The Emirates 777 and A380 Head to Head (Trip Report) (Guest Post)

I decided to hold the last Emirates post from Nate until I was on paternity leave. You can see his report on the flight out to Dubai, Dubai Airport, and the flight back if you haven’t seen them.

Probably the best thing about my trip to Dubai was building an itinerary that put me on the Boeing 777-300ER one way and the Airbus A380 the other. Not many travelers have a keen sense of their surroundings when they fly, so this presented a great opportunity to discuss the differences in the two aircraft as Emirates expands and offers both types on routes. I flew the 777 out of San Francisco for 15 hours to Dubai in Business and First Class, and then returned to New York JFK from Dubai on the A380 in Business Class. I found some fairly interesting differences in the two planes the way Emirates configures them.

Seating layout/arrangements
The 777 was in a typical 2-3-2 layout while the A380 had a very interested staggered layout of 1-2-1. Some rows had window seats with a small walkway to the aisle and others had an aisle with no seat in the window. The middle section either had two seats next to each other or two sitting on the aisle separated. The seats then rotate their position, giving each customer access to the aisle. This was a very nice feature as the A380 gives customers much more overall “area” for their individual seat, whereas the 777 you still had a neighbor – and the privacy screen really didn’t block much.

Emirates A380 vs 777 Business Class Seats

I could still watch my neighbor’s TV for most of my flight. I did select the bulkhead on the 777 and I had more wiggle room to get in and out, but the A380 still wins hands down. The 777’s “traditional” layout is much better if you are traveling with a group of friends or family, as the A380 seems to be designed more for the solo traveler. The other downside to BOTH aircraft is the aisle seats – there is still traffic up and down the aisle, so there’s a risk of getting interrupted while trying to sleep.

Service
One problem Emirates faces with the A380 is that there are a LOT of flight attendants . . . 26 to be exact. The Business Class galley is located in the back of the cabin, so you get a lot of foot traffic. While that can be nice (always someone going by that can you something) it did take time to do a full service for the 55 passengers (out of 76) in my cabin. I also can’t tell you the name of the flight attendant assigned to my section. The 777 provided excellent service as only 2 or 3 flight attendants worked my side of the airplane and I can remember their names. Overall, the 777 service seemed much more efficient.

Boarding/Deplaning
One would think boarding 500 people on an A380 would take awhile, but Emirates seemed to have this one down pat. Most of us in Business Class were in the lounge up until about 30 minutes before departure and found a short line for the premium cabins versus economy. In the A380, I didn’t see a single economy class customer. On the 777, while we had separate lines, we boarded through the same jet bridge. There was a lot of foot traffic through the 777 cabin while boarding, but the flight attendants kept the economy customers moving through, and were able to serve a pre-departure champagne service without any issues. Deplaning was equally fast, as Emirates holds back each respective cabin until those passengers are clear, and in New York we deplaned by the 2nd level. Its hard to pick the 777 or the A380 has both were very efficient.

Sleep
The A380 has a fully flat bed while it’s an angled lie flat bed on the 777. Both seats appear to be the same design and configuration except for the footrest on the A380. On the 777, your seat drops then extends out, and at 6’1″ I slept like a baby. I also really enjoyed the storage space/cut outs in the seat that also meant I had shoulder room. The A380 had a cubby hole for feet which probably helped keep rusty-sock smell from the cabin. But on the 777, it was hard to tell you weren’t lying completely flat. I’d also like to point out that I departed San Francisco at 5p and arrived in Dubai at 7p (next day) and did not feel jetlagged. I only preferred the A380 seat over the 777 because I didn’t have someone directly beside me.

Economy Class
Here’s where it can get painful.

Emirates A380 vs 777 Coach Legroom

The 777 was originally designed for 9 seats across the cabin, but Emirates has 10. So your butt and shoulders may be making contact with your seatmate for the next 13 hours. At least your knees and feet will be comfortable, as Emirates provides a few more inches of legroom. The A380 has standard seat width, but the legroom isn’t nearly as good as on the 777. In the row I tried out on the A380, the window felt a little more cramped. Both Economy cabins offer in seat video and universal and USB power ports, so even if you are stuck in the 777 in coach, you will still have plenty to keep you busy.

