The biggest-ever cabin retrofit programme is underway


Hot on the heels of winning a‘World Class Award’, ‘5 Star Global Official Airline Rating’, and ‘Passenger Choice Award for Best Global Entertainment’ at the APEX 2023 awards, Emirates has begun its massive two-year aircraft retrofit programme. The airline is investing around US$2 billion in enhancements to the inflight customer experience, which includes fitting out 120 aircraft with premium economy class cabins and the latest interiors in all cabins.

After completing flight EK928 from Cairo to Dubai on Monday, 31st October, the first aircraft to be upgraded, an A380 (A6-EVM) was steered to Hanger E at the Emirates Engineering Centre where a team of specialised engineers began prepping the aircraft for its makeover.

These engineers are part of the 190 additional staff recruited for the project, and Emirates is also engaged with 62 key partners and suppliers who have hired hundreds more skilled hands for the huge aircraft retrofit programme. Following months of meticulous planning, and months of detailed test runs on an actual A380 aircraft, the engineering teams checked stock requirements and requested 2,200 part numbers. In turn, Emirates’ procurement team raised 12,600 purchase orders for the initial phase of the programme. At the Emirates Engineering Centre, purpose-built workshops have been set up and stocked with parts and equipment for the project.

An Emirates engineer checking the finer details of the cabin retrofit plan

What’s in store for the A380?

Over the next fortnight, teams of engineers and technicians will work round the clock, taking apart the entire cabin interior of the A380 and putting it back together again in a carefully planned and tested sequence. Thousands of parts will be removed, replaced, or receive a facelift. Even Emirates’ famous onboard Shower Spa will feature new colour tones, with a hand-stencilled motif of a Ghaf tree.

The teams will implement a consistent process for every aircraft. First, the window seats in Economy class will be removed, freeing up space for another team to remove the side panels of the cabin interiors. These panels will go straight to one of three purpose-built workshops where they will be laminated with Emirates’ latest colour tones. To make room for the 56 premium economy class seats, 88 economy seats at the front of the main deck will be removed.

On the upper deck, business and first class seats will be dismantled and loaded onto a modified catering truck, which will lower them to the ground before other vehicles shuttle them to bespoke workshops. The business-class seats will be repainted and re-upholstered with new leather at Emirates Engineering, while the first-class seats will be sent to a specialist at Dubai World Central (DWC) for refurbishing.

All carpets and floorings throughout the aircraft cabins will be replaced before the refurbished seats are re-installed.

The health and safety standards of the various processes has also been considered and measures implemented. For example, the airline has invested in the latest equipment to protect workers from harmful vapours in the cabin while the first-class shower spa gets a hand-painted makeover.

Once the refit work is completed, the aircraft will be inspected and certified by aviation authorities before it re-enters service.

A long road ahead

The second aircraft scheduled for a makeover, A6-EUW (another A380), will roll into Emirates Engineering Centre on the 1st of December.  As the programme goes into full swing, the engineering teams will work on two aircraft at a time. This means that, every eight days, one aircraft will be grounded and towed to Emirates Engineering for retrofitting. By 23rd May 2024, all 67 A380s earmarked for the retrofit programme will be back in service and Emirates will then begin work on 53 of its Boeing 777s. By March 2025, all 120 retrofitted aircraft are scheduled to be back in service.

Other upgrades to the Emirates passenger experience include the introduction of a new hospitality-focused service delivery model, and improved menus with high-end options and vegetarian options, as well as a ‘cinema in the air’ snack experience.

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About Author


Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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