Emirates' first-class gets smaller as premium demand shrinks

Emirates Airlines aircrafts are seen at Dubai International Airport.
Emirates Airlines aircrafts are seen at Dubai International Airport. PHOTO: REUTERS

ABU DHABI (BLOOMBERG) - Emirates is overhauling its first-class offering, reducing the number of available berths, as it seeks to cater to the world's wealthiest travellers amid slowing growth.

The airline's new premium section, to be featured on its Boeing 777-300ERs, will have six private suites instead of eight, Emirates said in an e-mailed statement. The cabins will be presented in November sporting "a totally fresh new look", said  Mr Tim Clark, Emirates president.

Emirates, which has been developing new first-class cabins for several years, has been hit by falling demand from premium Gulf passengers and industry-wide concerns about terrorism.

To cope with some of the toughest operating conditions in its 30-year history, Emirates is revamping the bars on its Airbus A-380s, mulling over a premium-economy class for the first time and considering introducing narrow-bodies to its all-wide-body fleet in cooperation with low-cost sister carrier FlyDubai.

The smaller cabins come just after Qatar Airways announced its Qsuite, a new business-class section with double beds that morph into meeting rooms. The market for the most expensive seats on an aircraft is at a crossroads, with many carriers either scaling back first-class offerings, while others such as Etihad Airways are taking the opposite approach by adding three-room cabins.

Emirates, which is also known for onboard showers, will show its new first-class cabins and the corresponding routes at the biennial Dubai Airshow.