Here are some more pieces for comparison.

A380 777

Tray table Fixed position, comes from under work area, or you can use the side table by the in-seat bar. I didn’t like the tray table so I kept it retracted. Slides up from side, can adjust position to you (can slide up to a foot from the base) which is nice if you are “larger” or want to recline while you eat. I was able to function a lot easier with the movable tray.

Windows Not the easiest to look out, had lots of space due to angled upper deck, unlike the 747-400, larger window. standard 777 windows – had 3 of them – and electronic window shades, very nice. Windows also had side faux wood trim around each.

Storage 2 side compartments that could fit a backpack, and storage area above your personal bar. I also found the cut-out in front of my seat as a great place to put my tablet and phone while charging (USB ports/power port are below TV). Ample overhead bin space. I found the side units hard to keep closed; provided a nice area to store my pillow/blanket if/when not using. None for larger items, but had small compartments for items like phones, tablets/laptops, etc. Powerports convenient when charging items as they are in one of the storage areas. Storage areas double as “cut outs” for shoulders when sleeping. Ample overhead bin space. Flight attendants put pillows and sleeping pads behind your seat in the “pod.”

Inflight amenities Large bar in back of plane, 2 3-seat sofas (with seat belts) and multiple areas to stand and socialize, including small tables put over doors now, giving it a “pub” feel; large screen TV, munchies placed out, but not a consistent “bartender,” it happens to be whoever is walking by. Doesn’t seem to be a set schedule. Made to order drinks. Also a mini-bar in your seat with a variety of choices No social area, but flight attendants didn’t kick you out of the galley area/doors if you were standing up and stretching. The First class “bar” is more of a wall display containing liquor, no seats, and you are pretty much in the First class galley.

Lavatories 2 in the rear have windows. Size was about the same as the 777. Faux wood trim and flowers. Inside 2 lavs can have the wall removed for handicap passengers. No windows, but felt larger than lavatories on US domestic fleet. Had fresh flowers, toothpaste/brush and shaving kits, along with aftershave and perfume/cologne

Inflight Entertainment Differences Camera in tail in addition to nose/down Could push a button on remote and it will put the show/tv/movie your seat mate is watching on your screen.

Power ports Below TV, and I could put my toys on the cabinet on the bulkhead while they charge, so they were all out of my way. On the side of the seat along with a storage area for phones/laptop/tablets/iPads. I also had to play a balancing act with my tablet between the two seat remotes while it was charging.

The Winner
Interestingly enough, I really enjoyed the 777 flight over the A380 flight. The A380 bar really stands out, but the service was much more consistent on the 777. The foot traffic on the A380 can (and does) stand out, so if you want to avoid it, then try to sit in the forward section of business class. Anyone who pays for Business Class (or upgrades) will not be disappointed. This airline does an amazing job and if I had the budget, I’d gladly fork out $12,000 for this type of service.

22 Responses to The Emirates 777 and A380 Head to Head (Trip Report) (Guest Post)

  1. How i wish the A380 can match up their service to the excellent aircraft design that it is.

  2. Foot traffic is something people would not think about, but with hundreds of people on large planes that travel long distances, that is a lot of people that can be walking around to stretch or just have something to do. That’s a lot of bumping an aisle passenger can get even on the nicest of seats.

  3. I just did the 773 and the A380, both in First, and the A380 was significantly better, though he 773 wasn’t particularly bad. I also found that the flight attendant situation was the difference between a great and absolutely phenomenal experience on board.

    And the lack of window visibility from the middle pair while seated was a really, really strange experience. I survived, but it was weird heading into landing and not being able to see the ground outside.

    • travelnate says:

      WA – it looks like you were in an older 777-300 as my First Suite on the 777-300ER was just like on the A380…. although friends who are frequent fliers of Emirates said that only the “uber-long distance” 777-300s have the F-Suites.

