Emirates launches aircraft upgrade programme across A380/B777 families; Will retrofit Premium Economy and upgrade Business Class to 1-2-1 configuration

At the Dubai Airshow 2021 today, Emirates announced that it would retrofit 105 of its wide-body aircraft with the Premium Economy product, in addition to other cabin enhancements.

Emirates launched the Premium Economy cabin aboard its A380 aircraft at the beginning of 2021 when they received the first A380 aircraft with the Premium Economy cabin fitted out. More A380 deliveries have happened now, with the final two A380 deliveries scheduled for the end of 2021. With the limited number of aircraft with the new product, Emirates does not sell the Premium Economy cabin but does an upgrade for customers for them to try out the new cabin.

a woman standing in a plane

This week at the Dubai Airshow, the airline has introduced a service protocol for the Premium Economy cabin aboard its A380 for now. A dedicated meal service with glassware and china is presented in the A380 Premium Economy, and the cabin will be ‘sold’ to customers this year-end onwards.

a tray with food on it

The 18-month retrofit programme, scheduled to begin at the end of 2022, will be entirely conducted at Emirates’ Engineering Centre in Dubai. It will see 52 Emirates A380s and 53 Boeing 777s fitted with a new cabin class – Premium Economy. The airline is also considering installing a brand new Business Class product on its Boeing 777 aircraft, with customised seats in a 1-2-1 layout. There is no indication what product will be selected by Emirates for the Boeing 777 Business Class.

Emirates has always maintained that it will retrofit a large number of aircraft which will continue to stay in the fleet for the long term, and it wanted to announce after that assessment was completed.

Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, said:

Emirates is investing in this retrofit programme to ensure that we continue to serve our customers’ needs and provide the best experiences in the sky. Since we introduced our Premium Economy seats a year back, we’ve received a hugely positive response. Customers have been amazed by the quality and comfort. As Emirates has done with our signature First, Business and full-service Economy travel experiences, we intend to further develop our Premium Economy into a distinctive Emirates experience that is unmatched in the industry. We are also considering a brand new Business Class product. More details will be revealed in due course.

Sir Tim added:

It is also a source of pride that the entire retrofit project will be conducted at our home base in Dubai. It demonstrates the strong aviation capabilities that have been built up within Emirates airline and the broader UAE ecosystem to support such a highly specialised and technical programme.

At the end of the retrofit programme, Emirates will have a total of 111 Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft offering Premium Economy seats, including the 6 A380s that would have been delivered to the airline with four cabins classes by December 2021.

On the Emirates Boeing 777, 5 rows of Economy class seats located just behind Business Class will be removed to install 24 Premium Economy seats laid out in 2-4-2 configuration. On the Emirates A380, 56 Premium Economy seats will be installed at the front of the main deck in 2-4-2 configuration.

Emirates Premium Economy

Covered in anti-stain leather with stitching details and a wood panel finishing, each seat is designed to provide optimal comfort and support with 6-way adjustable headrests, calf rests and footrests. Offering a generous pitch of up to 40-inches, each seat is 19.5 inches wide and reclines 8 inches into a comfortable cradle position with ample room to stretch out. Other touches include easily accessible in-seat charging points, a wide dining table and a side cocktail table.

On their 13.3-inch personal seat-back screen, one of the largest in its class, customers can enjoy the unmatched array of music, movies, TV, news and other content on Emirates’ award-winning ice. You can read more about the Emirates Premium Economy here.

By the end of December 2021, Emirates’ A380s with Premium Economy will be operating on the airline’s flights to Frankfurt, London Heathrow, New York JFK and Paris.


Emirates has launched a significant retrofit programme, which will begin at the end of 2022, and will end up having 111 aircraft with upgraded Emirates products, including a Premium Economy cabin, and in the 777’s case, a 1-2-1 business class as well.

What do you think of Emirates plans to complete a retrofit on its fleet with Premium Economy and replace the Business Class on the 777.

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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