TALKING POINT | Is it time for a new Qantas first class suite for the Airbus A380, or potentially even the Boeing 787 Dreamliner?
The Flying Kangaroo is sounding out a select group of frequent first class flyers for a 'First Cabin design workshop' to be held at Qantas' Centre of Service Excellence (below) in Sydney later this month.
An invitation received from an Australian Business Traveller reader who regularly flies Qantas first class says the invitation-only event – to be hosted by Phil Capps, Qantas' head of Customer Service and Product Development – will allow the exclusive group to share their "ideas to help inspire and influence Qantas' First Cabin Experience."
A Qantas spokesperson described the session as one of many "regular workshops held across our customer base including corporates, frequent flyers and SMEs to gain direct feedback about their travel experience."
"The sessions provide valuable insights, which help shape the planning and development of our inflight products and services.”
The focus of the First Class Cabin workshop could simply be to polish what the industry calls the 'soft product' side of the equation – inflight meals, drinks, service, even pyjamas and amenity kits.
However, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Qantas could be considering new first class suites or even a revamp of the current design.
The current Airbus A380 First suite debuted in 2008 with the launch of the Qantas superjumbo.
This makes it almost a decade old, or one generation in the timescale of premium airline seats.
That's the point at which most airlines either give those seats a refresh – an update to reflect changing times, tastes and technologies – or roll out an all-new design.
There's certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with the Marc Newson-designed superjumbo suites – while they're some 10 years old, like Newson’s best work they still ooze a classy and contemporary vibe.
However, with Qantas expecting to keep its A380s flying until the late 2020s it could well be time for the airline to consider what the second generation of the superjumbo's fIrst class will look like.
There's also the possibility of a small first class cabin on a dedicated fleet of long-range Boeing 787-9s.
But with Qantas continuing to talk up stretched routes such as Sydney to Chicago, Melbourne to Dallas and even Perth to London, could a second tranche of Boeing 787-9 deliveries sport a compact first class cabin for travellers who want long-haul luxe and privacy, and are prepared to pay for it?
British Airways for example has eight plush First seats nestled into the Dreamliner's nose...
... while there are eight private suites on Etihad Airways' Boeing 787-9.
As Qantas is asking to hear feedback on improving its "First Cabin Experience", over to you. What can the airline do to improve first class, on both the current 'soft product' set and in terms of a next-generation Airbus A380 or Boeing 787 suite? Does Qantas need a second-gen A380 suite, or just an update to the current design?
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