Which Airlines Sandwich Premium Cabins Between Economy?

When it comes to cabin layout and seating, there’s a somewhat unwritten rule around the order and placement of cabins: The more expensive your ticket and service class, the further forward your particular cabin will be. First class (if offered) goes…well…first. Behind this would be business class, followed by premium economy. Last, always, is, of course, standard economy class. But what airlines break this norm? Let’s look at some examples.

Edelweiss and its Airbus A340s appear to be the most blatant example of breaking the norm.  Photo: Edelweiss

Edelweiss Airbus A340-300

Cabin order from front to back: Premium economy-business-economy

Our first example comes from Swiss operator Edelweiss and its Airbus A340-300. With this cabin configuration, the first 10 rows of the aircraft comprise an economy class cabin- Economy Max, to be specific.

In Economy Max, Edelweiss promises “with long-lasting enjoyment that includes sitting in comfort and enjoying good food,” with the seats given more legroom than standard economy. Behind this is the aircraft’s business class cabin, which fills out rows 11 to 17 with 27 lie-flat seats, which the airline’s website says is akin to “sitting on cloud nine.”

Behind business class is standard economy, stretching from rows 18 to 45.

The reason for this peculiarity is reportedly due to the aircraft being a former Swiss (airline) aircraft, which was configured with a first class cabin- something that Edelweiss didn’t offer.

Emirates A380-800

Upper deck cabin order from front to back: Economy-business class

Only when it comes to Emirates’ two-class Airbus A380 configuration is this present. While the lower deck is all economy class, the superjumbo’s upper deck has economy class upfront, from rows 24 to 39.

The numbers are also somewhat ‘out of order’ from the normal ascending order, going from front to back. Indeed, behind the upper deck economy class are the 58 seats of business class, which stretches from row six to 23. One must wonder if any passengers have been confused by the aircraft configuration’s row numbers. This is Emirates’ highest-density layout, with 557 seats going to economy class.

Having this configuration allows Emirates to place its business class lounge near the back of the aircraft, next to its galley and the large cluster of lavatories.

Emirates Airbus A380-861 A6-EDO
Emirates has one A380 configuration that places business class behind economy. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Air China Boeing 747s

Lower deck cabin order from front to back: Business class-first-(premium economy)-economy

On Air China’s 747s, business class is positioned in front of first class. This is the case for both the airline’s 747-400s and 747-8s. The main cabin configuration difference between the two generations of jumbo jets is that Air China’s 747-8i is fitted with a premium economy as well. Thus, on the airline’s 747-400s, first class ‘takes a backseat’ to business and is followed by standard economy.

Air China’s 747-8is are configured with four classes, with first class sandwiched between business and economy. Photo: Colin Brown Photography via Wikimedia Commons 

The reason for Air China’s configuration is reportedly due to the shape of the nose, which couldn’t handle the cabin of first class.

While this doesn’t impact an airline’s operations much (if at all), it’s always fun and interesting to note some peculiarities that break the norm and what we’re, perhaps, unconsciously accustomed to.

Do you know of any other examples? Let us know by leaving a comment.