Emirates is set to increase the number of aircraft it operates with a premium economy cabin – reaching six out of a fleet of 118 by November this year. This comes as it speeds up aircraft delivery from Airbus and further shows Emirates’ commitment to the new cabin.
Bringing forward A380 deliveries
Emirates announced on September 1st that it was speeding up deliveries of its last three A380 aircraft from Airbus. These were planned for delivery by June 2022 but will now join the fleet by November 2021. They are all being fitted with the new Emirates interior, with four cabins including premium economy.
This will bring the total number of aircraft fitted with the cabin to six out of a total fleet of 118. This is expected to increase further as other aircraft are converted, but there’s no firm timetable for this just yet.
CEO Tim Clark explained the change, saying:
“We’ve come to an agreement with Airbus to bring forward the delivery of our remaining A380 orders and have secured financing for these units. These new aircraft will also add more highly sought-after Premium Economy seats into our inventory, as we prepare to fully launch this cabin product in the coming months.”
Emirates’ premium economy
Emirates first announced that it would enter the premium economy market in 2018, with plans to install the cabin on its new A380s. This was, of course, a long time after many other airlines had moved into premium economy (EVA Air and Virgin Atlantic were the first airlines back in the 1980s). The Middle Eastern airlines, though, did not go for this, and Emirates became the first of the ‘big three’ to introduce it.
Emirates at first proceeded slowly with its rollout. The cabin was finally revealed in late 2020 and was well received. It features 19.5 inches wide seats with 40 inches pitch and 56 seats in a 2-4-2 layout at the front of the main deck. As well as the new A380s, some existing A380s will be retrofitted later. It will also be installed on some of the upcoming Boeing 777X aircraft.
The response to the cabin has been very positive. In February 2021, Tim Clark said he was shocked by the public response to the new cabin. Even though the airline still hadn’t launched a new service for the cabin, seats were fully booked for the first couple of months. Speaking to Simple Flying in April 2021, he explained how the new cabin was a priority for the airline, saying:
“We will roll out at pace; we’ve got to convert a lot of the aeroplanes in the process of getting Premium Economy to market. So that’s high priority for us.”
The last A380s
With this announcement, we will also see the last A380s from Airbus delivered early. The A380 program, of course, has already ended, but the last deliveries are still significant.
The aircraft are already completed and currently being fitted out and undergoing final testing. The last aircraft left Airbus’ Toulouse facility for Hamburg in March, where the cabins are installed, and the final painting is carried out.
With the new A380s on their way, attention will likely shift to refitting existing aircraft to further speed up the Premium Economic rollout. The cabin is still not offered for sale (just as upgrades), but this will hopefully change in the coming months.
Are you excited about Emirates’ new premium economy cabin? What strategy do you think the airline will follow for further updates? Feel free to discuss in the comments.