Emirates premium economy cabin detail has Aussies hooked

Emirates premium economy costs roughly twice as much as standard economy — but, is it worth it?

In short: Yes.

The way I like to justify it, is by locking it in for just one leg on an ultra long-haul flight because at least that way you’ll feel somewhat refreshed when you reach your destination.

The premium cabin, to me personally, is in between business class and economy. You have the perks of the pointy end, such as your own check-in lane, menu, spacious leather seats, real china plates, extra luggage and a smaller cabin. But just not the flat-lay seats.

However, it’s a big step up from economy with the seats having a 20cm recline — double that of economy.

I was recently on an Emirates flight from Sydney to Oslo, with the first leg (to Dubai) in its swanky new premium cabin.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised with how lush, comfortable and spacious it all was. More than $3 billion has gone into this new retro fit and it appears to be money well spent.

The premium section is situated right at the front of the plane which is very handy as you don’t have to wait for the mass of passengers to board.

I was on the Airbus A380-800 where the premium section is also a lot smaller than economy with 56 seats laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration.

The moment you take your seat, just like in business class, you’re greeted with a beverage.

But for me, the most important thing on a flight is to be able to sleep and comfortably. And it ticked both those boxes.

Even though I couldn’t lay down the flat, the extra 10cm was more than economical, really helped. The extra 100cm of leg room also didn’t go unnoticed.

For added comfort there’s a cushioned leg-rest that rises to support your calves, and this comes in very handy when trying to sleep.

Seats also have headrests that can be adjusted six ways.

Another bonus is how the cabin is configured — 2-4-2. I was in the window seat with a passenger on my left. If you’re not fussed about where you sit, ask for an aisle seat as it makes going to the toilet a lot easier. Luckily for me, I had a lovely seat buddy who was happy to accommodate for my regular visits to the loo.

It was also her first time in premium, so I asked her what she thought.

“The cabin is less hectic (than economy),” she said, adding the extra seat recline was a big win.

We also agreed that the only downside is if no one is sitting next to you and you want to take advantage by laying down, unlike in economy, you can’t as there is a divider between seats that can’t be adjusted.

However, given how comfortable the seats are, you probably won’t need to do that.

I also overheard a very tall man chatting to his colleagues after the flight about how he managed to “sleep comfortably” throughout the entire journey.

Now on to the food. Emirates has always had top-notch service and great meals and its premium economy is no different. It helps that we’re given the same meals as those in business, even served on fancy Royal Doulton China tableware, like they do.

It’s pretty gourmet. For dinner I had braised beef cheeks served with steamed green peas, potato puree and parsley juice, with a glass of red wine — Chateau d’Aiguilhe 2012.

Snacks included spinach and ricotta calzone and chicken and leek calzone.

For breakfast I had fruit, bircher museli, and a cheese and chive omelette together with wholemeal bread and a croissant.

There’s also an extended beverage list that includes vintage wines from the business class list, including a sparkling Chardon and Chandon Vintage Brut 2016.

An Emirates spokesperson told me the cabin has been a huge hit from the moment it was first introduced in Australia in 2022, particularly with solo travellers.

“Since it was first introduced in Australia, customer response has been overwhelmingly positive with demand exceeding expectations,” the Emirates spokesperson told me.

“Over 90,000 passengers have flown in premium economy and it has been highly popular among solo travelers (40.9 per cent), couples (38.4 per cent) and families (15.5 per cent).”

She said the new cabin exceeded expectations in Australia, averaging over 80 per cent load factors since its introduction.

When asked why Aussies were happy to fork out the extra bucks, the spokesman said it came down to several “standout features”.

“The spacious luxurious cream leather seats, with six-way adjustable headrests, a footrest and a generous recline, and the gourmet dining experience which includes a welcome drink served in fine glassware,” she said.

“Other premium features include the cabin being positioned at the very front of the aircraft, and the three dedicated toilets for premium economy passengers.”

She said prices vary depending on factors including location of travel, departure date and demand, but it costs roughly double what you would pay for an economy seat.

James Kavanagh, Flight Center Travel Group managing director Australia, said he’s noticed premium economy bookings across all airlines were up year-on-year for a wide range of destinations.

He told news.com.au it’s because travelers are seeking more comfort, convenience and a little luxury from the moment their trip begins.

“Growing popularity at the front end of the plane for leisure travelers reflects that people no longer consider travel a discretionary item and are willing to spend a little more on it while cutting back on other budgetary items due to the cost-of-living,” he explained.

“Data from our boutique luxury brand Travel Associates shows that long haul destinations have had the biggest jump in premium economy bookings with Japan up 40 per cent, the USA up 15 per cent, the UK up seven per cent and Spain up six per cent.”

He added that there has been a significant spike in premium economy bookings since Emirates announced it would become available on the Melbourne to Dubai route back in February.

“In Australia Emirates already offers premium economy on flights out of Melbourne and Sydney and bookings on these routes have been growing unstable,” he added.

“We’d love to see Emirates extend their premium economy offer to their other Australian destinations. We see huge opportunity here, particularly out of Brisbane and Perth, as business class already sells very well from these ports.”

So far, 22 of 67 A380s have been retrofitted to date as part of the Emirates retrofit program.

Meanwhile, the Dubai-based airline has also been recognized for having the “best in-flight entertainment” after taking out the award in the 2024 Airline Excellence Awards.

It has a library with more than 45 Academy Award winning films, 5000 channels of on-demand entertainment, over 1500 movies and 1500 hours of TV.

There’s also a bunch of music, podcasts and audiobooks you can choose from as well as sports channels.

The airline recently launched its first-ever PJs kit for business class, but sadly, there are no plans to extend the loungewear to premium economy passengers at the moment.

This writer was upgraded from Economy Flex to Premium Economy.