Emirates’ First & Business Class Plans For New Fleet

Emirates’ First & Business Class Plans For New Fleet

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The next few years are going to be very interesting for Emirates Airline. The Dubai-based airline currently operates a fleet consisting exclusively of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. With A380 production having ended in 2021, the airline has had to rethink its fleet strategy, especially since A380s will be retired around the mid-2030s.

Emirates now has Airbus A350s, Boeing 787s, and Boeing 777Xs on order. What should we expect from the interiors of these planes? Let’s go over what we know, as we’re learning quite a bit as time goes on…

Emirates’ fleet renewal plans

Emirates’ fleet currently consists of around 250 aircraft, including Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. On top of that, the airline has over 300 additional aircraft on order, spread across three types of aircraft:

As you can tell, the Airbus A350 will be the next jet to join Emirates’ fleet, and it’s scheduled to enter service as of September 2024. It’s anyone’s guess whether the 787 or 777X joins Emirates’ fleet next. Keep in mind that the 777X was initially supposed to be delivered to Emirates as of 2020, but that plane has faced serious certification issues, and will now only start flying as of 2025 at the earliest.

Suffice it to say that the five year delay (and counting) of the 777X has really thrown a wrench in Emirates’ fleet renewal plans.

Emirates has 65 Airbus A350s on order

Emirates won’t have first class on most A350s

Most of Emirates’ new A350-900s are expected to be in a three cabin configuration, featuring business class, premium economy, and economy. Interestingly these planes won’t feature first class. At least that’s the plan for the initial batch of these jets, though we’ll see what happens with some later delivery A350s, as plans could evolve.

Emirates President Tim Clark has gone on the record as saying that these planes will mostly be used for medium and long haul operations where the airline doesn’t see the demand for first class. To me this is a surprising move.

Emirates has the largest first class footprint of any airline in the world, and currently the airline has first class on over 90% of its aircraft. To me that’s a real competitive advantage of the airline, since you can fly in first class one stop from just about anywhere to anywhere.

By no longer offering first class so consistently, some premium passengers will find themselves with a lot more mixed cabin itineraries. I’m surprised the airline doesn’t even install a small first class cabin on these jets, just to be able to offer that consistency.

Meanwhile the plan is for first class to be available on at least some 787s. No final decision has been announced as to whether all 787s will get first class, or just some. It’s also not clear which first class product will be installed on these planes. For that matter, I’d say Emirates’ 787 order is the least certain of what the airline has on order, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this change yet again.

Emirates has 35 Boeing 787s on order

Emirates will have “new” first class on 777Xs

While most A350s won’t get first class, and we don’t know how many 787s will get first class, Emirates will install first class on all of its new 777Xs. After all, the airline has over 200 of these on order, and eventually these will become Emirates’ flagship aircraft, especially after the A380s are retired.

Emirates 777Xs are supposed to get the same excellent first class that Emirates has introduced on select 777-300ERs. Unfortunately only nine planes have those seats as of now, so it will be great to see the footprint of that expanded with the introduction of the 777Xs.

What’s pretty wild is that this product was introduced back in 2017. When you consider that it will be 2025 before the first 777X joins Emirates’ fleet (at the earliest), that means the product will be eight years old at that point. Yow. As of now it’s still the world’s best first class, so I guess it’s holding up pretty well.

“New” Emirates Boeing 777-300ER first class

Emirates business class on A350s, 787s, & 777Xs

While Emirates is known globally for being a top notch carrier, the reality is that the airline has quite a halo effect from its Airbus A380s, including the first class shower spa and business class lounge. The carrier’s most common aircraft is the 777, and those planes have an underwhelming business class product.

Emirates Boeing 777-300ER business class

So, what are Emirates’ plans for the business class seats on A350s, 787s, and 777Xs? Emirates plans to install staggered business class seats that feature direct aisle access and are in a 1-2-1 configuration on all of these jets, and the goal is to have more product consistency.

What we don’t yet know is what exactly this product will look like. We do know that Emirates is partnering with Safran on these new seats. It’s a given that the seats will have privacy doors and much improved tech (bluetooth audio, wireless charging, etc.), but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.

I could see Emirates and Safran partnering on a fully custom product. Or perhaps Emirates will introduce a customized version of the Safran Unity product, which has a layout that’s very similar to Emirates’ current A380 business class.

The Safran Unity product… maybe Emirates’ new seat?

What about existing Emirates aircraft?

