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UAE’s Emirates to commence largest known fleet retrofit project in November

UAE’s Emirates to commence largest known fleet retrofit project in November

The airline’s target is to completely retrofit four aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over two years

Neesha Salian
Emirates Airline retrofit commences

UAE’s Emirates Airline has commenced its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft.

This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment, officially commences in November and is being managed by the airline’s engineering team.

The airline aims to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over two years.

Once the 67 selected A380s are “refreshed” and reintroduced into service, 53 777s will undergo their transformation. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new ‘Premium Economy’ seats installed, 728 first class suites refurbished and over 5,000 business class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.

In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.

No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore the engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.

Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out.

Potential challenges to complete the installation of the new Premium Economy Class cabins or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.

As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster business and economy class seats with new covers and cushioning. First class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.

From the trials, engineers discovered several unexpected solutions. For example, the team realised that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.

In the interim, a cross-disciplinary team will regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing and training.

The airline’s new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats and more legroom is currently available to customers travelling on some A380 routes to London, Paris and Sydney. Other routes will also have this feature, with more aircraft being fitted with Premium Economy cabins, starting from year end as the programme progresses.

In other news, Emirates announced it’s investing over $2bn to enhance its inflight customer experience, including a massive programme to retrofit over 120 aircraft with the latest interiors, plus an array of other service improvements across all cabins starting in 2022.

Read: Emirates to invest over $2bn to enhance inflight customer experience

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