Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul airline, will take delivery of three Airbus A380s this year, with its final superjumbo expected to join the fleet in November, earlier than the planned schedule of June 2022.
The airline's three new A380s will be fitted out with premium-economy cabins as it seeks to fully unveil the new class in the coming months, Emirates said on Wednesday.
"We have come to an agreement with Airbus to bring forward the delivery of our remaining A380 orders and have secured financing for these units," said Tim Clark, president of Emirates airline. "These new aircraft will also add more highly sought-after premium economy seats into our inventory, as we prepare to fully launch this cabin product in the coming months.”
The deliveries will bring Emirates’ A380 fleet to 118 aircraft in November, including six aircraft equipped with premium economy seats in a four-class cabin configuration.
Emirates – known for its luxury cabins, on-board shower and lounge – is making its first foray into premium economy with the addition of the new class in its flagship double-deckers.
By October, Emirates will resume its A380 operations on more than a dozen popular routes, it said.
These destinations will include Amman, Cairo, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Guangzhou, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Manchester, Mauritius, Moscow, Munich, New York JFK, Paris, Toronto, Vienna, Washington and Zurich.
Emirates’ four-class configuration A380s are currently being used on its London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle routes.
The cream, leather-covered premium economy seats that come with extra leg room are currently offered as spot upgrades for some customers on a "discretionary basis", Emirates said.
While the Dubai airline has been considering plans for a premium economy class since at least 2016, the new offering could help it with additional revenue amid the Covid-19 pandemic that has hammered global air travel demand, aviation analysts say.
The A380 reached the end of the runway when Airbus decided to halt production of the four-engine aircraft in 2019 after 12 years in service due to weak demand for the jet by airline customers.
However, top customer Emirates has made efficient use of the jet and currently has the world's biggest fleet of 115 A380s.
Emirates' Airbus A380s are powered by the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine and the GP7200 engine, produced by the Engine Alliance, a joint venture between General Electric Aviation and Pratt & Whitney.
The aircraft has a range of 8,000 nautical miles or 14,816 kilometres.
“Emirates will continue to be the largest operator of this spacious and modern aircraft for the next two decades and we are committed to ensuring that the Emirates A380 experience remains a customer favourite with ongoing investments to enhance our product and services," said Mr Clark.