Emirates is one of the last bastions of the A380. Thanks to its critical mass of the product, once vaccines take hold and confidence in travel returns, the airline will be well poised to offer luxury travel to the masses once again. The carrier already has an arsenal at its ready to help position itself as a leader in the exit from the pandemic, with rapid testing already in play at DXB, and the behemoth aircrafts Emirates operates offering space that will be of importance to long-haul travellers.

The airline has long mused the idea of bringing a new cabin class to the skies, something both Etihad and Qatar have also done, shying away from blurring the lines between economy and Business Class. However, now, Emirates has finally taken the plunge and brought (as expected) and all-bling Premium Economy cabin to the skies with the latest addition to its A380 fleet.

However, it’s not just the new Premium Economy cabin, situated at the front of the main deck that has caught our eye. The airline has revamped almost everything onboard. Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said: “The Emirates A380 is already one of the most sought-after travel experiences in the skies, and now we’ve made it even better. While others cut back, Emirates is working hard to restore the products and services that we’ve had to suspend or adjust due to pandemic precautions, and introduce new offerings and enhancements. True to our fly better promise, Emirates continues to invest to offer our customers the best possible experience.”

It’s a shame that only the handful of remaining A380s to join the fleet will feature these new products (at least for the time being) meaning that chances of jumping on one of the better aircraft will be slim. In fact, there are now multiple versions of the A380 flying – including the original 3-class configuration, the higher density. 2-class configuration without showers, the upgraded 3-class configuration with updated bar, and now this latests version with Premium Economy.

The future of the carrier’s Premium Economy is still uncertain – it’s certainly not the golden chalice to every airline. Some carriers, like Turkish Airlines had introduced the product, only to remove it at a later stage. Emirates admits it is still evaluating whether to retrofit the product across further A380s and it won’t be introduced to its 777X fleet until 2023, limiting the appeal to passengers who ultimately wouldn’t have access to the premium economy concept across their entire journey for many years to come.

“Until we have a viable number of seats in our inventory to bring to market, we plan to offer the Emirates Premium Economy experience as a complimentary upgrade to valued customers. We’ll also deploy our newest A380 aircraft on various routes so that our customers can experience our latest offering in all classes,” continued Sir Tim Clark.

It’s probably due to the fact that its a complimentary upgrade to the most valued passengers, that we’ve not seen any details of any real upgraded soft products or catering at this stage, instead the carrier is focusing on the hard product offering that the Recaro PL3530 offers.

The 56 seats in a 2-4-2 cabin layout offer a generous 40-inch pitch, although the seats certainly aren’t the widest in the skies at. 19.5inches. However a recline of 8 inches will help passengers sit back into a comfortable cradle position with ample room to stretch out. So far, there’s nothing that unconventional about the product.

But that’s were the styling comes in, dressing a fairly standard Premium Economy seat in luxury finishes that we’ve not ever seen before. Covered in cream-coloured anti-stain leather with stitching details and a wood panel finishing similar to Business Class, each seat is designed to provide optimal comfort and support with 6-way adjustable headrests, calf rests and footrests.

Each seat has a 13.3” screen – again, one of the largest in its class (yet the same size as Emirates’ economy screen), to enjoy the unmatched array of music, movies, TV, news and other content on Emirates’ award-winning ICE entertainment system. What is curious is the addition of the wood panelling, which is not the ash panelling found in the lounge area, nor the walnut veneer found in swathes in the business and first class cabins, meaning the airline has opted for yet another wooden texture.

Talking of veneers, the other cabins have also been refreshed. In First Class, the airline’s 14 private suites have been enhanced from the original suites, being slightly wider with taller doors, for even more privacy and comfort.

Talking of veneers, the other cabins have also been refreshed. In First Class, the airline’s 14 private suites have been enhanced from the original suites, being slightly wider with taller doors, for even more privacy and comfort.

Cabin detail and finishes have also been refreshed with new motifs and colours, from the sweeping stairs that lead from the main deck to the upper deck, to refreshed design trims and modern fittings in the Shower Spa – gone are the unnecessary curves and bulky units and now a Ghaf tree design replaces the Dubai skyline motif.

Not much has changed in Emirates’ A380 Business Class, which still offers direct aisle access for every passenger, reclines to a fully-flat position, and offers personal mini bars, ample personal storage and a high degree of privacy.

Again, a change of look and feel replace the ageing motifs on the bulkheads and seat shells. All 76 seats have been refreshed to feature champagne-coloured leather covers and wood finishing, inspired by executive jets, similar to the Business Class on Emirates’ Boeing 777 aircraft. However, we do feel that the overall effect is now lacklustre, with a seemingly monotone approach to the cabin design.

It’s almost the same classic colour scheme that had also been applied to the Onboard Lounge at the back of the upper deck, already available on some aircraft.

Even Emirates’ economy cabin has had a bit of TLC. The carrier has replaced all 338 Economy seats onboard its newest A380 with ergonomically designed seats that come with full leather headrests and flexible side panels which can be adjusted vertically for optimum support.

This latest seat model is a step up from the version currently installed on Emirates’ Boeing 777 ‘Gamechanger aircraft’. It is lighter, without compromising on comfort or function. Each seat features a classy wood grain finish on tray tables, as well as a 13.3” personal screen to enjoy Emirates’ award-winning ice.

While the Premium Economy cabin is certainly impressive on the surface, the looks are certainly skin deep, as apart from a couple extra inches of legroom, they offer little that other airlines already offer. It seems that the carrier, although late to the party, hasn’t brought anything truly revolutionary to the skies. Although, the details of the soft product and dining options, when rolled out, could make the hard product all the more competitive. Our suggestions would be a pre-order menu, a la Singapore Airlines, a full amenity kit, and an optional lounge package as a bolt on, to make the product closer to industry-leading.

These aircraft are great evolutions of Emirates’ existing A380 product, but until the airline opts to retrofit the design across a larger proportion of the fleet, it will be a lucky treat for a select few.

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Posted by:Jonny Clark

One thought on “Emirates finally reveals Premium Economy product and upgrades to the A380. But is it a sheep in wolf’s clothing?

  1. I agree. Simply an incremental change and long overdue. Nothing to get excited about in any of the classes. Emirates service is always hit and miss, even in First class.

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