Men in crisp white shirts tap away at their laptops, the immaculately-dressed cabin crew welcome passengers by name and glamorous women with bright red lipstick take selfies while lounging in their cream leather seats.
I feel slightly underdressed as I board the Airbus A380 aircraft in jeans and white trainers. In fact, this premium economy cabin has such a business-class feel to it that I’m forced to check with the cabin crew manager that the giant 37A seat is indeed mine.
‘Yes, Mrs Sime,’ comes the reply, as she directs me back to my throne and offers to take my jacket.
I’m travelling from Heathrow Terminal 3 to Dubai International Airport on board Emirates’ new premium economy cabin. My window seat is furnished in cream and beige leather, with huge gaps by the window for me to place my two bags, and a walnut wood-finished side cocktail table for my drinks.
The seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 layout, with two window seats on either side and four in the middle.
Harriet Sime (above) flies on an Emirates A380 between Heathrow and Dubai in premium economy
Harriet writes: ‘The premium economy cabin has such a business-class feel to it that I’m forced to check with the cabin crew manager that the giant 37A seat is indeed mine.’ The premium economy seats have 40 inches of legroom pitch
The premium economy seats on the Emirates A380 are arranged in a 2-4-2 layout, with two window seats on either side and four in the middle
There are several pockets around me, one to the right of my feet where I find my headphones, and another under the huge 13.3-inch high-definition touchscreen where I find some branded chocolate and place my flight essentials – water, phone, ear plugs and lip salve.
Once feeling comfortably assured that I’m in the right seat, I settle in and narrow my eyes for niggles. But I can’t find a single thing. The 40 inches of legroom pitch and 19.5-inch-wide seat mean there’s acres of space both above, below and either side of my 5ft 7in frame.
There are USB points under the screen and free Wi-Fi (it’s so good that the passengers in front are able to watch a live Premier League football match throughout the flight). There’s no amenity kit but that’s not to be expected when flying premium economy.
I’m sitting next to a rather large Dubai businessman who tells me how he recently switched from flying Emirates business class to premium economy because the latter offering was so good.
‘It’s the best premium economy seat in the world,’ he says, sipping on an orange juice served in a glass tumbler.
‘I’ve always flown business with Emirates but switched late last year. It’s actually better than some business-class cabins offered by other airlines.
‘It would cost me two and a half times more to fly business and I just think the premium economy seats are too good to justify the extra cost on this route.’
I too have flown business with many other airlines and have to agree. This version of premium economy comes very close.
We’re flying the day of the Coronation and the captain tells us we’re grounded because King Charles needs a clear airspace for the Red Arrows to do their thing for the next 45 minutes. But everyone’s in good spirits and the cabin crew supervisor, Sarah, reassures those with onward travel in Dubai that they should make their flights.
We’re presented with a packet of salted nuts and a menu, which includes wine options as well as information about our three-course lunch and options for ‘light bites’ later in the flight.
Pictured left is the premium economy menu. Harriet tries a South African Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc (right), which she declares is ‘among some of the best white wine I’ve tasted’
Harriet tucks into sweetcorn rice and black beans, a lemony asparagus couscous and fresh fruit for dessert
The cabin is around 75 per cent 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 I’d like him to do but we both agree there’s plenty of space for the two of us for the next six and a half hours.
The passenger in front of me reclines her seat as soon as we’re in the air, meaning I’m slightly hemmed in. But once my seat is reclined to its full eight inches at the click of a button, my cushioned leather footrest lifted, and the wings of my headrest pushed out, I’m back in supremely comfy mode and feel confident I would fall asleep instantly were this a red-eye flight. But it’s not – and I’m keen to explore every offering on board.
We’re given hot, soft towels that smell like clementine to freshen up before I take a peek at the toilets. They’re huge, with cream and gold walls, a floor-to-ceiling mirror and White Company hand cream and eau de toilette.
Pictured left are the complimentary headphones. ‘Once my seat is reclined to its full eight inches at the click of a button (right), my cushioned leather footrest lifted, and the wings of my headrest pushed out, I’m back in supremely comfy mode,’ writes Harriet
‘It’s the best premium economy seat in the world,’ says Harriet’s neighbour, sipping on an orange juice served in a glass tumbler. Harriet admits: ‘It’s not often you wish a flight would go on for longer, but I could have comfortably done double the time in my seat’
The premium economy sparkling Chandon Brut Vintage 2016 wine (also served in business)
As we fly above Brussels and onto Luxemburg, I’m presented with a glass of the sparkling Chandon Brut Vintage 2016 wine (also served in business) and ask to sample the South African Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc, which retails at £35 a bottle. Both are delicious, but the Chenin Blanc is among some of the best white wine I’ve tasted.
I go for the vegan meal option and tuck into sweetcorn rice and black beans, a lemony asparagus couscous and fresh fruit for dessert. The packet of raisins makes me feel like I’ve gone for the children’s option, but the rest is delicious.
After lunch, I put the window blinds down at the click of the button. There are two modes: one that dims the light and the other that provides black-out blinds for bedtime.
Emirates hadn’t stopped pampering us just yet, though. We’re offered coffee and tea (or more wine) after lunch as most of the cabin recline their seats and get stuck into a movie.
Pictured above is the Emirates A380 business-class cabin for comparison
It’s not often you wish a flight would go on for longer, but I could have comfortably done double the time in my seat. An hour or so before landing, we’re offered an assortment of sandwiches and a scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
It’s much the same on my return flight a few days later. This time, I’m right at the front of the cabin. A young man boards asking the cabin crew ‘Is this first class?’, to which they politely answer with a smile, ‘No, sir. This is premium economy.’ The boy looks at his father and says: ‘Daddy, I’m going to fly like this when I’m older and rich.’
Well, thankfully, you don’t need to be either of these things when flying Emirates’ game-changing premium economy. Let’s hope other airlines catch on soon.
Harriet was hosted by Emirates, which flies daily from London Heathrow to Dubai. Premium economy class returns fares start from £1,465 and economy fares from £565, including taxes and charges. Visit emirates.com.
PROS: Business class-style feel of the cabin, excellent service, food served on china, huge comfy seats, great choice of wine.
CONS: Lack of space when the seat in front fully reclines.
RATING OUT OF FIVE: *****