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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 …..

Emirates premium economy seat

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.

Emirates premium economy cabin

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:

Emirates premium economy tray table

Faux walnut and gold trim has gone, replaced by some darker woods and ‘champagne’ colours:

Emirates premium economy seat

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:

Emirates A380 business class refresh

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:

Emirates A380 Shower Spa refresh


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

How to earn Emirates Skywards miles from UK credit cards (August 2022)

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:

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

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.

Comments (33)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Michael C says:

    You had me at “three toilets”!
    Champagne colour VERY nice.

  • Baji Nahid says:

    It indeed does look stunning with a toned down colour scheme.

    Though i do wonder whether the seating fabric of those seats will last long.

  • Anon says:

    It sucks that we cant use points to upgrade our seats

    • blenz101 says:

      Would not surprise me at all being part of (and spending) Skywards miles were part of the mix in recognising EK’s most valuable customers in due course.

      Would seem almost a no brainer for EK to offer this once they have certainty of the aircraft either via the app at the airport or even onboard (an option currently available to move up to J).

    • KBuffett says:

      Apparently you can. I can’t remember how, perhaps Rob can cover it?

  • John says:

    Let’s see what the fares will be. Every time I’ve flown PE I found it a waste of money, so I now only book it if the additional miles or TPs make sense, or on BA if I want to UuA

    I would only pay 1.25x the economy price for these EK seats

    • Rob says:

      There is a lot which comes into play. For example, a couple gets extra value from PE because they get a guaranteed row to themselves. Tall or wide people get real value from the extra space.

      There is also a HUGE difference in miles earned in most cases. 25% of miles flown for basic economy vs 125% in most cases with PE. These are worth at least 25% of the fare on its own. You also get a decent chunk of tier points.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      There’s a fairly fine line between cramped and spacious; unpleasant vs comfortable and it is of course highly individual and subjective. For me, I am a height that economy is horrid but most P/E takes me over that comfort threshold so that, for example on daytime flights east I can read, work or talk to Mrs Squirrel quite happily and there is little further value in Biz. The price difference between the cabins is of course a huge factor as well on your own dime (Orlando being the most distorted example where, with the back full of package deal flyers, and a tiny biz cabin on Virgin’s old 747s, £700 econ vs £800 p/e but Biz at 4K+ could sometimes be found) In some ways p/e is better for social couples. Night flights or very long flights obviously completely different scenario.

      • Chris says:

        I completely agree with you. As someone who is 6’2 (with long legs) I find PE perfectly acceptable on longer routes.

        Yes, I’d prefer to be sitting in business but unless someone else is paying, I’m using miles, or it was a steal in a sale – it is usually more than I’m willing to pay. As you say, somewhere in that c. £800 price bracket and I’m perfectly happy with the £ for value.

        Hoping that we get this on the GLA-DXB route eventually. That would be a game changer for me.

        Now, if they’d copy BA with the modest PE to Biz upgrade using miles, I’d be moving meaningful amounts of my personal travel to EK!

    • Richard says:

      PE fares are a worse proposition, in general, on fares bought from the UK as you pay substantially more taxes than Economy departing these fair shores, which most (all?) other countries do not add anywhere near as much of a tax increase…

      • tony says:

        I think this is a fair assessment. However sometimes you can get very good deals that work for a number of reasons. I recall getting a Y+ fare on Cathay LGW to HK for something like £750. Business was coming in at almost three times that with a stopover, too. Conversely, we’ve gone to Florida in club for £1500 when Y+ has been maybe £1250.

        In my mind, anyone who claims Y+ is either 1) always worth it or 2) never worth it might benefit from a review of the situation.

    • James Vickers says:

      I flew from Hong Kong to London premium economy with virgin and it does remain one of the most comfortable flights have ever had. I do agree a lot does depend on price and quality of the premium economy

  • Phillip says:

    Can’t help but feel that this is another gimmick from the gimmick airline! Put/refresh a product in a handful of aircraft so you can make glitzy adverts and never mind what passengers actually fly!

  • 1nfrequent says:

    That champagne colour looks amazing new but I would put money on it looking grubby and stained within a year. Lovely but impractical from a maintenance POV.


    • Dick Steele says:

      Agreed. I can’t see how they’ll keep it clean.

      • Chris says:

        Hopefully by regular cleaning! Imagine the horrors that are hiding under the dark shades of the BA seats!

        I’m hoping this may be one good thing coming out of the pandemic. Seen some disgusting seats in J & F on BA in the past. Crumbs, spillages and god knows what else. I think if you took a UV light to them, you’d be horrified

  • ChrisW says:

    Unless you are just travelling to Dubai, it seems like a bit of a waste of time to have premium economy if its only on a handful of aircraft. Even if they devote it to the Heathrow route, anyone connecting onto the likes of East Asia and Australia will be stuck in economy for the second (likely longer) leg. Unless there is only a marginal price premium over economy, its a lot of faff just for a bit more legroom.

    I’ve flown premium economy on a number of airlines and been consistently disappointed. It is barely distinguishable from economy on most airlines, and often twice the price (or more). A tiny bit more legroom (but not enough that the person next to you can easily get out), the exact same food and drinks (whether the main course is slopped into a ceramic white rectangular dish or a plastic white rectangular dish makes no difference to the taste), same IFE (okay, maybe marginally larger screen). If you can’t sleep sitting up the legroom and recline really don’t make any difference. You can’t raise the armrests if the seat next to you is empty either.

    If you rate normal economy say a 1(/10) and business a 10(/10) you might expect premium economy to be around a 5. Every premium economy I’ve flown would be around 2 or at best a 3. For a small price premium I would occasionally treat myself (as I would paying for an exit row) but if you’re paying twice the price, expect to be disappointed.

    • Tarmohamed says:

      Unless we have sufficient points to upgrade from Y to J, – we’d usually fly/pay for Economy. Having been upgraded from Economy to Premium Economy on United EWR-LHR, my and the wife both would actually pay to fly in premium economy on Emirates / most airlines.

    • John says:

      You’ve basically said the same thing as I did earlier, but more verbosely :p

      Even your rating of 2.5/10 is equivalent to my willingness to pay 1.25x

  • Tarmohamed says:

    Anyone know if this aircraft is on EK8 on 11 Jan?

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