Qantas Says Its A380s Will Get A “Major Cabin Upgrade”

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Qantas has used the announcement of its full year results to confirm that it plans to carry out what it’s calling a “major cabin upgrade” on its 12 strong Airbus A380 fleet.

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that Qantas and I appear to disagree on how this announcement is being portrayed (two of the four A380 cabins may be getting a major upgrade but the other two really are not) it’s good to see the airline continuing to try to keep its product relevant.

Qantas’ A380 Changes – Overall

Qantas has released a couple of images showing the overall changes we can expect on its A380s and, while these images are only indicative, they’re still pretty useful.

Upper Deck (click to enlarge)

a diagram of a business class lounge

Lower Deck (click to enlarge)

a screenshot of an airplane

One of the more obvious changes is that, going forward, the upper deck of the Qantas A380 will lose its Economy Class section and will offer just Business Class and Premium Economy seating.

The moving around of the cabins will also have an effect on the number of each type of seat that will be available. While the total number of seats offered on the A380 will only go up by one (484 to 485) the number of Business Class and Premium Economy seats will increase dramatically:

a white paper with black text and numbers

This is a small u-turn by Qantas as it wasn’t all that long ago that the airline reduced the number of Business Class seats on the A380 from 72 to 64…..and now we’re going to be back up at 70 again.

Qantas A380 Changes – Cabin By Cabin

First Class

This is where I have an issue with Qantas positioning the changes as an overall “major cabin upgrade” for the A380 because I can’t see many changes to First Class that can be considered “major”.

All 14 First Class seats will keep their place on the lower deck of the aircraft and, per Qantas, this is what will be changing:

  • Larger high-definition IFE screens
  • New foam mattress and new bedding
  • Recushioned seats and new fabrics
  • Bespoke pillow menu

Not exactly wow-worthy is it?

Larger IFE screens will be nice and I’m sure the new mattress and bedding (expected by the end of this year) will be nice too but it’s not anything major.

Business Class

In the A380 Business Class cabin is where we see the airline make its biggest cabin change as it refits its A380s with the newest version of its “Business Suites” as featured on its Airbus A330s.

a close-up of a seatQantas’ new Business Suites – Image Qantas

a group of seats with screensQantas’ new Business Suites – Image Qantas

All Business Class passengers will have direct access to one of the aircraft’s aisles and, with a 16″ IFE screen, more storage space and more work space, this is a true major upgrade for travelers.

Premium Economy

The Premium Economy Cabin is also being shaken up a bit with the introduction of the airline’s new Premium Economy seat in a 2-3-2 layout.

The new Premium Economy product is set to debut on the 787-9 Dreamliner in October and it will soon take its place on the upper deck of the A380 too.

a row of seats in an airplaneQantas’ New Premium Economy Seating

the seats in a planeQantas’ New Premium Economy Seating

Per Qantas Premium Economy will offer:

  • A seat that is almost 10 per cent wider than Qantas’ existing Premium Economy (and as wide as Business Class on other airlines) as well as increased recline.

  • An ergonomically designed headrest that can be fitted with a specially designed pillow and a re-engineered footrest that significantly increases comfort when reclining.

  • High-definition Panasonic inflight entertainment seatback screens that are 25 per cent larger.

  • Five individual storage compartments and two USB charging points per seat, as well as shared AC power and a personal LED light designed to minimise disturbance of other passengers.

The seat is said to have a “unique recline motion that provides a class-leading level of comfort. When the rear of the seat reclines, several sections shift to support your body as you move into a more relaxing position.

With Premium Economy often being considerably more affordable than Business Class it’s good to see significant improvements to this product….even if I’d still avoid the centre 3 seats if at all possible.

Economy Class

While Business Class and Premium Economy will be getting genuine major upgrades on the A380 with Economy Class we’re back to the land of “meh”.

The sum total of changes Qantas has announced to Economy Class are:

  • New seat cushions and fabrics
  • Improved inflight entertainment
  • Economy relocated entirely to main deck

There really isn’t too much to say here except that, once again, there’s absolutely nothing “major” here.

Qantas A380 New Onboard Lounge

The last major change to note on the Qantas A380s is the new lounge that the airline will be installing at the front of the upper deck.

a man and woman sitting on a couchQantas A380 New Lounge – Qantas Artists Impression

We haven’t been given many details on what to expect with the new onboard lounge and the airline has only said that it will “provide more room for First and Business Class customers to dine and relax“.

When Will The Upgrades Take Place?

Qantas has said that passengers can expect to see some upgrades later this year (new mattresses, bedding and the pillow menu) but we will have a long wait before we see any other changes.

A Qantas statement confirms that work will begin on the A380 cabins “in the second quarter of calendar year 2019” and AUBT adds that the work is expected to be completed in 2020.

Bottom Line

The major upgrades are limited to the Business Class and Premium Economy Class cabins – there really isn’t anything to get excited about with the First Class cabin and it’s almost as if Qantas has forgotten that customers in Economy Class would like a little love now and again too.

Still, if you fly in one of the middle two cabins you’ll probably be quite pleased with what Qantas says it will offer by 2020….the question now is how relevant will these announced upgrades be when they appear in 3 years time?