Emirates Completes Retrofit Of First Airbus A380 Aircraft

by | Jan 7, 2023

Emirates has announced the completion of the refurbishment of the first of its Airbus A380 aircraft, with the plane being put into service on the Dubai-London Heathrow route.

The airline is planning to retrofit the interiors of 120 aircraft as part of a multi-billion dollar fleet retrofit project. In a threat to its reputation as a premium carrier, the airline’s interiors have lagged the industry in recent years so the project will allow Emirates to play catch up in the passenger experience and stay competitive in the industry. It also allows Emirates to introduce premium economy class seats which it has not done up to this point.

Emirates President, Sir Tim Clark, stated that “customers will notice the difference the moment they step onboard – the spacious A380 will look and feel even more impressive and comfortable. 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”.

A Closer Look at the Retrofit

The retrofit includes the installation of premium economy seats and a new color palette in business and first class. However, it’s worth noting that these planes are not receiving the new first class suite that is available on a limited number of Emirates Boeing 777 aircraft. In fact, the A380s are not receiving any significant upgrades to their well-known first class cabin at all.

The airline is also making some changes to the carpets and paneling in the planes, and adding design motifs such as the iconic ghaf tree native to the United Arab Emirates. While these changes may contribute to a slightly fresher look and feel in the cabins, they are largely cosmetic and do not represent a significant improvement to the overall passenger experience.

Emirates shared some photos of the retrofitted aircraft cabins which are included below.

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New Emirates first class suite colors
800 a380refreshedshowerspadesigntouches 1211 jpeg - Emirates retrofit
Emirates A380 refreshed shower with new spa design touches
800 a380premiumeconomywithcrrew 0241 1 jpeg - Emirates retrofit
New Emirates A380 premium economy cabin
800 a380economycabinnewseatsandcoloursbackview 0951 jpeg - Emirates retrofit
Retrofitted Emirates A380 economy cabin

Timeline and Goals of the Retrofit

The retrofit of the A380s is being conducted in-house at Emirates’ facilities in Dubai, and the airline is aiming to complete the project by 2025. They are refurbishing the planes two at a time, with the goal of completing four planes per month. Once the 67 A380s have been refurbished, the airline will move on to retrofitting 53 Boeing 777s.

Emirates operates a total fleet of over 250 aircraft, which is entirely composed of A380s and Boeing 777s. The retrofit project, therefore, represents almost half of the airline’s fleet. That’s a significant undertaking and a key part of Emirates’ strategy to remain competitive in the industry.

emirates retrofit upgrade infographic 1 2 - Emirates retrofit
An infographic with stats about Emirates’ fleet retrofit project (courtesy of Emirates)

The addition of premium economy seats is particularly noteworthy, as it represents a new product offering for the airline. Premium economy is a growing segment in the industry, with many travelers seeking a higher level of comfort and amenities than economy class but at a lower price point than business class. The addition of these seats on the A380s will allow Emirates to meet this customer demand and potentially attract a new segment of travelers.

Passenger Experience

What does all of this mean for the passenger experience on Emirates’ A380s? While the addition of premium economy seats and the cosmetic changes to the cabin interiors may be minor, they are not likely to represent a step in the right direction for the airline as it looks to upgrade to the overall passenger experience.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that the retrofit project is ongoing and is not yet complete. As more A380s are refurbished and the project progresses, it’s possible that we may see more significant changes and improvements to the passenger experience.

In the meantime, travelers can still expect the same high level of service and amenities that Emirates is known for — especially in terms of the soft product. After all, the airline is renowned for its premium products and especially first class which includes private suites, showers, and the availability of Dom Perignon champagne and other fine wines.

Bottom line

The completion of the first refurbished A380 is a notable achievement for Emirates but this is just the first step in a multi-year process. The addition of premium economy seats should make Emirates slightly more competitive in the market. Meanwhile, the cosmetic changes to the cabin interiors represent a modest but not game-changing improvement in passenger experience.

But in the context of Emirates’ strategy to remain competitive in the industry, the retrofit project means everything. It represents a key part of Emirates’ strategy to continue offering a high level of service and amenities to their customers and continue to be a leading global premium carrier. As the project progresses, it’s possible that we see further and more significant changes and improvements to the passenger experience.

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