Qantas mulls first class cabin upgrade for Airbus A380

By David Flynn, August 12 2016

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.

And it's arguably too early to start sketching for the post-A380 era of the Boeing 777X or even a red-tailed ultra-long range Airbus A350.

Read: Qantas considering Airbus A350-900ULR

There's also the possibility of a small first class cabin on a dedicated fleet of long-range Boeing 787-9s.

Qantas will begin flying the Dreamliner from October 2017 and has confirmed this will top out at business class (with a seat similar to the airline's superb Airbus 330 Business Suite, below).

Read more: Qantas CEO promises "very luxurious" Boeing 787 configuration

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?

Also read:

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David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

David it's a little naive to say 'theres a possibility of F on the 787s'!

There's not. AJ has already said they will not feature F cabins and they will mainly be flying routes that don't have F now anyway. Airlines globally are moving away from F class because with J improving in leaps and bounds, with J class now having fully flat beds and with direct aisle access and gourmet restaurant style food and drinks, there's very little they can offer above that to warrant even having F.

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

You need to read the article again, the thinking is that the first bunch of 787s will indeed have no first class but QF has said those will be mainly used on 747 swap routes and some new routes, but when you look at Melbourne-Dallas or Brisbane-Dallas or Sydney-Chicago or Perth-London those are definitely F-grade routes based on what Qantas already flies in the A380. I think saying there is a possibility of a small first class cabin on the QF 787 makes a lot of sense when you look at those routes.

03 Aug 2015

Total posts 59

I think small F-class cabins will become norm, not getting rid of them all together. With less f-class they can sell them at even high yields to the select group at the top who are not concerned about price, while expanding load factors in J 

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

I like the current Qantas A380 first class, it's not as 'upmarket' as Etihad's suites but certainly has less bling than anything Emirates would do. The swivelling seat was a novel idea, not sure of the merits of it these days compared to a regular straight-forward seat. Could do with a personal wardrobe like BA and Swiss have for hanging your jacket, scarf, stowing a small bag like a handbag etc. I like the idea of sliding doors to make it a private suite. Maybe also add a lit mirror so ladies can touch up their make-up without going to the WC?

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Lets have a 'Think Tank', how original!!!  Shows how desperate the current QF F offering really is. AJ should park himself in the ME 3's F's and get first hand experience at what he's not offering. Lets hope they get rid of that awful Red couch in the psuedo A380 Lounge and develop a real onboard lounge with atmosphere.

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

SGB, is it not possible for you to offer constructive thoughts about improving Qantas first without a lame and lazy sledge against Alan Joyce? And don't you think that an airline should consult its most frequent customers about changes? Oh and by the way that red lounge is in business class, not first class.

It's easy to say "Just look at the Middle East airlines" and overlook the harsh reality that all of those are bankrolled by their governments with a mountain of oil or gas money behind them. Qantas doesn't have that luxury so let's be realistic!

What would you change in Qantas First Class, SGB?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2016

Total posts 169

I'll never understand the fuss about Emirates F - the amount of space wasted means the seat is absurdly narrow and the doors are either in your face or against your back all night. 

The thing with this is making sure they don't get rid of all the good things - the QF F cabin is not overcrowded, the seat is comfy, the woollen underlay is excellent as is the service. Seat width is also good and I don't think privacy is a problem.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 363

While touch ups would be nice, touche to what you have said.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

Well said Mal. AJ has done a great job turning Qantas around in a very competitive market. Their very close to being back on top for hard product now, service is exceptional, I've traveled every class on the A380 this year now except first and the service is great, but the seat is getting tired.

But I can't help but think they know that and a full refurb is coming in line with the dreamliners. If that happens then they will be well and truly back.

i wouldn't be surprised that they've got a new first class design up there sleeves already and this forum is ensuring they're hitting the mark.

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

I could recommend a good 24 hour plumber who could introduce bathing facilities in the F WC's.  Can't believe QF doesn't have showers. Paying a similar if not same or even more expensive fare without that service sounds a grim F alternative. The bathrooms don't need to be like the one on the Cussons Imperial Leather A380 advert remake, but at least a basic shower and heated floor with heaps of room to move. These facilities have been airborne for years now, thousands have experienced them, some major airlines seem to have been left behind the times.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 517

Name the airlines that have bathing facilities. I can think of two. So gee many airlines are behind the times, or more than likley operating in the real world.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 205

I think its cool inviting in there F pax too help out.

It shows they are interested in their needs and ongoing support

The Qantas First suite is a good product. Its roomier than the Emirates A380 First suite, and a lot more tasteful, plus the way its designed means that the flight attendant doesn't need to intrude into the suite space to give full service.

All QF need to do is update the suite with extra amenity. A closing door/privacy screen, a vanity mirror/area, a larger IFE screen, and a chilled snack compartment, and they'd have a perfectly competitive hard product.

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Gee, they may as well roll out burl walnut veneer and it would be then be identical to EK after 'all those needed improvements'.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Jul 2014

Total posts 22

I agree StudiodeKadent - overall the QF First is a pretty good product. I'm not sure whether a door or privacy screen is essential, but I support the other suggestions. I don't think showers are essential given the facilities available at F lounges pre-departure and enroute.  Perhaps the suite itself just needs a colour/material makeover, a bit along the lines of BA's new F suites.

My QF First experiences in recent years has always been excellent, with the only downside being a noticeable increase in the number of J PAX using the F WCs after some bright spark decided to remove two WCs in J upstairs.

