Emirates Confirms New A380s From 2020 Will Have Premium Economy

Filed Under: Emirates

18 months ago, Emirates suggested that it was planning to introduce premium economy within the next 18 months (so now). While that timeline has not been met, Emirates has given a firmer update on their premium economy plans.

Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the A380, with 103 currently in service, and a further 59 on order. Of those 59 on order, 39 were ordered some years ago and will be delivered in the next few years, while 20 were ordered in January of this year, along with options for 16 more. These will be delivered from 2020.

This was a move that saved the A380 production line.

Premium Economy in 2020

Arabian Business is reporting that Emirates President Tim Clark has confirmed the new A380s to be delivered from 2020 will feature their brand new premium economy product. But he’s not giving much away about it.

Clark also talks about which ‘zones’ will feature the product. This is a confusing term as he means destinations, whereas when I first saw that word I thought he meant where on the aircraft the new seats would be installed.

As for the destinations, I imagine flights to Australia and New Zealand will be a logical choice for premium economy, as many airlines have had success with this product in those markets. My parents would be a target customer for this product – they shudder at the thought of long, overnight flights in economy but also think business class it too expensive, so premium economy may be a happy medium.

As for where these seats will be installed on these new A380s, I would think the only logical place for them is at the front of the lower deck. Of the airlines that feature a proper premium economy cabin on their A380s, those airline that have their first class cabin on the lower deck (Qantas, Air France, British Airways) have installed premium economy at the back of upper deck in a 2-3-2 layout, while Lufthansa (which has its first class cabin on the upper deck), has premium economy in the front section of the lower deck in a 2-4-2 layout, thanks to the wider lower cabin.

Singapore Airlines has its first class cabin on the lower deck on a majority of A380s, with its premium economy directly behind in a 2-4-2 layout.

Lufthansa Premium Economy

Emirates has both their first class cabin at the front of the upper deck, and their famous in-flight bar at the back of the upper deck. So I’d be surprised if the new premium economy seats are not in the front of the lower deck on these new deliveries, in a 2-4-2 layout, with probably five or six rows.

For consistency, even if Emirates installs premium economy on two-class A380s that feature an economy cabin at the front of the upper deck (where first class would normally be), I would expect the premium economy cabin to still be at the front of the lower deck.

Tim Clark has described the new product as ‘special,’ but in reality all airlines say that, and with the exception of pitch, all premium economy seats are quite similar. I would expect a 38 inch pitch in this cabin which is the industry standard, although Emirates may be generous enough to stretch this out to 40 inches.

New First Class

Tim Clark has also said that the new 777 first class suite is selling very well, with flights to Geneva and Brussels ‘always full.’

He has said Emirates is trying to install this product on their A380s, and I would expect the new ‘2020’ A380s (that feature premium economy), to also have the new 1-1-1 first class seat, although installing it in any existing A380s or 777s seems like it will be several years away.

Singapore Airlines premium economy

Bottom line

I find it hard to get excited about premium economy, regardless of the airline, although I would certainly read a review if Ben flew it.

But the reality is, with first class disappearing from many airlines, and innovations in business class making it seem more like first class, premium economy is sort of becoming the new business class.

Emirates knows what they are doing, and has taken a much more sensible approach to growth and profitability than their Middle Eastern rivals. I suspect their premium economy will be as good as can be hoped, and very popular with certain demographics.

Would you fly Emirates premium economy?

  1. and innovations in business class making it seem more like first class, premium economy is sort of becoming the new business class.

    I’m waiting for the day when some airline announces angled flat beds in premium economy. It’s only a matter of inches now with some of the more generous premium economy cabins.

  2. I can see how EK top-tier frequent flyers who fly economy will now be upgraded only to prem econ when economy is overbooked (rather than getting upgraded to business class which, as we all know, is a lot better than flying economy especially in ultra-longhaul flights.)

    I really hope EK will innovate something with prem economy. I also agree with you that most likely it would be located in the front section of A380 lower deck or perhaps in the back portion of lower deck?

  3. Yes, I’d fly Emirates in premium economy: it’s a long way from North America to the Indian sub-continent. One consideration would be the price. If it is closer to a sale business class fare, I’d spend a few extra dollars for the upper class.

  4. @ Joey – its unlikely premium economy pax will want to disembark after economy pax so the premium economy cabin will be in front of any economy cabin.

  5. @James Thanks, interesting articles as always. Some thoughts:
    1. Good move by Emirates as the economic climate means more organisations are moving away from J to PE travel policy. (I’m a victim!) Currently Emirates makes no sense for me because I would always go for a PE carrier at my company’s expense, or fly direct in Y if I have to. (i.e. I suspect your parents are not the primary target market.)
    2. I doubt Lucky will bite but we can hope. (Watch out, he might volunteer you..)

  6. @ Al – I don’t see the resemblance! I do get compared to UK comedian Russell Howard quite regularly though.

  7. @James, good point! I didn’t think of that. I do remember flying on an AF 77W aircraft that had economy plus seats right before premium economy for some reason. Not sure why.

  8. @James O well! I was only really able to compare from the few photos that are on OMAAT but based on them I thought you looked similar. In any case though, do you have any plans fly LHR-Perth? And would you rather 17 hours straight of flying or a stopover in Dubai?

  9. What you said about premium economy becoming business class is a very logical point. Qatar Airways’ Qsuite is basically first class meaning that if QF wanted to create a game changing premium economy they could introduce a 2-2-2 business class configuration and brand it as Qpremium or something like that. As for introducing a game changing first class. If the business class is as good as Qsuites the only option would be creating private rooms in the new “cargo class” concept. Something similar to a hotel room. As for economy that is much harder to think of. James could you please make a post on the future of all cabins as I find your updates very interesting. Particularly your posts on The EU Big 3, The Heathrow Terminal 1 auction and Berlin Brandenburg Airport

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