Passengers still must wait a couple years, but Emirates is finally set to introduce a premium economy cabin on its A380 fleet. In an internal company podcast (fast forward to 11:55 for the PremY chat) Sir Tim Clark acknowledges that the company is going to have a fourth cabin for sale.
It remains a hot topic in company. We have already spec’d out the airplanes. We know exactly what we’re going to do, where we’re going to place these seats, which zones and how we’re going to design the product. We’re just going to make absolutely sure the maths stack up. But I think the latest 380s, the first six of which come in 2020, we will be installing premium economy into those. And it will be an Emirates premium economy, so it will be special.
Myriad questions remain about the new product, including a retrofit schedule, whether it will also fly on the 777s, whether it will displace business class or economy class seats and just how many premium economy seat the A380s will carry. The Emirates A380 cabin layout – with the business class bar at the rear of the upper deck and only premium seats upstairs on most the fleet suggests that on a 4-class plane fitting premium economy in would be a downstairs job. On the current two-class planes the upper deck economy section – situated at the front where first class sits on the 3-class layout – could be easily converted to premium economy without mucking up the rest of the floor plan. But two different premium economy layouts is not likely to work well for the carrier.
The move may also trigger a shift from Emirates’ neighborly competitors to similarly adopt premium economy offerings. Qatar Airways GCEO Akbar Al Baker has famously claimed that his carrier’s economy class offering is sufficiently premium so as to make a true premium economy cabin unnecessary. Alas, reality does not bear out that claim, particularly on the restyled 777s with 10-abreast seating in the back. The soft product is solid, but the hard product comes up far short of premium.