Emirates will deploy its Airbus A380 double-decker featuring the new premium economy cabin to London Heathrow as its first destination.
Starting on Monday, the airline will offer the new class on daily flights between Dubai and London Heathrow, Emirates said in a statement on Sunday.
"Until more premium economy seats enter its inventory, the airline intends to offer these as spot upgrades for its valued customers on a discretionary basis," the airline said.
The Dubai-based carrier last week said it received the first of six aircraft fitted with the new cabin. The remaining order of five superjumbos will also be delivered with premium economy cabins over 2021 and 2022.
The production and implementation cost of a premium economy class seat is 1.6 times higher than that of an economy class seat, yet it generates 2.3 times higher revenues than its production cost, analysts say.
While Emirates has been considering plans for a premium economy class since at least 2016, the new offering could help the airline chase additional revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic that has hammered air travel demand, analysts say.
"A well-developed premium economy product like the one recently introduced by Emirates could be seen as a potential solution to sustain higher yields during a pandemic, recessions and economic downturns in the future, during which business travel becomes increasingly price-sensitive and companies look to downgrade their employees from business class," Linus Bauer, founder and managing director of Bauer Aviation Advisory, said.
By targeting price-sensitive business travellers and comfort-seeking leisure travellers, the premium economy product has become a value-added offering, an important revenue stream and a strategic move to improve yields on ultra-long haul services, he said.
Emirates is the first of the major Middle East carriers to offer a premium class seat. Other airlines to offer the product include Qantas Airways, All Nippon Airways and British Airways.
Emirates currently serves London Heathrow with five daily flights, of which four are operated using an A380. The airline also operates 10 flights a week to Manchester as well as daily flights to Birmingham and Glasgow.
Its premium economy cabin, located at the front of the main deck, offers 56 seats in a 2-4-2 layout.
Emirates also plans to install premium economy seats on some of its Boeing 777X mini-jumbo aircraft which are due to join the fleet in 2023. It is also considering plans to retrofit its existing A380 fleet.