International travel is back, and so are Qantas’ flagship Airbus A380s. The superjumbos are now soaring between Sydney and Los Angeles, with Sydney-Singapore-London to follow from mid-June and Melbourne-Los Angeles in December.
And while some high flyers will ensconce themselves in first class, the majority of premium passengers will settle into the A380’s business class cabin – and they’ll be delighted with what they find.
Business class travellers who’ve not set foot on the red-tailed A380s since early 2020 will be especially appreciative of the multi-million dollar make-over which has replaced the saggy old Skybed II seats with the same Business Suite as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
When Qantas put its entire A380 fleet into mothballs at the start of the pandemic, only a few had been refurbished – but now, the airline maintains all returning superjumbos have been upgraded, with not only these modern business class seats but two fresh upper deck premium lounges, along with new premium economy seats.
(That said, one of the ‘classic’ A380s remains on deck and is still being pressed into service on what might be called a ‘surprise and disappoint’ basis, rather than the ‘surprise and delight’ arrangement when the first refurbished superjumbos spread their wings in late 2019.)
Here's what travellers can expect from Qantas’ new Airbus A380 business class.
1. The best seat in the fleet
Formally branded as the Qantas Business Suite, Qantas' new A380 business class seat is the same as that of the airline's Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which in turn was an evolution of the business class on all Qantas Airbus A330s.
If you've flown on those aircraft before, you’ll already have a pretty good idea of what’s in store and the many ways in which the Business Suite is superior to the A380’s Skybed II seat.
2. Direct aisle access
The most fundamental flaw of Qantas' decade-old Airbus A380 business class seat was a 2-2-2 layout which meant passengers sitting by the window had to clamber across their neighbour to get out of (and back into) the seat.
That’s a pain at any time, doubly so during the overnight flights which make up the bulk of the A380 routes. And it’s no fun being the passenger between the window seat and the aisle, either.
The new A380 Business Suite sees Qantas do away with this by switching to a 1-2-1 layout which gives every passenger direct access to the aisle.
3. More privacy
The Business Suite’s design and 1-2-1 layout sees travellers enjoy much more privacy during the flight. Even if you’re in an aisle seat, part of the Business Suite's rear shell extends forward like a wrap-around wing to help create a personal cocoon.
If you’re travelling with a partner, the middle seats have a divider that can be lowered so you can share a bit of the experience.
However, the best place to get a touch of that private jet feeling are the seats located directly at the window: there’s a side shelf plus the seat’s curved shell between you and the aisle.
4. A flat bed, not a sagging one
A common criticism of the Skybed II was that, due largely to its age, the seat developed a noticeable sag or droop when it was extended into a bed mode. The Business Suite offers a proper flat bed, with more support where it’s needed.
However, this leads to the single area where the Skybed II is arguably better than the Business Suite.
The Skybed's pod-like design (below) left plenty of room at the front of the seat, while the Business Suite sees your feet tucked into a 'cubbyhole'.
Some travellers find this makes for rather a tight fit, especially if their feet are above average size.
Our tip: if you have plus-sized plods or simply like more wiggle-room for your feet, the seats in the front row of the A380's two business class cabins have a far larger cutout. Those seats are 11A, 11E, 11F, 11K, 16A, 16K, 17E and 17F.
These photos show the oversized 'foot nook' for seats in the A380's two bulkhead rows, those being rows 11 and 16/17.
Obviously, choosing a seat at the front of the main business class cabin comes with the risk of infants being booked into the two bassinet positions at 17E and 17F.
5. More personal and stowage space
Another substantial improvement of the Business Suite is the extra room it provides for items as large as laptops down to smartphones and reading glasses.
This was a serious failing of the previous Qantas A380 business class seat: you had to deftly juggle pretty much anything you wanted to use or keep close at hand during the flight.
The large flat bench next to each Business Suite is an obvious place to temporarily plonk your notebook, with an L-shaped recess behind this; meanwhile, a large bin below and in front of the bench is perfect for tucking away your shoes, amenity kit, gadget bag or what-not.
Still not enough space for you? Grab a seat located at the window (by way of example, in the seatmap above, compare the window-adjacent 18A to the aisle-adjacent 17A or 19A).
This affords easy access to the long, deep capacious bins below the A380's upper deck windows, and those bins are ideal for your shoes, pillow, blanket and even a slim bag or backpack.
You can still get to those bins if you're in a window seat located closer to the aisle, but it will involve a bit of stretching across the seat's shelving unit.
6. A better office in the sky
When there's work to be done, the privacy and storage space are keys to transforming the A380 Business Suite into your temporary office suite. And there are two more marks in its favour.
The AC and USB ports are located on that side shelf, so you'll no longer need to go blindly fumbling around the bottom of the Skybed to plug in your AC adaptor (and there's no chance that you or your seatmate will accidentally knock it out of place).
Gone is the Skybed's wonky, wobbly tray table. The table which slides out from the Business Suite's shelf is not only large enough for a 17-inch laptop, it's pleasingly stable.
All that's missing for the busy business traveller is inflight Internet, as Qantas' current system is restricted to domestic flights: the airline doesn't expect to see international WiFi for some years.
7. The ‘big screen’ experience
If you're fond of winding down with an inflight movie or indulging in a boxed-set bingefest above the clouds, the Qantas A380 Business Suite is just the ticket.
After years of putting up with A380's dim low-contrast 12-inch screen, the new A380 Business Suite is like a personal IMAX screen.
It's a generous 16 inches, so you can really lose yourself in the show. It's also a high-definition panel, just like your flatscreen TV at home, with more brightness and greater contrast.
8. Two onboard business class lounges
As solid an improvement as Qantas' Airbus A380 business class is, we highly recommend you spend some time out of that seat and in one of the two new lounges at the very front of the upper deck.
The deep green leather couches, wood panelled walls and low lighting invokes a bit of a 'cocktail lounge' vibe, and you can order from a menu of snacks, light meals and drinks, including signature cocktails such as an 'Australian Negroni' with mountain pepper and river mint.
To the left of the staircase, where a crew office used to be, you'll find a long banquette similar to the original Qantas A380 lounge, but far more comfortable.
The old and generally under-utilised lounge to the right of the staircase has been completely re-imagined as a social area with cafe-style tables and bench seating.
AC and USB sockets are tucked away under the tables, with a large flat-screen monitor on the wall between the lounges so you can grab a drink and some snacks, settle back and enjoy a movie with your mates.
In short: any way you measure it, these spruced-up superjumbos are a boon for the business class traveller.