Emirates A350 with next-gen business class set for take-off

Emirates will look to narrow the gap between business and first class on its new Airbus A350 jets.

By David Flynn, May 6 2024
Emirates A350 with next-gen business class set for take-off

While the mighty Airbus A380 remains the flagship of the Emirates fleet, its A350 sibling – a newer and more modern single-deck jet – is soon headed for the hangars of the Gulf colossus.

Emirates expects to take delivery of its first A350-900 in August 2024 for flights from mid-September.

A steady stream of jets will follow for a total of ten A350s by March 2025 and 50 to be delivered “by mid-November 2027,” Chief Commercial Officer Adnan Kazim told journalists on the sidelines of the Dubai Air Show in November 2023.

To date, Emirates has ordered 65 of the popular A350-900 model from Airbus, and is also considering a second order of up to 50 of the larger and longer-range A350-1000 version.

The sleek twin-engine A350 will also mark the debut of what Emirates describes as its “next generation” business class seat, in a 1-2-1 layout so that every passenger enjoys direct access to the aisle.

The Emirates A350s will also carry premium economy as the carrier works to standardise the passenger experience across its fleet.

Emirates' A350 will include the airline's popular premium economy class.
Emirates' A350 will include the airline's popular premium economy class.

Emirates A350 seat map

Emirates has confirmed the A350 seat map as follows:

  • 32 “next generation” business class flatbeds (in eight rows of 1-2-1)
  • 21 premium economy recliners
  • 259  “generously pitched” economy seats

There’ll be no first class in the Emirates A350s, with the primo private suites remaining the exclusive domain of the larger A380s and Boeing 777s.

And judging by past comments by Emirates President Sir Tim Clark, the A350s may even incorporate a small “social area” for business class passengers.

“Social areas have now become a bit of a signature for us,” Clark has previously told Executive Traveller.

While obviously not as sizeable or swish as the airline’s iconic Airbus A380 bar and lounge area, “we’re trying to continue what we’ve always done, albeit with smaller real estate to work with (compared to the A380). But there’ll be something... a sort of convivial area where people can go and gather, and pick up whatever they want to eat or drink.”

Emirates A350 free WiFi

Something else to look forward to is that all Emirates A350s will offer fast and free WiFi, through Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band satellite network.

Claimed as “the world’s first and only globally available broadband network,” it will serve up high-speed connectivity to every seat.

All Emirates Skywards members will receive free access to text-based messaging apps (such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WeChat) for the whole flight.

Skywards Silver, Gold and Platinum members in business class will enjoy full unlimited Internet access, as will Skywards Platinum members in premium economy and economy. 

Emirates A350 destinations

Emirates' A350 will see the debut of an all-new business class.
Emirates' A350 will see the debut of an all-new business class.

As of May 6, Emirates has confirmed the following nine destinations for its nascent A350 fleet:

To the Middle East/GCC:

  • Emirates will operate its first A350 to Bahrain on the daily EK839/840 service from 15 September, with the frequency of A350 services progressively increasing to cover two Bahrain services with the second service starting on 1 November
  • The first Emirates A350 will land in Kuwait on the daily EK853/854 service on 16 September
  • Muscat’s daily EK866/867 will be served by the A350 from 1 December.

To West Asia:

  • The Emirates A350 will head to Mumbai as EK502/503 from 27 October.
  • Ahmedabad’s daily EK538/539 will be served by the A350 from 27 October.
  • Colombo’s fourth daily service EK654/655 will be served by the A350 from 01 January 2025.

To Europe:

  • Lyon will be served daily with the Emirates A350 from 1 December.
  • Bologna will be served by the A350 from 1 December.
  • Edinburgh will rejoin the Emirates network from 4 November, operated by the A350.

Emirates says it will “announce more destinations in the coming months as new aircraft join its fleet.”

Emirates A350 business class

With the first A350 routes now on the Emirates network map, the reveal of the A350 must also be close at hand.

And if comments by Emirates exec Kazim are anything to go by, the A350 will fly the flag for a new business class seat which is also expected to appear on the Boeing 777-300ERs from mid-2024 in an extensive upgrade program which will see an end to the dreaded middle seat.

“The existing 2-3-2 business Class on (the) 777 will go away and you’ll see a new product that will be launched which will bring us the alignment to the product that we have with the upcoming 777-9X (and) with the A350 that is coming in,” Kazim told media in late 2023, adding that “everything will be streamlined in term of the product offering and consistent” across the fleet.

Emirates' 2-3-2 business class on the 777 is also on the way out.
Emirates' 2-3-2 business class on the 777 is also on the way out.

In that regard, the Emirates A350 business class seat is very much the new face of Emirates business class for the next few decades – even beyond the 2040s, when the A380s will have since retired.

So what can we expect to see from Emirates’ A350 business class?

The seatmap shows the middle seats will alternate between passengers sitting together and apart – what boffins sometime terms as honeymoon and divorce configurations.

