Emirates adopts premium economy, will Qatar, Etihad follow?

From 2020 Emirates A380’s will be fitted from new with a 56 seat premium economy cabin.

The cabin will be a separate entity on the upper deck and Emirates expect economy passengers to upgrade, rather than business passengers to downgrade.

All the usual premium economy attributes are planned – 38″ seat pitch, larger screens, wider seats, and possibly, a 2-2-2-2 layout. On top of that the higher standard of catering, which is often the key selling point, will also be offered.

Unique upper deck private cabins planned on A380

The premium economy will also be deployed through refits to the 777’s and included on all new aircraft as delivered.

Premium Economy is my preferred way of travelling day time long haul, prices are reasonable, you’re not trapped in a window seat with someone you don’t know next to the aisle in rows of three. It’s a nice way to travel with a partner or colleague without the extortionate prices of business class. And in all fairness, it’s lack of availability is why I never fly on Gulf state airlines.

Downgraded from business class? Upgrades from economy preferred!

However it’s lack of adoption by the ME3 has been a social and financial issue. The lack of a middle class prepared to pay for it has been the key. Time has moved on and previously inexperienced travellers are now looking for something better. On top of that PE sells well, especially in wealthier Asian and European countries.

Qatar will now be under pressure to match it, something they’ve long resisted, and if they do Etihad will have to rethink its own strategy.

Lufthansa And the US majors introduced it reluctantly only in the last three years, but it’s proven to be extremely popular, even though Lufthansa’s offering is one of the most expensive.

Virgin Atlantic invented it in the early 1990’s as MidClass, and renamed it later as Premium Economy.

British Airways followed and now its in use with Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Air France , Lufthansa, Delta, American, Singapore Airlines and many others.

However it’s not always been successful. Turkish Airlines was a relatively early adopter but dropped it around 5 years ago, saying it’s customers simply “didn’t understand the product”.

Notable exceptions are Finnair and KLM. They both offer longer leg room comfort economy seats, (but so do many of the airlines with Premium Economy seats), but stubbornly refuse to go to premium.

There’s good reason for that- both of them offer low price business class fares – and those prices are too close to premium economy to be viable if they insert another cabin.

As far as Emirates go it’s a long overdue move in my opinion, but it’s also one that might finally get me on one of their aircraft.