My husband and I recently flew from New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) on Emirates’ fifth freedom route in economy. Spoiler alert: All things considered for an overnight transatlantic economy flight, it was a solid experience.
Here are the things that made the flight above average — including the things that I care about most when flying international economy:
- Emirates’ economy seats are pretty comfortable and ergonomic.
- Legroom is decent and felt more than the stated 32″ of pitch.
- The food was not bad at all and most importantly, edible.
- The flight was on time.
You can, of course, enjoy Emirates first or business class, but for a relatively short transatlantic ride, economy was perfectly fine.
This is also a great way to get to Europe inexpensively. Watch out for Emirates’ semi-regular sales. You can find tickets from New York (JFK) to Milan or New York (JFK) to Athens for less than $500 roundtrip per person. When I came across this sale last fall, we decided to get tickets to Milan and then take a train onwards to Florence. With great rail connections in Italy, flying to Milan puts the whole country within reach.
How I Booked the Emirates Flights
I have a healthy stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points so I decided to use them to book the tickets through Chase’s travel portal. We have the Chase Sapphire Reserve so the points can be redeemed at an awesome 1.5 cents per point.
And because the sale price was so low, I ended up spending just under 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for two round-trip tickets. I consider that to be a great deal at just 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points per person, round-trip.
This is one of those cases where transferring to an airline partner doesn’t make sense while redeeming directly does. I think of Ultimate Rewards as a “renewable resource,” so I was happy to spend the points. Ultimate Rewards points are fairly easy to earn with a combination of various Chase cards and my everyday spending habits.
Chase Ink Business Preferred is a great card for business owners and comes with a healthy 80,000 Ultimate Rewards signup bonus. If you also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card like I do, the points earned with these two cards can be combined and redeemed at 1.5 cents per point.
Check-In For Emirates At JFK
Emirates charges $25 for advanced seat assignments and $35 for preferred seats. Some preferred seats have a good amount of extra leg room, but others are just regular seats in the front cabin. Emirates opens online check in 48 hours before the flight so I set a calendar reminder. I didn’t want to pay for advanced seat assignment, and I wanted to snag an aisle seat. I logged in exactly 48 hours before the flight and had no issues finding two aisle seats for us.
The check-in line at JFK Terminal 4 wasn’t long and there were quite a few agents working. Because we checked in online and just had to drop a bag, I was happy to see a separate line people like us. There was nobody waiting and within a few minutes, we had our boarding passes and were on our way.
See Also: Best Ways To Get To JFK From Manhattan
Emirates Baggages Policy
Emirates generously allows two free checked bags, up to 50 pounds each, but they are very strict with weight of the carry-on. If you have a wheeled carry-on bag, it can’t be more than 15 pounds. Ours was quite a bit over that, so the agent suggested we move some things to another non-wheeled carry-on bag.
It doesn’t make sense to me — the same weight is going on the same aircraft, and they aren’t charging for an overweight carry-on. However, we had no choice and I took out a couple of things and put them in my weekender-type bag that I carry on my shoulder. That seemed to work, and we got the bag tag for our check bag and moved on.
Boarding Our Emirates Flight To Milan
Not surprisingly, Emirates starts boarding a whole hour before the flight. The Airbus A380, the aircraft that Emirates flies on this route, can carry up to 400 passengers in economy. Boarding clearly would take some time and is a downside to such a large, yet passenger-friendly aircraft.
When boarding was announced, it was pretty chaotic and a bit of a free for all. Everyone is assigned a boarding zone, but it was hard to make sense of where at the gate area the different zones were supposed to line up.
In spite of the initial chaos, everyone boarded relatively quickly, and there was no shortage of overhead bin space. We were on our merry way.
However, this is JFK after all, so we sat on the tarmac taxiing for about 40 minutes before take-off. This is built into the total travel time because the flight still landed in Milan ahead of schedule.
Right after boarding was complete, the crew came around with little toys for the kids. A few minutes later, another flight attendant came around with a Polaroid camera and took pictures of families traveling with young kids. What a nice souvenir and a great way to start a family trip!
Onboard Our Emirates Flight To Milan
I’ve never flown Emirates before, and I’ve also never been on an A380. I was actually very impressed and pleasantly surprised. On paper, the leg room on this aircraft is 32″ of pitch, but it seemed like more. I am only 5’4″ and I was quite comfortable and didn’t feel cramped. My husband is 5’11” and he said the leg room was adequate for him as well.
Emirates’ ICE in-flight entertainment system is absolutely stellar. It had tons of options for all tastes. There are Bollywood movies, European cinema, recent blockbusters, classic movies and lots of TV shows. There are hundreds of different kids options too, so if you are traveling with kids, they won’t get bored.
And finally an airline that put electrical outlets in the seat back in front of you! Seemingly such a simple idea, but yet so rare. There’s an outlet and two USB charging ports, easy to charge multiple devices.
Shortly after take off, the crew came around and passed out menus. The food was surprisingly good. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I actually enjoyed my meal. My choices were between barbecue chicken and fish so I picked the chicken. It came with a small bean salad, mashed potatoes and spinach. My husband chose the fish and he enjoyed it as well.
The dinner was served quite late, around 11:45pm EST, but was done within 90 mins after departure.
For breakfast we got just a cinnamon bun, I didn’t take a picture because I almost slept through breakfast and I declined it.
The lavatories were clean and well stocked, and I appreciate there was never a line, even before landing.
The cabin crew provided perfectly adequate service. However, I noticed that nobody really smiled or seemed to at least pretend to enjoy their job. They all looked like they really didn’t want to be there.
I can confidently say that this was my best flight in economy thanks to the decent amount of legroom, tasty food and great IFE system. I also enjoyed the changing cabin lighting and very quiet cabin (as it should be for a short transatlantic). This is a very good way to get across the Atlantic, especially if you wait for one of Emirates’ sales and get your tickets for less than $500 roundtrip.
Most importantly, we got to go to Italy and enjoy beautiful Florence! Ciao!