Is this Emirates' new premium economy seat?

Emirates chief Sir Tim Clark says the airline's premium economy is what business class used to be some decades ago.

By David Flynn, December 23 2020
Is this Emirates' new premium economy seat?

Emirates will take delivery of its first Airbus A380 fitted with the carrier's new premium economy towards the end of this month, although the promised 'sleeperette' seats are not expected to launch until early-mid 2021.

However, when Emirates does pull back those curtains, this is reportedly the seat we'll see.

Reports now indicate that this Recaro design will grace Emirates' premium economy cabin.
Reports now indicate that this Recaro design will grace Emirates' premium economy cabin.

No, it's not the staggered Eclipse design from Asian manufacturer HAECO – which has been widely tipped due to HAECO itself saying "the launch customer – an as yet unnamed Middle East-based airline – will begin flying with the seats in 2020."

HAECO's Eclipse was previously tipped as Emirates' new premium economy seat.
HAECO's Eclipse was previously tipped as Emirates' new premium economy seat.

Instead, according to German aviation site Aero.de, Emirates has 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 – one of three superjumbos headed to the Gulf airline's hangars this month – Aero.de's Andreas Spaeth reports that Clark 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.

Those specifications, as Clark first revealed to Executive Traveller in mid-2018, are:

  • 38 inches of pitch, which is up to 6 inches more than Emirates' standard economy
  • an 8-10 inch recline, with extended footrests to cradle the body
Emirates chief Sir Tim Clark says today's premium economy is what business class used to be.
Emirates chief Sir Tim Clark says today's premium economy is what business class used to be.

Describing it as a railway-style "sleeperette", Clark told Executive Traveller that Emirates' premium economy design would be "probably where business class used to be, and in some cases where first used to be in the old days, 30 years ago."

Recaro lists other traits of the PL3530 as a cocktail table, six-way adjustable headrest and "various storage compartments."

In other words, if this is indeed Emirates' choice for premium economy it's not exactly revolutionary. As it happens, the PL3520 is already flown by several airlines, most recently in the premium economy cabin of Vistara's Boeing 787 Dreamliner...

Vistara's Boeing 787-9 premium economy cabin.
Vistara's Boeing 787-9 premium economy cabin.

... and also in Japan Airlines' domestic Airbus A350-900 series.

Japan Airlines' domestic Airbus A350-900 premium economy cabin.
Japan Airlines' domestic Airbus A350-900 premium economy cabin.

Japan Airlines' domestic Airbus A350-900 premium economy cabin.
Japan Airlines' domestic Airbus A350-900 premium economy cabin.

Spaeth later clarified that Emirates' styling of the Recaro seat has been "highly customised", and quoted Clark as saying "the seats look like in a Mercedes, with striking colours also on the walls".

Recaro's PL3530, shown with a different styling treatment.
Recaro's PL3530, shown with a different styling treatment.

Any connection to Mercedes would not be accidental: Emirates collaborated with and drew inspiration from the German marque for its latest first class suites, and runs a fleet of chauffeured S-Class sedans at Dubai for its first class flyers and members of the invitation-only Skywards iO tier (Clark's personal ride is also an S-Class).

Can Emirates' premium economy seat somehow continue the Mercedes Benz association?
Can Emirates' premium economy seat somehow continue the Mercedes Benz association?

Executive Traveller has approached Recaro for further comment, and will update this article upon the company's reply.

Finding the sweet spot

As previously reported, Clark had 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.

In some Emirates A380s, premium economy will be upstairs, where first class would otherwise be found.
In some Emirates A380s, premium economy will be upstairs, where first class would otherwise be found.

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.

"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."

David

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.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

If this is true Emirates has learnt too much from its Qantas alliance and has promised too much from its Premium Economy product and come up with something quite average.

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 75

Okay, count me as disappointed if this is indeed Emirates' premium economy seat. Back when Clark first shared details with AusBT over two years ago when the seat was in development I remember him saying how Emirates had run a "design competition" and laid out its own specifications for the seat, which was supposed to be an all-new design. The Eclipse seat looked very good, I liked the staggered design. If Emirates has instead gone for this Recaro seat, well there is nothing special about it at all, it's already on several other airlines. Even Qantas' Boeing 787 premium economy for all its faults was a bit more 'revolutionary' than this.

