Coming Soon: Qantas A380s With New Cabins

Filed Under: Qantas

In mid-2017, Qantas announced that they’ll be refreshing their fleet of Airbus A380s. The airline currently operates a fleet of 12 Airbus A380s, and the plan was to refresh all the cabins, and in particular to install all new seats in business class and premium economy.

While Qantas was initially hoping to have the first plane with new interiors ready in the second quarter of 2018, that timeline has slipped.

Qantas’ first refreshed A380 should be flying by September 2019 (it will start the process within the next month, but this will be a major over haul). As noted by AusBT, the plan is that all Qantas A380s will be reconfigured by the end of 2020.

How Qantas’ A380 seat count is changing

It’s impressive that Qantas is able to increase their seat count on the A380 by one seat, all while installing new cabins:

  • Qantas’ new A380s will have 485 seats, compared to the current 484 seats
  • Business class is gaining six seats, premium economy is gaining 25 seats, and economy is losing 30 seats

The good news is that economy isn’t actually getting tighter. The A380 is maintaining exactly the same footprint on the lower deck, and Qantas is just removing 30 economy seats from the upper deck, and is replacing them with business class and premium economy seats.

So how is Qantas able to replace 30 economy seats with 31 premium economy and business class seats?

Here’s what the layout will look like for Qantas’ reconfigured A380:

Then here’s the general description of the new cabins:

Qantas’ new A380 first class

First class will continue to have 14 first class seats that will be on the lower deck. It looks like this cabin is just getting a light refresh, with a bigger IFE screen and new fabrics, but the “bones” of the seat should stay the same.

Unlike many other airlines, Qantas is keeping first class on the lower deck. I wouldn’t expect this to be that big of an upgrade. The airline did recently roll out new foam mattresses and a pillow menu, which are probably as significant as anything else that’s changing.

Qantas’ current A380 first class

Qantas’ new A380 business class

Business class is probably where the biggest upgrade is happening. Currently business class features fully flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, which is okay, but hardly private given what long flights Qantas operates with the plane.

Qantas’ current business class (on the 747)

These will be replaced with similar seats to what Qantas has on their 787s, which are fully flat staggered seats with direct aisle access.

Qantas’ 787 business class

Qantas is also updating their onboard lounge area, located at the front of the upper deck. Here’s what it looks like right now:

Qantas’ current A380 onboard lounge

And here’s what it ill look like once it’s redesigned:

Qantas’ new A380 onboard lounge

Qantas’ new A380 premium class

Qantas will also nearly be doubling the number of premium economy seats they have on the A380s, and will update the seat to the ones they have on their 787s.

While Qantas says that these seats are almost 10% wider, they haven’t been especially popular with passengers.

The seats will still be in a 2-3-2 configuration, which is pretty tight when you consider that economy up there would be in a 2-4-2 configuration.

Qantas’ new premium economy

Qantas’ new A380 economy class

As far as economy goes, the cabin is getting new seat cushions and better inflight entertainment, but otherwise it looks like not much will be changing there.

Qantas’ A380s still won’t have wifi

Qantas still doesn’t plan to install wifi on their A380s. When they first talked about the new configurations in 2017, they said the following to justify this:

Qantas is continuing to investigate new technology to offer fast Wi-Fi on its international routes. A trial on the A380 in 2012 showed low levels of take-up due to slow connection speeds over remote areas of ocean. Fast domestic Wi-Fi  has become a reality only recently due to new technology and next generation satellites serving the Australian mainland. Qantas intends to be the first Australian airline to offer next generation Wi-Fi on international routes as it becomes available.

To me this is a bit of a cop-out. Sure, wifi isn’t super high speed, but there’s wifi out there that’s reasonably fast (Etihad, Lufthansa, etc.), and in many ways wifi has become a standard amenity on international flights nowadays.

Bottom line

I’m happy to see that Qantas’ first reconfigured A380 will be flying in just a few months.

I wouldn’t expect much in terms of the updates to first class and economy. Premium economy changes might even be negative for some, as Qantas’ new premium economy hasn’t been very popular with passengers. It’s business class where the biggest changes are happening, as the airline finally installs seats with direct aisle access.

I do feel like I need to mention that even in business class some might not be a fan of the new cabins. While direct aisle access seems like a necessity nowadays, a lot of people loved Qantas’ old A380 business class seats, as they’re great if traveling with someone, and were also great for sleeping in terms of having unrestricted space for your feet (which is an issue I have with a lot of new seats nowadays).

Are you excited about Qantas’ refreshed A380s, or will you miss the old cabins?

