Emirates airline has started its two-year retrofit programme, with the first of its A380 superjumbo aircraft arriving for a full cabin interior upgrade and installation of premium economy seats.
The Dubai airline is carrying out a $2 billion upgrade of the interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft.
“After completing flight EK928 from Cairo to Dubai on Monday, A6-EVM was steered to Hanger E at the Emirates Engineering Centre where a team of specialised engineers began prepping the aircraft for its makeover,” Emirates said on Tuesday.
The airline has hired 190 extra staff to work on the project, while it has also engaged with 62 key partners for the programme.
The entire cabin interior of the A380 will be taken apart during the next 16 days and rebuilt in a “carefully planned and tested sequence”, Emirates said.
Window seats in the economy section will be removed first to free up space for the cabin's side panels to be taken out. The panels will then be laminated in Emirates’ latest colour tones.
To make room for the 56 premium economy class seats, 88 economy seats at the front of the main deck will be removed.
“On the upper deck, business and first-class seats will be dismantled and loaded on to a modified catering truck to lower them to the ground, where other vehicles will shuttle them to bespoke workshops,” Emirates said.
“Business class seats will be repainted and reupholstered with new leather at Emirates Engineering, while first-class seats will be sent to a specialist at Dubai World Central for refurbishing.”
All carpets and floorings will be replaced before the new seats are put back in.
The aircraft will be inspected and certified by aviation authorities before it re-enters service.
The second aircraft scheduled for a makeover, A6-EUW, will roll into Emirates Engineering Centre on December 1.
As the project progresses, engineers will work simultaneously on two aircraft. This means that every eight days, one aircraft will be grounded and towed to Emirates Engineering for retrofitting.
All 67 A380s earmarked for the retrofit programme will be back in service by May 23, 2024, according to Emirates.
It will then begin work on 53 of its Boeing 777s. By March 2025, all 120 retrofitted aircraft will be back in service.
Premium economy is currently available on A380 routes to London, Paris and Sydney.
The airline has announced plans to introduce the premium economy service on its routes to New York, San Francisco, Melbourne, Auckland and Singapore by the end of March 2023.
Emirates expects to return to 100 per cent of operations and network capacity in 2023 as demand for travel and tourism recovers from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
It carried more than 10 million passengers on about 35,000 flights to 130 destinations during the summer.