Hot on the heels of “Should I fly with Emirates or Etihad”, the next most popular flying question we get is “but what about Qatar Airways?”
Now to be fair, this is probably a more even comparison. Yes, the two are in different countries (which given current diplomacy issues may as well be a world apart) – but in terms of size of the airline, quality of offering and destinations serviced, Qatar Airways has far more similarities to Emirates than Etihad.
Prior to the diplomatic dispute among GCC countries, Qatar Airways had become our favoured airline, offering exceptional value for what was only a short extra 40-minute hop from the UAE.
To continue to attract tourists to Qatar, they have offered significant value for money, dropped entry visa charges and even given away free hotel nights for stopover customers (though tracking down exactly where to get this deal to link for you has proven challenging!).
In this post we will take a detailed look at:
- Who are Emirates and Qatar Airways?
- Know before you fly Emirates & Qatar
- The fleets – aircraft used
- Baggage Allowances
- Seat size & preferred seating options
- Economy Class comparison on board
- Entertainment systems
- Family services
- Airline Networks & Airline Awards
- Emirates Skywards v Qatar Loyalty Programs
- DXB v DOH airports
- Dubai v Doha as stopover cities
This post is part of our flying with kids and airline review series
What is the difference between Emirates and Qatar?
Emirates is the carrier for Dubai, established in 1985 and flying out of DXB airport.
Qatar Airways is the national airline of Qatar, flying out of DOH – Hamad International Airport, founded in 1993.
As at the time of writing this post, there is no direct land or air connection between the UAE and Qatar. You must fly via another city where sanctions are not imposed such as Muscat.
Before you fly – Emirates v Qatar
Emirates is the larger airline – but not by much. They currently fly a fleet of 268 Airbus A380’s and Boeing 777 jets (as of September 2019), while Qatar’s fleet is approximate 228 aircraft, flying a variety of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. You can check exactly which aircraft serves which route on SeatGuru.
Emirates currently serves over 140 destinations in destinations in 85 countries, whilst Qatar now serves 150 destinations.
We will put Business Class aside for now, Mr Globetrotter is well acquainted with the pointy end at Emirates but we don’t have the same personal experiences to share on Qatar Airways – You can see this guest post though on how to score yourself a Business Upgrade on Qatar!
Baggage Allowances – Emirates v Qatar
Emirates did a big shake-up on their baggage allowances in February 2019 (if you booked your ticket prior to the change please check directly with Emirates as different rules will apply).
Qatar’s baggage policy on face value is more generous. These are frequently changing, so please check with the individual airlines, the information below is correct as at September 2019
Emirates Baggage Policy
- Economy Special 15kg
- Economy Saver 25kg
- Economy Flex 30kg
- Economy Flex plus 35kg
- Business Class 40kg
- First Class 50kg
Emirates also runs a piece concept on some routes, particularly if you’re ticketed through the Americas
Qatar Baggage Policy
- Flights to/from the America’s: 2 pieces <23kg each economy / 32ks in Business/First
- Flight to/from Morocco, 45kg economy, 60kg
- or originating Africa: 45kg economy, 65kg business / first Business/Frist
- All other Destinations 30kg Economy, 40kg Business & 50kg First g
- Economy kg
- Business Class 0kg
- First Class 5kg
With Emirates fare changes, there’s a bit of a gap now between the ultra-cheap economy tickets and Qatar’s flat economy rate.
Additional Infant Baggage Allowances
Emirates Infant Policy
- Infants US routes 23kg Bag
- Infants all other routes +10kg
One carry-cot or one fully collapsible stroller as carry-on if cabin space is available, or check them at no extra cost
Qatar Infant Policy
- Infants on Americas routes one piece 23kg Bag
- Infants all other routes +10kg
Guests up to 11 one stroller, collapsible carrycot, or pushchair per infant is accepted without charge
Both airlines from our experience have been very generous at allowing more than one item per child. We have flown with multiple car seats and strollers and not been turned away or asked to pay extra.
Emirates v Qatar: Economy Seats
This all depends on which exact aircraft you have, but I am sure you’ll agree every inch matters when you’re travelling long haul (and let’s be frank, nothing about flying economy is really comfortable, just tolerable).
Emirates economy seats measure in with a seat pitch of 32″ to 34″ and width of 17″ – 18″, whilst Qatar’s seats vary by aircraft but generally expect a 32″ pitch and 18″ width (you can find full fleet info here).
It’s too close to call on their standard economy seats as there are so many variables by aircraft. When looking at flight timing, also look at the aircraft that serves that route and time.
Emirates & Qatar Premium Economy?