  4. Sanjeev M says:

    Plenty of people say 3-4-3 on the 777 kills, but even more people don’t even notice. It’s the way EK packs 360 in a 77W going to some low-yield destinations like Bangkok or Male or some regional Indian places, which are just 3-6 hours max from DXB.

    Additionally being 6’2 I prefer legroom over seat width.

    • Fred says:

      On a 14 1/2 hour flight from DXB to JFK, you do notice. I find it tolerable but not really good. Also, while the legroom on the 777s is a bit more than the 380, some of the regional 777s have both the narrow seats and not much legroom (!).

      Then again, if the price is low, people will buy the ticket anyways and complain later, so it works out for Emirates in the end.

  5. FRANK says:

    according to SEATEXPERT.COM both planes have issues. Looks like the 777 has more seat issues. ie. Heavy traffic areas. Lack of overhead space.

    http://seatexpert.com/seatmap/171/Emirates_Boeing_777-300_(ULR_three_class)/

    http://seatexpert.com/seatmap/397/Emirates_Airbus_A380/

    given the choice, wouldnt the UPPER DECK be more quiet, business man friendly?

  6. frequentplus says:

    Just want to point out that, contrary to popular belief, most B77W Economy Class (if not all) have the same pitch as A380, which is 32″ pitch. You can tell from the seat maps that EK has published and just compare it to other B77W operator, and the number of rows are exactly the same. Only the older B773 has seat pitch of 33-34″ inches.

  7. sm says:

    Unfortunately I agree with you – but found the service terribly inconsistant, and over 4 flights (2 each way between Australia and Europe) on both 777 flights – one out of three seats failed – one mid flight, and the other before we took off.

    On the A380 one of the seats also had problems.

    Emirates customer service if you do have an issue is also amazingly poor – they won’t talk to you on the telephone.

    Seems like if you have a good flight and all goes well, then you are okay – have a horror flight or two that we did – then no-one cares at Emirates

  8. wajas says:

    regularly fly over 100K miles with EK LH BA. Ask any EK engineer and they will confirm my own experience – the A380 business seats are the worst in the industry. Very high breakdown rate – yesterday 21st I flew SIN-DXB on 773ER & then DXB-LHR on A380 in Business. Cabin crew had to change 5 PAX due to “technical” problems with seats on A380. On EK405 SIN-DXB 773ER – slept like a log for 7 hrs frm takeoff to landing. 773ER seats win hands down. Beluga-whale like A380 – baaad design

  9. for economy, I prefer the Qantas Airbus A380-800, due to the fact that it has the self service bar.

  10. Ed says:

    But the a380 seems so much more private, with more space and mod cons…How does the 777 compensate for that? Or am I missing something here?

  11. Qamar says:

    I really enjoyed more on A380 from Colombo to Dubai. Fantastic plane no doubt 777 is also one of its class, but I prefer A380

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  16. David Cell says:

    Which get the better fuel mileage for 8000 mile trip?

    • CF says:

      David Cell – The 777 is going to burn less fuel, but I don’t know the per seat numbers in Emirates’ layouts.

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  18. Ellis says:

    I travel regularly from Sydney to Birmingham through Dubai on an Emirates 380. Then I return Milano to JFK to Dubai to Sydney on a combination of 777 and 380. When you do the big ones like I do, quietness and aircraft stability are very important. 380 is much quieter and far more stable (smooth in the air) than 777. If you want to walk and stretch 380 offers far more flat floor space the 777. Overall, a much more comfortable aircraft for very long journeys

  19. Sahir Siddiqui says:

    I just did a short hop myself – Singapore to Mumbai on Singapore Airlines A380, and return by SQ’s old B777-200, both by economy.

    While the A380 was fantastic, I found myself more comfortable on the 777, in terms of leg room and seat width. The A380 won out in terms of a more spacious cabin (but not personal seat space!), bigger and better quality personal TV screens, and USB ports for charging your devices.

    I was a bit confused why I would find such an old 777-200 more comfortable than a brand new A380 – and found your blog post. I find myself agreeing with most of your comments too!

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