Now Flying: Qantas’ Refurbished A380

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.

Well, while the project has been a bit delayed, it’s an exciting day for Qantas and the A380.

First Refurbished Qantas A380 Now Flying

The first Qantas A380 with enter service today. It’s scheduled to fly tonight from London to Singapore, and the seatmap reflects that (here’s the business class seatmap, showing the new 1-2-1 configuration, compared to the old 2-2-2 configuration).

That plane has the registration code VH-OQK, should you want to track it.

Not only that, but:

  • Three additional A380s with the new interiors should be flying by the end of 2019
  • All Qantas A380s should have the new interiors by the end of 2020

Which Flights Feature Qantas’ Reconfigured A380s?

Qantas won’t initially assign the reconfigured A380 to any one route consistently, but rather it will be cycled through the system. I get that this may be the only practical option when they have just one plane reconfigured, but I wonder at one point they’ll start assigning them to specific routes.

That being said, as noted by ET, the airline has revealed the plans for the coming week and a half, as the plane will exclusively operate the QF1/2 service, as follows:

  • September 30 — QF 2 (London to Singapore to Sydney)
  • October 2 — QF1 (Sydney to Singapore to London)
  • October 3 — QF 2 (London to Singapore to Sydney)
  • October 5 — QF1 (Sydney to Singapore to London)
  • October 6 — QF2 (London to Singapore to Sydney)
  • October 8 — QF 1 (Sydney to Singapore to London)
  • October 9 — QF 2 (London to Singapore to Sydney)

The plan is that after that the plane will also start operating transpacific flights.

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:

At first passengers sure will be surprised and delighted. We’re seeing 30 fewer economy seats, and then 25 more premium economy seats and six more business class seats, so we’ll likely be seeing quite a few passengers getting complimentary upgrades when on this plane.

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 Economy

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 start flying today.

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?

Comments
  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.

  17. The reason that Qantas wifi is unavailable on long haul flights is that unlike other airlines qantas has their own unique system and does not outsource to someone like gogo.
    They also give every passenger free WiFi therefore requiring that a high speed service is available the whole way.

  18. @Ex DOH — “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”

    @Tom — “I prefer no wi-fi so my neighbors aren’t endlessly online. Get some sleep instead.”

    Believe it or not, there are some of us who are too busy during regular work days, while on international trips, to be able to quality connect with family or friends (whether through iMessage or other WiFi-based messaging Apps), and long international flight times offer us a rare opportunity to make up for that! Is it, therefore, proper for you to dictate *your* preferences upon the rest of us? If you do *not* want to use the WiFi, then it’s your choice to just *not* use it! Telling the rest of us that we do *not* need to use WiFi smacks of totalitarianism!

  19. “We’re seeing 30 fewer economy seats, and then 25 more premium economy seats and six more business class seats, so we’ll likely be seeing quite a few passengers getting complimentary upgrades when on this plane.”

    In all likelihood there won’t be very many operational upgrades to business as the revenue loads in that cabin are quite high at QF, and most flights have more points upgrade requests from Y and P/E than spare seats available. I have several friends who work at head office at Qantas and business & first nearly always go out full. P/E complimentary upgrades will likely occur however given quite an increase in seat count in this cabin.

  20. This is odd. I’m seeing my comment from June 7 on a post dated today. Strange. A glitch in the matrix?

  21. I am thrilled to hear that my FC LAX-SYD A380 flight WILL NOT HAVE WI-FI. The last FC trip I took on Lufthansa a German speaking cell phone talker woke up the entire cabin with his important call! Finally after bitterly complaining to the crew they finally got him to lower his voice to normal speaking so everyone got to listen to his call anyway! And this was after I had taken a sleeping pill a couple of hours earlier! So I love to hear that Qantas will not be nurturing that………….

  22. @BillC
    I agree that people that don’t want wifi don’t have to use it, and while having someone right next to you flick through snapchat for 9 hours is annoying, it is not more annoying than them watch IFE or playing a game.
    Having said that, kinda scary that international trips are someone’s only time to connect with family and friends.

  23. So glad there’s no wifi. On a long haul flight i can do without being bothered by beibg contacted .

  24. @BillC seriously, “totalitarianism”? At the very least your post is equally so by saying their preference is wrong. They don’t work for the airline or a governing body and so are not “dictating” anything, just expressing their opinion which they have every right to do.

  25. @David — “At the very least your post is equally so by saying their preference is wrong.”

    OK — maybe “totalitarian” was too strong of a word to use … but here are the fine points that you missed —

    @Ex DOH said “… not putting wifi on the A380, longhaul flights… are one of the few opportunities in my life to be be truly disconnected. NO ONE REALLY NEEDS TO BE CONNECTED 24/7” [emphasis mine]

    @Tom said “I prefer no wi-fi so my neighbors aren’t endlessly online. GET SOME SLEEP INSTEAD” [emphasis mine]

    Both of these posts seemed pretty self-centered, because both expressed personal preferences that *no* WiFi be offered just to satisfy their *own* conveniences, while ignoring situations where others might *need* to use WiFi, especially during international flights, to catch up with family/colleagues/friends (I’m referring *only* to iMessages or other similar text-based chats)! Even when WiFi *is* available, they could just *not* use WiFi for themselves … but to insinuate to the rest of us that we should, similarly, *not* need to use WiFi, in lock-step with their own preferences, is a bit overbearing, IMHO! They should have just left it at expressing their personal preferences about why *they* do not wish to use WiFi!

  26. Glad to see the lounge refurbished. I’ve never understood the design/purpose of the old one. This one looks a little more practical.

