The airline battle for big spenders has intensified, with Emirates launching what it claims to be “game-changing” First Class” – with design inspired by a car maker.
At the start of the Dubai Air Show at its home base, the airline said each First Class passenger on its Boeing 777 jets will be assigned up to 40 square feet of personal space with “suites” measuring 7ft by 5ft 8in.
While passengers at the back of the plane are seated 10-abreast, First Class travellers will have ample elbow room. They are in a separate cabin with just six seats – or more precisely “fully-enclosed private suites” – configured three abreast, with privacy ensured by floor-to-ceiling sliding doors.
Emirates promises each seat will have a window view though the passenger in the middle suite has to make do with “virtual windows which project the view from outside the aircraft”. Passengers with a real window are offered a pair of Steiner safari binoculars to study the scenery.
The airline says the design is “inspired by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class”.
Emirates’ president, Sir Tim Clark, said: “This is the first time an Emirates product has been so influenced by another luxury brand, but it is a natural fit as both Emirates and Mercedes-Benz have the same unwavering commitment to fine detail, uncompromising quality, and a drive to push the boundaries.”
The seats themselves promise a “zero gravity” function that is said to be inspired by Nasa technology.
Rather than pressing the call button to summon a member of cabin crew, the passenger can use a video link to order food and drink, which is then served through a hatch.
First Class passengers are also entitled to up to 70kg of checked baggage, more than three times the industry standard for economy passengers.
Yet 10 economy passengers can fly to Australia and back for less than the lowest Emirates First Class fare.
While a London-Dubai-Sydney return ticket next May is priced at just £700 in economy, the cheapest First Class fare from the airline is £7,220.
Earlier this month, Singapore Airlines unveiled the upgraded First Class cabin aboard its Airbus A380 “Superjumbo” jets. It describes each suite as “a personal oasis complete with lavish furnishing and finishes,” and offers couples travelling together the option of a double bed. And the six first-class passengers share two toilets, one of which has a “sit-down vanity counter”.
At a speech in London on Tuesday, the British Airways chief executive, Alex Cruz, vowed: “First Class is here to stay.” But he indicated that it will be restricted to some high-performing routes.
“There are a number of markets that do not need 14 seats in First Class every single day,” Mr Cruz said.