Guide: Emirates adds premium economy to Melbourne from February 1

Step onboard with Executive Traveller to explore the Dubai airline’s bright and inviting ‘in-between’ class.

By Staff Writers, September 2 2022
Guide: Emirates adds premium economy to Melbourne from February 1

Emirates flights between Sydney, Dubai, London and Paris now sport a fourth cabin option for travellers eager to trade up their regular economy seat for a more ‘premium’ experience in every respect, from comfort to meals and drinks.

Melbourne will soon be added to the mix too – along with New York, San Francisco, Auckland and Singapore – as the airline’s premium economy offering takes wing on additional routes, starting from December.

The rollout will include flights to:

  • New York JFK (EK203 and EK204) from December 1.
  • Auckland (EK448 and EK449) from January 15.
  • Melbourne (EK406 and EK407) from February 1.
  • San Francisco (EK225 and EK226) from February 15.
  • Singapore (EK354 and EK355) from March 1.

An elevated take on premium economy

Executive Traveller boarded one of the airline’s A380s in Sydney for a tour of the new product with Emirates Vice President Australasia and New Zealand, Barry Brown.

“This has been in the planning for more than four years,” Brown told Executive Traveller.

Emirates premium economy cabin features 56 seats across seven rows.
Emirates premium economy cabin features 56 seats across seven rows.

“It has actually been flying around from early this year, although we didn’t launch the product (then), so we let our frequent flyers that travelled a lot in economy to experience the seats but without the bells and whistles that we’ve put on now.”

Brown said the market reaction to the new product has exceeded expectations.

The quilted leather seats are very easy to settle into.
The quilted leather seats are very easy to settle into.

“Customer feedback has been just phenomenal, and I think what you saw today is a taste of what our customers can look forward to. It’s a great trade-up from economy versus a trade-down from business.”

“[Premium economy] is attracting the leisure travellers at the moment and more so in the seniors market,” Brown said.

Travellers will enjoy 6-8 extra inches of seat pitch compared to economy class.
Travellers will enjoy 6-8 extra inches of seat pitch compared to economy class.

“The 65-plus market has the disposable dollar, but they don’t want to pay the upgrade to business and the feedback from them is terrific – they love the product.

While currently available only on six of Emirates’ A380s, from November 2022, Emirates will begin a US$2 billion retrofit project which will see a steady stream of aircraft emerge from the hangar offering the new product.

Premium economy is laid across across the cabin in a 2-4-2 configuration.
Premium economy is laid across across the cabin in a 2-4-2 configuration.

Once complete, nearly half of the Emirates fleet of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft will feature the premium economy cabin.

“It’s a very comfortable ride up there,” Brown said. 

“You’ve got your own individual cabin. You’ve got your own individual cabin crew attending to you, and another important fact that is probably not spoken about that much is the lavatories at the front [are] dedicated to that cabin, so there are some very good considerations about the design concept of the product.”

On the A380, premium economy is located at the front of the lower deck where you’ll find 56 seats arranged in a 2-4-2 layout, nestled in their own private cabin.

Emirates premium economy: what is it like?

The Dubai carrier’s new premium economy class is a bold and strategic move for the Gulf airline, which across its 35-year history has only ever offered first class, business class and economy.

Emirates' posh premium economy cabin.
Emirates' posh premium economy cabin.

Like other airlines offering similar seats, Emirates is targeting economy passengers who may be tempted to part with a little more of their money in exchange for an improved long-range travel experience.

“[Premium economy is] probably where business class used to be, and in some cases where first used to be in the old days, 30 years ago,” Emirates President Sir Tim Clark has previously told Executive Traveller, describing the seat as akin to a railway-style ‘sleeperette’.

Emirates premium economy: how is it different to economy?

Passengers looking to upgrade from economy will find themselves cradled in this more spacious seat with a pitch of “up to 40 inches” compared to the 32-34 inches of economy.

In premium economy, it's all about the comfort – from wider seats to more legroom and a nice deep recline.
In premium economy, it's all about the comfort – from wider seats to more legroom and a nice deep recline.

Seats are a little wider than their economy counterparts – 19.5 inches compared to 18 inches – and arranged in a 2-4-2 layout rather than the more crowded 3-4-3 of economy.

