Emirates has always stood out from the long-haul airline pack by not installing a premium economy cabin on its aircraft. This was despite the airline having award-winning first and business cabins. So the Dubai based airline made quite a splash last year when it changed tack and announced it would be configuring a premium economy cabin across most of its fleet.
High expectations of an award-winning premium cabin product
David Flynn, writing for Executive Traveller, broke that story. Emirates was to roll out its first premium economy cabins this year as it took delivery of yet more A380s. Eventually, the airline would feature premium economy cabins across its A380 and 777-300ER fleets.
Emirates CEO, Tim Clark, dampened expectations of a lie-flat seat. Instead, he said the airline would channel the romance of the railways with sleeperette style seating, ample legroom, better than economy catering, and more attentive service.
“It will be an Emirates premium economy, so it will be special,” the Emirates CEO has said.
But a lot can and has changed in a year. The Emirates business model was already under pressure last year. As new long-range fuel-efficient aircraft allowed passengers to fly direct, the glory days of the Dubai mega-hub may have passed.
That’s possibly one reason why Emirates picked up the premium economy product. Like its interest in fifth freedom routes, the airline needed to keep innovating to grow and stay relevant to travelers.
An awful lot has changed in just one year
That was all before aviation was turned on its head this year. Having gone from flying its 257 aircraft to 159 destinations around the world, the mega carrier is down to operating a few repatriation flights back to Dubai and has grounded most of its fleet.
Like airlines everywhere, Emirates is now under extreme pressure. Tim Clark recently said the era of the A380 is over. That’s a big call from the world’s biggest A380 operator. There are few certainties in a post-pandemic era, but most people are reasonably sure commercial aviation won’t be the same as before. That’s raised a question about the future of the premium economy product at Emirates.
Again, Executive Traveller has discussed two theories about the Emirates premium economy product. It has just cited two sources with two different possible outcomes. The first source says the rollout will be delayed. The second source suggests Emirates would push ahead with the rollout. Which is the more likely outcome?
Defer or push on? What route will Emirates choose?
It seems the first source was on the money with Emirates today saying they would defer the rollout of their premium economy product.
“We have no current plans to retrofit our existing fleet in order to safeguard our liquidity which is the highest priority at the moment,” Emirates told Executive Traveller.
While the delay is understandable, it is not really the Emirates style. From a cultural and strategic perspective, the airline has always been expansionary and aggressive. Rather than delaying and cutting, Emirates is known for stepping up and growing its way out of a tight corner.
Despite Emirates saying the pain in the aviation industry could last another year or more, a cozy new premium economy seat might be just the thing to generate sales for Emirates in the immediate post-pandemic travel era.