Qantas Is Refreshing Their A380s — Here’s What To Expect

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.

Qantas’ current A380 first 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

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’ new business class

Qantas is also updating their onboard lounge area, located at the top 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 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.

Qantas’ new premium economy

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.

Bottom line

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?


  1. Having flown the vantage XL product and the Skybed II, I really wonder how people see this as an upgrade… the current skybed is super spacious and you can easily walk around anyone sleeping next to you… I personally find staggered biz seating like vantage XL to her very tight/claustrophobic.. nearly as bad as emirates biz!! I would imagine the only reason Qantas are doing this is because they can squeeze a far higher number of seats in..

  2. @M

    Yes, I’d agree with you – we do seem to fetishise “direct aisle access” when, in Qantas J, the seats are so spaced that there is in effect direct aisle access (it’s not like BA where you have to climb over a stranger’s legs).

    I hate the tiny foot box on many staggered or reverse herringbone layouts, or the crushed shoulder space on herringbone (Virgin Atlantic I’m looking at you).

    I last flew Qantas J on the A380 a couple of months ago. It was actually a rather nice experience.

  3. Ben, your obsession with wifi just isn’t universally shared. Qantas has done internal polling and its customers aren’t anxious about it. They know that once wifi is available, they’ll be expected to answer emails all the way across the Pacific. Aussies pride themselves on having a different work/life balance than Americans, and they currently enjoy the excuse to zone out. The world doesn’t end when you’re offline for 14 hours.

    The real downside of this retrofit will be the loss of the upstairs economy class mini-cabin. Row 35, the exit row upstairs, is easily the best economy class experience in the sky.

  4. Qantas is my fave airline in the world but then I fly them only in First Class and business class domestically in AU.The lounges are top notch for First Class PAX especially in SYD or Mel
    I know most of the team for 15 20 years now
    Love most of the Neil Perry cuisine and the teams on board are mostly terrific
    Sure I know where to get a more comfortable seat or bit fancier plane Emirates Singapore etc
    I’m a huge fan of Qantas just not their lame website and long time damaged frequent flyer program those in dire need of improvement
    Look forward to the foam toppers that will be a game changer in comfort

  5. Wifi really isn’t a big issue for us down under. I think your priorities are a bit more skewed than many others because you do work on plans for so much of your time.

    As for comparing the business suite to the Skybed II, I feel like it’s a disservice to say it’s a ‘huge upgrade’. While the business suites are very nice, I think that many people such as yourself underestimate the amount of space that the Skybed II offers.

  6. I just flew the new J seat on a QF A-330. It is an improvement. Truly flat & a long seat (good for taller folks).

  7. Its just stunning that it takes an airline 4 – 5 years to roll out foam toppers and a nicer pillow in first class across 12 planes…. Surely they could do that in a weekend if they truly cared about their first class pax..

  8. Tony, if you ready the article the new soft furnishings for First are being launched later this year.

  9. Just another disappointment for the F pax in Melbourne who fly regularly to Europe (unless one flies to Sydney to commence their A380 experience). I concur that inflight wifi is not top of the list for many Australians who both work and play hard and thus appreciate the down time during a long flight – and we know all about long flights!

  10. As an Australian living and working overseas I concur with the previous comments that the lack of wifi onboard QF flights – or any airline for that matter – is not a deal breaker for the vast majority of my compatriots. I’ve only used wifi a couple of times on long hauls, but that was for the novelty factor. Tellingly, none of my Aussie work colleagues are distressed about going off-line for 14+ hours either. Most actually revel in the solitude that comes with long hauls across the Pacific or to Europe. And we’re talking about a mix of Gen X AND Millenials! So maybe its a cultural thing that Aussie travellers just don’t value onboard wifi as much?? Who knows….

  11. Have you recently reviewed Qantas, Lucky? I’ve looked on the site but can get nothing when I enter it into the search facility.

    I haven’t flown Qantas for years but used to think their people were some of the best and friendliest for any airline. I’ve heard mixed reports lately, however, would welcome the chance to read any reviews you may have written. As you say, it’s one of the longest flights available (LHR-SYD), and highly competitive too, so I’d like to see how you rate them now.

  12. Not having Wi-Fi is a blessing. When I fly I like to relax, tune out, and not be glued to my phone or computer screen like I already am 24/7.

    No wifi? No problem! Keep it that way!

  13. QF will be operating double daily HKG A380 over the southern summer. Look on the Australian Aviation thread on Airliners.Net for more detail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *