Abu Dhabi airline Etihad Airways is retrofitting its Airbus A380 double-decker aircraft and enhancing its economy class offering, to become the first airline in the Middle East to offer a premium coach service.
By December, Etihad will refit 10 A380s with “economy space” seats, which feature an increased seat pitch of up to 36 inches, the carrier said on Monday. The reconfigured cabin increases the number of extra-legroom seats in economy class from 20 to 80 on the super-jumbo.
“In response to popularity and demand for extra legroom seats, we have reconfigured our economy cabin to enhance travellers’ experience,” said Jamal Al Awadhi, Etihad Airways’ head of guest experience.
“While many airlines have been squeezing more seats into economy class…we recognise that no two travellers are alike, and today’s customers demand more choice and personalisation during their travels.”
Airlines are increasingly looking for ways to revamp cabin space and provide a mix of seating options for passengers, both to enhance airline revenues and better serve their customers. Some 20 airlines offer premium economy seats globally according to SkyTrax, which surveys millions of travellers and ranks airlines globally. Air New Zealand’s premium economy class is ranked number one globally ahead of Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific among others.
In addition to modifying its A380s, Etihad will also add economy space seats to 12 Boeing 777s and 21 Dreamliners by the end of next year, increasing the total number of extra legroom seats by 560 per cent.
Families with small children, elderly travellers and those requiring wheelchair assistance, as well as others, can benefit from the extra room available through Economy Space, the airline said.
Etihad Aviation Group’s global chief executive Tony Douglas told The National in July, he wants Etihad to become the “dim sum” of aviation business over the next five years, using the digital revolution to provide greater choice to customers beyond the industry-standard economy, business and first-class model.
Later that month, the airline introduced a seat selection fee on all economy class flights, allowing passengers to pre-book seats on all economy deal, economy saver, economy classic fares and award tickets.
The new economy space “complements Etihad’s existing ancillary products to provide customers with greater opportunities to personalise their journey, including the neighbour-free seating option in economy and a range of ‘buy-on-board’ products,” the airline said.