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Emirates vs Etihad vs Qatar Airways: which one is the best?

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel contests, tips, series, or news.

Today (June 19, 2015): Travel tip: Emirates vs Etihad vs Qatar Airways: which one is the best?

The last decade has seen the rise of the 3 Middle Eastern carriers: Emirates (with its hub in Dubai, UAE), Etihad Airways (with its hub in Abu Dhabi, UAE) and Qatar Airways (with its hub in Doha, Qatar). Not only did these airlines reshape the competitive landscape at 40.000 feet, they also raised the bar for their competitors with unmatched service in the skies (and on the ground). All 3 carriers feature in my top 10 lists of airlines with the best longhaul Business Class cabins and most delicious airline food, with 2 of them also being represented in my top 10 list of the most luxurious First Class suites.

And indeed, flying aboard one of the 3 Middle Eastern carriers is quite an experience. The last couple of months, I published several trip reports about my recent flights with Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, in Business and First Class. You can read them here (and there are more to come):

  • Review: Etihad Airways A380 First Class London to Abu Dhabi.
  • Review: Etihad Airways A330 Business Class Brussels to the Maldives
  • Review: Emirates Airbus A380 First Class Dubai to Amsterdam
  • Review: Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class Dubai to Sydney
  • Review: Emirates A380 Business Class Brisbane to Dubai
  • Review: Emirates B777-300ER Business Class Brussels to Dubai
  • Review: Emirates B777-200LR Business Class Dubai to Brussels
  • Review: Qatar Airways Dreamliner B787 Business Class Brussels to Doha
  • Review: Qatar Airways B777-300ER Business Class Doha to Bangkok
  • Review: Qatar Airways A380 First Class Doha to Paris

Or if you prefer to watch clips instead of reading my trip reports, you can have a look at my videos that I have uploaded on my popular Youtube channel.

  • Video: Etihad Airways A380 First Class London to Abu Dhabi
  • Video: Etihad Airways A330 Business Class Brussels to Maldives
  • Video: Emirates Airbus A380 First Class Dubai to Amsterdam
  • Video: Emirates A380 Business Class Dubai to Sydney
  • Video: Emirates A380 Business Class Brisbane to Dubai
  • Video: Emirates B777-300ER Business Class Brussels to Dubai
  • Video: Qatar Airways Dreamliner B787 Business Class Brussels to Doha
  • Video: Qatar Airways A380 First Class Doha to Paris

When choosing one of the 3 Middle Eastern carriers, the big questions is whether they differ at all regarding their premium cabin class products? And which one is the best? Well, here you have some facts & my opinion about their Business Class products (read here my opinion and comparison of their First Class products). You can share your opinion below in the comments section or take my poll.

  • Chauffeur service: both Etihad and Emirates offer complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers, while this is not the case with Qatar Airways. A huge plus for Emirates and Etihad!
  • Pyjamas: Qatar Airways offers pyjamas on overnight medium- and long-haul flights, while Etihad and Emirates only offer them in First Class.
  • Duvets: Qatar Airways and Emirates offer duvets on medium-haul flights (to increase sleeping comfort), while Etihad only offers them on longhaul flights.
  • Fleet-wide consistency: Etihad offers a consistent Business Class product across it wide-body fleet (with the exception of its superior Dreamliner B787 & Airbus A380 products, which were recently introduced), while Emirates and Qatar offer a more variable Business Class product across their wide-body fleets.
  • Cabin interior & design: Etihad’s Airbus A380s & Dreamliner B787s feature an extremely elegant decor in their Business Class cabins (it doesn’t get any better at 30.000 feet), while Qatar’s A380, B787 and A350 cabins are very sexy with a red/white theme. Emirates features rather bombastic interiors, with lots of walnut veneer, gold trim and pearlised plastic, which is not to my liking.
  • Cabin layout & seats: you need to take the aircraft type into account when booking a flight on one of the 3 Middle Eastern carriers. The best wide-body Business Class layout & seats are (in order from excellent to mediocre):
    1. Etihad B787/A380
    2. Qatar B787/A350/A380
    3. Emirates A380
    4. Etihad A330/B777
    5. Qatar B777
    6. Emirates B777
    7. Qatar A330
  • Flat beds: Etihad Airways is the only carrier to offer flat beds (with 180 degree recline) across its wide body fleet. Contrary to their A380s, Emirates’ B777s have angled lie flat-beds (although they are still comfortable). Qatar Airways is currently replacing the (very uncomfortable) angled lie flat-beds on its Airbus A330 fleet by true lie-flat seats (after which the whole Qatar fleet will offer flat beds).
  • Food: meals are delicious on all 3 carriers, but my best gastronomic experiences (so far) were always on Qatar Airways, followed by Etihad, and then Emirates.
  • Number of meal services: on longhaul flights, all 3 carriers offer 2 meal services (one after takeoff, and one 90 minutes before landing). On medium-haul flights though, Etihad and Emirates only offer one meal; Qatar Airways used to offer a second light meal before landing but now seems to have skipped that as well. So there’s no difference here.
  • Inflight entertainment: Emirates is the winner when it comes to the inflight entertainment product, with large screens and an extensive range of films, television shows, and audio options (but Etihad and Qatar offer plenty of choices as well).
  • WiFi: onboard WiFi is offered by all 3 Middle Eastern carriers, but with a different price tag: Emirates offers the cheapest WiFi, while Qatar’s WiFi is just way too expensive, with Etihad somewhere in between.
  • Amenity kit: Emirates has by the far the best amenity kit of the 3 airlines, with Etihad offering the least impressive Business Class amenity kit. Unfortunately, Emirates only offers them on longhaul flights, while Etihad and Qatar Airways offer amenity kits on both medium- and longhaul flights.
  • Onboard bar: an onboard bar, exclusively accessible for passengers flying the premium cabins, is only present on the Airbus A380 aircrafts, which are now operated by all 3 carriers. But your chances of flying an Airbus A380, and thus socializing with other passengers in a fantastic onboard bar, are highest with Emirates, which has no less than 60 of these megaplanes in its fleet (Qatar Airways and Etihad own only 4 and 2 Airbus A380s respectively).


