Inside Emirates’ New A380 Premium-Economy Cabin

Seats in Emirates' new premium-economy cabin
Credit: Paul Seidenman

SAN FRANCISCO—Emirates has introduced its new Airbus A380 premium-economy cabin to its San Francisco-Dubai market, as one more step toward extending the high-end economy service on select routes throughout its global system. Aviation Week got an inside look at the new cabin on June 22.
In addition to San Francisco, Emirates’ new premium-economy cabin is available in the airline’s Los Angeles, Singapore, London, Auckland, Melbourne, New York and Houston markets.
The cabin is slated to be installed on 67 of the carrier’s 116 A380s. Emirates currently has 85 A380s in active service, with 95 projected by year-end, according to the airline.
Premium-economy is one component of a $2 billion total cabin refresh program at Emirates, which commenced two years ago. The program also includes a premium-economy retrofit of 53 of the airline’s total fleet of 123 Boeing 777-300ERs. Emirates Engineering, the carrier’s in-house MRO in Dubai, has total project oversight and production, employing 190 project engineers and hundreds of skilled workers, and drawing on 48 suppliers.
“We are very proud that this refurbishment work for premium-economy was designed, conducted and being completed in-house at our Emirates Engineering Center in Dubai, to the highest standards of quality and safety,” says Essa Sulaiman Ahmad, Emirates’ divisional vice President for the U.S. and Canada. “By the end of 2025, we plan to have installed nearly 4,000 new premium-economy seats aboard our A380 and 777-300ER aircraft.”
The entire cabin upgrade project, covering both the A380 and 777-300ER, is scheduled to wrap up by the end of 2025.

Emirates' new A380 premium-economy cabin
Credit: Paul Seidenman

In the case of both the A380 and 777-300ER, each aircraft is inducted into the retrofit program as a separate maintenance event, and not in conjunction with a major scheduled check.
Premium-economy at Emirates meant some loss of revenue space for the basic-economy cabin. As an example, Ahmad cites the 777-300ER, on which five rows of economy class seats, located just behind business class, are removed in order to install 24 premium-economy seats in a 2-4-2 layout.
Ahmad notes that under current planning, Emirates is slated to begin premium-economy cabin installations on the 777-300ERs upon completion of the A380s. Asked about the additional time involved for the A380 premium-economy cabin retrofit, Ahmad reports it averages about 16 days per aircraft.
On Emirates’ A380s, the premium-economy cabin is located at the front of the super jumbo jet’s main deck, with 56 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. In contrast, 76 business class and 14 first class seats occupy the upper deck.
Each premium-economy seat, which measures 19.5-in. wide, is upholstered in cream-colored leather and equipped with a footrest that allows up to 40 in. of pitch and up to eight in. of recline at the touch of a button. The seats incorporate a wood panel finish identical to the seats installed in business class. While Ahmad declined to identify the specific seating vendors, he did point out that for premium-economy seats, Emirates Engineering “works with a number of third party suppliers.” He adds that “new color palettes evident in the carpeting and wall panels” have been applied to the premium-economy cabin, as well as throughout the aircraft.
“In conjunction with the $2 billion cabin program, Emirates has included other enhancements to our inflight customer experience, including elevated meal choices, a brand-new vegan menu, a ‘cinema in the sky’ experience, sustainable choices and a generous approach to the little touches that make travel memorable,” says Ahmad “The number of retrofitted aircraft planned is aligned with consumer trends, market demands and capacity needed on our routes.”