Note, neither airline offers a Premium Economy cabin. Apparently this is not needed in the Middle East market as they are already offering a superior economy service? I’d beg to differ and would love to see an intermediate class without needing to put kids tiny legs in business class, but seems the airlines don’t agree.
Paying for preferred seats
Emirates has brought in paid preferred seating in economy, whilst Qatar only charges for the “best” economy seats.
Emirates has quite a complex tiered structure for paid seat selection that applies to preferred seats, twin seats, and extra-legroom seats. As you move up the airline’s loyalty program these fees are removed. Seat selection opens up to all 48 hours before the flight.
On Qatar Airways, you only pay extra for seat selection on extra legroom seats, bulkhead and exit rows which are blocked on the system if you self book. You need to contact the airline directly to upgrade. Priority is still given to families in the bassinet row.
Both airlines have a good reputation for seating family groups together, though the only way to guarantee this now on Emirates is with preferred seating. Knock on wood, to date Emirates has never separated me from my kids, always giving me a middle row of 4.
However, we’ve still not quite forgiven Qatar for placing me on standby. Despite 5 of us ticketed together they had separated me from my lap infant and I needed to beg and plead with gate staff to let me on my connecting flight, let alone have my infant seated with me! In the end, we got 2 rows of 3 at the rear of the plane, despite the flight being full?
What to expect on board Emirates & Qatar
Both airlines have relatively new fleets, so expect in most cases you will have a good quality aircraft, and you SHOULD be getting top of their class service crews but we all know this can be a huge variable with any given crew on any given day.
Service on board Emirates & Qatar
I’ll be honest. I most often fly internationally with 3 kids on my own; nothing can really make that less painful! It’s gotten easier over the years as they have grown, but I can think of very few occasions where a member of staff has actually made a massive difference to my flying experience.
What has helped is my own confidence in flying and loyalty. Repeated routine helps all of us as we’re familiar with the airports and procedures. You can read more of our flying with kids tips here.
Being a frequent flyer on either airline can massively improve your flying experience. Access to special boarding queues, airline lounges and personal introduction on the plane – not to mention the loyalty points you earn that can be redeemed for flights later. I get far better service when I fly with Mr Globetrotter and his Gold Card. More on this below.
Amenity kits for comfort
Both airlines include personal amenity kits for long-haul flights including toothbrush, eyeshade, socks and earplugs. You will also be offered a blanket, pillows, and headphones on board for your comfort.
On board Entertainment
Both offer excellent onboard entertainment systems, but Emirates ICE systems (Information Communication Entertainment) is just unsurpassable. Over 4000 channels can be found and you can even sync your playlist ready before you fly with the Emirates app!
The seat back screen’s in both Emirates’ A380 and 777 aircraft come in at an industry-leading 13.3″ in Economy.
The Oryx One in-flight entertainment system shows latest movies as well as Disney and Nickelodeon classics, and BabyTV. With dual screens on A350, A380 and 787 fleet, kids can play games on one screen while watching the other.
Both airlines have their programs available online in advance so you can pre-pick your blockbuster movies and decide if you’ll need a tablet too. Both also offer a paid wifi option on board.
Each airline gives out kids entertainment packs on long haul flights, but no guarantee what you’ll get so pack back up ideas.
Emirates Kids Packs
Emirates Young Flyers packs come in several different varieties. A winner is their Fly with Me animal cuddlies that convert into colourful kids blankets (that my kids still take with them everywhere!) and special kids headphones are also issued.
They’ve also had awesome little animal backpacks.
What kits they actually have onboard on any given occasion seems quite sporadic – we’ve had awesome Lonely Planet kits through to quite measly colouring books. If I had a complaint it was more consistency to know exactly what kit we were getting so I could pack their carry on backpacks accordingly.
The ICE entertainment system, however, is a total winner and I would say the envy of all long-haul airlines. You seriously won’t run out of things to see, even if youve flown with them several times in a month!! We no longer need tablets for the kids on Emirates, we’re confident the screen back entertainment is enough.
Qatar Airways Kids Packs
The Oryx Kids Club on Qatar Airways includes kids activity packs with their mascots, includes plush toys, activity packs and mealboxes. Infants can be provided with a soft plush toy and book. Older kids are provided with a creative and educational kit which includes crayons, stickers and an activity book.
Meals on Qatar Airways are served in a Hasbro character branded lunch box they can keep (save luggage space for this! super handy for snacks later in your trip).
NB – always remember kids meals are only issued if you actually ORDER THEM IN ADVANCE. Yeah, we learnt the hard way – see all our toddler flying mistakes here so you can see what other traps not to fall for!!!
