Up close with Qantas’ all-new A350 business class

Join Executive Traveller as we take a detailed look at Qantas’ next-gen business class.

By David Flynn, February 24 2023
Up close with Qantas’ all-new A350 business class
Executive Traveller exclusive

Here is the next generation of Qantas business class: it’s the Qantas A350 business class, which will take wing on those non-stop ‘Project Sunrise’ flights from Sydney and Melbourne to the likes of New York, London and Paris from the end of 2025.

Branded as the Qantas A350 Business Suite, the seat itself is based on the new Unity platform from Safran Seats – but heavily customised and thoughtfully styled by David Caon (who also helped shaped the airline’s Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 business class seats).

And it’s got the works: sliding doors, a long fully lie-flat bed, a generous 18” video screen with Bluetooth audio connectivity, USB-C and wireless device charging, free broadband WiFi plus plenty more.

The A350 Business Suite broke cover on the same day Qantas reported a pre-tax profit of $1.4 billion on its half-year financials from July-December 2022 – and just two days after a $100m investment in lounges, with everything from upgrades for the Sydney and Melbourne international business class lounges to a dedicated first class lounge at London Heathrow.

Executive Traveller attended the invitation-only launch of the Qantas A350 business class to get hands-on with mockups of the seat and talk with Caon about the design and details.

We also managed to snap some photos of the A350 business class seats, although it’s worth pointing out they’re not the finished product – there’s still some work to be done on the finish and materials plus the inevitable fine-tuning between now and late 2025.

For example, the mockup models sport an off-white door which in the finished product will be rendered in a very on-theme platinum.

And very few seats look as good out of the cabin and under bright lighting as they will inside the aircraft: airlines and designers develop the seats to live in that specific environment, where they are complemented by rest of the cabin plus LED lighting.

So the best idea of what the Qantas A350 Business Suite will actually look like is to be seen in the PR photos – our focus on the mockups is to explore the seat itself.

And while these ultra-long range A350s have been designed for Project Sunrise, they won’t only be seen on those ambitious globe-striding marathons.

Qantas has already confirmed the A350 will take over from the Boeing 787-9 on the Perth-London route in 2026, and it’s expected a second tranche of A350 orders will see these modern twinjets effectively replace the double-decker Airbus A380s when those superjumbos are retired around the end of this decade. 

The A350s are also likely to inherit other flagship routes from the Boeing 787: while the A350s have almost an identical number of seats, far more of these are given over to the higher-yielding premium cabins (first, business and premium economy) than on the Dreamliner.

So what’s in store for passengers at the pointy end of the Qantas Airbus A350?

52 of these business class suites will sit behind six fully-private Qantas A350 first class suites (the A350’s premium economy and economy seats will be revealed later this year).

They’ll be split across two cabins of 28 and 24 seats, respectively, separated by a self-serve snack bar and galley kitchen.

Snack to your heart's content with treats from the self-service fridge.
Snack to your heart's content with treats from the self-service fridge.

To emphasis the sense of space in the extra-wide Airbus A350, Qantas has followed the lead of several other airlines in not installing central luggage bins – the only bins are those above the window seats, although Airbus has made them large enough to cope with the carry-on luggage of every passenger.

Middle seats are separated by a moveable privacy divider.
Middle seats are separated by a moveable privacy divider.

Qantas’ A350 business class layout follows the familiar pattern of its current Business Suites: the individual ‘window seats’ alternate between being closer to the window or next to the aisle...

... while the paired middle seats come in what’s sometimes called a ‘honeymoon & divorce’ configuration (the honeymoon seats being next to each other, while the divorce seats are furthest apart).

To better understand that, here’s a cabin photo of the Safran Unity business class seat on which the Qantas A350 Business Suite is based:

As on the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 Business Suites, there’s a motorised divider panel between the middle seats which can be raised or lowered to suit your personal preference.

The actual footprint of each Qantas A350 business class suite is 42" wide, with the seat itself measuring 25" across (an inch more than the A380 and Boeing 787 Business Suite).

The suite’s walls are lined with a soft-touch material which reduces noise while adding a tactile element which supports what Qantas describes as a ‘residential’ aesthetic in the materials and colours.

Each seat fronts a cushioned leather ottoman which becomes part of the 80” (2m) bed – that’s actually an inch longer than the beds in Qantas’ A380 first class – while the ottoman also lifts up to reveal additional storage space.

Seats will recline to form a two-metre flat bed.
Seats will recline to form a two-metre flat bed.

The Qantas A350 Business Suite is framed by 47” walls, with a sliding door at the same height (although the inside of the doors is bare rather being lined with that noise-dampening fabric).

While many travellers prefer doors to remain open for much of the flight, they’re undoubtedly welcome during overnight portions for not only privacy but to minimise interruption from noise and passenger or crew movement around the cabin.

Even with the doors open, the tall walls which form the seat’s ‘shell’ offer a high degree of privacy on their own.

