Emirates has one of the world’s best first class products on their Airbus A380 — suites with doors, good food and drink program, onboard showers and a bar behind business class.
Their Boeing 777s, the other mainstay of their fleet, has basically the same first class suite but no showers or bar. It’s a good product, but certainly a notch below first on the Airbus A380.
Even their A380 though has some limitations that keeps it from being ‘the best’. Four across first class on the A380’s Upper Deck means a tighter seat than Singapore or Etihad offer on similar aircraft. Indeed, in my opinion Etihad’s A380 first class blows it away.
When Etihad announced their First Apartment, Emirates announced that they too of course would be introducing a new first class ‘like a rail car’ and ‘with room service’. We haven’t seen final concepts for it. However via Points from the Pacific it appears that a new configuration for the aircraft has leaked.
Currently Emirates offers two rows of 4 seats across in first class on their Boeing 777s. Starting December 1 the Seattle – Dubai route shows two rows of 3 seats across instead.
Three across is a configuration currently used by Cathay Pacific for their non-suite seats although they too are planning a new first class. Singapore is introducing a new first class on their Airbus A380s, expected two be two-across on the upper deck of that aircraft.
It’s not clear what new Emirates seats will look like, and they’ve not confirmed the new seat map is correct, however the map is showing consistently across platforms.
Times are challenging for Emirates. Declining energy prices have reduced demand for some of their flights, and US travel and electronics bans have been challenging for US destinations (Emirates has significantly reduced US flying).
At the same time they continue to invest in product, with a new business class seat (they aren’t retrofitting existing Boeing 777 inferior angled business seats) and a new A380 business class bar.
A new first class cabin makes sense, and likely so does a small first class cabin. There’s revenue to be earned, there’s a brand halo over their product that’s even helped to make up for subpar business class, but it’s a more limited market than current Emirates cabins offer in many markets.