A note on kids leg pillows
This is a big differentiator that has recently developed that concerns some families. Emirates categorically will not allow the likes of Bed Box or flying pillows to extend children’s seats to make a bed.
Qatar, on the other hand, is still allowing them – or at least nowhere do they explicitly ban their use.
We have a full comparison of which airlines allow these products to be used, as well as plane sleeping tips for kids here.
Baby Bassinets on Emirates & Qatar
Both airlines offer baby bassinets that attach in the bulkhead row of economy cabins. These seats need to be requested in advance but cannot be guaranteed. They are free to reserve without needing to pay for a preferred seat (see our seating section above).
- The Emirates bassinet is 75 x 33 x 22cm (29.5 x 13 x 8.8 inches) and can hold babies weighing up to 11kg (24.2lbs).
- The Qatar Bassinets are suitable for babies up to 11kg (24.2lbs) and age must be under 24 months. You must “fit within the confines of the baby bassinet” but no dimensions are give.
Parents are given priority for the bulkhead seats when they share a PNR (Booking reference) with an infant.
Qatar also offers parents an infant kit including diapers, baby food jars a bottle and soft toys.
Emirates v Qatar: Meals
Well, it’s a plane meal right? Don’t go getting excited. Both will offer you a special child’s meal if ordered at least 24 hours in advance and there’s still a fair chance your kid will turn their nose up at it and you’ll want to revert to your own snack bag!
Both airlines offer alcoholic drink service trolleys too. It seems to entirely depend on the route and the crew on the day how efficiently these trolley services come around.
Certainly, on the ultra long-hauls, we’ve never had issues getting water or juice when we need, though you may need to go to the galley to get it. You will be served in those tiny plastic cups, so best take your own water bottle on board when possible after security (this can’t be done for Australian and US bound flights with strict liquid rules).
Emirates & Qatar Airline Networks
Emirates has steered clear of the big airline alliances, opting to partner with airlines on particular routes, the biggest being Qantas.
Qatar, on the other hand, is part of the OneWorld alliance, which can be advantageous for those flyers who frequently fly with OneWorld partner airlines and like to work on their points and status.
Emirates Airline Partners
- Air Mauritius
- Alaska Airlines
- GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Malaysia Airlines
- S7 Airlines
- South African Airways
- TAP Portugal
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
- Latam Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- SriLankan Airlines
Awards & Industry Accolades
Both love to brag extensively about their accolades, no matter the source! Here are just a few of the awards they’re boasting about:
- Best Airline Worldwide, Best Airline Economy, Best Airline First, Best Frequent Flyer Program, Best Airport Middle East (DXB) – Business Traveller Middle East Awards 2019 (NB UAE based organisation)
- Airline of the Year – 2018 Air Transport Awards
- Favourite Middle East Airline Premium Cabin – Conde Nast Middle East Reader’s Choice Awards
- World’s Best Airline 2019- Skytrax
As you can see, both industry and flyers have plenty of nice things to say about them. But as with all big airlines, the focus seems to be on the pointy end of the plane.
Frequent Flyer Programs
Customer loyalty is important to these airlines. Both offer their entry-level frequent flyer programs for free, and opportunities to pool family points. Here’s an overview of what to expect with both airlines:
Emirates Skywards allows you to earn miles on both Emirates and FlyDubai. Entry-level Skywards Blue is for new joiners, then move up the tiers to Silver, Gold & Platinum through miles flown and tier miles. Silver membership onwards gets you priority check-in, extra baggage and lounge access perks.
Children can be joined up to their Skywards Skysurfers from 2 years old, and family members can now be connected under one account. Any old miles they had previously earned on their individual accounts can be transferred to your family account at cost.
Qatar Privilege Club
Any flyer can sign up to the Qatar Privilege Club for free and earn “QMiles”. Entry-level is Burgundy, then move to Silver (OneWorld Ruby) Gold (OneWorld Sapphire) & Platinum (OneWorld Emerald), through Qpoints tier miles and tier segments. Silver membership onwards gets you priority check-in, extra baggage and lounge access perks.
You can also earn Qmiles with OneWorld partners as well as credit cards, rental cars, hotels and many other partners.
Family’s are able to pool miles under the Family Programme – up to 9 close family members including spouse, children and parents can pool their Qmiles to reach reward levels quicker.
Just for kids, there is the Oryx Kids Loyalty Programme for children aged 2 to 11 years old, tied in with their Oryx Kids Club. Kids can earn Qmiles just as adults do and Qpoints towards tier status.
Flight routes and costing difference
Let’s be honest, at the end of the day it comes down to whether the route and the fare fit, right?
