Emirates launched their new 777 First, Business and Economy class products at the Dubai Air Show on Sunday. These products (you can view the full details on their microsite here) will debut on their Brussels and Geneva routes from December 1,2017, and eventually make their way onto the A380s. The proximity of this launch (both in terms of timing and consumer perception) to SQ’s new A380 cabin products means that comparisons will be inevitable, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. In this post, I’ll talk about Emirates’ new Business Class. You can read my thoughts on how Emirates’ new First Class stacks up to SQ’s here.
Emirates’ new business class hard product is a decade behind SQ’s…
Let’s again start with the hard specs, although there should be nothing new here that surprises anyone, given that we already knew the details in 2016 back when the seat was unveiled at ITB Berlin.
Emirates’ new business class is “inspired by the interior of a modern sports car” and convert into full flat beds of 78 inches long, with 72 inch seat pitch and 20.5 inch width. You get a 23 inch HD screen, plus a personal mini-bar. There are 42 seats in total in a 2-3-2 configuration.
Yup, you heard me right. Just like Emirates’ old business class on the 777, the new business class is also 2-3-2 configured. As in “I have to climb over someone to access the aisle in 43% of the seats 2-3-2”. As in “wow, the guy in the middle seat is going to feel really confined 2-3-2”. As in “why am I paying business class prices for a middle seat 2-3-2”.
Compared to Emirates’ old business class, then, the main upgrade is that the seats now go full flat. Yes, it may surprise you to know that Emirates still doesn’t have full flat business class
It’s 2017. All aisle access has been the global standard since the middle of the last decade. It is simply unacceptable for an airline, especially one purporting to set new standards for luxury, to go with anything else.
This means the only Emirates business class with all-aisle access will continue to be their A380s, which admittedly form a large part of the fleet, although the 777s still outnumber them.
It’s not even going to be that common
Even if you see the current business class as remotely competitive to SQ’s, there’s no hiding the fact that the existing 777 fleet will not be retrofitted with this product. The new product will only be available on new 777Ws, which means that by the end of 2019 there will only be nine aircraft with this new seat. Nine! Let that sink in for a moment, as you consider the fact that Emirates will be operating a hundred plus planes with angled lie flat seats in business class.
It looks like Emirates will offer a 1-2-1 product on its new 777X jets that will be delivered to the airline from 2020, but that’s still an appallingly long period of time to be without full flat, full aisle access business class seats in a significant proportion of your long haul fleet.
So let’s recap. SQ is taking what is already an incredible business class seat and adding features like a double bed (in selected seats), better noise insulation, greater privacy and fixing what I thought was the biggest drawback (the need to flip over the seat as opposed to infinite recline). What’s the best feature that Emirates has to offer in business class? A mini-bar.
There is absolutely no way Emirates’ new product can compete with what SQ has to offer. I’d gladly take SQ’s 2006 business class seat over Emirates’ latest business class any day of the week.
…but Emirates’ connectivity and ground experience still tops SQ’s
The silver lining for Emirates is their superior connectivity through Dubai and better ground services compared to SQ and Singapore.
All roads lead to Dubai. Or at least through Dubai
I’m convinced that at least part of the reason why Emirates has been able to fill business class cabins with an uncompetitive business class product (at least on the 777s) is that they offer unrivaled connectivity through Dubai. Their short connections and ability to offer 1 stop connectivity to almost everywhere on the globe through Dubai is invaluable to people who need to get there, and get there fast.
SQ, on the other hand, is at least two stops if you’re trying to fly from North America to anywhere other than Singapore. That will, of course, change when SQ gets its new A350s and resumes non stop service to the USA, but geographically speaking Singapore is at a disadvantage for a large portion of the world’s connecting traffic.
Emirates serves 141 destinations through Dubai; Singapore Airlines serves 62 through Singapore. Those numbers disguise the comfort of getting there, but you can’t compete with Emirates if you don’t serve the same route as Emirates. And those numbers are what matters to business travelers.
A massive lounge and chauffeur driven airport transfers for all business class passengers
Emirates’ business class lounge in Dubai is massive and spans the length of the terminal. You’d need 12 minutes to walk from one end to the other. You can board your flight directly through the lounge, and by all reports it’s a great place to pass time. There’s nothing wrong per se with SQ’s home lounge in Terminal 3 (Terminal 2 is dire, though), but it’s definitely not the all-encompassing experience that Emirates delivers.
Emirates also offers all business class passengers complimentary chauffeur drive service in 70 countries worldwide. I still can’t figure out why SQ refuses to offer something similar at least in Singapore, which is small enough for this to be economically feasible (he said smugly as he reclined in his armchair, without knowing anything at all about SQ’s internal operating position).
Conclusion-inferior product by far, but will business customers choose better connectivity?
This is an interesting one for me: Emirates business class cannot compete with SQ’s in the air (I’d argue that SQ’s business class is even better than Emirate’s full flat 1-2-1 on their A380s), but they offer greater connectivity to a wider variety of destinations than SQ. So what do business travelers think? Do they go for something that gets them there faster, or gets them there in more comfort?
As a business flyer, am I willing to accept a high density 2-3-2 configuration where it’s likely wherever I sit that at some point during the flight, I will disturb/be disturbed by someone who needs to use the loo? Would I give up SQ’s excellent hard product for a faster flight to where I need to go? For me, personally, I always solve for comfort.
I mentioned in the First Class comparison article that Emirates has won the branding battle with the launch of their new cabin products. This will probably create a halo effect around the rest of their fleet, reinforcing the idea in the average consumer’s mind that Emirates is a cut above the rest.
So I think Emirates has played this smart, to a certain extent. They have won the headlines with their new First Class, which will somewhat gloss over the underwhelming Business Class and more importantly, subdue the talk in the mainstream media about SQ’s new suites. However, the scarce availability of the new First Class has the potential to create a lot of disappointed customers. Moreover, this Business Class seat simply cannot compare with what SQ has to offer. To say it is a decade behind is charitable, and all the talk about “inspiration from a modern sports car” isn’t going to fix a fundamentally uncompetitive hard product.
Those are my thoughts on Emirates’ new Business Class. How do you think it measures up to SQ’s?