Get a Qantas first class seat for the price of business class

By Chris Chamberlin, August 13 2015
Get a Qantas first class seat for the price of business class

Fancy getting a first class seat for the price of a business class ticket – and not just any first class seat, but one aboard that 'Queen of the Skies', the majestic Qantas Boeing 747?

Of course you do! So here's the skinny on a favourite little 'travel hack' of savvy travellers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers.

First up: not all of Qantas' Boeing 747 jets still have a first class cabin. Most have been upgraded to feature the latest Skybed II business class seats, even in the nose of the jumbo where first class used to be.

But two of its older Boeing 747s continue to fly with their original first class seats, and they're a blast from the past.

The photos in this article were snapped on one of those 'classic' jumbos, which Qantas first flew in 1998 – so what you're seeing is the way first class used to be almost 20 years ago.

Compare that to the first class suites of the Qantas Airbus A380, which arrived barely ten years later:

You'll most often find the Boeing 747s with first class seats flying from Sydney to Tokyo and Johannesburg, but from time to time they pop up en route to Santiago, Hong Kong and even Los Angeles.

However, Qantas doesn't sell first class tickets on these aircraft – only on its flagship Airbus A380s – so the jumbos' first class seats are assigned to business class passengers.

You'll still get the same meals, wine and service as everyone in business class, so why the fuss about being in 'first class'?

1. These old first class seats convert into fully-flat beds, while the first generation of business class Skybeds you’ll find on the same aircraft are angled flat beds or ‘sloping sleepers’ – so you'll get a much better night's sleep being at the pointy end of the plane

2. And you're quite literally at that pointy end: notice how the cabin tapers in at the front, capped by a coat closet? That's the very front the jumbo jet, and you have to admit that's pretty cool!

So how do you go about snaring one of these seats?

This is one of those times it really pays off to select your seat well ahead of your flight. 

If you’re jetting off in business class on a Qantas Boeing 747, load up your reservation through the ‘manage my booking’ area of the Qantas website, and proceed to select your seats.

Pay particular attention to row 1 – if the only seats shown in that first row are 1A and 1K, then you’re flying on one of the older Boeing 747s sporting these prized perches.

(If the first row shows paired seats side-by-side, such as 1A next to 1B and 1J next to 1K, you're booked on one of the reconfigured jumbos.)

Selecting your first class seat

There are 14 first class seats up front, divided into four rows.

The first three rows tend to be held for top-tier Qantas Frequent Flyers – Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge members – until close to departure time, while the four seats in row 4 are open to any business class passenger.

We tend to prefer 1A and 1K for privacy on those overnight flights where sleep is the priority…

… and 4A and 4K when planning to work.

That’s because both 4A and 4K have a large console between the seat and the window, providing a great place to plonk your laptop or tablet during meal times, or a satchel or books and paperwork to keep everything at hand.

The reason for such indulgence in inflight real estate? Pop the hatch on the side table and you'll find a large, long bassinet!

(Some passengers even stow small iPad sized-bags in this space for take-off and landing.)

So if you’re planning a business class flight to on routes flown by Qantas’ Boeing 747s, make a point of checking your seating options online: two minutes spent here could make the difference between a sloping Skybed business class seat and a fully flat 'first class suite' for 13 hours in the air!

Additional material by David Flynn

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

I love that shot of the 747 at the top of the artcile. Queen of the skies!

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Yep, A380 just big aluminum tube comparing to 747!

26 May 2012

Total posts 150

Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think these seats were introduced 20 years ago... Back then the old recliners would have been in First... Would that be right?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Jan 2013

Total posts 132

These seats are actually very comfortable and a huge step up from Skybed MK1. Totally agree with Chris here. A flat bed is a hell of a lot better than a sloping one!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Jan 2013

Total posts 132

Which 747-400's still have this configuration? are they put on specific routes?

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1259

Routes are mentioned in the article

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Jun 2012

Total posts 40

VH-OEB & OJM are the regos. Unfortunately both of these airframes are due to be retired by the middle of next year! 

31 Jan 2013

Total posts 39

Still flying in Jan 2017. Just booked on SYD-TYO.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 250

My Friend flew the older F seats to Dubai a few years ago - he says while they were comfortable he wasn't really impressed with the cabin as a whole - which is fair since you could consider them as really good Business class seats rather than First class. 

Though I'm glad Qantas still fly the 747 - such nostalgia! Still one of the most gorgeous planes in my humble opinion, even if they aren't as advanced as the newer planes.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1259

QF 747 at DXB? Photo or it didn't happen!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 593

well they're 742s used to transit in SIN and DXB to LHR due to range not being enough, hence why the 744 was extremely popular with many airlines

01 Jan 2014

Total posts 17

Chris – we are flying Tokyo/Sydney next March and at present we have seats allocated on the upper deck. I have revisited the Qantas website and can now see that we are due to fly on one of the 747s with a first class cabin (as you have described). Would the seats upstairs still have been updated to the latest Skybed II business class seats or are we better to now choose 4EF (as we would like to be side-by-side)?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 593

they're skybed 1 as mentioned in the article so go downstairs and score the first class seats

Star Alliance

14 Aug 2015

Total posts 1

This is really cool info, Chris! :) 

Warmest from Bangkok

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Jan 2015

Total posts 9

Wow - this is very similar to the experience I had earlier this year with China Airlines, who flies 747s on the TPE-BNE-TPE route during peak travel times. The front first class seats were in the same configuration as this article, which was also sold as Business class but high ranked FF get first dibs. The CI seats though weren't comfortable lying flat, I'd hope the QF version are better!

31 Jan 2013

Total posts 39

Wouldn't recommend row 4 as mentioned in the article as its plonked out halfway across the aisle and the crew/pax keeps knocking it as they walk past. But these seats are great for tall people as the beds are longer than Business on the same aircraft.


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