Dubai-based Emirates has confirmed it will retrofit 105 of its widebody aircraft with premium economy seats. The airline made the announcement at the Dubai Air Show. The rollout, which will see premium economy seats installed across 53 Boeing 777 and 52 Airbus A380 aircraft will be completed by mid-2024.
Emirates was late the premium economy party, but it’s catching up fast
Emirates was late to the premium economy party, only announcing that it would begin installing the seats in 2018 and then only on a handful of aircraft. But the upscale cabins have proved a hit, and Emirates is now investing heavily in the product – a case of better late than never.
“Emirates is investing in this retrofit program to ensure that we continue to serve our customers’ needs and provide the best experiences in the sky,” said Emirates President, Tim Clark, on Tuesday.
“Since we introduced our premium economy seats a year back, we’ve received a hugely positive response. We intend to further develop our premium economy into a distinctive Emirates experience that is unmatched in the industry. We are also considering a brand new business class product. More details will be provided in due course.”
By mid-2024, Emirates plans to have 111 aircraft featuring premium economy cabins. To date, just six Emirates A380s contain premium economy seats. On the A380s, Emirates will install 56 seats up the front of the main deck in a 2-4-2 configuration. On the Boeing 777s, Emirates will install 24 premium economy seats also in a 2-4-2 configuration. The Boeing 777s will lose five rows of business class seats to accommodate the new cabin.
Emirates will perform the retrofits at their Dubai base, something Tim Clark says is a source of pride.
“It demonstrates the strong aviation capabilities that have been built up within Emirates airline and the broader UAE ecosystem to support such a highly specialized and technical program,” he says.
Tim Clark bets big on his premium economy product
Like their business class product setting the industry standard a decade ago, Emirates‘ premium economy cabins are now among the best in the sky. They offer a seat pitch up to 40 inches, a seat width of 19.5 inches, and the seats recline eight inches into a cozy cradle position.
“It was important that we produced a world-class premium economy.” Tim Clark previously told Simple Flying in an exclusive interview. He said there would be many people traveling in the upcoming years who can’t necessarily afford to fly business class but can pony up that bit extra for premium economy.
“It’s really a class product. I think these people will be quite happy to travel and pay the premium above the higher economy fare brackets.
“We will roll out at pace; we’ve got to convert a lot of the airplanes in the process of getting premium economy to market – that’s a high priority for us.”
But at the time, Tim Clark didn’t let slip how big Emirates planned to go into premium economy. However, on Tuesday, he opened his hand and showed his cards.
In addition, the Emirates President indicated the airline was looking at installing a brand new business class cabin across its Boeing 777 fleet. Emirates flies various models of Boeing 777s, all with business class cabins, but all those cabins feature 2-3-2 seating configurations, and that’s simply not up to scratch in this day and age. Tim Clark is eyeing a new 777 business class cabin with a 1-2-1 configuration.
Unlike his premium economy plans, Tim Clark remained relatively circumspect about his Boeing 777 business class plans, other than to say they would be “new seats.”