  1. No wifi is the driving force that keeps me off QF long-haul. Ironically, they have the fastest wifi I’ve experienced on a plane on some of their domestic routes (SYD-OOL, BNE, etc), so it is bizarre to me they have explicitly said they won’t be installed it on long haul planes.

  2. Hi Ben,

    I really would love to see a comparison of the space which is used by different layouts of business cabins. Could you write a post on that? Would be an interesting read.

  3. I’m a little disappointed they are axing the sheepskin mattress in First. It is exceptionally comfortable.

  4. Isn’t every exit there for emergencies? How is Qantas allowed to block one in order to install more seats?

  5. im glad they are not putting wifi on the A380, longhaul flights on airlines like QF are one of the few opportunities in my life to be be truly disconnected. no one really needs to be connected 24/7

  6. Took advantage of the F award availability and will be on a 380 MEL-LAX in mid-Sept. Would be a nice bit of luck if that’s one of the first routes with the refreshed cabin.

  7. What will be really missed by frequent travellers is the loss of the little Y cabin upstairs. If you have to fly Y these are by far superior seats to the lower deck. QF even blocks them out for OW Emerald passengers. The cabin itself is quieter and darker than the premium economy part in front of it and given it’s the same meal, honestly at present I would not pay for W over a seat in this small Y cabin. Years ago, maybe 7 years, when I was once sitting there, a steward told me they were phasing out this Y cabin in favour of more W… so they’ve taken their time!

    Otherwise the refresh is a good thing as those cabins are looking very old and tired. Hope the upgrade includes the loos (bathrooms) too as they are in desperate need of it!

  8. Typo on the onboard lounge sub-section: “And here’s what it (ill) look like once it’s redesigned”.
    Sydney-Singapore (QF81) or Melbourne-Singapore (QF35) will definitely see this first.

  9. Good riddance to the dated 2-3-2 config. in Business! So far behind the times. Wonder if they will dump it for the 747’s too. I suspect we’ll see the demise of the 747 fleet before any seat refresh there.
    As an aside, the new David Caon designed cutlery for premium cabins is the lightest design ‘refresh’ in aviation history; almost identical to the much despised old rubbish; poorer quality too, which is not wearing at all well. A case of ‘friends-in-high-places/who’s-he-sleeping-with?’ was my private thought on that matter……

  10. Thanks for mentioning the feet issue. Two months ago flew JFK-LAX-SYD (QF 789 then A380). As mentioned I much prefer the old A380 seat (same as on the 744). No restrictions. The 789 J seat is claustrophobic – too much of body under armrest in front. Not quite as bad if you have an aisle seat (meaning opening is the aisle, rather than the window).

    My view these seats are 2-4-2 – just that the row staggers every other seat.

  11. @Gary – only the upper deck economy seats were ever anything to write home about, and they’re going away.

  12. @randy my sentiments exactly. Have been on the new business class seat a fair amount on the A330 and 787 and my travel agent makes sure to get me the window seat that is open to the aisle. I find it to be a big difference. Hate the business seat on Emirates 380.

  13. @ Eric

    AIUI, sufficient emergency exits are installed to cope with the whole plane being in the densest-possible economy formation.

    If instead a big chunk of the plane is in low-density premium seating, the theory goes that you need fewer exits to evacuate the smaller number of people on board within the same time limit – which I vaguely remember is 90 seconds for the whole plane.

    Every video I’ve seen of airlines demonstrating that the full plane can be evacuated within the time limit suggests that they use their own F/As as pretend passengers – ie, people who will tend to be young and fit, and who will know their planes well (as well as the exercise not taking place when the fuselage is full of smoke / dripping molten plastic, etc). So while it’s lawful (and economic), who knows whether or not it’s “safe” to remove one set of emergency doors.

    Incidentally, it’s not without precedent – I think it was BA who many years ago sealed one set of emergency doors on the upper deck of its 747s.

  14. Looking forward to my F seat from lax to Melbourne. I heard they have one of the most comfortable bed in the business. Hopefully this one I’m going on will have the new thicker foam mattress! 🙂

  15. If it was not safe there is no way Airbus or CASA would allow this. Look at a 737 footprint with 4 small single doors and two overwing exits. The will have 4 large double slide doors 130 pax. Thank goddess the Skybed is going, old, uncomfortable no longer flat as the leg part now curves from overweight people sitting on them. Totally agree come on Qantas if your spending so much money and time on these planes, put WiFi on them.Still love flying the Aussie Airline.

  16. I’m concerned about new seat cushions in economy. I recently flew DFW>SYD>DFW in Y and was able to sleep both ways and had no jet lag. I noticed how the cushion actually had some “cush” to it unlike those super thin cushions so many other airlines are using.

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