A couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to fly Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ER in business class from Lisbon to Dubai, return. In this article, I will review what it is like to fly during a pandemic and highlight all of the safety precautions that Emirates has taken.
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As the founder of an aviation news website, I used to fly a lot. Before March 2020, on average, I would be taking a flight three times a month. When the pandemic began to impact Europe in late February/early March of 2020, I was in South Africa. I found myself on one of the last scheduled flights to leave Cape Town for a couple of months. For the rest of 2020, I didn’t take a single flight. I stayed mostly at home and only traveled domestically in my own country.
Desperate to travel again, I found myself looking at the best options and Dubai popped up. With an economy reliant on trade, tourism, and commerce, Dubai has been relatively open since the summer of 2020, with many safety precautions in place. This includes things like pre-travel and arrival COVID-19 testing, social distancing, and compulsory masks.
At the time of booking and travel, Portugal had limited restrictions on international movements. Thanks to Emirates’ COVID-19 hub, it was obvious what I needed to do if I wanted to travel.
- A PCR test, taken a maximum of 96 hours before arrival in Dubai (this is now 72 hours).
- A PCR test to be taken a maximum of 72 hours before my departure back to Portugal.
Also, Emirates offers multi-risk travel insurance, which includes COVID-19 cover on all bookings for free! You don’t need to do anything; book a flight with them, and you’re covered.
With clear COVID-19 testing regulations and travel insurance included, I had the confidence to book the flights. I also knew Emirates’ offered increased flexibility on all new tickets issued.
I booked and paid for flexible economy tickets, and as a guest of Emirates, I was upgraded to business class both ways.
Lisbon to Dubai flight review
I flew to Dubai on EK191, departing LIS at 13:35, with arrival into DXB at 01:00+1. I was surprised to find out during check-in that the flight was almost full; a promising sign for how Emirates is dealing with its flight network during the pandemic.
The check-in process in Lisbon was smooth and fast. I had given myself over three hours at the airport, anticipating lots of checks. In reality, my COVID-19 PCR test certificate was checked a couple of times, and I was through security as normal. From entering the airport to being through security, it took around 10 minutes.
The boarding process was efficient, and I soon found myself onboard the 777. The crew greeted me wearing full PPE, including a face mask, visor, and a body overall.
My first impressions of the cabin were good. It felt light and airy, and the business class seats looked comfortable. Also, it looked immaculate.
Upon sitting down, I was offered a welcome drink of champagne. I was given a travel safety kit, which consisted of multiple disposable face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and anti-bacterial wipes.
The seat felt comfortable, and legroom was unlimited when sitting upright.
Before takeoff, the crew conducted their usual safety briefing, although this time, they mentioned how the air was recycled in the cabin every two to three minutes with HEPA filters. You can find out more about how this works here.
20 minutes after takeoff, the crew came round and offered drinks with nuts. As well as this, they took our lunch orders.
Around 90 minutes into the flight, the starters were served. I opted for a Portuguese soup; it came with some bread and a side salad. The soup was good. The crew gave us the option to have all food wrapped in plastic when it arrived at the seat, or with some plastic taken off. I opted for plastic to be taken off, but things like cutlery and glasses still came wrapped up.
After the starters, I opted for the Portuguese brown rice. Again, it was tasty.
After this, we hit some bad weather, and service was suspended for 30 minutes. This allowed me to catch up on some messages using their free inflight WiFi (for messaging only), and shortly after that, a dessert with coffee was served.
After dinner service was concluded, I was able to sleep for a little bit and look up at the LED stars on the cabin ceiling – a lovely touch!
Overall, the outward flight was a great experience. It was a nice way to start flying again, and I felt safe at all times. All passengers had to wear a mask other than when eating, and the modified service with plastic didn’t really feel much different from flying before the pandemic. The entire experience felt rather normal, and I wish I had flown before.
Dubai to Lisbon flight review
I flew back to Lisbon on EK192, departing DXB at 07:25, with arrival into LIS at 12:00. I was able to wake up just 90 minutes before the flight! I checked in the night before at the dedicated business/first class terminal and then spent the night airside in the Dubai International Airport hotel.
The Dubai International Airport hotel was very convenient. You can book rooms online at hourly or nightly rates. Last-minute, it’s not cheap, so it’s recommended that you book as far in advance as possible.
From sleeping in a bed, within 90 minutes, I found myself with this view – not a bad sight to wake up to!
The return flight was notably emptier; the cabin was maybe 50% full instead of almost 100% on the outward journey.
Upon boarding, I was served a lovely green vitality juice and a glass of champagne. The service was quick and friendly, and all passengers were addressed by name – a nice touch.
Upon takeoff, we were served a one tray continental breakfast. It was rather basic, and it would have been good to have more choice, but a more substantial meal was served later on.
Around three hours before landing, somewhere over Northern Italy, lunch was served. I opted for a tomato soup with a side salad. It was delicious. The service, as always, was efficient and personal.
The main course for lunch was chicken, broccoli, and pumpkin mash. Again, it was very nice and something that I would typically make at home. To drink, I had sparkling water.
To top things off, for dessert, I had a chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. It was lovely!
The flight’s service was great, and the crew regularly came around the cabin to see if passengers wanted anything more.
What is the Emirates Boeing 777-300ER business class seat like?
I was flying on one of Emirates’ older Boeing 777-300ER’s. The business class seats came in a 2-3-2 configuration. This means not everyone gets direct aisle access. Also, the seats are angled flat seats. While this particular seat type and layout isn’t industry-leading anymore, it was still very comfortable, and it was straightforward to sleep in despite it being angled.
I want to note that on the Emirates Airbus A380 fleet and select Boeing 777s, there is a newer business class seat that does lie flat.
The IFE on the seat I was in did feel a little laggy, but the actual content catalog was extensive. The tray table was big and a little wobbly, but it didn’t really impact the experience.
One thing that stood out was that every seat had great privacy dividers, so it felt very private no matter where you were sitting. This was most notable on the return flight, where I had a window seat in the bulkhead.
Overall, I am glad I picked Emirates as a carrier to introduce me to flying again. At all times, I felt very safe. The crew were all dressed in PPE, all passengers wore masks, and I was constantly sanitizing. Also, everyone on the flight would have had a PCR test.
Obviously, there is still a risk to traveling and flying at the moment. It’s about what risks you are personally willing to take. For me, the risk was worth it to have a holiday and fly again. Upon returning to Portugal, I have isolated, and we are now in a strict lockdown as a country.
It’s vital for those considering flying again to check your countries policy on international travel and the risk for yourself and those around you. Emirates COVID-19 hub can help with that, and their multi-risk insurance policies that come with every ticket can also give you peace of mind.
Have you flown during the pandemic? What have your experiences been like?