Emirates’ New First Class: Will It Win Over Customers?

A new first class cabin for the Emirates 777-300ER will be unveiled soon (Photo: Greg Linton/AirlineGeeks.com)

Earlier this week, Emirates announced that it will debut its latest first class offering in November at the Dubai Air Show. The Dubai based carrier, which is currently the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 777 with 162 aircraft, confirmed that its latest first class suite will debut on board their new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft beginning in November.

The latest aircraft will be configured in a new 6 private suite, 1-1-1 layout as opposed to the current 8 suite, 1-2-1 configuration currently operated on the 777 fleet.

“Our products and services across cabin classes are continually improved and enhanced” said Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline during the announcement. “All cabins will sport a totally fresh new look. We are excited to showcase the results of years of planning and development invested into our new First Class offering, and our overall Emirates 777 experience.”

Thus far no details have been provided of the actual look of the product, but knowing Emirates’ history, it will certainly be something that challenges the status quo of what First Class should consist of. However, one question remains: Will customers continue to purchase tickets for First Class?

The Battle for Premium Customers

Needless to say, the competition between the three major gulf carriers, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar, has grown more intense over the last several years, as each carrier has sought to out-do the the other with new seats, aircraft, routes, lounges and more. What makes Emirates’ first class particularly interesting is that it goes against the recent global trend of removing First Class seats in favor of more Business Class seats.

Back in March, Qatar Airways announced their latest Business Class product referred to as the ‘QSuite’, the industry’s first business class double bed offering passengers a spacious and luxurious experience. While the airline still offers first class on board its Airbus A380, it has signaled its intention for all future aircraft to simply feature the ‘Qsuite’ instead.

Competitor Etihad Airways currently operates three luxurious classes, ranging from Business Class with lie-flat beds, First Class with private personal apartments, and even their signature three room suite called ‘The Residence.’

Outside of the gulf carriers, numerous airlines have begun removing first class on many of their aircraft. American Airlines now only operates First Class on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, while Delta has been moving toward using only its ‘Delta One’ Business Class as its premium product. International carriers such as Lufthansa have been cutting First Class capacity as well in favor of Business Class and Economy Plus.

A Global Shift

The introduction of these new cabins and services has prompted airlines across the globe to spring into action in an effort to keep their product current and favorable in an ever growing competitive market. Only time will tell as to whether this trend continues.

With many passengers wishing to sacrifice luxury, legroom, space and additional services for the prospect of lower fares, demand for these super luxurious classes may not be as high as currently predicted. As global companies continue to clamp down on spending, they may force their leaders’ travel to be done in Business Class instead of First Class.

Airlines such as Emirates will need to continually look for ways to attract customers through the means of expanded and upgraded premium cabins, while ensuring that the price point can stay in line with customer and employer expectations as well.

Joshua Drabble

Joshua Drabble

Josh is a long term aviation enthusiast and aspiring commercial airline pilot. From a young age he has immersed himself in all things aviation. From plane spotting at local airports and airfields, to racking up frequent flier miles on trips abroad, Josh is a huge AvGeek at heart. He is currently in his third and final year of university in the United Kingdom, studying for a degree in Air Transport alongside his full flight training towards a frozen Air Transport Pilot’s license. He currently has his PPL and CPL with around 200 hours of flying experience in various aircraft and is expected to start his Instrument rating later this year. He frequently flies on one of his favorite airlines, British Airways and is an avid Avios collector and British Airways Executive club member.

In his spare time, while not studying, flying or immersing himself in aviation he enjoys spending his time volunteering in a variety of roles and running a blog to help other aspiring pilots pursue their dream.
Joshua Drabble