Emirates unveils a Premium Economy cabin and refreshes First & Business class
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It’s been a long time coming but Emirates has – finally – introduced premium economy seating. It is launching on the Heathrow route next week.
The Middle Eastern airlines have all been behind the curve on the introduction of premium economy cabins, first pioneered by Virgin Atlantic and Eva Air in the 1990s. For example, Qatar Airways has said in the past that it believes its economy product is so good that it doesn’t need a premium economy cabin …..
This is despite the fact that premium economy is a massive money-maker for many airlines. Lufthansa says that premium economy makes more money per square metre than any other cabin – despite only introducing it in 2014.
It claims it generates 6% more revenue than business class and 33% more than economy. British Airways says it is almost as profitable as its Club cabins.
Emirates introduces premium economy on its latest A380
Emirates has been teasing the introduction of its premium economy offering for a while now, which has been delayed by Covid and the delays on the Boeing 777X program.
It is now introducing it on the final six A380 deliveries. The first aircraft with premium economy was actually delivered earlier this month but has not yet seen passenger service.
Emirates has chosen the Recaro PL3530 premium economy seat. If it looks familiar, this is the seat that British Airways has been installing on refurbished aircraft and new arrivals in recent years.
This is slightly less revolutionary than the rumours, which suggested that this HAECO Eclipse seat would debut on Emirates. It would have provided a truly next-generation premium economy experience:
HAECO claimed that a Middle Eastern airline would be flying the seat from 2020 so either it was wrong or we should keep an eye on Qatar Airways or Etihad ……
Emirates’ premium economy still looks classy. It introduces a more modern, slightly less nouveau riche design to the cabin:
Faux walnut and gold trim has gone, replaced by some darker woods and ‘champagne’ colours:
The A380s will feature 56 premium economy seats in a 2-4-2 layout at the front of the lower deck. The cabin has three dedicated toilets.
The seats themselves feature up to 40″ pitch and 19.5″ width, with an 8″ recline. You’ll get a six-way adjustable headrest, calfrest and footrest as well as a wide dining table and small side table.
Connectivity includes an 13.3″ IFE screen and in-seat charging points.
You still won’t be able to book premium economy
Despite the introduction of premium economy, Emirates CEO Sir Tim Clark suggests that the cabin won’t be immediately bookable:
“Until we have a viable number of seats in our inventory to bring to market, we plan to offer the Emirates Premium Economy experience as a complimentary upgrade to valued customers.”
I imagine this is because Emirates will only have a maximum of six aircraft with premium economy in its fleet until 2023.
Instead of treating this as a subfleet which would be challenging given its small size, it will be flying the new A380s as part of its larger fleet and upgrading any valuable customers.
It is possible, once all six are in service, that they are dedicated to one particular route – Heathrow would be logical – so the seats can be sold on direct flights to Dubai. It could not be sold on connecting flights as it would not be available on the onward leg.
Business Class and First Class are also refreshed
The business and first class cabins get some love in this refresh as well.
These changes are mainly cosmetic, which means new textiles and surfaces in a generally more refined style.
For business class this means new champagne-coloured leather upholstery and modified wood finishing, with the ‘bones’ of the seat remaining the same:
The 14 First Class suites have been enhanced and made slightly wider, with taller doors. The showers have been refreshed with new designs and fittings, as has the staircase:
The new Emirates premium economy seat looks good, although it isn’t quite as revolutionary as we’d hoped for.
The new design language is a lot more modern and elegant than the current cabin, which is something you’d suspect Donald Trump to have designed ……
As you may have noticed, a new motif is visible in all cabins. This is the Ghaf, the national tree of the United Arab Emirates. I think it adds a nice, warmly organic touch to the cabin.
Whilst the new seat will be fitted on the remaining five A380s to be delivered by Airbus, Emirates remains tight-lipped on any plans to refit its existing fleet.
This means that premium economy would be exclusive to six A380s and its 777X aircraft, due to arrive from 2023. It strikes me as odd to have such a small subfleet fitted with premium economy and I can’t imagine there won’t be further refurbishments. It will be a limited product for the immediate future.
That said, Emirates has been perfectly happy to introduce a revolutionary new First Class Suite which is only available on a handful of Boeing 777 aircraft and is only available in the UK from Stansted.
The first flight to see it will be EK3 to London Heathrow on 4th January.
How to earn Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit cards (March 2023)
Emirates Skywards does not have a UK credit card. However, you can earn Emirates Skywards miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.
Cards earning Membership Rewards points include:
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 20,000 Emirates Skywards miles. This card is FREE for your first year and also comes with four free airport lounge passes.
- The Platinum Card from American Express (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 30,000 Emirates Skywards miles
- American Express Rewards credit card (review here, apply here) – sign-up bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points converts into 10,000 Emirates Skywards miles. This card is FREE for life.
Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Emirates Skywards miles which is an attractive rate. The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Emirates Skywards mile. The Gold card earns double points (2 per £1) on all flights you charge to it.