The diamond stitching looks impressively premium, seen here just below the headrest.

The role of anti-stain leather in Emirates’ impressive PE seats

Details and Design banner with text on graph paper backgroundEmirates’ new premium economy seat, revealed at the end of 2020, may not have moved the needle in terms of hard product – it is, after all, a fairly typical mechanically powered recliner seat with modern touches. But from a design perspective, the seat’s sparkling cream-colored leather dress covers and unique stitching have elicited plenty of ‘oohs and ahhs’ and more than a few questions about how the carrier will keep them from getting soiled.

Runway Girl Network reached out to Recaro Aircraft Seating for answers. After all, the seatmaker’s PL3530 model served as the baseline architecture for Emirates’ new premium economy seat on the Airbus A380, and the end result represents an 18-month collaboration between the two companies.

“Emirates from the very beginning wanted leather as the upholstery material in order to highlight the luxury and premium look and feel of the seat. To enhance the harmonious look of the cabin, we decided to use the same leather as in business class to match the color and haptic. The light sand colored leather was specially manufactured for Emirates,” Recaro told RGN.

“Since the seats are used heavily in service, it was decided during the project to use a leather with a surface protection/impregnation to ensure easier cleaning. It is a resistant, pigmented and embossed bull hide leather with a thickness of 1.2 to 1.4 mm. This leather exhibits very high tensile and tear strength.”

The leather, meanwhile, is “corrected grain leather”, which is effectively a leather that has been buffed to remove imperfections such as scars from the surface of the material. But just how resistant is it to stains?

In addition to being flame resistant, the hardwearing, high-quality leather seat covers are resistant to UV light, seawater, blood, urine, and oil, said Recaro. They are also rub resistant and “disinfection agent resistant”.

The pigmented nature of the leather means it features a water-based coating and finish, making it durable and easy to clean.

A flight attendant stands alongside the new premium economy section of Emirates' A380.

Adding to the luxury appeal of the seat is what Recaro refers to as “one-of-a-kind” stitching on the seat covers.

“Emirates wanted a very high-quality design for their premium economy class,” explained the German manufacturer. “The requirement was to reproduce the seating comfort similar to a luxury automotive seat (our heritage). With dedication and engagement, the covers were jointly developed with our customer Emirates to meet their wishes and ideas.”

Emirates' new premium economy seat, with cream covers, a side view.

Interestingly, the lower area of the backrest and the sides were thickened to provide more lateral support when a passenger leans against the seat, similar to a racing car seat.


“The design of the upholstery was to be automotive like, luxurious, sporty and of very high quality. These requirements were implemented with the noble diamond shape pattern. The sporty design is also emphasized by the perforated inlays,” said Recaro.

Each seat also features a 6-way adjustable headrest, a calf rest and footrest, as well as a 13.3” inflight entertainment screen, one of the largest in its class.

Roughly half-a-dozen A380s will carry the premium economy seat. The seats will also be installed on Emirates’ Boeing 777X aircraft. Emirates said it is mulling whether to retrofit existing A380s.

But one thing is clear – the joint collaboration between Emirates and Recaro has produced stunning results.

Related Articles:

All images credited to Emirates