Lie-flat beds and luxurious business-class cabins – which 10 years ago was unheard of – is now common-place in the world of premium international airlines. These luxury-class airlines have been trying long and hard to differentiate themselves from one another. Now, a new leap has been made.
The introduction of bathrooms with showers. This means you can now take a shower while flying thousands of miles in the air.
Emirates has begun service on its A380 which travels between Dubai and New York which includes the airplane shower feature.
“International premium travelers are highly aspirational,” says Emirates president Tim Clark. “You have passengers coming out of luxury hotels, and you can’t have them getting into something that comes out of the dark ages in terms of the airplane. So we brought the service up to high levels, and then went beyond that.”
The biggest commercial airliner in the world is the shower-equipped Emirates A380, with 50% more space in the cabins than a Boeing 747. Emirates has already ordered 58 A380 and has received one. These A380s are being configured in 3 classes with 489 seats, 14 enclosed suites in first class, and 76 lie-flat beds found in business class. The aforementioned shower spas are in the upper deck, consisting of two bathrooms – one on each side of a staircase.
Emirates has been in the process of developing the A380, including the interior design, for several years now. Major fuel costs and concerns of onboard weight were less an issue then.
“In those days, of course, we didn’t have fuel at the price it is now,” says Tim Clark. “But in terms of the long-haul mission and, bearing in mind that we wanted to again raise the bar on first class, we decided on showers.” Clark says that he “couldn’t see why we couldn’t actually put them on these airplanes, since we have the real estate to do it without taking up revenue-generating space.” The planes carry an extra “500 kilos of water to cover the shower requirement,” which adds 25% to the total water weight on the A380.
The showers aren’t a free-for-all though. There’s a five-minute shower time limit per passenger. The way you know how much time you have is due to a light panel in the shower. Green means begin your shower. Amber means it’s time to start washing your hair. Red means your time is up.
Emirates isn’t the only airlines trying to make inroads into the premium market. Other international airlines are improving their premium service. Singapore Airlines has introduced a super-luxury product, calling it “a class beyond first” on its long-haul fleet. The luxury airplanes includes private cabins with 23-inch flat-screen lcd monitor televisions and closets.
Emirates Airlines expects the demand for premium flights to increase. “We fly into Houston on a daily basis with our 777s, which have eight first-class suites and 42 business seats, and they’re full all the time because you have all the oil traffic coming through, both ways,” says Tim Clark. “We have two New York operations a day, and our premium cabins are full. But, of course, what we do is very niche-directed and very segmented.”
Other features on the Emirates Airbus A380-800 include an onboard lounge (including full alcohol bar, wi-fi internet access via your laptop and monitors with the views coming from the external cameras) and over 600 channels of tv, movie, and audio entertainment to keep you busy during the flight.
The Emirates A380 is now travelling daily between Dubai and New York. A ticket on an unrestricted round-trip first-class fare between New York and Dubai in September will cost $14,635 (corporate discounts are available). In comparison, an unrestriced walk-up, first class ticket on American Airlines between Heathrow Airport in London and New York costs $16,350.