The Dubai-based airline Emirates plans to spend the majority of a $2 billion budget which has been set aside to improve the passenger experience on retrofitting 120 aircraft in a record-breaking time.
On Wednesday, Emirates said it was working on a plan to completely retrofit four aircraft per month non-stop over the next two years. The airline will prioritise 67 of its double-deck Airbus A380 aircraft for a head-to-tail refurbishment before moving onto 53 Boeing 777 aircraft that have been earmarked for an overhaul.
The rollout of Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin is the driving force behind the retrofit programme but the airline is going to use the opportunity to update older aircraft with new carpets, cabin panels and seat upholstery.
A total of 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats will be installed alongside a new design template that was first unveiled by the airline in 2017. Emirates is replacing its classic desert theme with what it describes as a “light and modern” colour scheme that features new “classy textured panels” and coloured lights.
The centrepiece of the new design is a motif design that represents the Ghaf tree which is the national tree of the United Arab Emirates.
First presented on Emirates’ Boeing 777 fleet, the updated design language made its way onto the Airbus A380 when the airline first unveiled its Premium Economy cabin.
Airline President Sir Tim Clark had long shunned Premium Economy over fears it would cannibalise its Business Class cabin. Clark has now fully embraced the product and wants to get it rolled out on as many aircraft as possible and as quickly as possible
“No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking,” the airline said in a statement on Wednesday. In preparation, the interior of an A380 was stripped during trials in July in which engineers listed every step of the retrofit process.
A spokesperson for the airline explained: “From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.”
As part of the retrofit programme, existing Business Class seats and First Class suites will be stripped back and given some much-needed TLC, but the airline has no plans to replace them with more modern seating options.
The retrofit programme will get underway in November and the bulk of aircraft earmarked for improvement work will have entered the hangar by the end of 2024. Emirates has not confirmed it hopes to have completed the refit of all 120 aircraft.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.