Emirates Could Introduce Its New A380 First Class ‘Railcar’ This Year

When Etihad first announced their A380 Residence concept last year, Emirates didn’t want to be left in the dust and announced same day that they were doing the same thing.

At the time it seemed like they simply didn’t want to let themselves be one-upped. They ‘announced’ they had similar plans but had no details or renderings.

Now Skift reports that it could debut as early as this year.

“In the last two or three months, it has been in the final stage,” [Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president of commercial operations] said, adding that the new cabin will be unveiled “hopefully” this year and at “almost the same pricing” as current cabins. “It should be more commercially viable for passengers.”

…Emirates’ product will be “more like if you’re in a railway and have a private cabin,” Al Mualla said, adding it will be installed on routes that have a high load factor in first class.

The Emirates A380 first class product, though already one of the most aspirational with its onboard showers, is hardly new. (It’s merely become far more accessible thanks to the Alaska Airlines partnership and the opening of substantial award space across a variety of routes.

While certainly flashy, the Emirates first class suite is actually quite tight. It’s four across on the A380 upper deck, not the lower deck. There are 14 seats, versus Etihad’s 9 plus Residence. (Etihad has just a single aisle in its first class upper deck rather than the traditional double aisle.)

Put another way, the Emirates seat is a bit narrow. The closet is just a side door that doesn’t have its own enclosed space, it’s open on the inside to the rest of the suite.

So there’s certainly room for more bling, even though it remains one of the top first class products overall (in my mind behind the Etihad A380 First Apartment and also the Singapore Airlines A380 Suite).

We still don’t know what the new product will look like, so I’m skeptical that it will be in place by the end of the year. I’d guess ‘unveiled’ will be more about renderings or mockups.

Emirates can probably utilize the space where the first class cabin sits with fewer seats given the number of unsold seats they’ve currently got. They might just be right — an even higher end experience may not need to come at a higher price point if it sells more seats.

And Emirates’ strategy, in my view, is to provide a high end product that creates a halo around the airline’s overall offerings (remember: their current business class is angled across much of their fleet yet they still have a reputation for quality) as much as anything else. It’s the same reason they overinvest in wine. So doing something over the top may help them economically with the rest of their cabins as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “So doing something over the top may help them economically with the rest of their cabins as well.”

    Yup, that’s the squirrelly “economics of hope” that the (subsidized) Middle East airlines operate under.

    Of course, as a passenger, you want to be subsidized. If somebody wants to give you more than you pay for, take it. Of more interest to your readers, of course, is how to potentially get this railcar experience without actually paying for it.

  2. It’s a model that works well in some other industries.

    I do not know the extent to which Emirates availability will tighten, although I would guess that it would given that there are likely to be fewer seats in the cabin.

  3. Regardless of level of service, would never fly any of the Gulf airlines. Not xenophobic, just wouldn’t support regimes that are antagonistic to Western values. They’ll take our $$, allow us to educate them, then be openly anti-American. JMHO

  4. ^^^^
    “Not xenophobic, just wouldn’t support regimes that are antagonistic to Western values.” – Rick

    intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.

    Since you’re painting the Gulf states with a wide brush not tempered with reality, I’m pretty sure you’re living up to the textbook definition of xenophobic.

    Truth is, “western values” are an amorphous devil. If you mean enlightenment era concepts like freedom of speech and religion, then you might be on to something. Better not fly on Asian, American or European carriers either, given that their home countries might not respect your rights.

    My hunch is that you’re unclear that there’s a pretty big difference between, say, Iran and the UAE.

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