Gulf powerhouse Emirates expects to have premium economy in 12 to 18 months as the cabin between business and economy class continues its viral expansion.
Carriers which at one stage resisted the introduction of the premium cabin, such as Singapore Airlines, have already joined the fold and US carriers are also succumbing to the trend.
The Gulf carriers remain hold-outs but Clark’s confirmation that Emirates will introduce a premium cabin is likely to see that bastion fall also, with Emirates competitors Etihad and Qatar under pressure to mount a competitive response.
"We are at the stage of finding what form [premium economy] will take," Mr Clark told reporters in London on Wednesday in comments confirmed to Reuters by the airline. "I would think within the next year to 18 months, we will have it in the airline, hopefully up and running."
Clark had previously acknowledged the airline was looking at premium economy, which is attractive both to business travellers facing budgetary restrictions and economy passengers wanting to upmarket without paying for business class.
The move will also be welcomed by alliance partner Qantas, which was am early adopter of premium economy and has an industry-leading product. Qantas customers flying to European destination other than London currently can travel in premium economy to Dubai but then must switch to economy or business when they connect to Emirates.
The news comes as the Gulf carrier saw profitability take a nosedive in its first half to September 30 as the airline recorded a profit of Dhs786m ($US214m), down 75 per cent on the previous corresponding period.
Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum attributed the fall to a high US dollar, increased competition and olitical and economic uncertainty that had dampened travel demand in many parts of the world.
“The bleak global economic outlook appears to be the new norm, with no immediate resolution in sight,” Sheikh Ahmed said.
The airline has invested heavily in a new business class and plans to unveil a new first class next year.
It also continues its rapid expansion, growing capacity by 12 per cent in the first half. However, a lower traffic growth of 8 per cent saw the average passenger seat factor fall to 75.3 per cent from 78.3 per cent.