Emirates Expands Its New Premium Economy Cabin to These U.S. Routes

After bringing its new premium economy seats to the U.S. in May, Emirates is now offering the service to and from several U.S. cities. Here’s an up-close look at Emirates’ new premium economy perks.

Passengers sitting in Emirates' new cream-colored leather premium economy seats being served drinks

Emirates’ premium economy includes leather seats that recline eight inches, calf rests, and a welcome drink once onboard.

Courtesy of Emirates

Emirates may be best known for its lavish first- and business-class cabins, but the Dubai-based carrier is now turning its focus onto an increasingly popular class of seats—premium economy. The cabin, slotted between economy and business class, fills a niche for passengers who don’t want to pay too much of a premium but still desire something that is a step above the no-frills economy experience. In August 2022, Emirates debuted premium economy onboard its double-decker Airbus A380, becoming the first of the major Middle Eastern carriers to offer this class of service.

Now, exactly one year after first launching, the airline has 20 Airbus A380s with premium economy—6 newly delivered aircraft and 14 that have been retrofitted in Emirates’ engineering facility. And as of May 1, the new class of service became available on Emirates flights from the United States when the airline introduced premium economy on flights between New York and Dubai. Since then, San Francisco flights also got the premium economy treatment, and as of July, Emirates routes from Houston and Los Angeles also now offer the premium economy upgrade.

“Premium economy is an important part of our long-standing commitment to our customers around the world, including the U.S. market,” Essa Sulaiman Ahmad, divisional vice president for the USA and Canada, told AFAR in a written statement. “As with everything we do, Emirates premium economy is exceptional in its class, with minute attention given to every aspect of the customer experience.”

Emirates’ U.S. flight routes that feature premium economy

U.S. passengers now have more opportunities to sit in snazzy, textured cream leather recliners on flights to Dubai and beyond. Currently, Emirates operates the Airbus A380 with premium economy on four routes to and from the United States:

  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York City (JFK)
  • San Francisco (SFO)

Other global destinations that have the upgraded four-class Airbus A380—with first, business, premium economy, and economy—include London (LHR), Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL), Auckland (AKL), Christchurch (CHC), and Singapore (SIN). Emirates says that more than 160,000 customers have flown in premium economy to date.

A meal on a tray at an Emirates premium economy seat

Emirates premium economy passengers are served gourmet meals on china.

Courtesy of Emirates

What Emirates premium economy is like

While the first- and business-class cabins are both located on the upper deck of the Airbus A380, premium economy is at the very front of the lower berth. The relatively intimate 52-seat cabin features leather seating with upgraded appointments in a 2-4-2 configuration (compared to a 3-4-3 arrangement in economy).

Each seat includes a wood-grain fold-out table—similar to what customers may find in first or business—and a 13.3-inch, seatback-mounted LCD screen with both headphone jacks and Bluetooth connectivity. Comfort-wise, every position has a 19.5-inch-wide seat, 40 inches of pitch, a six‑way adjustable headrest, an eight-inch recline, and an adjustable calf rest. And in another nod to its more expensive siblings upstairs, window seats feature electronically adjusted shades instead of the manual ones found in economy.

With three dedicated flight attendants for the cabin, passengers in premium economy can expect more personalized service, starting with an onboard welcome drink. A gourmet menu is updated monthly, and all meals include complimentary wines and spirits like Chandon Vintage Brut 2016, an Australian sparkling wine exclusive to Emirates. Food and beverage services are also served on china and glassware.

Customers receive soft, sustainable blankets made from recycled plastic bottles, and full-size pillows, both designed specifically for premium economy. Complimentary amenity kits with socks, eyeshades, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a bookmark are provided as well.

The upgraded in-flight experience costs, of course. We searched several round-trip flights between the United States and Dubai and found that premium economy seats were around three times as much as economy seats for the same round-trip routes. For instance, a mid-October, round-trip flight from San Francisco to Dubai on Emirates was priced at $575 for economy, $1,623 for premium economy, and $4,280 for business. An autumn flight from New York to Dubai and back was $442 for economy, $1,570 for premium economy, and $3,719 for business class.

Emirates' new premium economy seat, with a calf rest

A little added comfort can go a long way on a long-haul flight in Emirates’ new premium economy seats.

Courtesy of Emirates

What’s next for Emirates premium economy

This is just the start of Emirates’ premium economy ambitions. The carrier is heavily investing in the experience as part of a $200 billion refurbishment program, bringing the cabin to 120 planes in total, split between 67 Airbus A380 aircraft and 53 Boeing 777 aircraft. By 2024, all 67 A380s assigned for refurbishment will have returned to service. At that point, Emirates will begin work on its Boeing 777s earmarked for the project.

The entire refit program is expected to be complete by mid-2025 with over 4,000 premium economy seats installed. In the coming months, premium economy will be available to customers flying to Mumbai and Bengaluru in India starting on October 29, with additional cities to be announced soon.

Chris Dong is a freelance travel writer and editor with a focus on timely travel trends, points and miles, hot new hotels, and all things that go (he’s a proud aviation geek and transit nerd).
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