“We worked really, really hard within the shrouding around the head,” Caon tells Executive Traveller, saying “we wanted that to feel really open.”

The first row of each Qantas A350 business class cabin will offer more legroom and an enlarged ‘foot cubby’, just as it does on the current Business Suite family.

Qantas has confirmed it won’t be turning the first row of business class into a more premium and higher-priced ‘business plus’ proposition – as is being done by Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa, among others – because there simply isn’t much floorspace left over on the A350 once you take into account the extra pitch in premium economy and economy plus the ‘wellness zones’ for stretching.

The wide benchtop next to each seat adds to your ‘personal space’ and also houses an inbuilt wireless charging pad.

This is one example of the mockups still being very much a working prototype: the silicone markings for placing your device are at an early stage and could become slightly larger as well as being raised up and textured, to help ‘guide’ passengers as to device placement while also affording a little grip to the phone or tablet doesn’t slide around too much.

At the front of the bench you’ll find what Qantas terms a ‘glovebox’, and this is one of the many unique touches developed by Caon and his team which isn’t found on the original Safran Unity seat.

It’s a natural home for small loose items like reading glasses, jewellery, a watch or a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds in their little charging case.

“We get all the data on these seats and we start to sort of interrogate that data and investigate,” Caon says of the process in transforming the Safran Unity suite into the Qantas A350 Business Suite.

As they pore over the specifications and think carefully of what passengers will need “we find a pocket here, something else there” he says.

“I’m just mindful when we design something like this, we try to give everything a place.”

As something of a car enthusiast, Caon laughs when I ask if the ‘glovebox’ name was his doing. “No, I just think that’s probably the most apt description for it, but it didn’t come from me!” 

The larger compartment above the bench and next to the LED reading lamp is better suited to an amenity kit, with a vanity mirror mounted on the inside of the door.

At the very rear of the benchtop is the headphone jack, a universal AC socket and two USB charging points – one for USB-A and the other, USB-C.

But you might not need to use the supplied headphones: the Qantas A350 Business Suite sports Bluetooth audio streaming system so you can connect your own high-quality noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds via Bluetooth to the inflight entertainment system.

Qantas also promises the A350s will feature WiFi that’s both fast and free, as is the case with the airline’s domestic inflight Internet service – allowing you to stream and binge-view to your heart’s content on those 18-20 hour treks.

The tray table desk is discreetly tucked away beneath the entertainment screen.
The tray table desk is discreetly tucked away beneath the entertainment screen.

In front of the seat and next to the 18-inch ultra-high def video screen is another compartment which Caon cleverly split into two sections, using a coat hook as a divider, rather than have a single recess where things can effectively get ‘lost’.

The larger section is an obvious home for your laptop, tablet and magazines; the smaller part might be where you’d place a book.

“The area that I focused on a lot with my team was what you see in front of you. “ Caon explains.

“We wanted that to be very, very clean and very, very organised. So you can put your laptop there, a book, your headphones… and you also have a piece of mood lighting that will contribute to how you feel in the cabin.” 

The suite is furnished in shades of deep red, grey, and cream, with metallic trims.
The suite is furnished in shades of deep red, grey, and cream, with metallic trims.

Beyond the obvious convenience of these stowage spaces, Caon says “it’s about having a clean, organised look” which enhances the suites’ overall aesthetic.

“It’s refined, not opulent, not ‘shouty’ at all – the design language that we developed is a sort of understated luxury.”

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1195

Certainly nothing wrong with them even though I'm not over excited by doors which just seem claustrophobic to me.  They're not exactly revolutionary compared with products like Q-Suite but probably very good nevertheless.  It is interesting that they have gone with Safran (50% owned by Airbus) seating rather than staying with Thompson despite the seats being a very similar design.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 685

I am not sure either, but I would suspect with supply-chain issues - perhaps QF management is being quietly strategic here by keeping the seat selection firmly 'in-house' with Airbus? That would certainly give QF extra leverage, as opposed to using external suppliers such as Recaro etc. In the case of possible delivery delays, it would help centralise and reinforce QF's bargaining power.

Let's face it, the last thing QF needs with a very public and highly promoted project such as 'Sunrise' is multiple delays similar to what happened with the Boeing 'Late-liner' and even the early A380 deliveries - both new-generation aircraft at the time. Couple something along those lines with the unavoidable but public fiasco of Boeing not being able to certify QF's last 3 B787-9 frames ... and it is natural that some might start to question QF's ability to project-manage new frame choices and supplier-performance.

Gotta admit, the J Class design is nothing earth-shattering and a little ordinary IMHO. It adds a sliding door (which will be a choice travellers will either love or hate) but not a lot else. Frankly, I would have thought that the current A330 / B787-9 J suite could have been re-tweaked in beige colours to suit the current design mantra de jour .. and adding some updated tech (screen-size, USB ports, bluetooth etc) would have added extra emphasis to the far sleeker First cabin design.