For Emirates’ existing fleet, does the airline have plans to install new products on those planes? Emirates is currently in the process of retrofitting 181 planes, as part of a multi-billion dollar investment. This is primarily about installing premium economy on these planes (which is a new cabin for the airline), though there are some other minor changes as well.

Airbus A380s are being reconfigured first. In addition to adding a 56-seat premium economy cabin to the jet, A380s are also seeing mild refreshes to all cabins. The “bones” of the seats are all staying the same, but we’re seeing changes to the cabin finishes, and an all-around more stylish design.

Boeing 777s are expected to be reconfigured starting in the coming months. The airline will install a 24-seat premium economy cabin on these jets. Unfortunately Emirates doesn’t plan to install its new first class on these planes, which is quite disappointing, given how slow the rollout has been.

The good news is that Emirates is installing a new business class product on these 777s. Expect the business class cabin to go from 42 seats to 40 seats. The expectation is that whatever product is introduced on these retrofitted 777s will be the same product that’s available on aircraft going forward, including the A350s, 787s, and 777Xs.

Emirates is installing premium economy on existing planes

Bottom line

Emirates will be seeing quite some changes to its fleet in the coming years, as the airline takes delivery of A350s, 787s, and 777Xs. While there are more questions than answers, we do have a general sense of the fleet plans for these aircraft.

A350s, 787s, and 777Xs, will all feature a new business class, which is the same product that will be retrofitted on some 777-300ERs starting in the coming months. This product will feature direct aisle access and will be in a 1-2-1 configuration, though we’ll see just how good it is.

Meanwhile at least the initial batch of A350s won’t feature first class, while at least some 787s will feature first class. The consistency of a first class cabin has been a real advantage of Emirates, as the airline has by far the world’s largest first class footprint. I’m sad that Emirates won’t be maintaining that strategy going forward.

What do you make of Emirates’ cabins for upcoming aircraft?

Conversations (14)
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  1. Graeme Galley Guest

    As an aside I do wonder how many business people are ever in business class?
    Perhaps a different title would not go amiss.
    Any talk of a lounge on the a350?
    Will couples be able to chat easily or sit across/aside for meals? The current layouts look to be more of a barrier to banter.
    Traveling from NZ to Scotland next year & I think the a350 will be on that route. Cheers

  2. Jorgen esser Guest

    I have been first class with Emirates since 1992 very sad to hear that they will drop it on many of their flights , Emirates was the only airline in the world was rolling out a full first class on almost all their route , by closing down first class on many routes, passengers will go more for the business class or finding another airline , sad news for such a great airline EK

  3. Engel Gold

    Is it just me or do Emirates first class interiors have a 1990's timeshare vibe?

  4. Jerry Wheen Gold

    Not having Premium Economy on medium/long haul planes in 2024 is a big miss.

    Of course First is cooler to write about (and ride in), but that's really for a small minority of travelers only.

    A decent Business Class and Premium Economy are far more relevant. That's indeed where Emirates needs to catch up.

  5. Rob Guest

    I travel only for pleasure/pay cash only. Their First class is too expensive. Also travelling from Europe I prefer Singapore, Swiss or even Lufthansa as have 1 short leg and 1 long leg. I can't sleep during 6-7 hrs flight. For that reason I use EK/QR very rarely. Good to know they finally decided to renew the fleet as current business class is not acceptable.

    1. E39 New Member

      Exactly. I don’t understand how people prefer splitting their trips in two. You don’t get to eat well if you choose to sleep, and you get minimal sleep if you choose to have the full meal.
      Additionally, you’re basically adding HOURS to your trip by flying (from eu to Asia) two 6-8 hr flights with transit in Middle East

    2. Tom Guest

      I don’t understand people that need to eat seven meals on a 15 hour trip - you honestly need a meal in the departure lounge, 1-2 meals on both flights and then another in the connecting lounge?

      I struggle to sleep on planes anyway, so I quite like the break in the Middle East. 3 hours sleep is all I’m ever going to get on a plane max anyway. In addition, it’s nice to get...

      I don’t understand people that need to eat seven meals on a 15 hour trip - you honestly need a meal in the departure lounge, 1-2 meals on both flights and then another in the connecting lounge?

      I struggle to sleep on planes anyway, so I quite like the break in the Middle East. 3 hours sleep is all I’m ever going to get on a plane max anyway. In addition, it’s nice to get a proper lie flat all the way - I hate the feeling of sitting in some random European airport after a longhaul flight waiting to get into a Eurobiz seat after not sleeping properly on a flight from Asia. EK F / QR J avoids that.

