Emirates Will Add a Premium Economy Cabin, But Offers One Reason Why It Won’t Be ‘Too Good’

The enigmatic Brian Sumers interviewed Emirates CEO Tim Clark who revealed to him that the airline plans to launch a premium economy cabin.

  • This will be offered on new delivery Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft
  • Some of the existing fleet will be retrofitted to offer it as well
  • But aircraft that they don’t “expect to keep long-term” will not receive the update

Emirates Airbus A380

Historically Emirates hasn’t been much for updating planes, they’re still most of their Boeing 777 fleet with outdated angled business class seats, and Boeing 777s make up the majority of their fleet.

Emirates moves slowly on many of their investments and premium economy is included in that. The market for premium, though, has grown substantially and recent entrant to that space American Airlines says they’re generating twice the coach fare for customers bumping up.

Clark though has long been concerned about trading down, a phenomenon that American says has not been substantial.

I don’t think we waited too long, because the yields we have been getting out of our [existing] premium cabins have been growing very significantly,” he said at the Aviation Festival, an industry conference. “There was always a concern we would end up diluting that, and people would start trading down. That’s probably why we were a bit slow.”

In general premium economy is similar to domestic US first class – wider seats with a bit more legroom – and adding a foot bar (in down scale product offerings) or foot rest. There’s usually upgraded catering and amenities as well.

Singapore Airlines Premium Economy

Emirates hasn’t said what their premium economy will entail — though “he hinted they could be more opulent than what some competitors fly.” However they want to make sure premium economy isn’t too nice because they don’t want it to be viewed as a ‘good enough’ alternative to pricier business class.

“You don’t want to have product so luxurious it causes people to come down from business,” he said. “But equally you need to persuade people to go up from economy.”

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Emirates 777 business is pretty lousy. If they put in a PE cabin on the 777 I suspect it will cut into people who would otherwise travel in business. I would be very tempted to consider it.

    They do have more of a differentiation on the A380 though, with better seats and the onboard bar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *