Emirates premium economy: what we know so far

The Dubai carrier's new premium economy cabin is a comfortable middle ground without the business class price tag.

By David Flynn, May 10 2022
Emirates premium economy: what we know so far

Emirates will begin flying its new premium economy sleeperette seats to Sydney from August 2022, making it the first Australian destination for the four-class A380 superjumbo.

As the only one of the three gulf airlines offering the enhanced sophistication of premium economy, here's what you need to know about Emirates’ newest travel class.

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 premium economy cabin.
Emirates 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 told Executive Traveller, describing the seat as akin to a railway-style ‘sleeperette’.

Emirates premium economy: How is it different to economy?

As previously reported, 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. 

Emirates premium economy cabin.
Emirates premium economy cabin.

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

As expected, 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.

“Customers trading up from Economy will be getting excellent value,” says Clark.

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.

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.
Emirates premium economy.

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 thigh-rest which swings up at the front will help travellers get from A to B with plenty of Zzz.

This leg loft 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 seat.
Emirates premium economy seat.

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 cocktail table.
Emirates premium economy cocktail table.

Emirates premium economy: Meals and service

When it’s time to tame your tummy, guests in Emirates’ premium economy can select from a rotating menu of regional dishes, which will be served on Royal Doulton china with stainless steel cutlery.

Inflight fare will be a step up from economy, 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.

That said, you’ll need to be comfortable with the alcohol that is available, as travellers in premium economy won’t be able to wander into Emirates’ famous onboard lounge at the back of the upper deck. This is the exclusive domain of business and first-class travellers.

However, there will be a small self-service snack bar if you get peckish.

Emirates premium economy: How many aircraft have it?

To date, only six of Emirates’ A380s feature the new premium economy seating. But 61 more are on the way.

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 retrofit. The announced 18-month programme will begin at the end of 2022.

On the A380s lacking first class, premium economy will be added to the upper deck, with three toilets where the two first class shower suites would otherwise be.

For the Boeing 777s, expect a smaller cabin "more likely around 26-28 seats," between business class and economy.

Emirates premium economy: How can I book it?

Seats in Emirates’ new cabin go on sale from 1 June, 2022 but until then, securing a ride in this cabin will be a challenge.

Until the premium economy fleet reaches what Clark describes as "a viable number of seats in our inventory to bring to market," only Skywards Platinum and Gold members booked in economy on eligible flights are in for the treat in the form of an upgrade.

Prior to Sydney’s entry to the premium economy party in August, you’ll find these seats flying between Dubai and London, New York, Frankfurt and Paris. 

In the meantime, economy-dwelling frequent flyers may find their chances of an upgrade to the new premium class quite high for now, as the new travel class is rolled out to more routes. But from June 1, you’ll need to pay your way.

It’s expected that Emirates will couple its premium economy planes between Sydney and Dubai with similarly-equipped jets to popular locations such as London and Paris to help travellers on those routes book their entire journey in this cabin.

As Clark previously predicted, the 'better than economy, less than business' proposition is proving extremely popular, with travellers looking to step up from economy class not only for the extra comfort but also for the appeal of a little more personal space in the post-pandemic travel era.

Emirates premium economy: pre-flight lounge access.

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

Currently, Emirates lounges in Australia remain closed, although the airline has confirmed to Executive Traveller that plans are in place for the Sydney, Melbourne and Perth facilities to reopen “in the third quarter of 2022”.

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.

Of course, if your Emirates Skywards or Qantas Frequent Flyer status qualifies you for lounge access, depending on your loyalty tier, you’ll need to head for the Qantas First lounge in Sydney and Melbourne.

 For Gold members, the Qantas Business lounges in Sydney and Melbourne are open for your pre-flight enjoyment.

Lounge-seekers in Brisbane and Perth will have access to the Plaza Premium and Aspire Lounge respectively.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.