Emirates opts for premium economy as it restructures fleet

November 22, 2019

Emirates, the world’s biggest international airline, is thought to be the launch customer for a new premium economy seat as it orders more efficient aircraft to restructure its fleet.

This week at the Dubai Air Show, Emirates chief Sir Tim Clark told AirlineRatings.com the airline would introduce a new premium economy product in 2020.

The move is a major shift as the airline has resisted a premium economy product for more than 10 years.

Sir Tim said the premium economy would be “pretty special” and similar to business class before it went to lie-flat beds.

While the airline is tight-lipped on more detail, Airline Ratings understands Emirates is the launch customer for the new Eclipse seat from US-based HAECO Cabin Solutions. At the launch in April, HAECO said its first customer was a Middle East airline.

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Doug Rasmussen, president of HAECO, said the company “saw an opportunity to develop a premium product for an emerging new class between premium economy and business class seating that would be appreciated both by passengers and airlines”.

“We harnessed our decades of experience in providing premium seating products and services to take a holistic approach to creating a new standard,” he said. “The unique advantages of the Eclipse seat, together with the integrated cabin, can create up to a 14 per cent increase in space within the same cabin area.”

Mr Clark has been waiting for something special and the Eclipse seat certainly delivers, and will set the airline apart from the competition.

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The new premium economy will be rolled out on new A380s to be delivered from Airbus in mid-2020 and Mr Clark has indicated there could be as many as 56 seats.

While finally getting its product up to date with the competition, the airline has also completed a total revamp of its fleet plan.

This week it ordered both the Boeing 787-9 and the Airbus A350.

However, both orders were part of a fleet restructure. The 30 787-9s, valued at $US8.8 billion at list prices, are offset by the cancellation of 30 of the much bigger Boeing 777X.

Emirates will still retain orders for 126 of the 777X, which is due to fly for the first time in January.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates chairman and chief executive said: “This is an important investment and addition to our future fleet and it reflects Emirates’ continued efforts to provide the best quality air transport services to our customers.”

“The 787s will complement our fleet mix by expanding our operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range and deployment. We are also pleased to reaffirm our commitment to the Boeing 777X programme and look forward to its entry into service.”

Emirates remains the world’s biggest 777X customer and the biggest 777 operator, with 155 aircraft in service.

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With Airbus, Emirates had earlier cancelled 36 A380 superjumbos and has replaced those with an order for 50 A350-900s powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.

And in another twist, this order replaces a proposed deal revealed at the start of the year for 40 A330neo aircraft and 30 A350 jets. Emirates is understood to be no longer pursuing the 300-seat A330neos.

Sheikh Ahmed said the orders reflect the carrier’s confidence in the future of the United Arab Emirates’ aviation sector “and a strong affirmation of Dubai’s strategy to be global nexus”.

So instead of two types, the A380 and Boeing 777, the airline will move to four sizes ranging from the 500-seat superjumbo to the 440-seat 777X, 350-seat A350 and the 265-seat 787-9.

“In effect, we are strengthening our business model to provide efficient and comfortable air transport services to, and through, our Dubai hub,” said Sheikh Ahmed.