IMHO, Etihad’s Boeing 787s and Airbus A380s currently offer the best overall Business Class experience. I will publish my trip reports aboard Etihad’s new planes soon, but meanwhile, you can have a look already here on Etihad’s official Youtube channel to see what the Business Class experience looks like. Unfortunately, so far, only few routes offer this new product (e.g. Abu Dhabi-London, Abu Dhabi-Sydney, Abu Dhab-New York) as Etihad just started to roll out their new planes. Meanwhile, my second favorite Business Class product of a Middle Eastern carrier is the one installed aboard the Boeing 787s, Airbus A350s, and Airbus A380s of Qatar Airways, which is available on many routes by now. Emirates A380s come in third place.

What’s your favorite Middle Eastern carrier? You can leave a comment below or take my poll!

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15 Comments on Emirates vs Etihad vs Qatar Airways: which one is the best?

  1. Ed Lumibao // June 24, 2015 at 2:59 pm // Reply

    great reviews! how about the rates? please compare among the three, if possible with other airlines. many hanks and more power!


  2. Hi what is the difference between medium and long haul? I can’t tell from Lhr-Doh-Sin which legs are long haul and which are medium?

    Also do you have any idea if the A340 seats on Qatar are full 180 flat beds, as they are not mentioned above? Are they more similar to the 777 seats or the Dreamliner seats?
    Thanks. Great mood videos.


    • Thx for your kind comment! Medium-haul flights are usually 1500 to 3500 miles long (e.g. Europe to Middle East), while longhaul flights are well beyond that distance (e.g. USA to Middle East; Middle East to Southeast Asia). Qatar’s A340 business class seats are similar to the ones on the A330: angle-flat seats with 165 degree recline.


  3. great article!
    One final question.
    Qatar or Etihad 777 only.
    Pick one!
    Thank you


  4. I recently flew from Sydney to Chicago by Etihad in economy class. This was my first experience with Etihad. I will never again use this. They are not friendly, food had no quality and the main meal was served after 13 hours into the flight. Before the main meal lthey just served some tidbits.


  5. Grégoire Russ // March 24, 2016 at 8:49 pm // Reply

    Emirates are no longer in the course, they downgrade a lot since those 2 years regarding Qatar and Etihad, Emirates hired a lot of staff due to high number of A380 , but the staff is not well trained, too many mistakes onboard, and the Wifi is just awfull for webbrowsing, sorry Emirates but I won’t fly with you again….


  6. Economy traveller // March 25, 2016 at 2:58 am // Reply

    You will probably need to also review the economy class if you need to cater to a more larger mass on all the 3 airlines.


  7. nice reviews article with comparing each other


  8. Raka Babu // May 18, 2016 at 6:44 pm // Reply

    God awful ground staff from Emirates at DFW. They all have attitude and they think..people need them and they the best. No matter how polite you speak to them but they this pathetic attitude toward customers. They do not even listen to their costumers they just have awful attitude like you are nothing to them… Never ever again…with Emirates….


  9. Hello I am looking to fly to Milan from Hong Kong either on Qatar Airways (from Doha) or Etihad Airways (from Abu Dhabi) in May 2017 on biz class.
    For Qatar, Hong Kong to Doha is on the Boeing 787-8 and from Doha to Milan is on Airbus 330-200.
    For Etihad, Hong Kong to Doha and Doha to Milan, both legs are on Airbus 330-200

    Which one would you recommend me taking? Thanks.


  10. Travelled on Qatar A350 and foundit the best of all. Exceptional service with on demand meals. No set times which is great for travellers crossing many time zones.


  11. I am not satisfied and feel that you are expert
    I see Emirates is far better than Qatar
    Cabin crew are well mannered and helpful
    In-flight entertainment far exceeds Qatar
    In-flight internet speed is excellent
    Emirates charge you 1 dollar with unlimited speed and I was able to use whatsup call
    Whereas Qatar you have pay money for a speed of 1900s
    Food quality and taste is better in Qatar but they give you a baby meal
    Drinks you have to literally beg Qatar staff for drinks and they show attitude. They got only one collection of scotch and that is red label whereas Emirates they serve you single malt Glenfiddich
    The writer of this article may be talking about few years ago
    I am writing comments as I just flew in Qatar and Emirates this month


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