New first class suites for Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines

By David Flynn, August 16 2017
New first class suites for Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines

With new first class suites on the runway for Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Emirates, here's your executive summary of what's changing at the pointy end for Australia's three largest international airlines.

New Qantas Airbus A380 first class

When we'll see it: Qantas' new first class suites will arrive as part of a long-awaited upgrade to the superjumbo fleet.

That project is expected to start once Qantas' Boeing 787s begin non-stop flights between Perth and London on March 24 2018 – a move which will also see Qantas axe its current Melbourne-Dubai-London A380 service, with the 'spare' superjumbos allowing a rolling upgrade program to the 12-strong A380 fleet to begin.

This mid-life refurb for the A380s will also see the Skybed II business class seats replaced by the airline's latest business suite, which debuted on the Airbus A330s and has been refined for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (shown below).

What's the buzz: the scope of Qantas' first class play remains unknown at this stage.

Will we see a refresh of the current suites (below) to retain their core design – a bespoke product from Marc Newson which launched in 2008 – while upgrading the materials, video screens and the like?

Or could Qantas shake things up by revealing an all-new first class suite, or even finding a mid-way point such as a 'Newson 2.0' model shapd by current designer de jour David Caon?

Qantas previously held an invitation-only 'First Cabin design workshop' in June 2016 where an exclusive group of top-tier frequent first class flyers were encouraged to share their "ideas to help inspire and influence Qantas' First Cabin Experience."

Some pundits speculate that Qantas could reduce the number of first class suites from today's 14 to just ten. This could come about through the provision of a larger footprint for each suite or by Qantas relocating the first class cabin to the upper deck of the A380 and, in the process, dropping the middle row of four suites. 

New Emirates first class

When we'll see it: Emirates is expected to pull back the curtains on its new first class suites on November 12, which is the opening day of the Dubai Air Show, followed by first flights on the airline's Boeing 777-300ER jets.

What's the buzz: the Gulf powerhouse and Qantas partner will trim the number of first class suites from eight down to six, and adopt a 1-1-1 layout for the luxe cribs compared to today's 1-2-1 configuration.

Those suites are expected to be larger than what Emirates flies today, and take their design cues from the airline's new A380 bar (below)...

... swapping today's dark palette of brown faux 'burled walnut' and brass trim for a light contemporary colour scheme of ivory and (appropriately) champagne, with subtle metal and woodgrain accents.

The rest of the recipe remains under lock at key, with Emirates president Sir Tim Clark teasing that the suites will draw inspiration from "a private bedroom on a luxury yacht" and "take our onboard experience to the next level." 

New Singapore Airlines first class

When we'll see it: Singapore Airlines has confirmed plans to unveil its new first class suites before year's end, with an international media launch tipped for November or early December.

This will be before the airline's newest Airbus A380s begin flying, which could now be pushed into early 2018.

(That launch event will also showcase its latest business class seats, which will also be fitted to the ultra-long range Airbus A350 jets due in late 2018 which will restart non-stop flights from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York.)

What's the buzz: SQ's new first class suites will be larger than their modern counterparts (below), but there'll be fewer of them.

Expect to see between six and eight berths, down from 12 today, although there's speculation that the airline could also offer an oversized 1A 'apartment' suite.

Singapore Airlines also has chosen to relocate first class to the upper deck, instead of the nose of the superjumbo’s main deck.


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.

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 42

Who is the target demographic for these suites on Qantas? In the corporate era we're in and headed towards, even the CEO of global firms will likely be discouraged from a First Class suite. Please help me understand the business model of these suites.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2016

Total posts 14

I remember seeing some documentary on Etihad and that they were promoting it as a more affordable 'private jet' alternative (albeit making reference to the apartments).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1247

You'd be surprised at how many CEOs of multinational conglomerates are contractually entitled to first class travel.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1195

My experience is lots of them are booked Business Class and their "Chairmans Lounge" or equivalent status sees them bumped up by the airline.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1247

There is a reason why airlines like BA and LH have first class cabins and it's definitely not just for service op-ups for CEOs booked in business.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 414

Really? You think so? I'm chairman's lounge and that's never happened. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 362

Yep, in fact the board of our company is an example of that.

10 Jul 2017

Total posts 32

nothing wrong with that. pay peanuts, get monkeys.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 783

Wealthy individuals. There's a lot of them out there.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 12

My boss is among Qantas' target demographic, Hewnix, he's senior executive in the Australian HQ of a major global company, and there are a lot more like him who have a contract specifying first class travel if available, plus plenty of people he talks to when flying who have the disposable income to fly in first class too.