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 125

so it doesn't look anything like a railway style sleeperette, its just a standard PE seat.

Yes, a lot different from what Tim Clark was talking up originally!

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 69

Will have to wait and see how heavily customised (or not) the Recaro seat will be. But at first glance Recaro doesn't even come close to HAECO's staggered seat, which is amazing for the unprecedented amount of privacy in that class. So then to see this very standard looking Recaro is especially disappointing. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 307

Much prefer the staggered option and the separation it would create, this design doesn’t stop a wide person next to you from spilling into your seat and the usual lack of privacy, might as well sit in economy exit row and save the money.

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 111

I still mourn the loss of the TK Comfort Class. That was the best premium economy product to have ever been released. 48” pitch, 10” recline was nothing for them. The catering was like in business class. I could fall asleep from HK after dinner service and not wake up until about 2.5 hours out from landing in Istanbul. 

13 Feb 2015

Total posts 66

If you want to describe your seat as a "sleeperette" you're going to have to do better than a 38 inch pitch and 8-10 inches of legroom. And you're biggest selling point is the colour scheme?!?!?

Geez, talk about over-promising and under-delivering! 

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 347

Agree totally with the sentiments of above responses, but honestly what can any airline do to premium economy that is truly revolutionary? The answer is that it will only ever resemble a traditional economy seat, and yes of course the CEOs say theirs will be market leading and revolutionary and "almost business class" but then they sit down with the finance and budgeting teams and see how much it will cost versus the losses on the proposed fares (i.e. the 'premium' on top of economy) and back peddle and bring in the marketing spin consultant to re-write what they said before and now say the 'seat' is the best value for their customers [insert more googledegoote language here].

AT, I think you are correct in saying there is a gulf between what premium economy can be in practical terms versus what the spin doctors says it will be. Best example is Qantas and its "revolutionary" Boeing 787 premium economy seat. Okay, some aspects of the design were new such as the legrest system but that same system was also over complicated and the pitch was way too tight to make it useful at all. In fact only one publication called out those flaws, and that was this one back when it was AusBT, the other media just lapped it up and said "Wow, it's revolutionary!".

So what can an airline do to make premium economy better? Well it has to fit between economy and business class, it can't be lie-flat of course, and it probably can't even be an angled flatbed like the old Qantas Skybed I seats or the old SQ regional business class, because that would still risk cannibalizing business class. But I did like Clark's notion of a railway style sleeperette, something which was more of a 'lazy Z' I think I read it described as, something better for snoozing than economy but not for really sleeping like in business class. I think if you did that with decent legroom of course you'd be ahead for starters.

13 Feb 2015

Total posts 66

Airlines could simply increase the leg room by another few inches. Premium economy is far closer to economy than business in product, but is often closer to business than economy in price. 

All premium economy is these days is what economy used to be thirty years ago. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 903

Correct, VA's 77Ws had 41".  This is the feature most want, more room.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 347

ABT hi and agree, and to bring in a point made from Flying High about more leg room, when I imagine PE in my mind I think of old school business class recliner seats PLUS the legroom from the late 90s/early 2000s like the QF 'Dreamtime' seat (just before SkyBed 1), SQ Raffles Spacebed or the BA Cradle Recliner all used on their B747-400 fleets in the day. Non on these would qualify as lie-flat nor angled to cannibalize J class, but certainly a step up from Y and of course I know leg room is at a premium but that's why someone is paying the "premium" on top of "economy" yet it's the one feature of all PE products that seem to let them down in the customer's eye and QF PE on 787/A380 seems to stand out the most.

JKH
JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 150

Wow - not! I’m now confusing Tim Clark with Alan Joyce, especially when the promise of ‘revolutionary’ ends up nothing more than mediocrity.

05 Jan 2018

Total posts 45

there's no reason to bleat on about revolutionary this that and the other. why not just stick to something strong and positive which doesnt border on bs'ing the punters? say it'll be an excellent seat, comfortable and modern with ergonomics and comfort that our customers will love...etc etc. 

24 Apr 2018

Total posts 7

Tell you what though- any airline that is looking to get noticed /steal business from competitors /step their game up once this COVID situation settles down will be onto a certain winner fitting that HAECO seat in PEY. 


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Is this Emirates' new premium economy seat?