Emirates Will Introduce Premium Economy Within The Next 18 Months

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.

Air-Canada-777-Business-Class - 6
Air Canada 777 premium economy

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 777 economy

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.

Emirates A380 business class

This is a new direction for the Gulf carriers. The U.S. carriers also resisted premium economy for a long time, but now we’re seeing both American and Delta adding it to their longhaul fleet.

Are you surprised to see Emirates adding premium economy?

(Tip of the hat to Adil)


  1. I’m curious to see how they’ll price PE. There is a pretty big range in terms of value for money when it comes to the existing PE products. I find Air France PE to be completely not worth it – uncomfortable seats for a near-business class price. Lufthansa on the other hand has got PE pricing better figured out in my opinion.

  2. I certainly find qatar economy as good of not better than britosh airways premium economy. Whilst BA PE has more legroom thats pretty much the only advantage…. maybe more a reflection on BA than anything else though

  3. How to make a good premium economy product:

    * 7 seats across on a widebody (BA’s 787 is a good reference)
    * Business class meal (even if served in a less appealing package)
    * Proactive service from FA (in many products, you have to use a call button) for drinks, refills, etc
    * Access to the lounge, if possible

    This would command a several hundred dollar premium per seat versus economy.

    Maybe Emirates could offer access to the bar.

  4. The only bad thing I can think of when it comes to PE is that a bump up to business from economy is nearly impossible.

    I also wonder how many seats it will be in each row. 2-3-2 is in my opinion the only way to go, but with emirates having that configuration in business class on the 777s, I’ll doubt that it will happen. Then the (almost) only option is 2-4-2, which is the same as SIA uses, and (without having tried it, only walked past) does not look comparable to SAS’ PE, which is quite good and reasonably priced.

  5. I think it’s a great idea and a win win. Having just come back from Paris via DXB on EK talking to the FA’s their numbers are down. There is too much of a delta between coach /biz/f. Especially for Americans on vacation that extra room can make a huge difference. One time there was only one seat available in upper class so my wife graciously had me take F and she flew in the back from DXB to CPT. And it was packed I mean packed. For an American’s with larger frames it can be a challenge, she was not happy.

    Bottom line is I like the idea and would frequent EK more

  6. @Anthony:
    Different people want different things.

    Your PE list looks like aspirational consumer bling to me. What I want in PE is, simply, more space. A bit more width, and noticeably more legroom. Anything else (better food, “proactive service”) is nice but not essential.

    For me, an ideal PE = Economy + better legroom. The extra price is then simply a ratio to the extra space being consumed.

    If I want bling I pay for Business.

  7. Easy.. go 9 across (8 for 380 upstairs if applicable) w/ 36″ pitch (economy meals on Emirates are already edible though not fancy) and charge a few hundred bucks for it … this would be worth a few hundred to many on ULH flights that Emirates operates many of.

  8. Love that Air Canada Premium Economy cabin shot. The seats are comfortable, meals similar to domestic business class, and it’s a great option for me on the Philadelphia to Beijing route I do 4x a year. Work won’t pay for business class, but we can do Premium Economy, so I’m always taking the route via Toronto. Better travel time than through ORD or DFW and pre-clearance in YYZ is great. You should start reviewing more Premium Econ products, Lucky!

  9. Hello Lucky,
    You need to review PE more often if possible. Let us know what isthe verdict for each airlines PE.


  10. My guess would be they make the seat in a 2-4-2 configuration on the lower deck of the a380 and have 38 inches of pitch

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *