other aircraft. While I personally find single-aisle aircraft acceptable – having taken several flights between Europe and Doha – some travelers prefer the roomier widebody planes for medium- to long-haul journeys.

Emirates gains another advantage from its substantial fleet of Airbus A380s. While Qatar Airways does have a few A380s, their numbers are limited, and they serve only a handful of routes. The A380s tend to offer higher comfort levels compared to other planes used by both airlines, especially the 777s, 787s, and A350s, which have noticeably narrower economy class seats.

Overall, both Emirates and Qatar Airways provide relatively comfortable seating with reasonable legroom across their fleets. Moreover, all planes from both airlines feature individual in-flight entertainment screens, and you'll generally have the option to charge your devices through USB or power outlets. I'll talk about this a bit later.

An additional noteworthy detail is that Emirates has excelled in the design of its latest 777 cabin. This is evident not only in first class (though their business class is generally less impressive) but also in economy class. Particularly remarkable are the lavatories onboard, which surpass the standards of most economy-class facilities on other airlines. In fact, they rival or even surpass what many other airlines offer in their business and first-class restrooms.

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Emirates vs. Qatar Airways - which is better in inflight experience RatePunk

HOW ABOUT SAFETY AND DELAYS? BOTH ARE GREAT

When it comes to your travel priorities, reaching your destination safely and on schedule is undeniably the most important aspect. Both Emirates and Qatar Airways excel in not only safety but also maintaining a commendable level of punctuality. 

Nevertheless, occasional delays are an inherent part of air travel. Considering a broader perspective, OAG, a prominent flight data provider, ranked Emirates as one of the most punctual carrier in 2022. OAG's records show that 81.13% of Emirates' flights adhered to their scheduled arrival time within 15 minutes, whereas Qatar Airways achieved this for only 77.50% of their flights. This positioned Emirates in third place within the Middle East & Africa region, with Qatar Airways securing the fifth spot. Impressively, Emirates also secured the 20th global rank for on-time performance in 2022. Interestingly, in 2019, Qatar Airways held the upper hand in punctuality.

Are you wondering why punctuality is important? Well, if your journey involves connecting flights, opting for the airline that allows more transfer time (within reasonable limits) could be wise, ensuring you're prepared in the event of a delay. It's my golden rule in planning trips. 

LOYALTY PROGRAMS : QATAR WINS

Qatar Airways holds membership within the oneworld Alliance, a notable aspect that sets it apart. In contrast, Emirates has chosen to operate independently, refraining from aligning with any major airline alliance, at least on the surface. If your flying tends to be occational and you don't typically accumulate miles (although it's highly recommended to consider doing so), you might want to skip this section.

For mile collectors, Qatar Airways' oneworld affiliate program brings added benefits. This allows you not only to accrue miles within Qatar Airways' Privilege Club frequent flyer program but also in other oneworld programs like British Airways Executive Club, Finnair Plus, and JAL Mileage Bank. With Emirates, you can certainly accumulate miles in their Skywards program. Furthermore, Emirates has established partnerships with various other airlines, offering you the option to credit your miles to programs such as Air Canada Aeroplan, Korean Air Skypass, and JAL Mileage Bank, among others.

An additional factor to consider is that holding a frequent flyer status equivalent to oneworld Sapphire or Emerald grants you perks like lounge access and priority check-in privileges even when flying economy class with Qatar Airways. In comparison, for similar benefits with Emirates, you generally need to hold a status within their Skywards program.

Emirates vs. Qatar Airways - which is better in dining experience RatePunk

DINING EXPERIENCE : IT'S A TIE

When it comes to economy class, expecting a gourmet feast might be unrealistic given the inherent limitations. However, both Emirates and Qatar Airways come remarkably close to delivering an elevated culinary experience, despite the challenges posed by this class of travel. Whether you're on a brief under-two-hour jaunt within the Middle East or embarking on an extensive journey from Doha or Dubai to the United States, rest assured that hunger won't be an issue.

On the shortest flights, both Emirates and Qatar Airways offer a light cold meal, showcasing their commitment to catering to passengers' needs. (And most of the time, those snacks are tasty & well prepared).  Even on flights of approximately three and a half hours, like the one from Dubai to Beirut, travelers can anticipate to get a hot meal. On extended flights, they can offer up to two hot meals, spanning breakfast and lunch or dinner and brunch, depending on the time of day. For the longest journeys, an additional refreshment service typically occurs between the main meal services.

It's noteworthy that neither airline serves meals on full-size trays in my recent experiences (a practice that's become less common across the industry). However, Emirates manages to make slightly better use of its marginally larger tray space. Regardless, both airlines present generously portioned and flavorful meals, ensuring passengers are well-satisfied with their dining options.

In economy class, both Emirates and Qatar Airways generously provide complimentary alcoholic beverages. Beyond this, a well-rounded assortment of wines, spirits, and the expected range of soft drinks are readily available. Additionally, Emirates offers the option to purchase champagne, a unique touch that adds a touch of luxury to the experience. Notably, Emirates also facilitates the pre-ordering of celebration cakes, a thoughtful gesture for surprising a fellow traveler.

Taking all factors into account, while Emirates does present marginally more extensive meal options and potentially a broader range of paid choices, I would consider the meal and beverage offerings to be on par between the two airlines. Both Emirates and Qatar Airways have excelled in offering superior economy class dining experiences compared to most, if not all, other airlines I've encountered in my travels.

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IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT: EMIRATES WINS 

Similar to the dining experience, both Emirates and Qatar Airways are renowned for offering some of the most impressive in-flight entertainment systems globally. Yet, it's noteworthy that while Qatar Airways' in-flight entertainment ranks highly, possibly among the second, third, or fourth best, Emirates unquestionably secures the top position when it comes to content diversity and selection.

Emirates proudly presents its ICE (Information, Communication, Entertainment) system across its entire fleet, maintaining a consistent and high-quality offering (with minor potential variations in content availability). The ICE system ensures an almost boundless array of entertainment choices, encompassing an extensive collection of movies, TV shows, music, interactive games, and much more.

Qatar Airways' Oryx One entertainment system is also great. However, it's worth noting that the selection, while substantial, doesn't match the extensive range offered by Emirates (although both provide ample choices even for extended flights). 

For a closer look at Qatar Airways' entertainment offerings, you can check HERE. As well as Emirates entertainment sellection - HERE.

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