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.
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.
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
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.
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?