Emirates Airline is launching a new first class product for yet-to-be-delivered Boeing 777-300ERs and the 777X fleet.

The airline presented the new product on board the latest Boeing 777-300ER on the opening day of the Dubai Airshow. First class now features six fully enclosed cabins with sliding doors following a four-year process of studies and negotiations among others to satisfy regulatory authorities pressing to ensure emergency evacuation, air flow and other issues are respected.

Because of the additional space the suites take up, 777 first class cabins are reduced from eight to six seats. The compartments are arranged in a three-abreast configuration. Emirates worked with Mercedes-Benz, among others, on the interior design. The new layout required extensive modification to the cabin, including the ceiling in the first class section.

One of the new features are virtual windows for the middle seat – passengers will be shown the outside view live through screens on the sidewalls with cameras filming the outside.

The new product will be available on nine 777-300ERs by the end of 2019. Emirates plans to use the aircraft across the network, initially to Brussels and Geneva. Chicago, Perth, and Brisbane will be added later. However, Emirates Airline President Tim Clark noted that the Australia routes require the equivalent of 2.5 aircraft therefore limiting the amount of destinations that can be served. Emirates has not yet made a decision whether the product will be retrofitted to the in-service fleet of 777-300ERs and, if so, how many aircraft. But the product will be delivered from the factory on the 777X which Emirates will start to receive in early 2020.

Around 30 Emirates 777s currently in service are two class, but Clark pointed out that he still sees a strong market for a first class product and that he expects the majority of the future fleet to be in a three-class-layout. Emirates operates almost 170 777s.

The airline is still working on defining the upgraded compartments for the A380 and wants to retrofit that fleet as soon as possible. “It is work in progress,” Clark said, pointing out that the A380 first class cabin is much larger and more complex to change. With the new product installed, first class seating will be reduced from 14 to eleven seats on the A380. “Eventually the product will be ubiquitous,” he said.