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