Emirates has long tossed around the idea of a premium-economy product. It wasn’t until May 2018 that the airline confirmed that it would bring premium economy to its portfolio, on new A380s beginning in 2020.
Now, the first A380 with premium economy installed is ready to enter service. But coronavirus is delaying its entry into service.
Emirates President Sir Tim Clark said during the Arabian Travel Market virtual event that the carrier’s first A380 with the new mid-tier product was “sitting in Toulouse waiting to go”.
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Exact details about what the premium economy product will look like for Emirates remain unclear. In the past, Clark has said that it’s a railway-style “sleeperette” design.
“It’s probably where business class used to be, and in some cases where first used to be in the old days, 30 years ago”, Clark previously told Executive Traveller.
We do know though that there will be around 38 inches of pitch with 10 inches of recline. Clark has previously said that the premium-economy cabin will be located on the lower deck of the A380, with “probably as many as 56 seats”, according to ET.
In April 2019, seat manufacturer Haeco unveiled its new premium-economy seat and revealed that the launch customer was a Middle East-based carrier, leading many to believe that it could be Emirates. It has not yet been confirmed.
However, the delivery of the first aircraft with the product inside could be delayed until 2021 or beyond — depending on when passenger demand picks up in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.
Airbus manufactures the superjumbo Airbus A380 from its headquarters in Toulouse. According to Flight Global, Emirates’ last eight A380s that it had on order are set to be delivered over the next year or so. Then, Airbus will end production of the aircraft.
During the coronavirus crisis, Emirates, which is the world’s largest A380 operator, has grounded its entire fleet of 115 A380s. However, despite not using the superjumbo through the peak of coronavirus downtime, Clark continues to see a bright future for the aircraft in Emirates’ fleet as travel demand will eventually resume.
“The A380 has proven to be a hugely successful aircraft and if fuel prices were forever to stay at today’s levels, this aircraft is hugely potent”, Clark said. “The thirst for travel will come back”.
According to Cirium data, Emirates has a backlog of more than 200 aircraft on order, including a total of 58 A380s and A350s from Airbus.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, the A380 is facing a grim future. Emirates will resume flying it, but it has grounded its entire fleet, and other airlines around the world have done the same. For much of the crisis, the only A380s in the skies have been China Southern’s. Additionally, Air France said in May it was retiring its fleet of A380s, effective immediately, and Lufthansa has grounded its A380s.