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Emirates – to bling, or not to bling? Where beige is nobler in the cabin, and faux metal suffers

Emirates – to bling, or not to bling?  Where beige is nobler in the cabin, and faux metal suffers

It’s been a fortnight of cabin refurbishments. First, we had Singapore Airlines A380s, who did something radical – although I’m not sure it fully works (until I test it) – and now its the turn of Emirates and their new 777s.

Now in the interests of full disclosure, I have never flown on an Emirates aircraft, in any cabin, between any destinations. Other than what I read, they are a complete unknown to me, so my views are completely non-experiential, and gleaned only from press releases, airline nerd blogs, and my keen design sense. Now read on to find my views on the new First and Business cabins.

The tricky, the bad, and the just plain ugly

They have paired back the bling, but other than some tricks (binoculars and virtual windows on middle suites), I’m not sure there is a category beating product here. In fact, they have committed what I think these days is the aeronautic equivalent of a capital offense by retaining a 2-3-2 configuration in Business Class.


To be honest, if I were Mercedes-Benz, I would give back whatever money was paid to have the cabins described as ‘Inspired by Mercedes-Benz’, and threaten legal action if the brands ‘Mercedes’ and ‘Emirates’ were contained in the same sentence ever again.

Alrighty, let’s take this in sections:

a man lying in a chair with a cup of tea

First Class Cabin

Here are its features in summary:

  • Fully Enclosed Suites
  • 1-1-1 configuration
  • 84 inches long with doors  up to 6 feet 9 inches high
  • 40 square feet of floor space
  • 78 inches long seat, up to 30 inches wide
  • reclines to a fully flat bed.
  • electrically-operated seat, with presets
  • virtual windows in the middle row
  • mini bar (not refrigerated)
  • Video call room service order feature
  • work desk and pull-out dining table measuring 29 inches by 19 inches
  • desk insert features stationery and Byredo skincare and fragrances
  • cocktail table extends from the console
  • Full-length wardrobe, overhead stowage, baggage storage in the seat armrest, and extra storage space below the TV
  • 32 inch HD LCD screen
  • 13 inch touch screen wireless seat controls for IFE system
  • PC power outlet, dual USB port, HDMI port, USB C port and RJU headphone jack
  • chandelier-style lights (they just can’t restrain themselves on the bling!)
  • 10 mood lighting settings with 7 different colour schemes controlled within each suite
  • Temperature control in each suite
  • Hydra Active moisturising pyjamas, and Bulgari amenity kits

The fully enclosed thing is new. It might be cool, and I like the idea of being able to change in privacy in your suite (mind you I did that in Singapore Airlines current [old] suites) – or – it could be a bit creepy – like living in your own coffin. I think to not have the facility to share your cabin with a partner – even to just share a meal, is a big mistake, and this gives Singapore Airlines a major win in these cabin wars.

a woman sitting in a chair in a plane

I do like the more restrained palette – but, I think the absence of colour accent means that all that metal trim – which in these images looks a little chrome/rose gold cheapens the overall look. The curtains on the windows could whisper ‘lux’ but somehow when teamed with the lighting and the curtain restraints, just cough ‘cheap’ under their breath and out of the corner of their mouths.

The use of the Ghaf (considered the national tree of the UAE) as a design motif is a nice touch, but I’m not sure about the execution. What I am sure about is the tackiness of those lighted ‘buttons’ on that Chesterfield like padded leather wall at the head of the ‘bed’. Ughhh! Let’s hope there are independent controls to just turn the darn things off.

a row of seats in a plane

Business Class Sardine Tins

I’m sorry, this is an egregious crime. Where do I start? OK, The faux wood: didn’t look good last time, and still in this yes orange form, still doesn’t look good.

Chrome is not lux. Cream is not a colour, it is a default when you don’t have a better idea. Beige is, well beige. And another thing Emirates, if you need to use the word ‘classy’ as in ‘classy textured panels’ in your fact sheet, then by definition, they are not ‘classy’. The interiors are meant to be inspired by:

‘… the interior of a modern sports car.’

That would only be true if you thought a modern sports car was the Aston Martin DB5 that appeared in the original Bond movie ‘Goldfinger’ in 1964.

Three across – I think I have made my views very clear on that.

a large airplane with many monitors

. . .and here is the features summary:

  • 42 seats that convert into fully flat beds
  • Seat pitch of 72 inches
  • 78 inch lie-flat bed, 20.5” width
  • Electronically operated footrest and lumbar support
  • Adjustable headrest
  • A 23” HD LCD screen
  • Touchscreen controls for the seat and IFE
  • Privacy panels
  • Shoe stowage
  • Personal mini-bar
  • USB for smartphone charging and data transfer to screen
  • PC power outlet
  • Bulgari amenity kits

However, once the cabin is dimmed, all that hideous faux wood and chrome will disappear, and actually, what most of us want in Business is good food and wine, good service, and a comfortable lie flat bed. Have you seen those foot cubbies? Here is a close up:

a row of tv screens in an airplane

I’m telling you, that unless you are comfortable sleeping on your left side facing the aisle in the ‘D’ seats, those foot cubbies in business class are going to be all kinds of uncomfortable, 78 inch flatbed or not.

Last Word

While I think the new first class suites, with their floor to ceiling walls and doors, are going to sit somewhere between amazing and coffin-like, the new business class is a big fat fail. It is way less than the industry standard – think reverse herringbone, or staggered seats, and the middle seat is just craaaaaazy.

I opened this report by admitting that I have never travelled on Emirates – well all that will change in May 2018, when I am scheduled on Emirates in business, Sydney to Bangkok. It will only be in the old-fashioned business class, because Emirates is only installing these new cabins on 9 planes before the end of 2019, and the first routes are Dubai to Brussels and Geneva. This is what I’ll be travelling in:

a row of seats in an airplane

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