Out of the current offerings, Qantas is way behind Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines in First product innovation. I've only sampled the latter three as the Qantas offering just doesn't appeal. Singapore has double beds on their Suites, Etihad lots of space and Emirates the bling. Qantas doesn't seem to feel the need to keep up with these other airlines on the product innovation and a bit like BA whose F is described as the best business class (sic.) in the sky! With innovation from Qatar in business class, Qantas' product is decidedly out of touch. They have been asking their frequent flyers, but possibly need to ask and try and attract the people who have been avoiding it. Their frequent flyers will fly Qantas regardless of what the product is like as so many are chasing lifetime gold so hardly a decent feedback loop.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 207

Most C-level executives actually have First Class only provisions in their employment agreements/contracts. There are also plenty of the 1% who aren't wealthy enough to afford private jet charters but don't want to mix with the hoi polloi in Business Class. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2017

Total posts 40

This is great news for Qantas. In the past I've always enjoyed the Qantas service with the exception of the last few years where they have cost cut inflight product offerings down to bare minimum in all cabins. 

I just hope they do a complete refurb of their first class because their competitors are going to bring out the latest and greatest and if Qantas just tweak the current model then like always they will be behind the 8 ball.

Lastly, love the idea of all the premium cabins on the upper deck. But does that mean premium economy will be relocated down to main deck? And the small rear economy section on the upper deck will be removed and replaced by a proper bar/ lounge area? 🤞🤞🤞

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1195

First class is becoming a bit of a novel irrelevancy.  The few airlines that are choosing to retain it are doing it more as a marketing ploy as the more excessive they can make the product, the more free publicity they attract.  As a product in its own right, it is basically irrelevant but airlines hope that the halo effect of a grand first class will reflect on their economy class product even though it is arguable that the economy class product in some aircraft has actually got worse in recent years.

A typical modern Business Class cabin far exceeds a First Class product of 10 years ago.  Almost no-one will spend their own money on the product and even airlines are downsizing the cabin making the availability of the product for points holders seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience more unlikely.  


23 Oct 2015

Total posts 26

Disagree. There are a lot of wealthy folks out there who happily pay to fly first class. Airlines, like SQ, rarely upgrade invol to first. 

05 May 2016

Total posts 631

This would be great news if QANTAS wasn't pulling First Class from the MEL-LHR flights which is the route I'd want to fly it on.

I can't imagine going via SYD would help much either. With less seats available for upgrades I don't think a Platinum flier will find it easier to get an upgrade to First.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 414

In my view dropping that mel-lhr flight is huge disappointment with the various other positive changes.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 468

QF will still be flying MEL-LHR with one stop -just that the stop will now be in PER, rather than DXB; and that the aircraft will be a 787, rather than an A380. Granted, F class will be lost - but there's a reason lots of us like to book on the ex-MEL flights .... because it's relatively easy to get upgrades to F, which means that there's not a lot of F revenue seats sold.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

31 Oct 2016

Total posts 71

One can only hope the QF Business Suite is going to contain the movable privacy screen from the 787, rather the the current A330 model.. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2016

Total posts 169

Presumably for QF this will see them actively sell F on routes to Asia that are now sold as business. If they use the A380 for MEL - SIN or HKG for example, they'd probably have an F market.

05 May 2016

Total posts 631

Not sure on that. They would need to commit to using the A380 over quite a while to be able to market F. Downgrading from an A380 to a smaller plane and downgrading paying customers from F to J would not be pleasant and wouldn't be good for good will.

QF have said that they plan to move the A380 between SIN and HKG and MEL and SYD with seasonal changes in demand.

Most likely there will be new F seats but on flights to Asia the F seats will be Business Seats for Chairman's Lounge, Platinum One, Platinum and a few fortunate others perhaps.

Japan Airlines - JAL Mileage Bank

09 May 2017

Total posts 12

I like the new ones way better! 😀The old one doesn't have much privacy :🙁


SilkAir - KrisFlyer

28 Mar 2017

Total posts 17

I am a F leisure traveller who always self-funds my ticket as does many of my friends.  F travel is alive and well for those who have the means and appreciate the experience.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 58

I'm retired and finally have the disposable income to pay for the First Class experience. Sure, it's an indulgence...but why not?! Makes travelling so much more enjoyable. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Jul 2014

Total posts 22

I agree with CP and Pegasus. I and my wife are self funded F travellers and our numerous QF First trips in recent years have been far more enjoyable experiences than the crowded QF J Class which we've also flown over many years. We can't fault QF First, thus making it a totally wonderful experience. Oh, and I've never been a member of the QF Chairman's Lounge.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jan 2017

Total posts 10

I fly First all the time,mainly Emirates better service and value than Qantas.

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 117

Please let's not spend the next 12 months filling the forums with questions about what the first class suites might or might not look like once they finally catch up to most other premium airlines.

06 Dec 2014

Total posts 27

I flew Emriates F on the way back from the UK having gone across in J. While the privacy suite was a novelty I thought that as far as sleeping went, their business class seat was more comfortable. I'm due to go back in 2019 and will take the Perth LHR option. I've got family in Perth and will fly across a few days before. The idea of doing it in one go and being able to sleep for at least half of that time is appealing. The one thing I will miss is the 'bar' that Emirates have on their 380.  A great way to meet your fellow pasengers.


05 Jun 2012

Total posts 128

Oh, Japanair, you just spoilt all the fun.  I was looking forward to trying to work out what slyness was involved, and how much provac would be required to deal with it.... (heheheh)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 414

I feel an airline should never charge extra for a "better" business class seat. That is poor service.

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