While it has been rumored for a while, Qantas today revealed the official details of their A380 cabin refresh program. Qantas has 12 A380s in their fleet, and they plan on refreshing them between the second quarter of 2019 and the end of 2020. So unfortunately it’ll be a couple of years (or so) before the planes features the new interiors.
Qantas is managing to add premium seats to the A380 without decreasing the overall seat count. The new A380 will have 485 seats, while the current one has 484 seats. The plane is losing 30 economy seats, but it’s gaining six business class seats and 25 premium economy seats.
You might think “oh no, economy is getting much tighter.” The good news is that it isn’t. The A380 is maintaining exactly the same footprint on the lower deck, and they’re just removing 30 economy seats from the upper deck (which will be replaced with business class and premium economy). So it’s just that the upper deck is getting more “efficient.”
Here’s are the layouts for Qantas’ new A380 upper and lower decks:
Then here’s the general description of the new cabins:
First class will continue to feature 14 suites and 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 new memory foam mattress and pillow menu will be rolling out later this year, ahead of the formal cabin refresh.
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.
These will be replaced with the same seats that Qantas is introducing on their 787s. These seats are fully flat and feature direct aisle access from every seat, so this will be a huge upgrade.
Qantas is also updating their onboard lounge area, located at the top of the upper deck. Here’s what it looks like right now:
And here’s what it ill look like once it’s redesigned:
Qantas will also nearly be doubling the number of premium economy seats they have on the A380s, and will update the seat to the one they plan on having on their 787s. They say the seat is almost 10% wider, though it will still be in a 2-3-2 configuration, while economy on the upper deck would be in a 2-4-2 configuration. Personally I’m not terribly impressed by Qantas’ new premium economy, at least based on the looks of it.
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.
You’d think it’s about time that Qantas adds wifi on their A380s, though they’re still not committed to that:
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.
It’s also interesting that Qantas mentions that their A380s will be operating more regularly on routes to Asia, with the 787 taking on the Melbourne to London route (via Perth). I suspect they’ll fly the A380 to Hong Kong (as they’ve done seasonally in the past), though I wonder where else. Qantas says they’ll announce the details soon.
While it’s still a couple of years off, I’m happy to see that Qantas has plans to improve their A380s. The first class, premium economy, and economy refreshes seem fairly minor, while business class is where we’ll see the biggest improvement, as they install seats with direct aisle access.
It’s just too bad that they’re still not fully committed to the wifi technology that’s out there now. I can appreciate wanting to wait for something better, but some wifi is better than none, especially given the 20+ hour journeys that this plane flies.
What do you make of Qantas’ cabin refresh program?