Emirates Future A350 & 787 Fleet Could Cut First Class

Emirates might not include its famous first-class onboard its new Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s, with the airline downscaling to an economy, premium economy and business class format.

The Emirates first class will not feature on the A350 or 787 at this time. Source: Emirates

What are the details?

In an interview with Executive Traveller, Emirates President Sir Tim Clark revealed his fit-out plans for the airline’s new Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft. He said that it had decided to forgo its classic first-class suites and instead only have business class, premium economy, and economy.

“For both the A350 order and the 787s, we’re just going to stay with business, premium economy and economy,” – Emirates President Sir Tim Clark in the same interview.

Emirates currently has on order fifty of the Airbus A350-900 and 30 Boeing 787-9s. It ordered the A350 when the A380 was canceled, likely shifting much of aircraft ‘down payments’ over to the smaller variant.

These aircraft will be deployed on medium to long haul routes, perfect for those destinations are within 6-7 hours of Dubai (such as India or Eastern Europe) that don’t really need the full luxury of first class.

“[The aircraft] will be used on a variety of medium to long-haul operations that don’t, in our view, support the first-class cabin,” he mentioned in the same interview.

Emirates Future A350 & 787 Fleet Could Cut First Class
Emirates destinations map. Look at all the destinations near Dubai. Photo: Emirates

The Emirates A350 and 787 will feature the same business class cabin as the Airbus A380 in its fleet. This means the seats will be lie-flat (there are still some recliner business class seats on their Boeing 777-300ER fleet) and in a 1-2-1 configuration.

What about Emirates’ premium economy?

The reason for this shift ‘downmarket’ is that Emirates is also introducing a premium economy and beefing up its business class.

By introducing a new class on board its aircraft, it believes it will be able to tap into those passengers who want a little more luxury than the economy cabin provides, but don’t want to spring forward for the business class seat. This may work well for business travelers who have been denied business class seats but still travel on the corporate credit card (this is the case with many government workers who don’t want to be caught spending taxpayer dollars on luxuries).

The only issue that it is looking out for is the risk of making its premium economy cabin too good. So good that business class travelers opt to downgrade as it is not ‘that’ bad. This would be devastating for its bottom line and lose the reputation for the airline as a luxury carrier.

Emirates, Dubai Airshow, Airbus, Boeing
Airbus announced a deal with Emirates for 50 A350 aircraft. Photo: Airbus

Practically, what does this mean? This means that whatever Emirates designs for the premium economy cabin it will very likely not include lie-flat seating nor private suite space. The cabin will be in a 2-4-2 configuration if it is anything like Singapore or other airlines (with economy in a 3-3-3). Emirates will provide points of difference like a better recline, bigger entertainment screen, and better food.

What do you think? Will you fly onboard the Emirates A350 or 787? Let us know in the comments.