Emirates' first retrofitted A380 superjumbo takes flight for London

Double-decker jet receives facelift as part of airline's $2 billion programme to refurbish 120 aircraft

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The world’s largest passenger plane has taken to the skies with a new look.

Emirates' first retrofitted A380 entered service on Friday, departing Dubai for London Heathrow.

The jet has undergone weeks of round-the-clock work as engineers and technicians took apart and refitted its entire interior piece by piece.

Flight number EK003 is the first of 120 aircraft being refitted as part of Emirates' multibillion-dollar retrofit programme, the largest of its kind in aviation history.

Engineers are working to finish the programme in 2025. Photo: Emirates

The double-decker jet's fully refreshed interior now has four classes of cabin, including premium economy, which features wider seats and more legroom than economy.

Sleek cabins in first and business class sport Emirates' latest cream-coloured leather seats, while light wood finishing and carpets and stairs have been upgraded. Hand-stencilled panels featuring ghaf trees — which are native to the UAE — have been added to the first-class shower spa.

Registered A6-EVM, the aircraft is expected to land in the UK at 6.20pm local time on Friday.

“Customers will notice the difference the moment they step on board — the spacious A380 will look and feel even more impressive and comfortable,” said Tim Clark, president of Emirates. "With our latest interiors and products, this newly refurbished aircraft elevates our in-flight experience in all classes of travel, and enables us to offer more premium economy seats to meet customer demand."

Stencils of ghaf trees, which are native to the UAE, have been added to first class shower spas. Photo: Emirates

The refit was undertaken in Dubai at the airline’s state-of-the-art engineering centre.

“I’m particularly proud that this refurbishment work was designed, conducted and completed in-house at our facilities in Dubai, to the highest standards of quality and safety. It reflects the world-class aviation capabilities and infrastructure that exists within Emirates, and here in the UAE,” said Clark.

Next up for a makeover is aircraft registered A6-EUW, with work expected to be completed on the second plane by the end of January.

In numbers: 4,000 premium economy seats and 728 first-class suites

Emirates' new first class suites feature cream leather seats and light wood finishing. Photo: Emirates

The airline's operation will result in nearly 4,000 premium economy seats installed, 728 first-class suites refreshed and more than 5,000 business class seats upgraded.

As work progresses, Emirates will withdraw an aircraft from its fleet every eight days as engineers work simultaneously on two aircraft. This will allow the airline to complete work on all 67 superjumbo jets in the retrofit programme by 2024.

Attention will then turn to 53 Emirates Boeing 777s that are also due to be retrofitted by April 2025.

To master the world's biggest retrofit programme, the airline recruited hundreds of new staff dedicated to the project.

Emirates previously planned to debut its first retrofitted A380 in December on a flight to New York. The airline said that supply chain delays affected that plan.

"Due to supply chain delays impacting our retrofit programme, plans for deployment of aircraft fitted with Emirates premium economy seats changed and new timelines for the cities that were initially scheduled to receive the aircraft will be communicated in due course," a representitive for the airline told The National.

"Customers have been provided with alternative options and we hope to bring our premium economy service and newly refreshed cabins to additional cities as more aircraft roll out of the retrofit programme.”

As travel demand is at its strongest since the global pandemic, Emirates continues to ramp up its A380 services with plans to deploy the world's largest passenger jet to 42 destinations by the end of March.

Emirates' new premium economy cabins — in pictures

Updated: January 06, 2023, 2:24 PM
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