Dubai-based Emirates Airline is launching a new first class product for yet-to-be-delivered Boeing 777-300ERs and its future 777X fleet.
The airline presented the new product on board the latest 777-300ER it has received from Boeing on the opening day of the Dubai Air Show. The new first class, which features six fully enclosed cabins with sliding doors, follows a four-year process of studies and negotiations to satisfy regulatory authorities pressing to ensure emergency evacuation, air flow and other issues are respected.
Because of the additional space the suites take up, Emirates’ 777 first class cabins have been reduced from eight to six seats. The compartments are arranged in a three-abreast configuration. Emirates worked with Mercedes-Benz, among others, on the interior design. The new lay-out required extensive modification to the cabin, including the ceiling in the first class section.
One of the new features are virtual windows for the middle seat—passengers will be shown the outside view live through screens on the sidewalls via cameras filming on the aircraft’s exterior.
The new product will be available on nine 777-300ERs by the end of 2019. Emirates plans to use the aircraft across the network, but initially to fly from Dubai to Brussels and Geneva. Chicago, Perth and Brisbane are to be added later. Emirates has not yet made a decision whether the product will be retrofitted to the in-service fleet of 777-300ERs and, if so, to how many aircraft.
But the product will be delivered from the factory on the 777X, which Emirates will start to receive in early 2020.
Around 30 Emirates 777s in service have business class seats, but do not have a first class cabin. Emirates president Tim Clark said still sees a strong market for a first class product and expects the majority of the future fleet to include first class as well as business class. Emirates operates almost 170 777s.
The airline is still working on defining the upgraded compartments for its Airbus A380s and wants to retrofit that fleet as soon as possible. “It is work in progress,” Clark said, pointing out that the A380 first class cabin is much larger and more complicated to change. With the new product installed, first class seating will be reduced from 14 to eleven seats on the A380. “Eventually the product will be ubiquitous,” Clark said.