Emirates says its forthcoming premium economy seat will adopt an all-new design exclusive to the airline as what CEO Tim Clark describes as a ‘sleeperette’ which will debut on Emirates' new Airbus A380 fleet from 2020.
Speaking to Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the IATA aviation summit in Sydney this morning, Emirates CEO Tim Clark said the seat was a bespoke design built to the airline’s spec rather than an off-the-rack product.
"We've had a competition among seat manufactures to spec out the designs that we want. We’ve said this is how we want it to be built, and most of the seats that we have today are our own designs built to our specifications."
Shaping the specs on Emirates' premium economy seat
Emirates is looking at around 38 inches of pitch (up to 6 inches more than economy) with a 10 inch recline.
Clark says the seat will fully cradle the legs and feet, coupled with a deep recline to become a railway-style ‘sleeperette’ rather than being an angled flat bed or ‘sloping sleeper’.
"We're working on all sorts of (footrest) designs which work, because so often in the past they didn't work, you put somebody in there and recline the seat, the actual calf position and the leg position and the feet were all wrong."
"The trick is to get that right, and that's what we've been working on – to make it sure that it deals with the bodies and ergonomics of the higher-percentile male and female, which is very important."
Clark agreed that in 'sleeperette' mode the seat would be "something like lazy-Z" but it won't sit in a fixed shell.
"Once you do a fixed shell you're ending up in business class (territory) if you're not careful, and we're trying to trade people up from economy, not down from business."
He wouldn't be drawn on the number of seats per row but confirmed "there will be a reduction (from economy)."
Clark said the premium economy cabin would be seperate to economy class in order to provide "a degree of exclusivity... and not just a curtain, it'll be a proper cabin and most of the time passengers will have access to their own washrooms."
"We're to make it a quiet zone, a comfortable zone, and of course the food will be better (than economy)."
However, while Clark prefers not to think of the new premium economy class as ‘business lite’, he reflected that "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."
Lounge access won’t be part of the premium economy package it will be available as an cost-extra item.
Rolling out Emirates' premium economy seat
On Emirates' three-class (soon to be four-class) Airbus A380s the premium economy cabin will be located at the front of the lower deck with “probably as many as 56 seats."
On two-class A380s which lack first class, premium economy would be added onto the upper deck with "the same kind of number" of seats as the three-class superjumbos.
Emirates’ Boeing 777 jets would see a smaller cabin "more likely around the high 20s, 26-28 seats."
On both jets premium economy will take over some of the space currently allocated to economy class, with no change to the number of business class seats.
Clark said the premium economy seats would be installed across the Emirates fleet starting from the new Airbus A380s due in 2020, with a long-running retrofit program to those A380 and Boeing 777 jets already flying, but giving priority "to those aircraft that have longer life in them before their retirement."