Emirates on track to offer premium-economy class in 2020

Dubai-based airline sees potential for more growth in Africa, chief commercial officer says

epa06977147 (FILE) - Aircrafts of the Emirates Airlines parking at the Dubai International airport in the Gulf emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 27 May 2012  (reissued 27 August 2018). The United Arab Emirates General Authority of Civil Aviation on 27 August 2018 denied reports that UAE air traffic was disrupted after an alleged Houthi drone attack. Iran- and Houthi-affiliated media reported claims that Houthi militias from Yemen had carried out a drone attack on Dubai airport.  EPA/ALI HAIDER
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Emirates, the Dubai-based carrier renowned for its luxury onboard showers and lounges, is on track to introduce premium-economy class next year as it seeks to offer more legroom and perks to those flying coach.

The airline is currently working on various elements of the new class including seats and inflight entertainment, Thierry Antinori, Emirates' chief commercial officer, said on Wednesday.

"It's about targeting and pleasing some customers flying in economy who want to fly a better class but not business class," he said. "It’s about up-selling the economy to premium-economy and not down-selling business class to premium-economy.”

Emirates had considered the option of adding premium economy since 2016 when low oil prices clipped demand for travel in the region and the offering was expected to lure price-sensitive travellers. The new class typically offers more legroom and other perks at a higher fare than the regular Economy class but cheaper than Business or First class tickets.

Emirates, the largest international airline, sees more room for expansion in Africa, a market of 1 billion people, aided by its codeshare partnership with low-cost sister airline flydubai, Mr Antinori said.

"If I look at the last 12 months, I see a very good dynamic in Africa and we have still potential to grow from and to Africa especially with the flydubai combination," he said, declining to identify specific markets.

The partnership between the state-owned airlines has "really taken off", jointly carrying more than 3.2 million passengers on their codeshare flights across 84 destinations since the carriers developed closer commercial ties in 2017, he said.

"During 2019 we will expand further," Mr Antinori said.

He also said Emirates' forward bookings for the summer and autumn across its entire network into Dubai is "looking healthy".

The executive was speaking ahead of the four-day Arabian Travel Market exhibition that will begin on April 28 in Dubai and is expected to attract more than 40,000 visitors to attend this year's edition of the travel and tourism event, according to the organisers.