There is some rare good news for the large majority of air travellers in the new 615 seat version of the Emirates A380 on display at the Dubai Air Show.
It keeps the same general dimensions in economy that it now has in its 489 and 517 seat versions of the giant Airbus, while increasing the total seat count by eliminating first class and reducing its business class (but…, but… keeping the bar at the rear of the upper deck.)
According to reporters who are on the ground at Dubai, it has also turned the shower equipped bathrooms for first class into spacious toilets for economy class passengers, a thoughtful detail that appears to have escaped so many aircraft interior designers in recent times.
Moving on from this good news, there is no word as yet as to Emirates eliminating the misery of tight economy seating in its 777s, although like the A380s, there is an all new range of cabins waiting off stage for installation in its new and (it is believed) current fleets of the big Boeings and Airbuses.
A reminder of the bad news possible for A380 travellers and others, is an Airbus display of a crippling 11 across economy arrangement for the main deck of the airliner, which Emirates has decided not to use, at least in this new high seat count version of the big jet.
With 68 A380s in its fleets as of yesterday Emirates intends using the 615 seat configuration on routes where there is too little demand for the number of premium fare seats it had placed in earlier versions of the jet. These A380s each currently fly with 14 first class suites and 76 business class sleeper seats as well as that bar up the back, which includes seating for those socialising over drinks, coffee and dolce.
In the 615 seat version the economy seats spill from the front of the upper deck through the former domain of first class and into a reduced business class cabin which nevertheless provides 58 sleepers.
Emirates hasn’t said much as yet about the new premium cabin products, apart from referring to accommodations similar to classic luxury train cabins! Will a two tier arrangement persist between A380s and 777s? We don’t know.
But what is know is that for Emirates for the time being its A380 economy seats will continue to be notably more comfortable than those in 10 across Boeing 777s and far more amenable than the crammed nine across confines of a Dreamliner 787 where the original Boeing vision of a civilised cabin has been trashed.
Comparing the operating economics of different jet types isn’t possible unless they are made on the basis of identical proportions of premium to economy seating and identical levels of comfort or discomfort in that seating. If an A380 is to be rendered as miserable as a 370 seat 787-9 for example it would need to be configured with more than 700 seats, with comparatively few of them high yielding premium seats. Or vice versa, a Dreamliner with less than 200 seats in a multi class configuration similar to an A380 with little more than 400 seats or suites in a comparable layout.
It is sad in 2015 to be looking at airlines hurting their customers with painfully dense cabins that would have been unthinkable when 787s and A380s and 777s were first conceived but encouraging to see than if you fly economy in an Emirates A380 you will continue to be treated as a human being of reasonable size.