The majority of a $2 billion budget set aside by the Dubai-based airline Emirates to enhance the traveler experience will go toward renovating 120 aircraft in record time.
Emirates announced on Wednesday that it was developing a strategy to thoroughly upgrade four aircraft every month, nonstop, for the following two years.
The airline will prioritize overhauling 67 of its double-deck Airbus A380 aircraft before moving on to 53 Boeing 777 aircraft that are scheduled for maintenance.
The retrofit effort is being driven by the launch of Emirates’ new Premium Economy class, but the airline will also take advantage of the opportunity to refresh older aircraft with new carpet, interior panels, and seat upholstery.
Along with a new design template that the airline initially announced in 2017, 4,000 brand-new Premium Economy seats will be placed. Emirates is doing away with its traditional desert theme in favor of a “light and modern” color scheme with new “classy textured panels” and colored lights, according to the airline.
The Ghaf tree, which is the national tree of the United Arab Emirates, is featured prominently in the new design.
When Emirates revealed its Premium Economy cabin on the Airbus A380, the new design language was first introduced on the airline’s Boeing 777 fleet.
Airline President Sir Tim Clark had long shunned Premium Economy over fears it would cannibalize its Business Class cabin. Clark has now fully embraced the product and wants to get it rolled out on as many aircraft as possible and as quickly as possible
“No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking,” the airline said in a statement on Wednesday. In preparation, the interior of an A380 was stripped during trials in July in which engineers listed every step of the retrofit process.
A spokesperson for the airline explained: “From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.”
The airline has no plans to replace the current Business Class seats and First Class suites as part of the retrofit program; instead, they will be deconstructed and given some much-needed TLC.
The retrofit program will begin in November, and by the end of 2024, the majority of the aircraft designated for upgrading work will have entered the hangar. Emirates has not explicitly said that it expects to have finished refitting all 120 aircraft.