As for sgb's comments, the number of dislikes to each of his/her posts shows the comments aren't taken seriously. A serial complainer I suspect.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 140

I'm not in the realms of the super rich by any means. But my business pays for 4 international Business Class to USA, 1 or 2 to UK and a few Aussie domestics flights, + paying for flights on my own AMEX means I hold a FF points balance of 1 - 1.5M. I bet a lot of QF flyers are similar. - with bigger FF balances. It gets to a point where there is nothing much to do with points but to use them on First Class upgrades (50,000 Sydney to Dallas for example).  I wonder how much QF take this factor into account when keeping or getting rid of First on longer haul routes? Without the opportunity to upgrade, Qantas would just be in the same mix as all the other airlines offering a decend Business Class Product. (BA, SQ, QR, ANZ CA etc). That is the one draw back I've found since I started flying with Air NZ at the start of 2016 - there's nowhere to spend the points on upgrades to First. Any thoughts on this issue ABT folks?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Nov 2013

Total posts 14

Having an onboard lounge similar to Emirates would enhance their first class offering but that would be very difficult with the current seating configuration of first on the lower deck and business class on the upper deck.

sgb
sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Yes, exactly, well that's all been wrong since the beginning. First and Business up top is what they want. There's nothing quite like boarding upper deck whilst watching down at Y getting prodded into lower deck.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 210

I like the current design, especially the feeling of space while still having plenty of privacy, without the need for doors. Tweaking it without throwing out the good stuff would be great e.g. having the screens that raise in the cruise a little higher. 

bsb
bsb

21 Jul 2011

Total posts 70

I've not tried the current QF product, but was recently on the new BA 789 in F.  As I sat there and looked around, it dawned on me that it was pretty similar to the new QF J suite (which I think is the best J seat on offer). So whatever QF does, I think it does need to be significantly better that the J suite.  

17 Feb 2016

Total posts 24

I flew MEL-JFK in first last month and really liked the amount of space, although at first the position of the chair was a little weird.  And the comfort of the mattress pad on the bed was lovely. I think a bit of a spruce up is all that is needed. My only observation on this flight, and comparing my only other recent first suite experience on Singapore Airlines, was that I felt the service by the crew was not as efficient as I thought it could be. And as with drgmarshall, I am sitting on a pile of points that I prefer to use for upgrades or award bookings in first for long haul flights, so I hope that Qantas does retain first class on these types of products. 

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 400

Qantas lacks the fine touches in its soft product and hard product. Crew are too casual at times and as for grooming and uniform condition can be really low class. Some of the ladies looks so desheviled with a rubber band holding their hair back, no make up or effort....one wonders where the cabin manager is telling them to smarten up a little. As foir the over dry cleaned and irions uniforms looking worn also not F class (or any class) nstandard. One look at the immaculate EK EY QR crew and Qantas crew standards start to hurt.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2016

Total posts 169

Whether someone has makeup on or not has, I must say, never impacted my life to some huge degree. Should all cabin crew be neat and smart? Yes. Should the uniforms be pressed and clean? Yes. However its getting into semantics to quibble about what is holding someone's hair back - i'm amazed you noticed to be honest! 

The key difference i've noticed between cabin crew is genuine versus forced im-at-work smile. Tends to seem genuine on most Australian airlines, generally speaking, and the Asian carriers but I've never found the ME quite so openly friendly. If there's one thing Qantas should not change, its whatever it tells its F-attendants to do in the attitude and service stakes.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Dec 2012

Total posts 41

I'm attending this event and my feedback will incorporate most of what Mal has said. In addition I don't believe there's currently much differentiation between J and F menus. 

The bathrooms should be a bit bigger (AA on the 777 is enormous) and I think the IFE screens need an overhaul. 

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

Wow, that's great to hear, Princess Fiona, I hope you're allowed to some of the Qantas 'talking points' with us after the event, what other people wanted and what Qantas is actually planning.

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 125

Having flown Emirates, Etihad, and Asiana in F on the A380, I have to say I really enjoy having an enclosed suite.  I find it much more comfortable to sleep when I don't feel exposed (even though traffic is minimal in F).  This doesn't have to be an expensive setup - Air France uses curtains to partition off their new F seats on the 777 and the cabin looks quite chic.

The other change they need to make is larger washrooms.  I hate changing back into my clothes at the end of a 14-hour flight while hopping around trying not to touch the floor or toilet.  I don't think showers are necessary, but a spacious bathroom like Thai and Lufthansa offer is a must.

As for the soft product, I generally enjoy the Qantas food and service.  I would like to see them adopt a dine-on-demand approach like the Middle Eastern carriers.  They should also get rid of that odd cutlery - it's stylish but not functional.

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 37

Forget upgrading First ( a few cosmetic touches along the lines already suggested here will do just fine) - but please do something about those Skybed IIs!

The 2-2-2- configuration, lack or privacy and storage, and generally glum grey vibe are killing the QF A380 in comparison to other carriers. It feels like a big steel cattleyard - very Australia, very salt of the earth, but not at all luxurious or secluded.  The business suites are lovely, however, even buying an off the shelf Zodiac Cirrus chair like Finnair's A350 product would be a big step up!

Re QF service - I can't comment on F service, but I have had some VERY rough service in J class on QF in recent years.  I find it's usually superb service one way and then on the return it's a disaster. QF has to work on consistency to survive. 

PS am I the only one who struggles to really tell the difference between QF's new business suites or the new Swiss business seats and BA's first class seats?

05 May 2016

Total posts 526

So how did it go?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Dec 2012

Total posts 41

It was a very enjoyable evening. All of us are subject to an NDA so cannot comment on the content of the event. Sorry 

08 Feb 2017

Total posts 2

An onboard lounge and a door for the suite for more privacy would be nice.

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