Emirates Delays Premium Economy Launch (Again)

Filed Under: Emirates

At this point just about all discretionary airline spending is being cut. We’ve seen a lot of innovation from airlines in recent years, though in the next few years I’d expect that trend to reverse, as airlines fight for survival, rather than fighting to outdo one another when it comes to the passenger experience (at least in premium cabins).

Well, Emirates has now confirmed that we shouldn’t expect their much anticipated premium economy anytime soon.

Emirates delays premium economy launch

Emirates was supposed to introduce a premium economy product this year, as the plan was for some of the A380s delivered later in 2020 to feature the cabin.

New A380s were supposed to get premium economy later this year

It’s now official that this won’t be happening. A spokesperson tells Executive Traveller that premium economy is “still on the cards, although the launch will be delayed.”

Not only is Emirates delaying the introduction of premium economy, but Emirates also has no plans to retrofit existing planes with the new product, in order to safeguard liquidity.

That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, when you consider that even prior to this, Emirates hasn’t been retrofitting existing 777-300ERs with their new first class.

Emirates’ new 777-300ER first class

Don’t expect Emirates premium economy anytime soon, and once we do see it, expect the rollout to be really slow.

Unfortunately this isn’t even the first delay to Emirates’ new premium economy. Premium economy was initially supposed to debut on the 777X as of June 2020, though delivery of that aircraft had been delayed. After that the new plan was for premium economy to debut on newly delivered A380s later this year.

Mystery surrounding Emirates’ premium economy

Not only is the launch of Emirates’ premium economy behind schedule, but we actually still don’t know what to expect from this product.

During the Aircraft Interiors Expo in 2019 HAECO revealed their new “Eclipse Cabin,” and in the press release they noted:

The launch customer − an as yet unnamed Middle East-based airline − will begin flying with the seats in 2020.

We don’t know for sure that these will be Emirates’ new premium economy seats, and for that matter I’ve heard some people suggest that they won’t be. However, at this point it’s the best guess we have.

Could these be Emirates’ new premium economy seats?

I remain skeptical of whether or not we’ll see Emirates premium economy in the next few years at all:

  • Emirates has several A380s still on order, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see these orders somehow cancelled; even if they’re not, if Emirates doesn’t have plans to retrofit existing A380s, then it’s probably not worth installing premium economy on so few of them
  • If the A380s don’t get premium economy then the 777-9 would be next, though there’s a lot of speculation about whether Emirates will actually take delivery of these anytime soon
  • Maybe we’ll only see this product introduced on A350-900s and 787-9s in the future?

Rendering of Emirates A350-900

Bottom line

This isn’t surprising, but at this point the introduction of Emirates premium economy is being delayed even further.

At this point it seems highly unlikely that we’ll see premium economy on the A380, since there are fewer than 10 still on order, and the airline doesn’t plan on retrofitting planes.

Maybe we’ll see this product on 777-9s, A350-900s, and 787-9s in the future…

What do you make of the prospects for Emirates’ premium economy?

  1. They have been consistently over promising and then under delivering on everything for the better part of a decade now. I found it hard to believe that they would upgrade the current fleet and continue ahead with their premium economy idea in this environment. The mantra seems to be to keep expenses low and hang on to what little is left of the rainy day fund. That HAECO is also not the Emirates seat. I’ll bet my boyfriend on it that it turns out to be an underwhelming upgrade of the current economy seat with a leg rest.

    Also, I’ve heard that 25% of the work force at Emirates will be served termination letters by the end of this week. Any confirmation from your Emirates sources about this?

  2. Delaying PE is a huge mistake in my view. People like myself who went into cost cutting a few years back, do enjoy PE for long haul and I guess in the coming months so many companies will cut costs. I believe premium seats will suffer the most. PE would have been a way not to downgrade managers from Business directly to Economy. Time will tell if my assumption is correct. Moreover Lufthansa in one of OMAAT’s articles did say that PE was more profitable than Economy and Business. BA was definitely benefiting from PE. I recall the last time I flew with them on a long haul, Economy was probably at 80%. Business definitely less. While PE was at 100% capacity. PE is the way to go and this would have been the perfect time to introduce it.

  3. While I agree with Nicola it is a mistake however it is also understandable. Many airlines are now grappling with which airplanes to retire and which planes are they going to fly and fly for the foreseeable future certainly shedding the large fuel burning planes for 787/350’s long haul. How long does anyone think those 380’s are going to be in the air? Not long.

    I have taken a number of trips (6) on EK and have enjoyed everyone of them, all up front, however given the changing landscape, setting back on work with more personal travel it will be biz or premium coach so I do want to see the ME3 come out with a premium coach product it will sell

  4. @ghostrider5408

    I totally understand the need to cut and survive. But what to cut? That is my argument. Compared to the average of previous years, how many will fly First? How many will fly Business? I took a flight in J class with EK from Dubai to Dallas in the first quarter of 2019. Each passenger entering the business class was upgraded except a few. My point is that EK has a huge premium class capacity and I am not sure if demand will still be the same. So wouldn’t make sense to do a very minor retrofit, reduce Business also a few rows of Economy and introduce PE? I can tell you I will not fly 16 hours in Economy. I will continue to reroute through Heathrow and enjoy BA PE which costs the same of EK Economy. I did it and it was way better off.

  5. @Nicola

    Your argument doesn’t make sense. If you are already flying BA PE which costs the same of EK Economy, why would you spend more for EK PE.

    If airlines say PE was more profitable than Economy and Business. That means PE has the highest margin to airline, or the lowest cost-benefit to passengers.

    I do agree EK has a very large premium class capacity and it’s actually at your best interest if you fly EK often to keep it that way. If “Each passenger entering the business class was upgraded except a few.” that means your loyalty will give you a very high chance of getting upgrades before everyone else.

