Emirates Installing Premium Economy On 120 Planes

Emirates Installing Premium Economy On 120 Planes

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Emirates has just announced plans to invest $2 billion in the passenger experience, most of which will be spent reconfiguring existing aircraft. We can look forward to premium economy being installed on many planes, though unfortunately don’t expect major changes to first & business class.

Emirates installing premium economy on 777s & A380s

At the beginning of 2021, Emirates revealed its highly anticipated new premium economy cabin. This debuted initially on newly delivered Airbus A380s, though the catch is that Emirates only has six A380s with these cabins, and Emirates has no more A380s on order. Emirates finally started selling its premium economy product for flights as of August 2022, on flights to key destinations, including London and New York.

Emirates’ premium economy seat on the A380

The initial plan was for premium economy to otherwise debut on the Boeing 777-9, but that jet is now delayed until 2025, representing a roughly five year delay. Obviously that presents a challenge, with the cabin won’t gain much traction if it’s on just six planes.

Emirates now plans to install premium economy on 120 existing aircraft, including the six A380s that already belong to Emirates’ fleet. You can expect that these planes will be roughly equally split between Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s. The process of reconfiguring these planes will take around 18 months, but is only expected to start at the end of 2022 (meaning that best case scenario the project will be complete by mid-2024).

In terms of aircraft configurations, we can expect:

  • Emirates 777s will have 24 premium economy seats, in a 2-4-2 configuration; this will be immediately behind business class, and five rows of economy will be removed to make this possible
  • Emirates A380s will have 56 premium economy seats, in a 2-4-2 configuration; this will be at the very front of the lower deck, also replacing economy seats

Emirates’ premium economy seats feature 40″ of pitch, and they’re 19.5″ wide with 8″ of recline. Each seat also features a footrest and a 13.3″ personal seatback television. Emirates has also introduced enhanced service in premium economy, that’s somewhere between what you’d expect in economy and business class.

Emirates premium economy meal service

Emirates updating other cabins as well

The biggest change coming to 120 Emirates aircraft is that we’ll see the introduction of premium economy. However, it’s stated that Emirates will be refurbishing all cabins on these planes.

As it’s described, “cabins will be retrofitted with new or reupholstered seats, new panelling, flooring and other cabin features.” This is certainly better than nothing, however:

  • It doesn’t sound to me like we should expect Emirates’ new 777 first class to be installed on more planes (it’s currently only available on nine 777s)
  • It doesn’t sound like Emirates plans on introducing a new Boeing 777 business class, even though that’s most definitely needed

Emirates’ Boeing 777 business class product is incredibly disappointing, with angled seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. There simply shouldn’t be a long haul business class product on a top airline with a middle seat that doesn’t feature direct aisle access.

Now, at least that’s what we know so far. It’s possible that Emirates may have a surprise in store, and is just trying to undersell and overdeliver. In late 2021, when Emirates first revealed plans to install premium economy on more jets, Emirates President Tim Clark said:

“We are also considering a brand new Business Class product. More details will be revealed in due course.”

It was hinted that Emirates might finally introduce a business class product with direct aisle access on 777s, much like we see on the A380. Unfortunately nothing further has been revealed on that front, so I don’t necessarily think that’s happening. But who knows, maybe we’ll be surprised, and the airline just isn’t ready to reveal more just yet.

It sounds to me like in other cabins we’ll primarily see finishes changed to reflect Emirates’ updated motifs. We’re talking about the more muted tones Emirates uses nowadays, rather than the 1990s Las Vegas glitz theme that the airline is known for.

Emirates’ “old” 777 business class design
Emirates’ “new” 777 business class design

This is exciting, kind of disappointing

Emirates is such a strange airline sometimes. The Dubai-based carrier has been incredibly innovative in so many ways, but at times moves at a snail’s pace, and is surprisingly uncompetitive. I’m happy to see that Emirates plans on introducing premium economy on 120 planes.

However, I still find it extremely disappointing that Emirates has no no plans to install the new first class product on more planes. This was introduced in late 2017, nearly five years ago, and still only nine planes have these new cabins.

Then you have the fact that the 777 is the backbone of Emirates’ fleet, yet most 777s have angled business class seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. How can the airline make updates to these planes without installing a more competitive business class?

Emirates’ new Boeing 777 first class

It seems to me that Emirates is in general relying a bit too much on the A380 halo effect, including the popular bar and shower. And to be honest, in a way I’m not sure I can blame the airline? I recently had a non-avgeek friend fly Emirates’ 777 business class, and she said it was better than any other business class she has ever flown (and she has flown a lot of first & business class products). Yeah, I’m confused too…

Emirates’ popular Airbus A380 business class bar

Bottom line

Emirates plans on installing premium economy on 120 aircraft, including a mix of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. The project is expected to start later this year, and should hopefully wrap up in 2024.

We can expect some updates to other cabins as well, though unfortunately there’s no indication that we’ll see Emirates’ new first class installed on more planes, or that we’ll see a new 777 business class. Who knows, maybe Emirates has a surprise in store.

What do you make of Emirates’ plan to refurbish existing jets?

Conversations (14)
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  1. Ian Suffolk Guest

    The thing I have noticed with Emirates premium economy is you cannot combine this with business class, unless I am missing something. I would like to fly London to Singapore, I cannot afford the full business class amount as this is over £4k pounds, so i wanted to look at London to Dubai in PE, then Dubai to Sin in Business, but the computer says no. If you book a flight like this with PE...