  27. I personally had a great experience on Skybed II on the A380. In contrast, on the A330 with the newer Thompson Business Suite, the flight attendant’s foot caught my blanket which was slightly in the aisle (and is low to the ground). I woke up when the blanket was being yanked! Not sure if anyone else has had similar issues? Only gripe with A380 is that they need to upgrade the IFE.

  28. Agree with @Emily The small Y cabin at the rear of the upper deck is useful for QF PLT/ OW Emeralds. Being shoved into the mega Y cabin on the lower deck is unappealing.

  29. I think it’s great Qantas are investing in the A380 and not ditching the plane like so many other airlines. Clearly they don’t have an adequate replacement yet (789’s aren’t big enough to take up the volume) but as a passenger, I love flying the A380 and fly the Pacific between US and Aus very regularly. Lucky to get an upgrade to F last trip and it was sensational. Skybed II is also a good ride and I like the unrestricted bed. The new product will be great too no doubt.

    Happy to hear it will be around for many years to come. I’m sad to see the 747’s go too, although that’s more nostalgia than anything else… she was a great bird 😉

  30. @Mike — “Having said that, kinda scary that international trips are someone’s only time to connect with family and friends.”

    For some reason I got notification of your post *after* I had posted a reply to @David … if you read my reply to him, that will elaborate on what I was referring to … that said, here’s an example of what I meant —

    Suppose that you’re on a week-long business trip across east Asia and departed from the Eastern Time zone in USA during early Fall, so that the time zone displacement is 12 hours and public/private children’s schools have reopened after summer break. This means that when you’re getting up and preparing for your work day in Asia at 6 AM, it’s 6 PM back home … not much time to have a *quality* catch up with family back home (especially with your school-age kids) if you have a business breakfast meeting at 7 AM … once you’re done with your work day and evening dinner meetings (eg, 9 PM), it’s already 9 AM back home so the kids are already at school … this creates a situation where it’s very difficult to keep up with your kids’ daily lives and activities while on-the-road in Asia …

    Now … if you were to be flying on a red-eye flight to your next business destination in Asia (eg, NRT to SYD), you might then have an opportunity to iMessage or use some other texting App with your kids back home after they get out of their school day (eg, 3 PM), even though it might be 3 AM to you still in Asia, should you not have an immediate morning business meeting upon landing in SYD (perhaps you can even go back to sleep on your flight after text chatting with your family) …

    Personally, back when I was flying mixed Economy/Business cabins, I’ve often only had time to take care of my personal eMails backlog while on my international flights to/from Asia, since I get kinda inundated during normal work times back home or at my business destinations …

    These types of scenarios are what I meant in my reply post … however, note that *all* such concerns become *irrelevant* when traveling in First/Business Classes! 🙂

  31. #Eric
    emergency exits are determined on a per capita, headcount, basis. So I assume that increasing the buisness class cabin numbers, and losing the economy rows on the upper deck allows for a 90second exit through the remaining 2 doors (the requirement, assuming only one side out of four doors are evacuable)
    BA did the same on the 747 reducing from 10 to 8 doors and increasing row count.

  32. #lucky
    “wifi out there, Etihad, Lufthansa” no mention AGAIN of EK wifi
    And still no real enthusiasm for staggered seating, which at least gives the occupant of a window seat a view, with having to crane his or her neck to look out, as in your continually favoured, and in my view disastrous herringbone and reverse herringbone choices. Although not exactly identical to EK staggered seating, which offers true side by side in alternative centre seating if you are travelling with a companion, this is by far the best seating arrangement for business class, in terms of privacy, storage, screen size.

  33. In response to Ryan’s question of Aug 23 I am guessing that the first Qantas A380 to be refurbished is VH- OQK as missing from Qantas Source jet tracker movement summary?

  34. “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.”

    Seriously? If Delta can do it, why can’t they?

  35. @The Nice Paul
    I think it was BA and some others (KE comes to mind) that blocked overwing exit of classic 747. Later distance(?) restriction between doors was introduced and from 744 blocking overwing exit was no longer possible.

    Also from what I know 739ER originally has one additional pair of exits between overwing exits and rear exit – most of airlines block the door as these are not required when configured with less than 189 seats in total.

  36. Yep, every one of their competitors on the trans pacific routes has WiFi.

    United have it. Delta have it. Virgin Australia have it. ANZ have it. Not sure about American…

    Also, complimentary upgrades aren’t really QANTAS’ style. Not saying they don’t ever do it, but they’re certainly not like US carriers in that respect…

  37. With the WiFi, the main issue is that there are new Satellites rolling out over the next 5 years. In a year or two there will be satellites covering north america and western europe, but not asia/ australia. What they are intending to do is to install the inflight internet once these new satellites are up, and so that passengers are able to stream things like netflix inflight. Currently they are not fast enough for that purpose.

  38. Does that mean someone seated in a window seat by a deactivated exit door will have no window (or at least a very small one)?

  39. Every time there is a mention of inflight wifi there’s always a few sanctimonious but intellectually disabled individuals who claim that planes should forgo wifi because “nobody needs to be online 24/7”. Newsflash Lorenzo without oil, the availability of wifi does not force one to use it…

  40. @Callum Not fast enough? CX offer in flight Wifi (albeit paid) and I use that between MEL-HKG to stream, download, etc., so the tech is there. That said, being paid the loads probably aren’t as high – if it’s free, everyone (to a point) will be using it to the max.

  41. The reason they dont have wifi is such a cop out. They keep talking about their 2012 trial and how not many people used that wifi. The reason nobody used that wifi because it was expensive and they gave you like 50mb of data.

    Meanwhile on AA, its $19 for the whole flight and unlimited data. sure its slow, but its good enough for messaging and facebook.

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