Emirates Considers A380s With Bedrooms After First-Class SuccessAndrea Rothman
Emirates, the world’s biggest airline on international routes, is looking at developing a more exclusive first-class offering following the success of premium suites on its Airbus Group NV A380 superjumbos.
Demand for the 14 suites on each of the Dubai-based carrier’s A380s outstripped growth in all other classes last year, driving it to consider further ways of further enhancing luxury, Chief Commercial Officer Thierry Antinori said today.
“We’re working toward the bedroom concept,” Antinori said aboard a newly delivered superjumbo at the Berlin Air Show. “First-class is becoming increasingly about privacy, and we want to increase privacy beyond what’s available today.”
Emirates, which gets its 50th A380 next month, already has 1,500 suites on its superjumbos and 100-plus Boeing Co. 777 wide-bodies, each featuring lie-flat beds, dividing screens that can create an enlarged space for people flying together, and an in-flight entertainment system with more than 1,400 films.
The biggest Gulf carrier, which operates 26 routes with the A380, is examining its options after regional No. 3 Etihad Airways PJSC of Abu Dhabi on May 4 unveiled a layout for its first superjumbos featuring nine first-class apartments it says will be the biggest in the industry. Each Etihad plane will also have an individually-styled cabin branded “The Residence” with a double bed, separate living area and shower room.
Etihad has agreed to take a total of 10 A380s, a small fraction of the 140 double-deckers on order at Emirates.
The plans contrast with the approach at Qatar Airways Ltd., the second-biggest Gulf carrier and the only one with a five-star rating from airline review firm Skytrax. Qatar Air said May 5 that its A380s, slated for delivery starting next month, will feature eight first-class seats which while the widest in the industry will resemble a roomier business-class model rather than a fully enclosed cabin or lounge.
The Doha-based carrier will also remove first-class seats altogether on some existing planes to make room for more popular business berths. Qantas Airways Ltd. and Deutsche Lufthansa AG have also cut first-class offerings.
Antinori also today that even with 90 superjumbos still to be delivered, Emirates would be prepared to buy further planes should Airbus commit to adding new engines to improve the jet’s fuel burn by 8 or 9 percent, just as it has done with the re-engined A320neo version of its narrow-body family.
“We could be even more ambitious, but we just need an A380neo,” Antinori said. “Then we could order more.”