Emirates Premium Economy Update – Here’s What You Need To Know

Emirates confirmed their introduction of Premium Economy back in May. Since then, we’ve been waiting with bated breath to see what they come up with, and if it will be any good. Well, thanks to Australian Business Traveller (AUSBT), today we know a teeny bit more about what we can expect from Emirates Premium Economy. And, of course, we want to share it with you!

CEO of Emirates Tim Clark
CEO of Emirates Tim Clark

Speaking to Emirates CEO Tim Clark at the IATA aviation summit in Sydney, AUSBT asked about the specifics of the new seat. While Clark was unwilling to give much away, he did mention that it’s going to be a bespoke design built to the airlines specifications, rather than something off the shelf. He commented that:

“We’ve had a competition among seat manufactures to spec out the designs that we want. We’ve said this is how we want it to be built, and most of the seats that we have today are our own designs built to our specifications.”

premium economy happy
In premium economy, you could be this happy too!


What are Emirates specifications for Premium Economy?

According to AUSBT, Clark says the seats need to be able to cradle the legs and feet, and to have a deep recline similar to a railway style sleeperette, rather than a sloping sleeper or angled flat bed. Specifically, he said Emirates wanted around 38 inches of pitch and a 10 inch recline.

“We’re working on all sorts of (footrest) designs which work, because so often in the past they didn’t work, you put somebody in there and recline the seat, the actual calf position and the leg position and the feet were all wrong.”

qantas premium economy
Qantas premium economy also uses the lazy-Z style seat

He said that Emirates were working hard to get this right, to ensure ergonomics were right for even the ‘higher percentile’ male and female passenger. He agreed with AUSBT that it would be a bit like a lazy-Z but would not have a fixed shell.

“Once you do a fixed shell, you’re ending up in business class (territory) if you’re not careful, and we’re trying to trade people up from economy, not down from business.”

The number of seats per row was being kept under wraps too, although he did confirm it would be less than economy. He also confirmed that premium economy would have it’s own cabin, completely separate to economy class, and not separated by just a curtain either.

“…it’ll be a proper cabin and most of the time passengers will have access to their own washrooms.”

Clark has also commented that Emirates endeavour to make premium a quieter, more comfortable place, with better food too.

How is Emirates premium economy shaping up?

It’s clear they’re taking this premium economy product seriously, and next to some others it looks to be shaping up pretty well. Etihad have responded to Emirates plan for premium economy by launching ‘extra legroom’ seats. However, their offering will only feature +1-2 inches of pitch, whereas Emirates are going for a full +6 inches.

38 inches is around standard for PE products, being the provision on BA’s World Traveller Plus seats and United’s newly available  seats too.

united premium plus
United’s Premium Plus cabin

However, there’s still better premium economy out there. Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Japan Air Lines (among others) all offer 42 inches of pitch, while Norwegian are setting the bar with their massive 46 inches of legroom.

premium economy JAL
Japan Airlines premium economy has a massive amount of legroom, also using a lazy-Z style seat

According to the 2018 Skytrax awards, Air New Zealand have the best premium economy product in the world, with Qantas, Singapore and Lufthansa just behind. They won the award for the best seat too, followed by Japan Airlines, Qantas and Aeroflot.

air new zealand premium economy
Air New Zealand took top spot for premium economy at the Skytrax awards 2018

In terms of soft services, Aeroflot took the crown for the best catering, followed by Air New Zealand, Singapore and Qantas. Emirates are going to have a lot to live up to when they finally release their new PE product.

The rise and rise of Premium Economy

PE seems to be the talk of the industry right now. FinnairAir France and others are all on the verge of launching new or upgrade premium economy seats, proving just how lucrative this product can be.

In the past, Emirates have been noted for saying that they didn’t need a premium economy product, because their economy was that good. However, market forces have obviously dictated a need for this additional seating class (plus it’s a pretty good money spinner for airlines) for travellers not wishing to be squashed in economy but not having the funds to pay for the (rarely discounted) Emirates business class.

emirates first class
If Emirates swanky First Class is anything to go by, we’ve got high hopes for premium economy!

The carrier will be rolling out the premium economy cabin starting with the new Airbus A380s, due to be delivered in 2020. They will also run a long term retrofit program for their existing A380 and Boeing 777s, which will also begin in 2020.