Emirates' first Airbus A380 fitted with all-new premium economy seats will arrive this month, although premium economy won't be launched until sometime in the first half of 2021.
The Gulf colossus this weekend took delivery of the first of three factory-fresh superjumbos due in December, but says that only one of those "will feature its long-awaited signature Premium Economy product."
And the debut of Emirates premium economy will be held back until early-mid 2021, according to Emirates president Sir Tim Clark.
"We look forward to introducing our Premium Economy experience which will make its debut on an A380 in the coming months," Clark notes.
"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 told Bloomberg last month, suggesting the airline would "need to get to a critical mass of aircraft (before) we can make a meaningful use of those (seats)."
"But I would say by the middle of next year we will roll it out and hopefully start it on certain routes by the end of next year."
Clark expects the 'better than economy, less than business' proposition will prove 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.
In fact, right across the board Clark says "it is likely that as a result of what has happened that business will actually increase, and all the segments will return with greater volumes than we've experienced before."
What do we know about Emirates' Airbus A380 premium economy?
Clark has previously told Executive Traveller that the seat itself would be a new model developed to the airline’s specifications after "a competition among seat manufacturers to spec out the designs that we want."
Describing it as a railway-style "sleeperette", Clark said the design will fully cradle the legs and feet in "something like lazy-Z" configuration with an 8-10 inch recline, rather than going fully flat – a trait which will remain the exclusive domain of business and first 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," Clark reflected.
It's been speculated that Emirates' premium economy seat is the new Eclipse design from HAECO, given that the manufacturer has said the Eclipse launch will see "an as-yet-unnamed Middle East-based airline... begin flying with the seats in 2020."
However, according to German aviation site Aero.de, Emirates has now settled on a more conventional seat from the extensive catalogue of Recaro: the PL3530.
In an interview with Emirates president Sir Tim Clark on the sidelines of this weekend's A380 delivery ceremony at Hamburg, Aero.de's Andreas Spaeth reports that Clark has confirmed Recaro as its premium economy supplier.
"Neither Clark nor Recaro wanted to confirm the exact seat type underlying the Emirates product," Spaeth writes, although he cited Recaro's PL3530 as a seat which matches the specifications outlined by Clark, including 38 inches of pitch (up to 6 inches more than Emirates' standard economy).
In other words, it's not exactly revolutionary – indeed, the PL3520 is already flown by several airlines, most recently in the premium economy cabin of Vistara's Boeing 787 Dreamliner...
... and also in Japan Airlines' domestic Airbus A350-900 series.
Clark has previously told Executive Traveller that Emirates' premium economy would be separate to economy class in order to provide "a degree of exclusivity... and not just a curtain, it'll be a proper cabin," and that "most of the time (premium economy) passengers will have access to their own washrooms."
On Emirates Airbus A380s fitted with first class, the premium economy cabin will be located at the front of the lower deck with “probably as many as 56 seats."
On those Emirates 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, with three toilets where the two first class shower suites would otherwise be.