Emirates to target ‘frugal’ passengers with budget economy section

Presently, Emirates has a one-size-fits-all economy section. Source: Sorbis/Shutterstock

EMIRATES – largely considered the best airline in the world – may introduce a budget economy section with fewer perks and less room between seats to cater to more “frugal” passengers who prefer to book lowest prices, reports Skift.

Emirates president Tim Clark said more passengers are using search engines or aggregator sites to look for lowest base fares, and this disadvantages full-service premium airlines like Emirates.

“The fact of the matter is there is a whole stream of new market segments coming in that are budget conscious,” he said. “The gaming going on at the moment in these booking engines is affecting what we do.”

Presently, Emirates has a one-size-fits-all economy section, and Clark suggested that breaking up the economy section into three or four ranks could attract more passengers on a budget.

He said that the airline could introduce tiers such as “economy plus,” – a version of premium economy – followed by “normal economy,” followed by “budget economy.”

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Passengers in “budget economy” would still get free meals but would probably have to pay for additional ancillaries such as baggage and advanced seat assignments.

“I’ve got to find sections in the airplane, which we could almost curtain off, that have their own restrooms and galleys unique for the product,” Clark said. “And they’ll have a set of crew dealing with them.”

Meanwhile, seats in the “budget economy” section will be lesser in width but probably stay the same as other tiers in legroom.

“If you do go for a budget, you want to create the appearance of sameness, even though it’s not,” Clark said. “The trick is to get the seat design right. You get the ergonomics right, and make it slightly smaller and nobody notices the difference.”

While Emirates doesn’t face competition from budget airlines such as AirAsia X and Scoot, it often is a cheaper option among other full-service legacy airlines operating in Asia Pacific such as Etihad, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.