After arriving in Dubai, I had a 13 hours 40 minutes layover until my flight to Geneva.
That would normally be a huge pain, even with First Class lounge access, but fortunately Emirates doesn’t leave its transit passengers high and dry. Thanks to the Dubai Connect programme, you can enjoy a hotel room, transport and meals, all paid for by Emirates.
Who is eligible for Dubai Connect?
Dubai Connect is available to Emirates passengers in any cabin who have an itinerary with a connecting time of 8-26 hours. These are hard-coded limits dictated by a computer system; if you’re just shy of 8 hours or just over 26 hours, you won’t be able to book this service.
In addition to this, the connecting flight on your itinerary must be the best available connection. That’s to say, if a shorter connection of <8 hours exists and you do not choose it, you will not be eligible for Dubai Connect on your longer layover.
Fortunately, the system is forgiving enough to take into account award availability. For instance, my itinerary from Singapore to Geneva was as follows:
|SIN-DXB (EK355)||2100||0100 (+1)|
|Layover: 13h 40m|
There was an alternative flight from Dubai to Geneva (EK89) that departs at 0840 hours. This means that theoretically, I could book this itinerary with a layover of 7h 40m (had I been willing to pay cash), below the 8-hour threshold for Dubai Connect. But since there was no First Class award space on EK89, the system allowed me to book Dubai Connect regardless.
Finally, do note that Dubai Connect requires all tickets be booked on a single PNR. If you book two separate tickets, you will not be eligible.
What does Dubai Connect cover?
Dubai Connect covers:
- Hotel accommodation
- Meals (the number of which depends on the duration; you’ll receive breakfast, lunch and dinner during the traditional windows)
- A temporary entry visa into Dubai (not required for Singaporeans)
- Two-way transfers between airport and hotel
Any additional charges incurred at the hotel e.g. spa, tours, must be covered by the passenger.
What hotel will I receive?
The hotel you receive depends on the cabin you’re flying in.
The general rule is:
- First Class: JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
- Business Class: Le Meridien Dubai
- Premium Economy and Economy Class: Copthorne Hotel Dubai
Quite frankly, First Class passengers might prefer the Business Class hotel, since the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is down in Business Bay (15 minutes from the airport), compared to the Le Meridien Dubai (5 minutes). It may not sound like a lot, but every minute counts when you’re tired and cranky!
How do I book Dubai Connect?
Dubai Connect is not processed automatically; you must submit a request at least 24 hours prior to departure. This can be done under Manage My Booking.
You’ll know your request is confirmed once you see “Room 1” and your name next to it.
Dubai Connect process
On check-in at your first port of departure, you should receive two additional vouchers (or three, if you need a visa) printed on boarding pass cardstock.
I checked-in at Changi Jewel’s Early Check In facility and the automated kiosk did not issue me the vouchers. Fortunately, there was a manned Emirates desk where the staff member managed to print them out.
If you don’t get your vouchers at the first port of departure however, it’s not the end of the world. You can still claim them on arrival in Dubai, at the immigration hall. Simply look out for the signs for “Emirates Arrival Services”, and later “Dubai Connect”. It’s impossible to miss.
There are separate counters for First and Business Class passengers, as well as for Economy Class.
Once you’ve received your vouchers (or if you already hold them from your first port of departure), clear immigration as per normal and exit the secure area.
If you’re travelling in First or Business Class, follow the signs for Chauffer-driver service. Premium Economy or Economy Class passengers will look for the bus pick-up area.
There’s a lounge area with seats and bottled water, but you won’t spend very long here (nor would you want to, if it’s 1 in the morning!). Go up to the counter and claim your chauffer-drive voucher…
…then head outside to the pick-up area.
Dubai Connect is a big thing for Emirates, so they have an entire fleet of vehicles always on standby. Never before have I seen so many Mercedes and BMWs in the same place!
This means there’s virtually zero wait for a car. The ground staff will assign you to one, then it’s off to the hotel. As mentioned, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai used for First Class passengers is further from the airport than the Le Meridien Dubai and Copthorne Hotel Dubai, so it takes about 15 minutes.
Regardless of which hotel you end up at, there’ll be a dedicated Emirates check-in desk at the lobby.
As an aside, I provided my Marriott Bonvoy membership number at check-in, expecting to only earn points on incidentals, but was surprised to receive points on the stay as well (based on a room rate of US$11), plus my Gold member welcome amenity.
I was assigned to a room with two single beds and a roll-in shower. I certainly would have preferred a single king with a proper shower, but beggars, choosers, and the fact it was well after midnight were more than reason enough to zip it and hit the sack.
The following morning, I had some time to explore the hotel. With 1,608 rooms, it’s actually pretty massive, and has all the usual facilities you’d expect like a pool, gym and spa. The Dubai Mall is also just a short car ride away.
I had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, where the spread was pretty fantastic, with all the usual Western and Asian items, plus live cooking stations with noodles, eggs, and waffles. You could even get ice cream- the hallmark of a great breakfast.
What about the return trip to the airport?
At check-in, I was asked to confirm the time I wanted to return to the airport. They’ll advise you leave two hours before your flight, but you’re free to propose whatever time you want.
Here’s the thing though: they can be very sticky about changes. Since I was half asleep when I arrived, I just took the default timing without thinking- then realised the following morning I’d need a lot more time to visit all three Emirates First Class lounges.
When I asked about a change at the Emirates desk, I was adamantly told: no dice. All car bookings could not be modified, and if I wanted to go to the airport earlier, I’d have to pay for my own taxi. I tried the physical equivalent of HUCA (i.e. head down again later and talk to a different associate), but was told the same.
I was about to check-out early and pay for my own cab, but then I got lucky with the third associate, who was more than willing to help. He called up Emirates, and within 20 minutes a car pulled up to take me to the airport. I guess this is a classic example of YMMV.
Dubai Connect is a great little feature, and it runs like clockwork on arrival, turning what could have been a very painful layover into a virtual non-event. The best part is that it’s completely free, and Emirates will even cover the cost of a visa if your nationality requires it.
My main issue is that the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is a little too far from the airport for my liking, though if you’re on a longer layover and want to explore more of Dubai, then it works out in your favour.
Any other experiences with Dubai Connect?