Price difference between Emirates & Qatar
So how do they stack up in the all-important price comparison test? Plug your dates in here and give them a try:
DXB v DOH Airport Terminals
Both airlines operate from large, modern facilities ideal for the layover passenger. Still, none come quite on par with the likes of Changi, but they’re trying hard!
Facilities in the airport DXB v DOH
DXB Dubai International Airport
DXB Terminal 3 where Emirates primarily flies from is like a massive long shed, broken down to A, B & C terminals. There is a transit train between A & B, but B to C is a looooong walk! If you have connections the recommended 2-hour gap at least should be followed. At least you can get your circulation going I guess!
If you have a layover of more than say 6 hours – check out our extensive list of DXB layover ideas here.
DOH Hamad International Airport.
A very new, modern airport with a central area and wings, concourse A, B & C. Family facilities include a brilliant art sculpture come children’s play area as well as dedicated children’s nursery. There is also a giant teddy bear lamp sculpture the kids go crazy for!
Doha airport also offers a 25-metre temperature-controlled swimming pool, in the Oryx Airport Hotel and quiet rooms for resting, but not at this stage sleep pods.
If you have a layover of more than 5 hours check out this Doha layover guide.
Both airports offer complimentary strollers for families to use, though we have had difficulty locating these strollers at both airports when we’ve really needed them so don’t take these as a given.
If you have a longer layover I would play it safe and bring your own compact stroller on board.
Sleeping at the airport DXB v DOH
Want to stay airside at the airport, here are your options
DXB – Dubai International Airport has Dubai International Hotel airside, a good quality 5-star offering without leaving the Terminal. You can also use SnoozeCubes in Terminal 1 or Sleep n’Fly at Terminal 3.
There are several hotels within a few minutes drive of DXB that run free shuttles to and from the hotel (that involve passing customs and passport control).
DOH – Hamad International Airport has plenty of seating areas, as well as Quiet Zones in Concourse A, B & C. They have semi-recliner chairs but if you prefer the comfort of your own room (don’t we all!) there’s only one hotel airside, Oryx Doha Airport Transit Hotel.
If you just want a shower, you can pay to use at one of the lounges or at the Vitality Wellness Centre, inside Oryx Doha Airport Transit Hotel (along with a spa & Massage!).
Otherwise, your choices are to drive to several hotels about 10-15 minutes away, all of which involve clearing customs and passport control and checking back in. Some nearby choices that are top picks with travellers include Oryx Rotana or Sharq Villa & Spa – a Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Getting out of the airport
Distance to city & city sightseeing options
Both cities are built to woe international tourists as a secondary income source to oil. You can easily within 24 hours experience beaches, desert, souks and modern shopping to give you a “Middle East taster”. Both airports have good access back to their city centres.
Sightseeing in Dubai
Dubai by its size is the larger and more challenging city to navigate if you are in a hurry but also has the Metro public transport system which aids visitors being able to self navigate out of the airport at minimal cost. A taxi to Downtown, eg Burj Khalifa & the Dubai Mall should take only 20 minutes. Over to the Palm Jumeirah and beaches, allow 40 minutes, traffic dependent.
Sightseeing in Doha
Traffic dependent – Doha is easy to reach by taxi in under 30 minutes. you can choose to self-guide among many of the sights if you like to move at your own pace, or join an organised tour.
If you have a five to 12-hour layover in DOH, you can book a Discover Qatar city tour. A guided introduction including Katara Cultural Village, the Pearl, Museum of Islamic Art and Souq Waqif. (Timing 8am, 10,30am, 3pm, 6pm, 8pm, 9.30pm)
You must book 48 hours in advance OR be at the Discover Qatar Transit Tour desk (Concourse A) 90 minutes before the tour times if spots are still available. (NB, these tours were free for a period but as at the time of writing now cost 75QAR – around USD20 per person)
Either city makes a fabulous short stopover destination and we would highly encourage you to get out at both to explore.
Both are equal partners in our mind when it comes to their on board offering and stopover experience. We would recommend base your decision on pricing and route availability.
Further reading and reviews on Emirates & Qatar
We have taken a much more in-depth look at each of the airlines, as well as what is in offer in each of the cities as a stopover destination in these detailed blog posts:
- Family Flying Airline Review Emirates
- Flying Emirates with a Toddler and a Baby
- Things to do and where to stay DXB
- Emirates v Etihad – battle of the UAE airlines
- Family Flying Airline Review Qatar
- Flying Qatar with Kids – Doha to Cape Town review
- Surviving 16 hours on a plane with 3 under 5; Our Doha Stopover & ultra-long-haul experience
- How to get an upgrade with Qatar
- Discover the UAE
- A family guide to Qatar
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