Emirates has finally brought its much-anticipated premium economy seats to Australia.
The seats, launched in January 2021, marked the first time the Gulf carrier offered the “in-between” cabin class in its 35-year history.
Emirates’ London-Dubai service was first off the rank, with seats initially offered as discretionary upgrade spots. Now it’s Australia’s turn, with the cabins debuting on its Sydney A380 routes to London and Paris on August 1, and Sydney-Christchurch from December 2022.
The Dubai-based airline will be implementing a wider rollout of the cabins over coming months. Six superjumbos have had the seats installed, with plans to progressively retrofit 67 more, and another 53 Boeing 777s.
Middle Eastern carriers have been slow on the uptake of premium economy, with Emirates’ president Sir Tim Clark once expressing concerns such a product would cannibalise sales of its more lucrative seats. Now the airline is banking on economy passengers trading up (rather than business trading down).
Since the cabin’s unveiling, its Mercedes Benz-inspired cream-hued leather seats have attracted “tremendous” demand, according to Clark.
“Emirates premium economy will be exceptional in its class, with minute attention given to every aspect of the customer experience,” he says.
Moving from economy to premium economy, passengers will have an extra two-inches seat cushion and seven-inches of legroom to stretch out, larger pillows and screens, a swinging leg-rest and a six-way adjustable headrest.
Business class elements have also been woven in – think welcome drink, fine chinaware, stainless steel cutlery, and upgraded meals and beverages.
Emirates’ divisional vice-president for Australasia, Barry Brown, says the launch is a “game changer” for Australia and shows its commitment to the market.
The PE rollout is a taste of things to come; the airline just pledged $US2 billion ($2.8 billion) in onboard enhancements as part of its most extensive retrofit program to date.
Clark says the move goes against the grain of other airlines, who’ve conversely cut costs.
All cabins are getting a makeover. That includes unlimited Persian caviar and Dom Perignon pairings in first class, new chef-designed menus, updated cabin interiors, and revamped plant-based offerings. See emirates.com/au/english
Today the airline is bucking an industry-wide trend to cut back on soft product costs, by pledging more than US$2 billion ($2.8 billion) to boost its inflight experience as part of a massive retrofit program.
The new A380 premium economy cabins feature 56 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration across seven rows, while the Boeing 777-300ER is set to feature 24 seats.
He eventually conceded he “may have underestimated the demand for premium economy”, adding Emirates’ proposition would be “special”.
They’re the only Middle Eastern carrier to do so. Etihad Airways has settled on Economy Space with extra legroom, while Qatar Airways has maintained it has no intention of launching a premium economy product.
Emirates, which only introduced premium economy seats in 2021, has won plenty of applause for its PE seating, available on its daily A380 services to Melbourne and Sydney.
Emirates, which counts on petroleum-rich markets for a chunk of bookings, has previously avoided the industry’s rush to economy-plus products for fear of cannibalising sales of more lucrative seats. With oil reaching a 12-year low in February after falling by about one-third in 2015, the Dubai-based airline is now finding it tougher to fill the world’s biggest fleet of wide-body jets.