Emirates is spending billions to refurbish its fleet and instead of discarding the leather from its plush first and business class seats the airline is recycling them into sneakers, backpacks and belts. Each A380 alone sheds 250 kgs of fine leather.

Emirates is the largest operation of the Airbus A380. The airline will be refurbishing 67 of the super jumbos. Via Facebook / @Emirates


Emirates has launched an ambitious $2 billion refurbishment program for its massive fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft, with the aim of extending their lifespan into the early 2040s. Unlike any other international carrier, Emirates had made the gigantic double-decker aircraft the central element of its entire fleet with the hopes of fueling the next stage of the company’s expansion. However, the rising fuel costs and the arrival of more efficient aircraft brought a premature end to Airbus A380’s story. The final nail in the coffin came in 2019 when Airbus announced that it was pulling the plug on the A380 because of poor sales. Since then, most airline companies across the world operating the superjumbo have either phased out the aircraft or have massively trimmed the size of their fleet. Emirates, which still operates more than 100 A380s, wants to give a new lease of life to its fleet of superjumbos with the massive refurbishment program, dubbed the Phoenix Project.

The Emirates A380 business class cabin. Via Facebook / @Emirates

The refurbishment work has already begun at a dedicated hangar near Dubai’s airport, where two A380s can be retrofitted simultaneously. The entire interior of the aircraft is being revamped and modified with new features, including upgraded berths and stairwells. The quintessential gold trimmings and wood paneling are all being swapped with lighter tones, fresh carpeting, and mood lighting to give the aircraft a more contemporary appearance. Emirates is also adding depictions of local nature motifs to the interior. The only thing that is not being pulled out is the popular business-class bar meant for passengers to socialize mid-flight. It is believed that half of the $2 billion investment is dedicated to cabin refreshments.

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Some numbers to give a sense of the scale.

The Phoenix Project is a massive undertaking, involving a thorough refurbishment of more than 100 A380s. Obviously, the program will produce a lot of waste. However, the Dubai-based airline has come up with a genius way of upcycling the waste produced by refurbishment. Emirates claims the retrofitting of one aircraft alone produces more than 600 pounds of discarded seat leather and more than 1200 pounds of other fabric.

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The Emirates A380 first class cabin. Via Facebook / @Emirates

The company says the substantial recyclable materials produced from the refurbishment process will be innovatively repurposed into a limited-edition collection of fashion items, including shoes, belts, and backpacks. These products will be made using seat leather, fabric, seat belts, and even pilot seat covers. This move will not only help Emirates make money by selling the limited edition products but also highlight its commitment to sustainability.

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Sayan Chakravarty, a Senior Writer at Luxurylaunches, brings over 10 years of automotive journalism expertise. He provides insightful coverage of the latest cars and motorcycles across American and European markets, while also highlighting luxury yachts, high-end watches, and gadgets. An authentic automobile aficionado, his commitment shines through in educating readers about the automotive world. When the keyboard rests, Sayan feeds his wanderlust, traversing the world on his motorcycle.