Emirates is investing more than $US150 million to refurbish its Boeing 777-200LR jets and remove the unpopular middle seat from its business class cabin.
The first jet in the new 2-2-2 configuration was due to take off for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Wednesday sporting 38 business seats and 264 in economy class.
The remainder of the airline’s 10 777-200LRs will be retrofitted during the course of the year and destinations will include the airline’s recently announced new port of Santiago, Chile.
The removal of the middle seat addresses some of the criticism leveled at Emirates when it announced its wider Boeing 777 cabin upgrades in November 2017.
This included a Mercedes Benz-inspired first class suite offering full privacy on the bigger 777s but a business class that retained the 2-3-2 configuration.
The 777-200LR changes give passengers a latest design, lie-flat seat that is two inches wider than its predecessor and offers a seat pitch of 72 inches. It features Mercedes-inspired champagne finish, diamond stitch pattern and ergonomically designed headrest unveiled in November.
The seat includes touchscreen controls, a 23-inch in-flight entertainment screen, personal lighting options, privacy panels between seats, shoe storage, a footrest and a personal mini-bar.
Overhead bins at the center of the cabin have been removed to give it a more spacious feel and the airline has added a “mini-lounge” social area featuring snacks and beverages that is unique to the 777-200LRs.
The airline said the economy seats had also been “refreshed” to the latest color palette of soft greys and blues.
Competition for premium passengers has accelerated with a number of airlines last year unveiling new business class seats, including Emirates rivals Qatar and Singapore Airlines.
Both Qatar and Singapore unveiled products with a 1-2-1 configuration that offer all business class passengers direct aisle access and enhanced privacy.