Premium economy is being adapted rapidly by airlines around the world. In many ways it reflects the evolution in airline products — economy keeps getting tighter and business class keeps getting more spacious, so there’s a market for something in the middle. The premium economy hard products we are seeing nowadays are similar to what business class was like 15-20 years ago.
The Gulf carriers haven’t embraced premium economy
While the Gulf carriers are generally leaders when it comes to innovating their onboard products, none of them have introduced a premium economy product. I suspect this is partly because they have a two-pronged strategy — they value large premium cabins, but also don’t want to sacrifice their economy capacity, since in many markets it helps them pay the bills.
Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, has gone so far as to say that their current economy product is as good as premium economy on other airlines, so they don’t have to “punish people to pay more to get the same product.” Clearly that’s beyond delusional, especially as this statement was made around the same time that the carrier confirmed they’d be introducing 10 seats per row in 777 economy.
Emirates’ president went on record in September to say that the airline was exploring premium economy, but it was sounding like they weren’t going to follow through on it. That’s because he thought that the process of implementing it would be difficult, and he wasn’t sure where to position it in relation to economy and business class, especially since the airline is considering unbundling business class.
Emirates is adding premium economy
Well, it looks like Tim Clark may have had a change of heart, as Emirates’ president has confirmed that the airline will be introducing premium economy throughout their fleet within the next 18 months. Per Air Transport World:
Clark said the project will involve “quite a big upheaval” to adapt the 250 aircraft that Emirates already operates, as well as those scheduled for delivery.
“I would think within the next year to 18 months, we will have it in the airline, hopefully up and running,” he said
So it sounds to me like the exact concept hasn’t yet been finalized, but that it’s definitely happening, and they’re figuring out the exact type of product they want, how many seats per plane, what the amenities will be like, etc. I’ll be curious to see if the space for premium economy is taken away from economy or business class.
Are you surprised to see Emirates adding premium economy?
(Tip of the hat to Adil)