Emirates is finally removing the dreaded middle seat in business class – on some of its aircraft, at least – with the airline’s Boeing 777-200LR fleet getting a revamp: doing away with the ‘old’ 2-3-2 layout to make way for an upgraded seat in a 2-2-2 configuration.
Replacing the previous angled-flat beds with new fully-flat sleepers, the refurb also introduces personal minibar facilities, a larger entertainment screen, and a new snack bar and social area in the centre of the cabin that’s exclusive to these newly-renovated jets.
Currently appearing most regularly on flights from Dubai to Fort Lauderdale, Santiago and São Paulo, and soon to grace Australia’s skies on Adelaide-Dubai flights, Australian Business Traveller ventured to Brazil to put Emirates’ new seat to the test.
Emirates’ Boeing 777-200LR business class: the cabin
Before we touch on the other details, we’ll again highlight that 2-2-2 seating pattern, which means unlike Emirates’ Airbus A380 flights which offer a 1-2-1 layout – providing every passenger with direct aisle access – on these birds, you’ll only enjoy that privilege in the centre pairs.
Select a window seat, and you’ll need to step past, or over, your seatmate to access the aisle – and from what I observed (from my carefully-chosen centre pod), it requires a fair bit of flexibility when that aisle-side seatmate is in full bed mode.
But by their nature, the window seats afford the best privacy, and are a good choice for sleeping if you know your travelling companion and you both plan on flying to the same schedules. For example, standing here in the aisle, seat 1B is clearly visible, but 1A by the window is very secluded.
In this 2-2-2 layout, seats are numbered as AB-EF-JK, so for a window, choose an A or K seat, or to trade privacy for guaranteed direct and uninterrupted aisle access, the E and F seats are your best pick:
Just be mindful of the inflight snack bar if you’re sitting towards the back – it’s located between rows 5 and 6 – but more on that later.
Emirates’ Boeing 777-200LR business class: the seat
Take a seat and the first thing you’ll notice is the glistening new 23-inch high definition inflight entertainment screen in front of you – a substantial upgrade to the smaller (and fuzzier) screen on Emirates’ older Boeing 777s.
This can be controlled via the familiar Emirates tablet, which doubles as a second screen: great for displaying the moving map or an external aircraft camera while watching a movie or TV show on the panel in front.
If you’ve flown Emirates before, it’s no surprise that as also on other aircraft, these tablets are detachable and link wirelessly with the inflight entertainment system – whether to display video content in your hands, or even to adjust your seat which is also connected:
Too complicated? There’s a separate remote control nearby with easy shortcuts for volume, lighting and the call bell, and the main screen also responds to touch: handy to quickly pause a movie when getting up, but otherwise, it’s easiest to use your choice of remote.
Right above that control are easy-access keys for setting the bed fully-flat or in the take-off and landing position, if you’d rather do this on your feet…
… with a few extra settings in your arm rest…
… including a control for the privacy shield between your seat and your neighbour’s – pictured here in its highest position (behind the mounted tablet), but which can be lowered to make chit chat easier…
… or, left up for keeping to yourself – and if you don’t want your neighbour to move it, it can be locked in place via the seat’s control tablet.
Each pair of seats shares a central cocktail table, joined by your own retractable beverage shelf just below:
Beneath your arm rest, you’ll find the headphone connector, an international-style AC power outlet, two USB charging ports and an HDMI connector for displaying the output of your own device on the main entertainment screen:
Having that second USB port is most appreciated, because when larger laptop chargers are connected, such as for the Microsoft Surface, one USB plug is obstructed – this way, you can always have at least two gadgets plugged in, even if one remains parked in the nearby storage pocket:
Above that, ‘part one’ of your personal (room temperature) minibar…
… with ‘part two’ nestled below your entertainment screen in front, with two bottles of water, along with socks and an eyeshade, accessible by pressing the nearby button to unlock the sliding window:
Below that, a leather foot rest. At 6ft tall, even I couldn’t reach this when the seat was upright, but when reclined and the seat was panned forward, it became accessible. Tucked away underneath is a storage compartment for things like shoes or blankets, but you'll need to get down on the floor for access:
Later, the foot rest forms the end of your 71-inch (180cm) fully-flat bed, but by international standards, that's actually quite short. I'm taller than this, so the only way I could properly fit in the bed was to lie diagonally, putting the pillow to the left-hand side (right-hand, from above), avoiding the protruding section next to the pillow which houses the feet of the passenger behind...
... and angling my own feet towards the right, which gave me three inches (8cm) of extra sleeping space.
That said, the width of the seat cushion here is more generous than aboard Emirates' A380s, which made sleeping diagonally possible: I measured 22 inches at the widest point, being approximately four inches wider than the airline's superjumbo business class seat.
Pyjamas, however, remain BYO.
Emirates’ Boeing 777-200LR business class: the social area
While all Emirates Airbus A380s feature an inflight bar and lounge area, on the airline’s Boeing 777s, only these newly-refreshed Boeing 777-200LRs offer any kind of social space – and it’s here, between rows 5 and 6:
With a selection of sandwiches, fruit, snacks and bottled water, the location of this facility, combined with the absence of extra seating here, renders it more of a ‘grab and go’ station than a place to while away the hours.
If you do want to stay and chat, there’s ample space to do so, whether in the centre or over by the aircraft door…
… but particularly on night-time flights where sleep is the goal, I’d avoid row 6 wherever possible – not only in case of noise, but also to avoid the light from above, as the spotlights here shine bright in an otherwise-dark cabin, and there’s no curtain between these seats and the counter to block it out.
Emirates’ Boeing 777-200LR business class seat: the verdict
Compared to the older-generation Emirates business class seats found on many of Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ERs, the new Boeing 777-200LR seat is a good step in the right direction, axing the middle seat from the cabin and introducing fully-flat beds in place of the older sloping sleepers.
Other touches such as improved inflight entertainment screens and the stitched champagne leather finish also add to the experience – and if you can snag one of the centre seats for direct aisle access too, it’s quite a nice way to fly, even if you have to sleep diagonally.
Given a choice between the Boeing 777-200LR and the Airbus A380 based on the flying experience alone, I’d still lean towards the superjumbo for its more advantageous 1-2-1 seating layout and the full inflight bar and lounge area (below)…
… but when choosing flights based on schedule and convenience, if the best-timed departure happened to be on a Boeing 777-200LR instead of the A380, that’s what I’d happily book – just with a ‘mental note’ to jump in and select a centre seat as early as possible, before they’re all snapped up!
Chris Chamberlin travelled to São Paulo as a guest of Emirates.