Emirates is set to launch premium economy class from early-mid 2021, beginning with a series of factory-fresh Airbus A380 superjumbos and from 2023, on the airlines' new Boeing 777X flagship.
It's a bold yet strategic move for the Gulf airline, which across its 35-year history has only ever offered first class, business class and economy.
This article will track the latest news on Emirates' premium economy seats, cabin and service, and will be updated as new information comes to hand.
What is Emirates premium economy class?
As with other airlines offering premium economy, Emirates is aiming at economy class passengers willing to pay more for an all-round better travel experience, without risking any price-driven downgrades from business class.
"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," Emirates President Sir Tim Clark has told Executive Traveller.
Emirates' premium economy seat
As expected, Emirates premium economy seat is carefully calibrated to be clearly better than economy without cannibalising the appeal of business class: in other words, it's for upgraders rather than downgraders.
There's a pitch of "up to 40 inches" (although that'll be only in the front row – expect more like 38 inches in other rows) compared to the 32-34 inches of economy.
Emirates' premium economy seats are also 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 rows of economy.
While flatbeds remain the domain of business class, the 8 inches of recline and a generous leg-rest which swings up at the front of the seat should help travellers get from A to B with plenty of Zzz.
The premium economy seats and cabin sport a similar colour scheme to Emirates' latest business class design, with the seats clad in cream-coloured anti-stain leather with stitching details and a wood panel finishing.
Each seat includes a 13.3 inch video HD touchscreen, complemented by AC/USB power outlets, a wide dining table and a side cocktail table.
On Emirates' very latest Airbus A380s, the 56-seat premium economy cabin is located at the front of the main deck, with two dedicated lavatories.
Emirates has not yet decided if premium economy will be retrofitted to its older superjumbos, but if so, then any A380s which lack first class will see premium economy installed on the upper deck, with three toilets where the two first class shower suites would otherwise be.
On Emirates’ Boeing 777 jets, expect a smaller cabin "more likely around the high 20s, 26-28 seats", behind business class but in front of economy.
Emirates premium economy meals and service
As with other airlines offering premium economy, expect Emirates to put upgraded meals and drinks on the menu.
There's also the possibility of a small self-service snack bar if you get peckish, and we'd not rule out a glass of Champagne prior to take-off.
When will Emirates premium economy class launch?
Emirates originally intended to launch premium economy in 2020, but the spread of COVID-19 put paid to those plans.
"The whole process of getting premium economy launched, executed throughout the fleet and the network was put on ice of course because of what happened," Clark has said, adding the airline would "need to get to a critical mass of aircraft (before) we can make a meaningful use of those (seats)."
As a result, Emirates isn't expected to begin selling premium economy for some time, "until we have a viable number of seats in our inventory to bring to market," Clark says.
However, Skywards Platinum and Gold members booked in economy on the latest A380s will be in for a treat: as soon as this new superjumbo is flying "we plan to offer the Emirates premium economy experience as a complimentary upgrade to valued customers," Clark says.
The airline also intends to share this A380 around its global network rather than lock it into a single route, in order to showcase the new seats.
Upgrading to Emirates premium economy
Once premium economy officially goes on sale, passengers in Emirates economy class will have the option to upgrade to premium economy using Emirates Skywards miles.
If you plan ahead far enough there should also be the opportunity to book an Emirates premium economy seat using Skywards Miles. Frequent flyers may find a relatively high number of premium economy seats available as this new travel class is rolled out to new routes.
Emirates premium economy lounge access
Lounge access won’t be included with Emirates premium economy, although it will be available at an additional cost and is likely to appear as an option when booking your Emirates premium economy travel.
The airline currently sells access to its flagship Dubai business class lounge, and other lounges around the world, at US$130, discounted to US$100 for members of the Emirates Skywards frequent flyer program.
Of course, if your Emirates Skywards or Qantas Frequent Flyer status qualifies you for lounge access then the doors to Emirates' business class and even first class lounges will be wide open.