    The thing I have noticed with Emirates premium economy is you cannot combine this with business class, unless I am missing something. I would like to fly London to Singapore, I cannot afford the full business class amount as this is over £4k pounds, so i wanted to look at London to Dubai in PE, then Dubai to Sin in Business, but the computer says no. If you book a flight like this with PE as the first leg, the next leg has to be in economy, you cannot choose business. I guess this is to protect business class sales, but for me is frustrating as I would Like the chance to at least see the cost ?

  2. Jan Guest

    I like how the attitude of avgeeks here about Emirates having one bad cabin in their entire fleet (777 J) therefore the whole airline is lazy and bad

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Jan -- I hear you, but I also think you're understating the problem here. Emirates isn't like other airlines that have 15 different types of planes in their fleet. Roughly half of Emirates' fleet consists of planes with a 2-3-2 configuration in business class. That's a lot of planes.

  3. TheBestBlackBrent Gold

    With their obsolete business class product (middle seat, lol), this truly makes them a mediocre leisure airline but simultaneously the world's best marketing company!

    They do an awesome job making people believe they somehow are 'premium', when only a handful of planes have truly world class first cabins and 95% have outdated premium products and service.

    It will also mainly eat into their premium sales, since there hardly is differentiation now. Biz already doesn't have...

    With their obsolete business class product (middle seat, lol), this truly makes them a mediocre leisure airline but simultaneously the world's best marketing company!

    They do an awesome job making people believe they somehow are 'premium', when only a handful of planes have truly world class first cabins and 95% have outdated premium products and service.

    It will also mainly eat into their premium sales, since there hardly is differentiation now. Biz already doesn't have dine on demand etc., so why would you opt for that now?

  4. Stuart Guest

    I mean, given the weakness of the J product on the 777's why would anyone NOT just get a cheaper Premium economy seat instead? This will end up gutting their Business Class unless it's upgraded as it offers nothing compelling to differentiate. Especially so on the shorter European routes.

  5. K4 Guest

    Look at it this way, if I’m flying from a major city on EK, I’m on a 380.
    777s only really go to small places like Brussels.
    If I’m in EK J, I get Hennessy XO and some other very nice spirits and often good wines.
    I’m not always so exhausted that I need a private suite to sleep in. Especially on a 777 route.
    I, too, once got fed up...

    Look at it this way, if I’m flying from a major city on EK, I’m on a 380.
    777s only really go to small places like Brussels.
    If I’m in EK J, I get Hennessy XO and some other very nice spirits and often good wines.
    I’m not always so exhausted that I need a private suite to sleep in. Especially on a 777 route.
    I, too, once got fed up of EKs inferior J, and switched to EY. But then Etihad started reducing benefits on Alitalia (which living in London were very nice flying out of LHR T4 short haul to Italy and Europe), then Etihad did away with the A380s and left T4 LHR (which is the least congested and fastest terminal to navigate at LHR), then they did away with the complementary barber services in their arrival and departure lounges, then they did away with the chauffeur.
    Admittedly, I now usually book EK J but fly F by being flexible with my dates and upgrading with miles, but suddenly EK made so much more sense than EY. The seats may be worse, but the drinks were certainly better, and being picked and dropped to the airport every step of the way really helps.
    BA is great if all you want to do is sleep, the club Suite is certainly more comfortable, but the service is non existent and the F&B is appalling.
    So yeah, if you’re exhausted and are short of time, by all means take BA and sleep, however, if you have time for pleasure and don’t just want to sleep, enjoy EK and the bar and if you’re flexible, upgrade to F.

  6. Scudder Diamond

    Was that friend Tiffany? What ever happened to her?

    1. Tortuga Diamond

      "...[A] non-avgeek friend...", so not Tiffany. And also, if memory serves, her favorite F product was/is Cathay Pacific.

  7. Speedbird Guest

    Emirates is coasting on reputation and if your friends opinion is reflective of the general public I think a lot of emirates customers care more about brand name than they do substance. If you ask me Emirates is a "luxury leisure" airline rather than an airline that caters to business travelers. It's funny to see Lufthansa's slightly below par product get so hated on while Emirates's obsolete product gets rabidly defended

  8. LEo Diamond

    @Ben, think of the new suite install on a positive way, Atleast they covered 9 of their fleet with it in 5 years time, representing around 4% Of EK fleet, while the LH industry innovative class that earned their fifth star can be seen only in the ppt, representing 0% of the fleet.

  9. DRJ New Member

    "better than any other business class she has ever flown" ??
    What has she been smoking ? :D

    1. Daniel from Finland Guest

      Better ask "what has she been flying"? TAAG Angolan and TAP, perhaps. :D

    2. LEo Diamond

      Don't forget PIA Airlines

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Speedbird Guest

Emirates is coasting on reputation and if your friends opinion is reflective of the general public I think a lot of emirates customers care more about brand name than they do substance. If you ask me Emirates is a "luxury leisure" airline rather than an airline that caters to business travelers. It's funny to see Lufthansa's slightly below par product get so hated on while Emirates's obsolete product gets rabidly defended

5
LEo Diamond

@Ben, think of the new suite install on a positive way, Atleast they covered 9 of their fleet with it in 5 years time, representing around 4% Of EK fleet, while the LH industry innovative class that earned their fifth star can be seen only in the ppt, representing 0% of the fleet.

2
Daniel from Finland Guest

Better ask "what has she been flying"? TAAG Angolan and TAP, perhaps. :D

1
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