Emirates airline to offer premium economy on new A380s from 2020

Emirates is to launch a premium economy class on its aircraft from 2020, according to its President Tim Clark, which could help the carrier attract more higher spending travellers.

Premium economy costs more than economy class tickets, but less than business class. Its introduction by Emirates could increase competitive pressure on rival Gulf airlines Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways.

Premium economy will be on the Airbus A380s that Emirates ordered this year, of which the first six will be delivered in 2020, Clark said in a company podcast on its website.

Dubai-based Emirates bought 20 A380s in January and has purchasing options for an additional 16 which it has said it would buy.

"We will be installing premium economy into those and it will be an Emirates premium economy, so it will be special," Clark said in the podcast released this month.

Premium economy often includes more legroom and other benefits at a higher cost compared to the standard economy class fare but is cheaper than business class or first class tickets.

Emirates has considered adding premium economy since at least 2016 as lower oil prices dented Middle East travel demand, and the product could woo price-sensitive corporate travellers.

In November last year, Emirates introduced new, Mercedes-Benz-influenced first class private suites for its Boeing 777 jets (take a look at them in the photo gallery above). The airline's last refresh of its A380s occurred in March 2017, with a revamp of its on-board bar for first and business class passengers. The changes included replacing bench seating with chairs and tables and the introduction of sound-proof curtains.

Other airlines that offer a premium economy product include All Nippon Airways, Qantas Airways and British Airways. 

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What do you get in premium economy?

Here are the typical features passengers can expect when flying premium economy:

More legroom. Most premium economy seats offer a pitch of 96.5cm, which is about 15.2cm more than what economy-class passengers get on the same flight. That's enough for even a tall flyer to stretch out in comfort, and not experience knee crunch when the passenger in front reclines. You'll also get a wider seat. Premium economy seats are 48.3-49.5cm wide, which is at least 3.8cm better than a long-haul economy class seat. Although that's less than length of your little finger the difference in comfort is surprising. Premium economy seats also offer footrests and seat recline of about 20cm, giving a slightly flatter lie-down than the best economy seats.

A separate cabin. Small children and infants are rare in premium economy.

Dedicated check-in counter.

A bigger inflight entertainment screen and in some cases – Qantas, ANA All Nippon, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Air France/KLM – noise cancelling headphones.

At least one USB port and often, a universal power socket.

A larger tray table that you can actually use as a workstation. This is a big plus for any flyer looking to hammer away at a laptop. While I've never been able to work on a long-haul economy flight, flying premium economy made it pleasant.

Better food, and more diligent service. A linen table napkin and silverware for starters, and every airline adds its own individual touches. A menu that a top-name chef is not afraid to put his name to (Neil Perry, Qantas). You might get to choose your main lunch or dinner course from the business class menu that the nobs are enjoying (British Airways). You might also get served an entrée that precedes the main course followed by dessert, a la business class (Air New Zealand). Singapore Airlines has a "Book the Cook" service that allows you to pre-select a meal from a wide choice. Anyone for Seafood Thermidor Saffron Rice at 30,000 feet, or go the Beef Carbonade?

Reuters with Michael Gebicki

See also: Airline review: Emirates A380 business class

See also: Is premium economy worth the price?

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