Men in crisp white shirts type on their laptops, impeccably dressed cabin crew greet passengers by name, and glamorous women with bright red lipstick snap selfies while lounging in their cream leather seats.
I feel slightly underdressed as I board the Airbus A380 in jeans and white sneakers. In fact, this premium economy cabin has so much business class feeling that I’m forced to check with the cabin crew manager if the huge 37A seat is actually mine.
“Yes, Mrs. Sime,” comes the reply as she leads me back to my throne and offers to take my jacket.
I am traveling from Heathrow Terminal 3 to Dubai International Airport onboard Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin. My window seat is outfitted in cream and tan leather, with large gaps by the window to fit my two bags, and a walnut end table for my drinks.
Seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 arrangement, with two window seats on each side and four in the middle.
Harriet Sime (above) flies Premium Economy between Heathrow and Dubai on an Emirates A380
Harriet writes, “The premium economy cabin has such a business class feel that I’m forced to check with the cabin crew manager if the huge 37A seat is actually mine.” The premium economy seats have legroom spacing of 40 inches
The premium economy seats on the Emirates A380 are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration, with two window seats on either side and four in the middle
There are multiple pockets around me, one to the right of my feet where I find my headphones, and another under the huge 13.3-inch HD touchscreen where I find branded chocolate and stash my flight essentials – water, phone, earbuds and lip balm.
Once I’m sure I’m sitting in the right place, I make myself comfortable and squint to look for little things. But I can’t find anything. The 40″ legroom and 19.5″ wide seat means there’s plenty of room above, under and on either side of my 5’7″ frame.
There are USB ports under the screen and free WiFi (it’s so good that passengers in the front can watch a live Premier League football game throughout the flight). There is no amenity kit, but that is not to be expected when flying in premium economy.
I’m sitting next to a rather large businessman from Dubai, who tells me how he recently switched from Emirates business class to premium economy because the latter was so good.
“It’s the best premium economy seat in the world,” he says, sipping an orange juice that’s served in a glass.
“I’ve always flown Emirates for business, but switched late last year.” It’s actually better than some other airlines’ business class cabins.
“A business flight would cost me two and a half times more and I just think the premium economy seats are too good to justify the extra cost on this route.”
I too have flown on business with many other airlines and have to agree. This variant of Premium Economy comes very close.
We’re flying on Coronation Day and the captain tells us we’re grounded because King Charles needs clear airspace for the Red Arrows to do their thing for the next 45 minutes. But everyone is in good spirits and flight attendant Sarah reassures those onward in Dubai to board their flights.
We are given a packet of salted nuts and a menu that includes wine options as well as information on our three course lunch and ‘light bite’ options later in the flight.
Shown on the left is the Premium Economy menu. Harriet samples a South African Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc (right), which she says is “among the best whites I’ve tasted”.
Harriet has corn rice and black beans, a lemony asparagus couscous, and fresh fruit for dessert
The cabin is about 75 percent full and once boarding is complete my new friend is offered a seat further back so he can have a row to himself. He asks me what he should do, but we both agree that there’s plenty of room for the two of us for the next six and a half hours.
The passenger in front of me reclines her seat once we’re airborne, which means I’m slightly cramped. But once my seat is reclined the full 20cm at the touch of a button, my padded leather footrest raises. When I extend the wings of my headrest, I’m back in supremely comfortable mode and I’m confident I’d fall asleep in an instant if this were a red- eye flight would be. But that’s not the case – and I’m excited to explore every offering on board.
We’re given hot, fluffy clementine-scented towels to freshen us up before I peek into the restrooms. They’re huge, with cream and gold walls, a floor-to-ceiling mirror, and White Company hand cream and cologne.
Shown on the left are the free headphones. “Once my seat is reclined a full 20cm at the push of a button (right), my padded leather footrest is raised and my headrest’s wings are pushed out, I’m back in supremely comfortable mode,” writes Harriet
“It’s the best premium economy seat in the world,” says Harriet’s neighbor, sipping an orange juice served in a glass. Harriet admits: “It’s not often that you wish a flight would be longer, but I could easily have spent twice as much time in my seat.”
The premium economy sparkling wine Chandon Brut Vintage 2016 (also served in business)
As we fly to Luxembourg via Brussels I am handed a glass of Chandon Brut Vintage 2016 sparkling wine (which is also served in business) and want to try the South African Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc which retails at £35 a bottle. Both are delicious, but the Chenin Blanc is among the best white wines I’ve tasted.
I opt for the vegan meal and have corn rice and black beans, a lemony asparagus couscous and fresh fruit for dessert. The packet of raisins makes me feel like I went for the kid’s version, but the rest is delicious.
After lunch, I lowered the blinds at the touch of a button. There are two modes: one that dims the lights and one that provides blackout shades for bedtime.
However, Emirates hadn’t stopped spoiling us. After lunch we are offered coffee and tea (or more wine) as most in the cabin recline their seats and watch a movie.
Shown above is the Emirates A380 Business Class cabin for comparison
It’s not often that you wish a flight was longer, but I could easily have spent twice as much time in my seat. About an hour before landing we are offered a choice of sandwiches and a scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
It’s similar on my return flight a few days later. This time I’m at the front of the dressing room. A young man gets on and asks the cabin crew, “Is this First Class?” to which the cabin crew politely responds with a smile, “No, sir.” This is Premium Economy.” The boy looks at his father and says, “Dad, I will fly like this when I am older and rich.”
Well, thankfully, you don’t have to be either of those things when you fly Emirates’ groundbreaking Premium Economy class. Let’s hope other airlines join soon.
Harriet hosted Emirates, which flies daily from London Heathrow to Dubai. Return premium economy class flights start from £1,465 and economy fares from £565, taxes and fees included. Visit emirates.com.
ADVANTAGES: In the cabin there is a business class feeling, excellent service, food on china, huge comfortable seats, large selection of wines.
DISADVANTAGES: Lack of space when the front seat is fully reclined.
RATING OF FIVE: *****