Seat pitch – a reliable if not perfect stand-in for legroom – is around 38 inches for most rows (about standard for premium economy on most airlines) with an extra two inches for the front row, so there’s definitely less squeeze around the knees compared to economy class.

Emirates premium economy: the seat

Emirates premium economy seat has been calibrated to be a noticeable improvement on economy without cannibalising the appeal of business class. In other words, it’s for upgraders rather than downgraders.

Emirates arranges its premium economy seating in a 2-4-2 layout.
Emirates arranges its premium economy seating in a 2-4-2 layout.

The cabin adopts a similar colour scheme to Emirates’ latest business class design, with seats clad in cream-coloured anti-stain leather with stitching details and a wood panel finishing. “The seats look like in a Mercedes, with striking colours also on the walls,” Clark says.

While flatbeds remain the domain of business class, the extra eight or so inches of recline and a generous leg-rest which swings up at the front helps travellers get from A to B with plenty of Zzz.

Emirates' premium economy puts a 'premium' on comfort.
Emirates' premium economy puts a 'premium' on comfort.

This is complemented by a padded six-way adjustable headrest and a nifty platform for your feet to set a comfortable stage which will help you gently doze off.

Emirates premium economy seats sport a six-way adjustable headrest.
Emirates premium economy seats sport a six-way adjustable headrest.

You’ll find USB-A and USB-C ports nestled below the 13.3" seatback video screen, with one universal AC power socket shared between every two seats.

Meals from the premium economy menu are served on a polished woodgrain dining table which folds up from the side, with a separate side table able to handle your drink or a snack.

Emirates premium economy also wants to elevate the dining experience.
Emirates premium economy also wants to elevate the dining experience.

The airline’s Airbus A380 superjumbos sport 56 premium economy seats at the front of the lower deck, in a dedicated cabin with two exclusive lavatories.

(On those relatively few A380s which lack first class, premium economy will be added to the upper deck, with three toilets where the two first class shower suites would otherwise be.)

At the time of writing, only six of Emirates’ A380s feature the new premium economy seating, but 61 more are on the way.

Seats feature a handy table for guests to rest their drinks.
Seats feature a handy table for guests to rest their drinks.

The airline’s fourth class will also be installed on 53 of its 124 Boeing 777 jets as part of a US$1.5 billion, 18-month retrofit program due to commence at the end of 2022.

The single-level Boeing 777 will feature up to 24 premium economy seats in a dedicated cabin nestled between business and economy class.

Emirates premium economy: meals and service

Guests in Emirates’ premium economy can select from a rotating menu of dishes served on Royal Doulton china with stainless steel cutlery.

Emirates' premium economy passengers can tuck into 'business class-inspired' meals.
Emirates' premium economy passengers can tuck into 'business class-inspired' meals.

With meals “inspired by business class” you can expect inflight dining to be seriously elevated beyond economy, along with a number of wines not available further back.

Prior to take-off, guests will be welcomed onboard with a drink served in fine glassware.

There’s a self-service snack bar if you get peckish, although premium economy passengers aren’t admitted to Emirates’ iconic onboard lounge at the back of the upper deck, which remains the exclusive domain of business and first class flyers.

Emirates premium economy: how much does it cost?

At the time of writing, Emirates appears to be cannily pricing premium economy almost halfway between economy and business class.

Emirates is pricing premium economy almost exactly halfway between average economy fares and business class.
Emirates is pricing premium economy almost exactly halfway between average economy fares and business class.

Pricing in the middle of October 2022 on the busy London-Dubai route shows economy fares at £520 and £867, depending on how flexible the fare is with regards to changes – that represents an ‘average’ economy fare of £693.

Emirates’ premium economy lists at £1326 (this is a fully flexible fare, equivalent to the more expensive economy option), while business class is pegged at £2648.

Emirates premium economy: lounge access

Lounge access is not included with Emirates premium economy fares, however travellers can always pay extra to use these facilities.

Lounge access won't be bundled into your Emirates premium economy ticket but will be available as a cost-extra option, or you can use your Gold or Platinum frequent flyer card for a free visit.
Lounge access won't be bundled into your Emirates premium economy ticket but will be available as a cost-extra option, or you can use your Gold or Platinum frequent flyer card for a free visit.

The airline currently sells access to its flagship Dubai business class lounge, and others like it around the world for US$130 per person, discounted to US$100 for Emirates Skywards members.