Emirates new Airbus A380s to have premium economy ‘sleeperette’ seats

Emirates new Airbus A380s to have premium economy ‘sleeperette’ seats

Emirates says its forthcoming premium economy seat will adopt an all-new design exclusive to the airline as what CEO Tim Clark describes as a ‘sleeperette’ which will debut on Emirates' new Airbus A380 fleet from 2020.

Speaking to Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the IATA aviation summit in Sydney this morning, Emirates CEO Tim Clark said the seat was a bespoke design built to the airline’s spec rather than an off-the-rack product.

"We've had a competition among seat manufactures to spec out the designs that we want. We’ve said this is how we want it to be built, and most of the seats that we have today are our own designs built to our specifications."

Shaping the specs on Emirates' premium economy seat

Emirates is looking at around 38 inches of pitch (up to 6 inches more than economy) with a 10 inch recline.

Clark says the seat will fully cradle the legs and feet, coupled with a deep recline to become a railway-style ‘sleeperette’ rather than being an angled flat bed or ‘sloping sleeper’.

"We're working on all sorts of (footrest) designs which work, because so often in the past they didn't work, you put somebody in there and recline the seta, the actual calf position and the leg position and the feet were all wrong."

"The trick is to get that right, and that's what we've been working on – to make it sure that it deals with the bodies and ergonomics of the higher-percentile male and female, which is very important."

Clark agreed that in 'sleeperette' mode the seat would be "something like lazy-Z" but it won't sit in a fixed shell.

"Once you do a fixed shell you're ending up in business class (territory) if you're not careful, and we're trying to trade people up from economy, not down from business."

He wouldn't be drawn on the number of seats per row but confirmed "there will be a reduction (from economy)."

Clark said the premium economy cabin would be seperate to economy class in order to provide "a degree of exclusivity... and not just a curtain, it'll be a proper cabin and most of the time passengers will have access to their own washrooms."

"We're to make it a quiet zone, a comfortable zone, and of course the food will be better (than economy)."

However, while Clark prefers not to think of the new premium economy class as ‘business lite’, he reflected that "it's probably where business class used to be, and in some cases where first used to be in the old days, 30 years ago."

Lounge access won’t be part of the premium economy package it will be available as an cost-extra item.

Rolling out Emirates' premium economy seat

On Emirates' three-class (soon to be four-class) Airbus A380s the premium economy cabin will be located at the front of the lower deck with “probably as many as 56 seats."

On two-class 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.

Emirates’ Boeing 777 jets would see a smaller cabin "more likely around the high 20s, 26-28 seats."

On both jets premium economy will take over some of the space currently allocated to economy class, with no change to the number of business class seats.

Clark said the premium economy seats would be installed across the Emirates fleet starting from the new Airbus A380s due in 2020, with a long-running retrofit program to those A380 and Boeing 777 jets already flying, but giving priority "to those aircraft that have longer life in them before their retirement."

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • sgb


    5 Jun, 2018 08:14 am

    This is the way to go, Thank you Emirates.
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  • Eli


    5 Jun, 2018 08:34 am

    I agree. This will be HUGE for them! I like the idea alot!
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  • clarkysdonga


    5 Jun, 2018 09:05 am

    'fully cradle the legs and feet', hope not like the QF 787....
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  • Aleks Popovic


    22 Dec, 2018 01:09 am

    If any I’ve flown on the SQ has the best (not bulkhead). The calf rest lines up well with the foot rest that folds out. Combined with the width and the armrest height it is the most comfortable IMO.
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  • russell


    5 Jun, 2018 09:08 am

    Yet to see a PE product live up to the hype. Let’s see if this is the first...
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  • xtfer


    5 Jun, 2018 12:09 pm

    Have you flown Virgin's PE?
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  • Rav


    7 Nov, 2018 08:21 am

    AirNZ had it and it was really good but got rid of it because it was too good and too close to business
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  • Scott Wilson


    21 Dec, 2018 11:12 pm

    No NZ got rid of it because it hadn't been subjected to rigorous testing before installation. The Spaceseat needed an additional row, but this put them too close together for comfort so it was removed. Furthermore it was far too heavy, resulting in aircraft flying lower than desirable for several hours until fuel was burnt off to allow it to reach full cruising altitude. It had nothing to do with attracting passengers from business, it had everything to do with a small airline doing bespoke seat design without adequate testing.
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  • reeves35


    5 Jun, 2018 09:08 am

    I have always thought that if a seat can be designed that lifts and raises the legs, it will be a gamechanger for Premium Economy. If your legs are raised, you sleep more easily; you don't have to be fully reclined.

    The question is, how do you achieve this in the limited space available for a W class seat which is realistically no more than 40" X 19"? As QF has found with the 787, an attempt to improve comfort (in QF's case via seat recline) can have knock-on effects that end up making the whole package less successful.

