Our Globetrotters are reviewing 30 of the world’s leading international airlines for their family-friendliness. Our reviews cover the airline’s policies and service offerings that the average family will deal with when flying standard economy class. For more details on the Globetrotters reviews and ratings referenced, please see the lead article.
In 2014 Dubai Airport overtook Heathrow as the world’s busiest for international passenger numbers. This is largely due to the vast fleet of Emirates, the Middle East’s largest airline and according to the IATA now the fourth largest passenger carrier in the world. Since commencing in 1985 they have certainly made their mark on the international travel map. So let’s see what the fuss is all about.
Base: Dubai, UAE
Alliances: n/a – Partnerships only
Skytrax Rating 2016: 1
JACDEC Safety Rating 2015: 7
Emirates Pregnancy Policy
Once you have entered your 29th week you will need a letter from your doctor/midwife. If you do not carry the letter you may not be accepted for travel. For single pregnancies, travel after the 36th week will only be permitted after clearance from Emirates medical department. For multiple pregnancies, no air travel is permitted from the 32nd week.
Infants (under 2 years)
Infant tickets are issues at 10% of the adult ticket price.
An approved forward facing 5-point infant car seat may be used if a full child’s fare is paid for a seat and it meets requirements by Airport Services at check-in. Rear facing seats with a 2-point harness are not permitted.
Other infant services include free strollers at Dubai International Airport, including some twin strollers and priority boarding is offered to all families with young children. Change tables are fitted in the toilets and baby meals can be provided on board, cabin staff are permitted to heat baby food and bottles for you.
Emirates Baby Bassinets
Baby Bassinets are available for infants up to 11kg (25lbs), you need to contact reservations to book in advance and they are available first come first served. Dimensions given are 74.9cm x 33cm x 16.5cm – if you are lucky enough to be in first class they advise this bassinet is slightly smaller (though I’m guessing your seat will have ample room for them to share with you…) The bassinets are available to all infants up to 2 years but if the child is too long or heavy the airline may refuse use.
Children (2-11 years)
Emirates pride themselves on their in-flight entertainment. They have 75 dedicated children’s channels from a choice of over 2000 on their ICE entertainment system. They have also just announced some economy class enhancements including brightly coloured headphones purposefully designed for smaller heads.
They also have children’s activity packs – Fly with Me Monsters for the younger flyers with a ruck sack and Quicksilver packs for the slightly older ones. Staff can take photos as a memento of your journey with them, time permitting. If you are flying on a birthday, contact reservations in advance for a special cake to be provided.
SkySurfers (see frequent flyers below) can also access games on the internet and receive the e-kids children’s magazine.
Children above 5 and below 12 are entitled to use the UM service travelling on a full adult ticket. Children under 8 years travelling in a different cabin to their parents are considered unaccompanied minors and must pay full adult fare. Children 12-15 years are Young Passengers but can have the unaccompanied minor service if requested. See their website for conditions depending on the country they are travelling to and from and restrictions on lay over times. At Dubai Airport there is a separate check-in area for UM’s.
A standard weight allowance of 30kg in economy is applied for adults and children on most routes and 10kg for infants.
On US/Canada routes the allowance is 2 x pieces for adults and children up to 23kg each and 1 piece for infants up to 23kg. Brazil routes are allowed 2 pieces x 32kg, infants 1 piece of 23kg.
Customers with infants are permitted one carry cot or one fully collapsible stroller into the cabin if there is room, however, if they need to be checked will not count against your luggage allowance.
Frequent Flyer Programs
Children from 2 years old up to 16 years old can sign up to the SkySurfers programme. Points have a three-year life and are earned at the same rate as adults. Over 16 years old memberships are upgraded to Emirates Skywards.
You can transfer miles among family and friends, at a fee. Alternatively, you can collect bonus miles from family members; unlike many other programs the “Family Bonus” only allows you to collect 20% on miles flown by up to 8 family members, you do not register each family member and pool all your points.
Our Globetrotters View
My entire family has flown Emirates a lot over the years with their convenient route between London and Australia, and now we are living in the UAE they are frequently our airline of first choice where they provide the best routes or price.
On the whole, we have been pleased as family travellers with young children – their kid’s packs and extensive entertainment are really well received and service always considerate to our family needs. My extended family, however, have had some less than satisfactory experiences in the past – not always the airlines fault due to some weather-related incidents and natural disasters – but the way an airline responds in difficult situations all paints part of your experience with them.
What to expect at Dubai Airport
Dubai airport is utterly vast! If you are connecting here be conscious of how far apart gates can be and note that it is busiest in the middle of the night. Connecting during the day you will find the place almost empty, and dare I say it almost pleasurable to be in – plenty of room for the kids to run off some energy and a load of lounges and restaurants to choose from. The free strollers are a great concept but twice now I’ve had to make the long walk from my flight through to customs and
The free strollers are a great concept but twice now I’ve had to make the long walk from my flight through to customs and the stroller racks have been empty so don’t bank on this service being available.
We will definitely use Emirates again for family travel, but their Skysurfers program and inability to pool family frequent flyer points is certainly a disappointment. We never quite seem to get enough points for family flights anywhere before they all expire. If they could make some improvements to this they may possibly creep up to being my favourite international airline….
Want another view on Emirates? One of our readers Matt from Tantrum Travels recounts his recent experience travelling ultra long-haul with a toddler and a newborn
Disclaimer: The information provided on this page should be used as a guide only. It has been gathered from public sources and correct at the time of going to print (May 2015). Please consult the airline’s own website before booking any family travel with this airline. This review is not an endorsement of Emirates services and I am in no way affiliated with the airline.
Have you flown pregnant or with infants/children on Emirates? Do you have a review or advice to share with travelling families?
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Stopping over in Dubai? Don’t forget to check out our blog posts on Discover the UAE and a great family guide for first-time visitors to the UAE
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