Emirates has confirmed French multinational aerospace specialist Safran will supply new business class seating for the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777 fleets, in a US$1bn program.

Emirates has a long-standing relationship with Safran: the Paris-based company is behind Emirates’ premium economy seat, while a heavily customised version of the original Safran SkyLounge serves as Emirates’ A380 business class.

Safran's relationship ship with Emirates stretches back to the original A380 business class.
Safran's relationship ship with Emirates stretches back to the original A380 business class.

Safran’s published portfolio of business class seats stretches to seven platforms, of which two – Unity and Fusio – are the strongest contenders for Emirates’ A350 business class.

Safran's Unity suite is a prime candidate for Emirates' A350 business class.
Safran's Unity suite is a prime candidate for Emirates' A350 business class.

Unity is Safran’s latest business class platform, with forward facing seats wrapped in high walls and a sliding door “to provide best in class comfort (and) privacy,” Safran says.

Safran's Unity suite is a prime candidate for Emirates' A350 business class.
Safran's Unity suite is a prime candidate for Emirates' A350 business class.

“It aims at satisfying the latest passenger expectations by integrating advanced technologies, creating an outstanding feel of space while ensuring flawless comfort, privacy and a highly premium feel.”

Safran's Unity platform retains a forward-facing 1-2-1 arrangement favoured by Emirates.
Safran's Unity platform retains a forward-facing 1-2-1 arrangement favoured by Emirates.

Unity has already been chosen by Qantas for its Airbus A350 business class, which will feature on those globe-striding Project Sunrise flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York beginning in mid-2026.

Qantas chose the Unity seat for its forthcoming A350 business class.
Qantas chose the Unity seat for its forthcoming A350 business class.

Air India has also chosen Safran's Unity as its transformative international business class, which will debut on the Delhi-based carrier’s Airbus A350s before being fitted across its Boeing 777 and 787 fleet as part of a $400 million refurbishment project.

Unity would allow the Emirates A350 to offer double beds in business class.
Unity would allow the Emirates A350 to offer double beds in business class.

If Emirates opts for Unity as its A350 business class seat, expect the finished product to be significantly customised and styled so that it’s an undeniably Emirates product.

Safran's Unity seat includes mod cons like large HD video screens and wireless charging.
Safran's Unity seat includes mod cons like large HD video screens and wireless charging.

However, we certainly can’t rule out Safran’s Fusio for Emirates’ new A350 and 777 business class.

Safran's Fusio is a 'fusion' of business class and first class.
Safran's Fusio is a 'fusion' of business class and first class.

Described by Safran as “a business class seat with all the first class features” and even a “Business-First Class” product, Fusio is the closest thing to Qatar Airways’ highly-regarded Qsuite business class.

Safran's Fusio would dramatically elevate Emirates' A350 business class experience.
Safran's Fusio would dramatically elevate Emirates' A350 business class experience.

And it would undeniably close the gap between business and first class: perhaps to the advantage of the A350, which will lack first class, but arguably narrowing the difference between classes on the Emirates 777, at least in terms of the ‘hard product’ experience.

As a business/first combo, Safran's Fusio has literally everything that opened and shuts.
As a business/first combo, Safran's Fusio has literally everything that opened and shuts.

Fusio is already being flown in a heavily customised version by Japan’s ANA as its flagship Boeing 777 The Room business class.

ANA's 777 The Room business class is based on Safran Fusio.
ANA's 777 The Room business class is based on Safran Fusio.

In a Fusio business class seat, passengers enjoy increased personal space due to a ‘yin-yang’ design which alternates between front-facing and rear-facing seats.

The alternating forward-backward layout of Safran's Fusio maximises space for passengers.
The alternating forward-backward layout of Safran's Fusio maximises space for passengers.

While that approach in itself would be a dramatic change for Emirates, it would also elevate the Emirates business class experience to at least the equal of rival Qatar Airways and put it ahead of almost all other airlines.

Of course, whatever Safran is cooking up for Emirates’ new business class could also be a completely new seat which remains under wraps for now.

Every seat designer and manufacturer always has something new in various stages of development with which to woo airlines as customers, along with some very bespoke treatments.

An example of this is Safran’s Visa platform, which while not listed on the company’s website is the foundation for Air New Zealand’s new Boeing 787 Business Premiere class, and for now remains exclusive to the Kiwi carrier.

Whatever Emirates lands on for its new A350 and 777 business class, you can be sure the airline will be going all-out to ensure it remains among the world’s best premium travel experiences – especially with the shadow of Riyadh Air on the horizon...

Here's me hoping that they roll these out to Australia once they're done with their short and medium haul tests. After all, Tim Clark did say that Darwin is a contender. Though, I'd be putting my money on Adelaide getting these A350s in the future, since the other major cities all have A380s.

06 Jan 2013

Total posts 12

LOVE this airline. 


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