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  • Eli


    5 Jun, 2018 10:07 am

    If anyone remembers the BA cradle J seat the early 90s. That would be great.
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  • reeves35


    5 Jun, 2018 11:10 am

    It was a very comfortable seat but was set at about 50" pitch which is not viable in W.
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  • crosscourt


    6 Jun, 2018 03:15 pm

    You're not serious, that was such an uncomfortable darn seat
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  • Timmy22bc


    5 Jun, 2018 03:32 pm

    Surely the bench mark for PE would be at least a 42 inch pitch. I hope they learn some lessons from the Qantas attempt.
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  • Jason Hamilton


    5 Jun, 2018 08:15 pm

    It’s taken them long enough. The concepts sound very promising. Let’s hope it lives up to what Clarke is boasting about and then it will be a game-changer in its class.
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  • Andrew


    6 Jun, 2018 12:46 am

    Nothing he describes seems to be a particularly radical departure from existing PE today on other carriers.

    And the statement "most of the seats that we have today are our own designs built to our specifications" seems a bit foolish - given none of their business class or economy hard products are particularly special, and some are plain awful (like the 777 2-3-2 business class and 3-4-3 economy class).

    In the past, Tim Clark has talked down US carriers like Delta; but at least their 777 product to Australia has 1-2-1 business class and 3-3-3 economy config!

    Proof will be in the pudding.
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  • langdonfm


    22 Dec, 2018 12:45 am

    I mentioned similar sentiments on this site when Emirates first started talking about their Premium Economy plans. Expecting a lot of spin, but if their B777 Economy and Business Class layouts is their idea of industry leading, I expect this will be underwhelming.
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  • Gazza129


    6 Jun, 2018 03:52 pm

    Just so long as they get rid of that stupid fold up footrest that makes the seat overall length too short for anyone over 5'2".
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  • John Ruming


    6 Jun, 2018 05:11 pm

    ANZ's PE product is the best IMHO. All Mr. Clark has to do is copy it. Simple! 41" pitch 9" recline & 19.3" seat width & you can rest easy. It's not rocket science.
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  • Richard Robertson


    6 Jun, 2018 08:42 pm

    ANZ PE is very ordinary. Leg rest all wrong unless you’re sub 5’5”. Much prefer QF Dreamliner despite the foot restriction. At least the leg rest/footrest actually work for taller people.
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  • elchriss0


    21 Dec, 2018 12:55 pm

    What about JAL's 42inch pitch
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  • Jason Hamilton


    21 Dec, 2018 02:15 pm

    EK has been incredibly slow on the uptake with a PE product. It’ll take ages to roll out and a long time to retrofit those a/c marked for it.
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  • Scott Brown


    21 Dec, 2018 04:18 pm

    Virgin Australia’s PE is the way to go >40in pitch, + J catering.
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  • xtfer


    21 Dec, 2018 06:55 pm

    I get as much sleep on in PE to LA as I do in J on Virgin. About 6 hours.
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  • VV


    21 Dec, 2018 06:56 pm

    Really hope they nail this - PE could use someone to change the game. Just did VA PE over from Melbourne to LAX and while the cabin & service was excellent - the premium seat was a struggle to get comfortable in, thanks to those awful t-bars that come out from the seat in front. Will be watching Emirates VERY closely for my next European jaunt!
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  • Tristan


    21 Dec, 2018 07:34 pm

    In the last 1 yr I have always flown PE with CI or CZ. CI has a better design but I don't really sleep much better than regular economy. When the Seat is fully slid forward my legs are still squashed with very little space. The foot rest is only good for people shorter than 170cms (I am 183cms). Now I don't want to be overly negative because I think it is heading in the right direction but I feel a couple of extra inches or able to lift the front of the chair up to allow cradle plus it also means your body can zigzag a little to fit in the same space. PE seating will get better with time.
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  • Richard Foreman


    22 Dec, 2018 08:25 am

    This has been a long time coming for Emirates and a great idea - it's the one thing that has put me off flying with them recently and I bet the seat and service will be will be amazing as I personally think their economy (which I flew two years ago) was by far and away the best economy seat (on an A380) of any airline I've ever flown. On the subject of the Qantas 787 Premium Economy - don't knock it till you've tried it - I flew Perth - London in Aug and it was fantastic. I was actually dreading it but the seat for me, my partner and other passengers around us was simply superb. It looks small but once you are settled in it was so very comfortable. As you recline the seat base tips up cradle fashion and you legs go OVER the leg rest supporting your calves and your feet go into the net and you lay back with excellent back support and that great pillow. I slept solid for 7.5 hours and woke up without a twinge with every part of my body supported - truly rested and relaxed. I had even managed to turn over onto my side as I can't sleep on my back or upright. This was everything the seat was designed to do and for me it delivered - it was worth every penny !(And no I don't work for Qantas !) :)
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  • Jarrod Stewart


    24 Dec, 2018 03:15 am

    Im sorry , but this from an airline that thinks its new 2.2.2 business class product is world's best, based on its current business products it will be rubbish.
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  • Traveller14


    25 Dec, 2018 08:51 am

    If it's a 'railway style sleeperette', then EK ought be looking at how the then South Australian and Victorian Railways designed the AJ first class sitting cars on 'The Overland' (Adelaide to Melbourne) from the 1950s. These seats had full extenders (and a much greater pitch than airlines' W class) and were an absolute pleasure to travel in. So easy to sleep. Unfortunately when the private owner took over this train, these cars were withdrawn. Too heavy for an airline design (far more padding and steel) but a terrific way to travel.
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21 Mar, 2019 05:26 pm


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