Emirates begins multi-billion-dollar fleet retrofit project with first A380


Emirates has kicked off a huge two-year retrofit program, commencing work on the first of 120 aircraft earmarked for a full cabin interior upgrade. This will include the installation of the airline’s latest Premium Economy seating. 

After completing a flight from Cairo (CAI) to Dubai International Airport (DXB) as flight EK928, one of the carrier’s A380 aircraft, registration A6-EVM, was steered to Hangar E at the Emirates Centre where a team of specialized engineers began to prepare the plane for its makeover. 

The program, which was announced in early August 2022, represents a multi-billion-dollar investment to improve its inflight experience for passengers.  

“Biggest-known” aircraft retrofit program  

To carry out the ambitious project, the Gulf carrier recruited 190 additional staff and engaged with 62 key partners and suppliers who have hired hundreds of skilled workers.  

The project, which Emirates describes as  the biggest-known aircraft retrofit program in modern commercial aviation, involved months of thorough planning, including detailed tests runs on an actual A380 aircraft. Engineers requested 2,200 part numbers and Emirates raised 12,600 purchase orders for the initial phase of the program. Purpose-built workshops have also been established at the Emirates Engineering Centre, which have been fully stocked with the parts and equipment needed to complete the retrofit project.  

What does the retrofit program entail?  

Over the next 16 days, engineers and technicians will completely dismantle the A380’s cabin interior before reassembling it in a carefully planned and tested sequence. 

The retrofit program will result in a massive visual overhaul for the aircraft, including the introduction of new color tones and a hand stenciled Ghaf tree motif in the airline’s famed Shower Spa. The retrofit team will stick to a meticulously planned process. One team will remove the Economy class seating, allowing the cabin interior’s side panels to be removed by a separate team and transported to a purpose-built workshop, where they will be laminated with the airline’s new color scheme. In order to allow for the 56 Premium Economy class seating, 88 Economy class seats will need to be removed from the front of the main deck.  

The Business and First Class seating in the upper desk will be taken apart and transported via a specially adapted catering vehicle to bespoke workshops. The Business Class seats will be renovated and re-upholstered with leather at Emirates Engineering. The First Class seats will be refurbished by experts at Dubai World Central (DWC). 

The aircraft’s carpeting and flooring will also be completely replaced, allowing for the newly refurbished seating to be installed.  

One down, 119 to go… 

Following the refit, the aircraft will be thoroughly inspected and certified by aviation authorities before re-entering service. 

The second aircraft to receive a makeover, registration A6-EUW, is scheduled to roll into the Emirates Engineering Centre on December 1, 2022.  

Emirates has stated that the program will involve its engineers working on two aircraft simultaneously. This will result in one aircraft being grounded and transported to Emirates Engineering to undergo retrofitting every eight days. All 67 Airbus 380s in the retrofit program are expected to be back in service by May 23, 2024, when Emirates will begin to retrofit 53 of its Boeing 777 aircraft. The carrier expects all 120 aircraft scheduled to receive new interiors will be back in operation by May 23, 2024.  

The airline’s Premium Economy cabin class offers additional legroom and more deluxe seating, an option currently only available on the A380’s London, Paris and Sydney routes. With the advent of the retrofit program, Emirates’ Premium Economy cabins will be available to more travelers by the end of the year. 


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