It is around 18 months since Qantas announced the refurbishment of its A380 fleet, but only now is the first new-look aircraft getting close to taking to the skies. Flights are scheduled to start in March, with the full A380 fleet of 12 planes completed by the end of 2020.
It isn’t clear yet if the refurbished aircraft will be assigned to specific routes or not. You would expect that Heathrow will be prioritised.
Remember that Qantas flights can be redeemed with Avios and that you can earn Avios and British Airways tier points when you fly with them. Qantas now flies from Heathrow to Singapore and then onwards to Sydney. It no longer flies Heathrow – Dubai – Sydney.
What can you expect on the refurbished Qantas A380?
The Qantas A380 fleet has 14 First Class Suites on the lower deck, designed by Marc Newson.
(I see Marc occasionally – who is probably the 2nd most famous industrial designer in the world after Jony Ive at Apple – because his daughter is at school with my son. In the polite way that you don’t talk business with the parents of your kids school friends, we have never discussed his Qantas work! I was also friendly with Canadian rocker Bryan Adams at one point, even more oddly, because his daughter was at nursery with my son, but that is another story ….)
These will not see major changes. We are promised a bigger IFE screen (17 inches) and changes to the materials and cushioning used, but the seat will still look the same.
Qantas is also introducing a lounge at the front of the cabin on the upper deck. It isn’t a full bar, by any means, with Qantas choosing a layout aimed at business class passengers who want to sit together and work during the flight. Drinks and snacks will be self-service.
This is where we see the biggest change. The existing Skybed seats have been ripped out and replaced with a version of the Business Suite used on the Boeing 787 fleet. Very nice it looks too.
The key change is that every seat will have direct aisle access for the first time. You will recognise the alternating left/right seat layout from various other airlines including Iberia and Finnair, which will see your feet disappear under the back of the seat in front.
There is also a substantial increase in the size of the IFE screen, from 12.1 inches to 16 inches, and more storage space. There will be 70 business class seats compared to the current 64.
The Boeing 787 Premium Economy seat will also appear on the A380.
There will be 60 seats in a 2-3-2 layout. Business Class and Premium Economy will be on the top deck, with First Class on the lower deck.
Overall I’m very impressed with what Qantas is offering here. I genuinely can’t see any reason – unless it is substantially cheaper – to take British Airways over Qantas to Sydney once the refurbishment is complete.
Both flights hub via Singapore, both flights earn you Avios and tier points, but Qantas will be offering a far better quality of seat in both First Class and Business Class. Hopefully I will able to take a look in the flesh when it arrives at Heathrow.
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