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…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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7 Comments

  1. Emirates doesn’t need to create a bespoke product in business class but it can’t just pick a standard off the shelf product and cover it in the faux wood it currently has. If they modified the seat to make to maybe add a door it would be far better. The problem is while Emirates have forged ahead for many years they’ve now turned the former thunderous applause of everything Emirates has been replaced by a mere wimper. And while their first class is still arguably the best in the world their business class is now being beaten by companies such as British Airways who Emirates dethroned back in the late noughties to claim the crown of world’s most luxurious airline. Emirates really have caught the BA bug they have a seat that was cutting edge for the time (their A380 seat was introduced way back in 2008) it falls behind the pack, which is what we saw at BA before the arrival of the Club Suite and it’s what we’re seeing happening right now at Emirates.

  2. That Emirates A380 Business Class seat is 18.5: wide – same as most PE seats. I flew it once; didn’t bother with the return flight. It might have a table and bar but it was always cramped.

    1. +1

      JAL has 18.5″ wide seats in regular economy. So a dated seat and no onboard lounge or other improvements. Unless Emirates changes their mind in a hurry about using these seats, things are looking a little bad for them.

  3. Indeed astonishing decisions and something you would expect from small corner industry airlines deciding, not one of the largest, (so called) luxurious and renown airlines. Very few and select will pay and fly first class which makes it a product not for the mass, business became quite a standard for many in the past years. Can’t understand how Emirates decides not to continue be industry leading in the segment anymore. Even Etihad who is truly struggling has a better product not to mention the above and beyond Qatar airways. Faux pax ebony wood and gold coloring simple won’t do it in 2020 if the seat itself smells of 2008……

  4. Emirates is dropping the ball, something is not right somewhere within the organisation. They need to up their game, as you say they are no longer the best airline, flown them multiple times this year but only out of convenience, if I lived nearer Heathrow would have chosen Etihad or Qatar instead. Economy will always be pretty much the same for all airlines, it’s biz and first where Emirates need to keep their game up! New first suite has that but if they don’t drastically redo the biz seats for the 777x they will certainly be behind, BA, VA and even carriers like say West Jet with their new biz seats (okay last one might be a bit of a stretch!)

  5. In a world where Lufthansa gets 5 stars for its 3 stars product, where BA has just presented a decent business seat with a delay of more than a decade, where both Qatar and Etihad are losing big money, where TK flies 7-in-a-row business seat, we talk about Emirates?

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