Emirates aircraft are synonymous with luxury, offering premium-class passengers a shower on board and a bar while cruising at 9,000m. Now, the carrier wants to give some legroom for those flying in coach.
The world’s biggest long-haul airline outlined details of a new premium economy seat that it plans to help stem “leakage” of passengers who cannot afford business class, but want a more comfortable ride to competing airlines.
The carrier is introducing the seats on all of its new A380s and 777s from 2020 and plans to retrofit the seats onto some aircraft already in its fleet, Emirates president Tim Clark said.
The Dubai-based carrier’s A380s would have about 56 such seats in the front of the bottom deck of the aircraft, while the 777s would have between 26 and 28 seats.
Premium economy seats have arrived in recent years in carriers from Singapore Airlines Ltd to American Airlines Inc as customers want more space and frills for a little extra, but are not willing to fork out for business class.
Emirates is taking steps to combat the encroachment of competitors on its routes, including the introduction of new low-cost carriers.
The airline is also facing a more existential threat to its business model as airlines mull aircraft purchases — such as Qantas deciding between Airbus SE’s A350-1000 or Boeing Co’s 777-8 — that would allow them to fly some of the world’s longest routes directly, bypassing big connecting hub airports.
“We’re going to recognize that premium economy is something that is here to stay,” Clark told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
Emirates has “noticed much more leakage out of our mainstream passenger demand into carriers that have it,” he said.
Emirates is still in talks with various seat manufacturers to come up with a new design.
The section of added frills between coach and business aims to address a widening gap that has emerged between those cabins — and to extract more money from passengers.
On almost every airline with premium economy, the biggest lure is increased seat pitch and width, typically along with nicer food and tableware, a larger entertainment screen and occasionally a more generous baggage allowance.
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