Executive Traveller exclusive
Jetstar is giving its Boeing 787s a multi-million dollar makeover including new business class and economy seats, broadband WiFi and dedicated crew rest bunks, giving the Dreamliners the potential to take on long-range routes to the USA, India and even South Africa.
The low-cost airline is also betting on the continued popularity of premium travel by more than doubling the size of its business class cabin from 21 to 44 seats, while removing 33 economy seats – and, from what we hear, cabin dividers are also for the chop.
However, Jetstar has confirmed next-gen 787 business and economy seats won’t include video screens, with the airline relying on WiFi to stream content to passenger’s own laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Jetstar’s mid-life 787 refit comes ten years after the budget-minded arm of Qantas took delivery of its first Dreamliner in October 2013, and is intended to lay the foundations for another decade of flying.
However, the refurbishment is some years away: a Jetstar spokesperson confirms to Executive Traveller the first 787 won’t go under the knife until “late 2025” as part of the scheduled aircraft maintenance program.
With each refit expected to take around six weeks, all eleven Jetstar 787s aren’t likely to be upgraded until 2027.
(At the same time as the 787s get that new-look interior they’ll also be repainted in the fresh and surprisingly weight-saving livery of their single-aisle Airbus NEO siblings.)
Jetstar Group CEO Stephanie Tully says the upgrade will significantly enhance the medium to long-haul flying experience for customers.
“Our existing 787 business class offering is extremely popular, so we’re doubling the number of business class seats, and to keep customers connected in the air, we’re introducing on-board wi-fi.”
“The new crew rest areas mean our crew will be able to get the rest they need to operate longer flights, unlocking the possibility of exciting new destinations like Sri Lanka and India.”
Jetstar’s new 787 business class
Although new business class seats are on the way, they’ll continue to be recliners rather than lie-flat beds.
As Jetstar’s 787 business class is more akin to premium economy, it should come as no surprise that the new seat – to be supplied by Recaro – is expected to be sourced from seat-maker’s premium economy range.
That’s not an uncommon strategy: for example, Indian airline Vistara initially chose Recaro’s PL3530 premium economy seat for business class on its first Boeing 787 (below), while Singaporean rival Scoot opted for a premium economy seat from based HAECO for its 787 ScootPlus cabin.
Jetstar will retain the current 2-3-2 layout (yes, the dreaded middle seat isn’t going anywhere) but expand the size of the business class cabin from 21 to 44 seats, while reducing the number of economy seats from 314 to 281.
The new Jetstar 787 layout shows six rows of seats against today’s three-row cabin, with an additional pair of window-adjacent seats tucked away in one corner.
Jetstar says its new 787 business class seats “will have device holders, a power outlet, headrests and a generous recline.”
Recaro will also supply Jetstar with thousands of new ergonomic economy class seats, which will share key features of Jetstar’s Airbus NEO seats such as USB power outlets and a built-in device holder where passengers can perch their smartphone or tablet for BYO entertainment.
Seat pitch will remain the same in both cabins, at 38" in business and 30" in economy.
Jetstar 787 WiFi
Part of the Jetstar 787’s tip-to-tail transformation will see satellite WiFi installed, which will be used to beam inflight content to passenger’s screens as well as provide direct Internet access – at a cost, of course.
While Jetstar hasn’t detailed which satellite provider it will use, this is likely to be ViaSat – and specifically the same high-speed ViaSat-3 constellation which will serve fast and free WiFi to all passengers on Qantas’ non-stop Project Sunrise Airbus A350 jets from late 2025.
(Qantas also plans to add ViaSat WiFi to its Boeing 787s and the A330 replacement fleet).
Jetstar’s new long-range 787 routes
Something else that’s coming to the Jetstar Boeing 787s are lie-flat crew rest bunk beds.
The airline opted not to fit a crew rest compartment into its original Dreamliners, which meant that due to aviation safety regulations the orange-star 787s were ‘operationally limited’ in range, topping out at around 10 hours.
But after this mid-life refit, pilots and crew will no longer need to nap in the same seats as passengers (which can therefore not be sold, being reserved for crew use).
Boeing will add a dedicated 787 crew rest zone upstairs at the rear of the jet, above the last rows of economy, permitting Jetstar to fly its 787s on much longer routes and utilise the full range of the jet to open up new destinations.
While those extended-range routes are yet to be revealed, a spokesperson for Jetstar name-checked the likes of the mainland USA, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa as examples.
India is particularly noteworthy: not only has Qantas experimented flying to New Delhi and Bengaluru, but Jetstar maintains a partnership with India’s largest airline IndiGo, which holds a commanding 65% of the country’s domestic air travel market.