how Emirates woos luxury travelers

Dubai’s Emirates airline announced in August an investment of more than $2 billion to improve its in-flight customer experience, including cabin interior upgrades and new menus – complete with unlimited caviar.

The world’s largest long-haul carrier will upgrade more than 120 planes with new interiors, as well as menus with new vegan options and movie snacks like popcorn, Emirates said in a statement.

Other new perks for the carrier’s first-class travelers include unlimited servings of Persian caviar, paired with vintage Dom Pérignon champagne.

The investments come as Emirates posted a loss of $1.1 billion for the year ended March 31.

“While others are responding to industry pressures with cost reductions, Emirates is flying against the grain and investing to deliver ever better experiences for its customers,” said Emirates Airline Chairman Tim Clark. .

What other airlines are doing

Emirates is not the only airline pulling out all the stops to ride the tailwinds of “revenge travel” – the idea of ​​people making up for time “lost” during the pandemic to travel again.

Earlier this year, Finnair launched a new range of premium economy cabins, featuring seats with approximately 50% more space than their economy seats.

Emirates announced in August an investment of more than $2 billion to improve its inflight customer experience.

Photo: Emirates

Air France, similarly, announced new long-haul business seats in May, with sliding dividers for passengers who want their own private space.

Emirates told CNBC it had seen “a lot of interest” in the luxury upgrades, although it said it did not yet have full figures.

Is it sufficient?

A travel analytics firm, however, noted a shift in demand towards premium seats.

“During the pandemic, we have seen that the number of people traveling by air has plummeted. However, the proportion of travelers traveling in premium cabins has increased significantly,” ForwardKeys’ Olivier Ponti told CNBC in an email. .

Ponti said that before the pandemic, the split between premium and economy seats was 13:87, compared to 17:83 in 2022.

“Although there is no guarantee that the transition to premium seats will continue as air travel resumes, it is understandable why airlines would want to invest in maintaining premium passengers, who this year have typically spent 575% more on a seat than those flying economy.”

Others, however, are skeptical.

Edward Russell, editor of Skift, a travel industry news site, told CNBC it was unclear to what extent the “small” product changes would affect sales.

“Most travelers either fly with the airline or alliance, which they are loyal to, or go for the cheapest fare. It is only a small subset of travelers who will actually book a flight based on the addition of a sliding door or unlimited caviar.”

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