If there was a two word summary available for the state of luxury travel, it would be “one up”.
One airline launches a new seat and in short order, another “one ups” the previous unveiling. Emirates is an airline that’s been at the absolute forefront of driving luxury standards in the sky, but the airline has fallen flat in recent comments regarding its yet to be delivered, much hyped new Boeing 777X aircraft. That’s not to say it won’t be fantastic, but the luxury halo the airline has enjoyed may be in jeopardy, as it loses its grip in the drivers seat of cabin comfort.
The Airbus A380 is the aircraft that brought us Emirates as we know it. There’s a bar in business class, plush showers in first class and the largest entertainment screens the economy cabin had ever seen, which are only just now being equalled by other airlines. It was a triumph, and one that travellers couldn’t help but ply with praise.
But, Emirates plans are shifting, the Airbus A380 is phasing out of production and the airline has made the Boeing 777 the heart of its fleet, launching more point to point destinations around the globe. The newer 777-300ers the airline currently flies feature stunning futuristic “zero gravity” first class suites, but in business class, the airline dropped standards, going to an incredibly dense layout without direct aisle access – a baseline standard of new seats, and one set by Emirates itself.
Is Emirates tired of carrying the luxury torch? Premium economy is set to debut on the Boeing 777X, whenever the plane is delivered, but for both economy and business class, it all sounds much the same, and for Emirates – an airline known for pushing boundaries – that’s a problem. The airline drove competition to new heights, chasing their levels of cabin comfort, but now, it appears they are tired of carrying the torch, and that semi-priceless halo that customers give the brand is in jeopardy.
Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates, was quoted saying that business on the 777X will be much like the current A380 setup. As beloved as it once was, even that seat is a bit dated now. It’s no slouch, and will feature direct aisle access – which is an improvement over the current 777 fleet – but it’s just no longer cutting edge, and on new planes the public wants cutting edge. Especially from Emirates.
The Qsuite from Qatar Airways is the new benchmark, and ANA has already arguably toppled it, with The Room only two years later. Emirates own “fly better” branding is losing its touch, and that’s the issue with creating a gold standard in comfort: everyone expects you to keep doing so. Other airlines now offer massive economy screens, better food and phone pairing, as well as having wildly luxurious first class suites and plenty of airlines offer venerable premium economy products.
If comments are accurate, and Emirates simply rests on its laurels with the 2020 delivery of the new 777X, it may be antiquated from the day it’s delivered. For a brand built entirely on premium, better and the future, that’s a real issue. Halos aren’t supposed to get scratched…