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For Emirates, Premium Economy Is The Next Big Investment
Leather seats, sparkling wine, and 40 inches of legroom -- but it'll come at a price.
Emirates Airline — there is no “s” at the end — is known for high-class luxuries, such as an onboard shower in first class and a sprawling lounge in Dubai with a bar serving Moët & Chandon champagne.
It adds another distinction: the only Middle Eastern airline offering a premium economy cabin. Earlier this month, Emirates officially rolled out its premium economy offerings on its DXB-JFK (EK203/EK204) and DXB-SFO (EK225/EK226) routes.
The aircraft was retrofitted to include a premium economy cabin, which is arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration at the front of the lower deck of the Airbus A380. Premium economy had already been rolled out on several Emirates routes, such as London, Singapore, and Sydney, but this is the first time the product has been available in the U.S.
Passengers are treated to several amenities not available in economy: actual glassware, leather seats, stainless-steel cutlery, an enhanced food and drink menu, and a generous seat pitch of up to 40 inches. But unlike business and first-class passengers, premium economy travelers won’t get access to the famed Emirates lounge in Dubai or other top-deck perks.
True to the brand, a premium economy ticket isn’t cheap — with round-trip flights from JFK or SFO to DXB costing nearly $3,200 round-trip. That’s only about $2,200 cheaper than a business class ticket on the same flight — and you’ll get access to the airport lounge and onboard bar area and lie-flat seats on a business class ticket.
If you want to save some money and book using Emirates Skywards miles, you’ll have to wait. The airline wouldn’t say when premium economy would be available for bookings with Skywards miles. However, from a search on the airline’s miles calculator, tickets should start at 78,000 miles one-way when award bookings are available.
To learn more about the new premium economy class, Travel With Vikkie chatted briefly with Essa Ahmad, divisional vice president for USA & Canada at Emirates, onboard the Airbus A380 at JFK Airport.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Vikkie: It looks like there was inspiration from Emirates business class. How did you bring some of those features and decor into the premium economy cabin?
Ahmad: Going back, the inspiration for [premium economy] was the business-class product that we have now. We [also] looked at our economy class product as well, and did something in between. There are a few elements in premium economy that the economy class doesn't have.
We started looking at what needs to be different [in premium economy], and I think we did an amazing job after working on it from 2016 and coming up with this product.
Vikkie: Is premium economy bookable using Emirates Skywards miles?
Ahmad: For the time being? Not yet. We’re waiting for the number of aircraft to increase because we have only around 10 destinations and 15 aircraft that [have premium economy.] We're just waiting for more aircraft to come into service.
Vikkie: I’m told that a sparkling wine brand is only available in premium economy — not in business, not in first. Can you talk to me about that?
Ahmad: We started looking at what we could offer that was a bit more exclusive to the premium economy and created that in our product offering. We went with Chandon Vintage Brut 2016 and decided to have it exclusively offered to the premium economy customers. We're known for our extensive wine list and whiskeys and reserves, and we [thought] this should be a product offering just for the premium economy class.
Vikkie: How has the response been to the new premium economy in the U.S. market?
Ahmad: It's too early to judge because we just started on the 1st of May in New York and San Francisco on the 11th of May. The numbers aren't there yet to justify them, but we are seeing a good uptick in numbers. But for me to give you a proper number — let's catch up after eight months.
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