Emirates will add premium economy seating to 105 aircraft in its fleet, joining the handful of 380s delivered with the product on board. The retrofit program is expected to begin at the end of 2022 and take 18 months to complete.
As Emirates has done with our signature First, Business and full-service Economy travel experiences, we intend to further develop our Premium Economy into a distinctive Emirates experience that is unmatched in the industry.– Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline
The move adds an additional comfort level option for passengers, and also expands Emirates’ access to the relatively higher yield per square foot market that is long-haul premium economy. It also reduces the total seat count on board (32 fewer total on the A380, 26 fewer on the 777s). With the pace and market demographics of the recovery still in limbo, the lower seat count and higher yields could prove a compelling shift for what typically has been an operation focused on heavier volumes in the back of the plane.
On the 777s five rows of Economy class seats located just behind Business Class will be removed to install 24 Premium Economy seats, laid out in 2-4-2 configuration. On the A380s 56 Premium Economy seats will installed at the front of the main deck also in 2-4-2 configuration.
As of late 2020 the 777s were not mentioned in the retrofit program, so this is something of progress in getting more planes active with the product.
The new Premium Economy seats will include an updated in-flight entertainment pa
With immediate effect
With six A380s delivered from the factory carrying the premium economy seats, Emirates is ready to formally start selling the product rather than only offering it as a “surprise and delight” option today. The company promises it will be loaded for sale in the JFK, Heathrow, Paris and Frankfurt markets by the end of December 2021. Six planes is not enough to operate all the flights between those cities, but it is a good start.
The premium economy cabins have not loaded for sale yet, however.
Looking longer term
A total of 52 A380s and 53 777s are slated for conversion. The effort will be managed and performed wholly in-house at the carrier’s Engineering Center in Dubai.
Typically airlines don’t invest in interior retrofits on planes not expected to remain in service for 5+ years. And while it might not be wise to interpret this as meaning the other planes won’t be in the fleet that long, it does raise questions around the future of the ~60% of the fleet not slated for upgrades.
Read More: Emirates launches Premium Economy to London
Emirates has the 777X on order, of course. In his typical fashion, President Sir Tim Clarke has not been shy about reminding Boeing via the media that he expects the planes will fully live up to the contractual specs. That is separate from the multi-year delay in the delivery timing. While the airframer is holding to a late 2023 target for entry into service, reiterated at the Dubai Air Show this week, the first airline delivery customer is not yet decided.
Those planes, along with 787s and A350s on the books, could arrive at a pace that supports plans to retire the older 777s and A380s from service, without the interior refresh.
And presumably the new planes will all be delivered with the premium economy product on board from the factory, not as a retrofit. Though at one point only some of the 777X fleet was expected to fly with the product, so maybe that holds. It does make for more complicated aircraft utilization and routing planning, however.
During the transition period expect some markets to see more “surprise and delight” premium economy options, similar to how London operated in recent months.
Emirates also teased another potential upgrade. It is “also considering installing a brand new Business Class product on its Boeing 777 aircraft, with customized seats in a 1-2-1 layout.”
Timing on that potential change – either for a decision or implementation – remains unclear.
More news from the 2021 Dubai Air Show
- Iraqi Airways chooses Panasonic Avionics for IFE/C future
- Saudia selects Inmarsat GX for A321neo connectivity
- Airbus snags another massive A321neo/A321XLR deal from Indigo Partners
- Panasonic Avionics picked for Saudia IFE play
- Airbus scores a LiFi win for a trio of corporate jets
- Scratch another IFC player from the commercial market
- Emirates (re)commits big to Premium Economy
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