  6. Emirates should rather focus on revamping its Business Class hard product; 2x3x2 on the majority of its fleet isn’t competitive at all these days.

  7. Bad move. Premium Economy for the next few years will be the answer for a lot of us that have had to cut back on travel spending. It’s all I will look at in the future and who has the best offerings.

  8. Here’s a quote from a mid-2019 Bloomberg piece: “(EK) hit an air pocket in the 12 months through April, with net income falling by more than two-thirds to its lowest level since 2002.” So that’s the cash crunch. The parallels to Pan Am history continues.

    Instead of new cheap phones, I always pay the same for older devices further up the hierarchy. A trick I learned from my first Canadian boyfriend… I also always take business class over premium economy, even if J costs more, because as Eskimo says, the average PY probably can’t help but be awkward bang for the buck. Only AirAsia X premium is worse…

    So I’m more interested in whether this HAECO seat will be Cathay’s next Regional J, longhaul PE, A321neo J, or all of the above. And for gossip’s sake, will it ever get to debut on a 777X (EK or CX)?

  9. The economics of PE depend on the travel policies of key corporate customers. From the airline perspective it’s profitable, if PE can be sold to a significantly large number of travellers who otherwise would only get Y. Now, it remains to be seen what the key customers travel policies look like after the crisis. Overall, PE has not been a huge economic success for many airlines, because their key customers either allow J (for large distances, for senior staff or a combination of factors) or then Y. Most corporate also allow their employees to “buy up”, either by cash or by miles/points, so this might also change the equaition. Bottom line, I think Emirates first wants to see what the key customors travel policies look like.

  10. Bad move, I agree. EK’s fitting of the A380, groundbreaking as it was, gave them an edge, which was hard to beat. Economy large screens, innovative recline, and 5 course meals. Biz, direct aisle access, lounge on board and of course the ultimate showers in first.

    Repeat that scenario, and refit all two class 380’s at least with upper deck biz/PE, even front cabin of the lower deck and scoop the market again. The product is bound to be good, as all the other are.

    “Each passenger entering the business class was upgraded except a few.” 76 J class were all upgraded to 14 first class cabins? Tell O’Leary, there’s a punt here for him.

  11. Emirates literally did a remarkable job with their advertisements, such that everyone who is not an av-geek believe that Emirates is a luxury airline. (If you remember, back in 2010 or 2011, Emirates used to provide legit hot towels and pre-departure packaged lemon juices drink to all Y Class pax!) Frankly. Emirates is literally like the Apple of Aviation Industry. It is overpriced, and some people (like me) love it and some people hate it. The only thing Emirates has to do now to attract pax is giving out frequent deals in J Class. Emirates’ 2-3-2 config in 777s (their 777s fly almost everywhere) and 1-2-1 config in A380s help provide like a LOT of J Class pax. To sum up things, Emirates will have more premium customers than other airlines, partly due to their heavily configured Premium Class. So, Emirates might rake up bucks and regain from all of this havoc quite quicker, since they’ll have more premium paying passengers than other pax on a single flight. So, it is understandable that they will be leaving out PE for quite a while.

  12. @Eskimo

    For a direct flight if in PE I’d be ready to spend a little extra and I am sure I wouldn’t be the only one inclined to do the same. Which might not be even extra since I’d get free WiFi while on BA and AA I’d have to pay. I’d probably get better screen and food as well. So yes, if I could have a choice of BA at let’s say 1500 EUR or EK at 1700 EUR both in PE I might fly direct (which means will reach faster) and maybe fly even better. Business is not an option as the same return flight would range between 4500 EUR to 6500 EUR. For most medium small business it’s unthinkable.

    Since a few years EK upgrade policies have changed. Only the top platinum tier would deserve priority but what they are doing now is trying to sell seats (which makes sense and I do respect that) for a lower price or for a good amount of miles which is very difficult to cumulate unless you’re flying weekly long hauls.

    But for people like me, flying to Europe and US once every two months it is difficult to compete with miles and loyalty tiers. So for flights above 7 hours PE really makes sense to me. And I’d love to fly with EK because for the right seat the value is excellent in my opinion. But 16 hours in Economy I’d need a wheelchair to desembarch. Unless flying for non business purpose like I did in 2017 to Boston, 12 hours, then I can cope with that.

    Still I remain of the same opinion. Had they decided to proceed with PE then my loyalty to EK would be total.

  13. No, @Lucky, don’t be so pessimistic, I think we’ll se this product on their A380s and B777s.

  14. They’re shooting themselves in the foot unless they make their business product highly competitive on price for the next 1-3 years. Businesses will be cutting costs, trying to fly people P/E whereever they can over business, if flying at all.

  15. @vand Absolutely. This is a business opportunity par excellence. The A380’s death knell could so easily be revived by converting at least half the plane into PE.

    Someone Tweet Sir Tim and lobby him

    He’d scoop the market, just like he did initially with the on board lounge and showers.

    Go for it, TIm

  16. @UpperDeckJohnny

    You 100% nailed it. I am not sure if the old J class (non flat) seats were trashed. If weren’t these could be refreshed and be installed as PE to cut costs instead of commissioning new ones. This is what BA did at the beginning and it has been an amazing success story. I have been flying PE on BA on their old J class. Amazing product. Most people disagree with me but for me was better than the latest ones. My personal opinion of course.

  17. @Nicola. Yes. In fact I’m sure you’re aware that the first PE cabin was Eva Air, using exactly those seats!

  18. @UpperDeckJohnny no I didn’t know Eva Air was the first to introduce PE. I always thought BA was the first. Thanks for the info.

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