  6. DT Guest

    Business travelers don’t buy FC - no sane company would make it part of thier travel policy. Business people travel for meetings not to get drunk and stuff themselves with food. Get on, eat a quick meal is needed, a drink, water and sleep. Land and get to critical meetings. Bloggers and awards travelers sure - but they don’t pay the bills. Facts.

  7. Pete Guest

    Why offer a first class cabin on routes where it doesn't sell? It's not good business to give away an expensive product for award sears, upgrades, and industry tickets. If it doesn't sell, don't offer it; and on routes where it does sell keep them open for cash buyers until the last minute. They're in business to make money.

  8. scio nescio Guest

    The business class on EKs 777 sucks. Just recliner seats, no flat beds, 2-3-2 configuration. Even LH business class is better - and that tells you something. LH ditched the recliner seats a decade ago. If it is not A380, it is not EK.

  9. StevieMIA Guest

    Am I the only one who finds the gold and wooden finishes of Emirates cabins to be extremely tacky and anachronic for this time and age? I know culturally most arab countries have a high regard of gold and metal but this style of cabin doesn't scream premium to me, not compared to the new JAL, ANA, Qatar Qsuites, or the upcoming Cathay that seems so snazzy and well thought out. Hopefully they will change...

    Am I the only one who finds the gold and wooden finishes of Emirates cabins to be extremely tacky and anachronic for this time and age? I know culturally most arab countries have a high regard of gold and metal but this style of cabin doesn't scream premium to me, not compared to the new JAL, ANA, Qatar Qsuites, or the upcoming Cathay that seems so snazzy and well thought out. Hopefully they will change their aesthetics with the influx of new aircraft. I think Ethihad does middle eastern luxury with more class. This cabins remind me of that review Ben did about that horrible seven stars hotel with the tacky interiors and colors, very Dubai, an arabian nights nightmare.

  10. Anders Guest

    It was a surprise that first was gone on the Airbus, but I guess it makes sense. For me I'm flying first for the single reason I don't want their stupid 2-3-2 Business 777ER config that most airlines have ditched decades ago. Yes it's nice to get caviar and great champagne when flying from a "remote" airport.

    I don't mind EK in business on the A380 as its a 1-2-1 config, but if they...

    It was a surprise that first was gone on the Airbus, but I guess it makes sense. For me I'm flying first for the single reason I don't want their stupid 2-3-2 Business 777ER config that most airlines have ditched decades ago. Yes it's nice to get caviar and great champagne when flying from a "remote" airport.

    I don't mind EK in business on the A380 as its a 1-2-1 config, but if they are going to run business in a 1-2-1 setup I might actually fly more Emirates.

    I flew F in 3 out of 4 legs just recently and it was a sad experience. Outbound I was the only F passenger on the 777ER, even on DBX-BKK on the A380 I was the only F passenger, felt really strange (but nice to have plenty of shower time..)

    On the return on 777ER I was joined by two other passengers.

  11. yoloswag420 Guest

    It's true that First Class is no longer as important with Business Class becoming the new gold standard, however, Emirates is one of the few offerings to offer a truly elevated First Class offering and not having it on the A350 seems like a miss.

  12. Nelson Diamond

    Regarding the 777X I bet my rented house on it it will never go above an "order."
    I believe that A/C will only be used as show of on Airshows.

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The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Rob Guest

I travel only for pleasure/pay cash only. Their First class is too expensive. Also travelling from Europe I prefer Singapore, Swiss or even Lufthansa as have 1 short leg and 1 long leg. I can't sleep during 6-7 hrs flight. For that reason I use EK/QR very rarely. Good to know they finally decided to renew the fleet as current business class is not acceptable.

1
yoloswag420 Guest

It's true that First Class is no longer as important with Business Class becoming the new gold standard, however, Emirates is one of the few offerings to offer a truly elevated First Class offering and not having it on the A350 seems like a miss.

1
Graeme Galley Guest

As an aside I do wonder how many business people are ever in business class? Perhaps a different title would not go amiss. Any talk of a lounge on the a350? Will couples be able to chat easily or sit across/aside for meals? The current layouts look to be more of a barrier to banter. Traveling from NZ to Scotland next year & I think the a350 will be on that route. Cheers

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