Emirates Starts Prep Work For 120-Aircraft Retrofit Project

Credit: Emirates

Emirates has begun preparations and trial runs for its massive cabin upgrade project across its fleet of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft.

The $2 billion investment will completely retrofit the passenger cabins of 67 A380s and 53 777s—a total of 120 aircraft. According to Aviation Week Intelligence Network’s 2022 Fleet and MRO Forecast, Emirates currently operates 80 A380s and 144 777s.

The ambitious undertaking entails completely retrofitting four aircraft per month over the next two years, starting with the A380s. It is planning to complete work on each aircraft within a timespan of just 16 days, which it says will require 1,000 worker hours per day. The airline has recruited 190 engineers for the project.

The airline’s maintenance arm, Emirates Engineering, will install 4,000 new premium economy seats, upgrade more than 5,000 business class seats and refurbish 728 first class suites to a refreshed design aimed at enhancing customer experience.

The airline plans to set up new purpose-built workshops to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster its business- and economy class seats with new covers and cushioning. The first class suites will be disassembled and sent to a specialized company that will replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.

In addition to seat upgrades, Emirates is upgrading cabin carpets and stairs, and refreshing cabin interior panels with new colors and designs.

In a statement released Aug. 17, Emirates said, “No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore, Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.”

Dubai-based Emirates Engineering in July began trials for the program on an A380, which included disassembling each cabin piece-by-piece and logging each step. Its engineers tested, timed and mapped out every action, flagging and documenting potential barriers to completing upgrades in such a short time span.

Emirates says its engineers discovered “several unexpected solutions” during the trials, such as repurposing food catering trucks to move parts from the aircraft to the workshop, since these vehicles have enough interior space and wide enough doors to accommodate parts.

The airline says the project will “begin in earnest” in November. It expects to finish the full fleet upgrade in April 2025.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for AviationWeek.com, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.