It’s been rumoured for ages. But now it seems Emirates will introduce premium economy class next year.

UAE publication The National reports Emirates’ commercial director Thierry Antinori as saying that the carrier’s plans for premium economy are on track for a 2020 launch.

“It’s about targeting and pleasing some customers flying in economy who want to fly a better class but not business class,” said Antinori. “It’s about up-selling the economy to premium-economy and not down-selling business class to premium-economy.”

Business Traveller reported back in 2016 that Emirates’ president Sir Tim Clarke was considering premium economy.

Will Emirates introduce premium economy?

Maybe the Dubai-based airline will take the opportunity to unveil the new product at trade show ITB 2020 in Berlin.

At the time of writing it is unclear which type of premium economy seating Emirates would adopt.

But the trend nowadays is to adopt standardised products as we have seen with other major carriers.

That’s mainly because of the expense in getting a spacial seat designed let alone the cost of installing it on very many aircraft.

Emirates, it must be remembered, is the world’s largest airline in terms of flown mileage so it operates a huge fleet.

Remember Air New Zealand and its premium economy Spaceseat?

It was hailed as something revolutionary on its introduction but after a few years the airline decided in 2016 to scrap it in favour of something conventional.

Emirates’ decision to install premium economy is long overdue.

As Business Traveller has reported on numerous occasions the Gulf carriers are probably the only major carriers who have not yet embraced premium economy.

Personally I think this is unwise given the revenue-raising opportunities.

From the consumers’ viewpoint it is also silly given the enormous price and comfort gap between regular economy and business class.

After all when you buy a new car (and airline seats are consumer products too) which volume manufacturer can offer no vehicle in size and price between a city car and a limousine?

The question now is when will Emirates’ regional rivals follow?

Of course they will claim that their economy products are perfectly acceptable. But aviation history shows that once one carrier launches anything like this the others eventually follow.

Earlier this year we reported on a new economy class seat from Qatar Airways.

In the lead up to the launch at ITB Berlin we had been led to expect this seating would be quite different. Maybe Qatar Airways would be adopting a “staggered formation.”

But in the end the new seating, when unveiled, was little different from what we see today. It will also be fitted to Qatar Airways’ narrow body fleet. There was no mention of any new economy seating for its long-haul fleet operating the carrier’s most important routes.

Moreover the launch would not take place before the end of 2020 at the earliest, and the airline’s CEO Akbar Al Baker told Tom Otley that “it would take between five and eight years for the roll-out to be completed.”

So did Qatar Airways know more than the rest of the ITB attendees and will it be the next Gulf carrier to follow Emirates with premium economy?


Emirates and premium economy