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This week’s Dubai Air Show had already given us a couple of pieces of good news (here & here) when we heard Emirates confirm that it will upgrade over 100 of its aircraft with its new Premium Economy cabin, but a more important piece of news (for premium cabin flyers) that came out at the same time was the news that Emirates may finally upgrade its sub-par Business Class cabins.
The problem with Emirates Business Class
The people in charge of marketing for Emirates are clearly excellent at what they do because they’ve managed to create a super-upscale image for an airline that, in reality, isn’t noticeably more upscale than a number of equally good but lower-profile airlines. That’s a tough trick to pull off but they’ve pulled it off very well.
Emirates First Class has long been viewed as one of the most aspirational airline products around and few will argue with the opinion that one of the newer iterations of its First Class cabin (found on select 777s) is nothing short of amazing. The thing is, however, that a lot more people fly Business Class than First Class and Emirates Business Class is a very hit-and-miss proposition.
If you’re fortunate enough to experience Emirates Business Class on one of its A380s, you’ll probably enjoy a very good (albeit gaudy) seat that many would say does justice to the airline’s upscale image.
You may even be fortunate enough to get one of the refreshed A380 Business Class cabins which look like this:
Unfortunately, Emirates doesn’t just fly A380s. It has over 130 Boeing 777s as well, and on these aircraft, the Business Class cabin is not so good.
Where truly high-end Business Class cabins offer a suite-style experience and at the very least, all-aisle-access seating for every passenger, Emirates only offers a 2-3-2 cabin layout.
Yes, you may get a refreshed 777 with a cabin that looks nicer than the one shown above…
…but no one paying thousands of dollars for a Business Class fare in the third decade of the 21st century should have to run the risk of ending up in a middle seat. There’s nothing upscale about that.
Well, alongside the announcement that Emirates made about launching a program at the end of next year to add a Premium Economy cabin to over 100 of its aircraft, the airline said that it is also “considering” upgrading the Business Class cabins in its 777s to offer a modern 1-2-1 layout.
To be frank, I’m not sure what there is to “consider” here. The Emirates 777 Business Class cabins were out of date years ago (the newer cabin was out of date when it was installed!) and most other major airlines already have Business Class cabins that put the Emirates 777s to shame, so if the airline doesn’t want to be found out as being not quite as premium as it likes to make out, these cabins have to go.
More to the point, as Emirates has already said that it will be sending its 777s into the workshops to get the Premium Economy cabins fitted, isn’t this the perfect time to retrofit a proper Business Class cabin?
It should be noted that even if Emirates does see the light and goes ahead with the Business Class cabin refresh it should have undertaken at least 3 years ago, we’re unlikely to see all of the airline’s 777s get the upgrade.
By its own admission, Emirates will only be retrofitting a Premium Economy cabin to 53 of its 777 aircraft, so with over 130 Boeing 777s in the Emirates fleet, that will leave around 80 aircraft with their current cabin configurations. On the basis that Emirates is only thinking about upgrading the 777 Business Class cabin right now, I’d be surprised if it decided to refresh more 777s than will be given the Premium Economy upgrade.
We already know that Emirates will be adding a Premium Economy cabin to over 100 aircraft starting late next year, but the bigger news for premium cabin travelers is that the airline is considering finally ditching the out-of-date Business Class cabins that it currently offers on its 777s. Nothing has been confirmed yet but if Emirates wants to keep up the image of a truly premium airline, this upgrade will have to go ahead.