12 Oct 2018

Total posts 17

I find the QSuite rather claustrophobic 


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1501

Agree - doors are just gimmick. Yes I tried one in new BA. Also agree that Q-Suites would be by far more exiting.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Aug 2022

Total posts 1

I partly agree with you on the door front. I've often thought a door on those seats that are closer to the aisle would be nice while sleeping. Just that extra separation and privacy from the aisle. Not sure about others, but I always scout out those seats closer to the window or centre because of that extra separation. Plus you don't have to stretch to look out the window. 


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 940

Looks like a great product, 2025 is a long way off for me, and I'm wondering what new business seats will come up before then. Also, 20 hours is a long time not to get the legs up and walk around, even though I've just spoken to a few people that can't wait to do those long hours on a plane. 

13 Feb 2015

Total posts 68

Looks nice and restrained styling-wise. Not sure about the wisdom of wireless charging though if the flight is bumpy - device could well end up on the floor or down the side of the chair...

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 72

Maybe it will support Magsafe to keep the device pinned to the desk?


03 May 2013

Total posts 667

Very sophisticated with great ambiance BUT why on earth choose a light cream wall....can only imagine the state of them in 6 months. We all know Qantas cleaning isn't the best. I'm always finding crumbs, unvacuumed carpet, dirty IFE screens and windows domestically and internationally. That record doesn't bode well for cream paneled walls and doors.


03 May 2013

Total posts 667

Also, WHY the small panel blocking the window/view??


19 Sep 2013

Total posts 199

Looks like it will give the Qatar Qsuite a run.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Oct 2014

Total posts 14

Even if the hard product is comparable the soft product is WORLDS apart!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 41

Looks really good to me. I have just done the Singapore Airlines, Singapore to New York and return trip of 18 hours each way and I must say their Business Class seating / flip down bed configuration is appalling for such a long trek. Would be more than happy to try this one out. Qantas just needs to be price competitive to steer me away from multi-hop alternatives.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2013

Total posts 136

the last line about price competitiveness is never going to gel with QF's team. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 91

Looks good but nothing 'late breaking '.... basically a refresh of the current seat with doors... also Haven't ever actually tried suites with doors but never really wished I had them so not really sure of the point. Hope the table has a long sliding reach so it's useable both sitting up and reclined. Seriously - the inflight magazine... When are they going to ditch them!!! Pointless weight. They obviously make so much money from advertising they're not willing to give them up.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 663

I'm somewhat underwhelmed, it looks like the 'privacy cubicles' in business class have tones of office workstations in a 1980s Government building, or exam room desks all in a row.  At least the inflight cabin service will match the decor.  

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Nov 2017

Total posts 115

Yes, they are reminiscent of office cubicles a la Dilbert.  But to be fair, there is not a lot more you can do to the modern J seat - it's pretty good now. QF should just work on improving its appalling soft product.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jun 2014

Total posts 20

For those of us at the back of the bus, any news?

22 Nov 2022

Total posts 2

I wonder if there will be any improvement in service to match the new hard product. I have given up on Qantas due to consistently poor service. To paraphrase James Bond, I would rather take the BOAC Stratocruiser from Idlewild down to Jamaica than the Jet. It is slower but much better service. I haven't been won over by project Sunrise.


03 May 2013

Total posts 667

Agreed, Qantas catering in 'first' and business is woeful relative to the competition and prices paid for both cabins. The service is also way too casual but always friendly. Nothing silver service about traveling Qantas  F or J unfortunately.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Apr 2016

Total posts 13

Joe you should try Qantas economy catering.

To say it is a disgrace is an understatement.

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 50

Lacklustre  vs what is already on offer elsewhere for no doubt cheaper

Once agaon qantas behind the 8ball

03 Jun 2019

Total posts 29

USB-C charging port is a really nice touch though.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

10 Apr 2019

Total posts 10

Looks good!

Puts their J seat up there with amongst the top in terms of design. Certainly better than Emirates, Air NZ, Cathay and Singapore. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1195

Though we do know both SQ and CX will have released new Business Class products on their 779s by 2025.

24 Feb 2023

Total posts 1

Unfortunately just that, a similar J seat to other carriers - better than EK/SQ  ?, I think not  , maybe because of the odd half stable type door - not sure much use for a sense of privacy unless yr flat and asleep.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

10 Apr 2019

Total posts 10

I’d argue yes, the Emirates A380 seats are a whopping half an inch wider than economy (777 seats aren’t even worth mentioning for comparison) while SQ seats are wide but poorly designed for sleeping. This new product looks essentially like a less drab and dark all forward facing version of the QR Qsuite that everyone raves about but again, wider. 

05 Jan 2018

Total posts 59

the soft product though....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 141

Thank you for the article.

A number of positives.

The overall package must include:

1. The accuracy of AJ's assessment regarding the the new F seat being "the best first class in the sky" (ANA The Suite and the new LH F? are also worthy contenders along with the rare "new" EK F on the 777-300ER) being reconsidered

2. The shocking decline in F food (which is good J class food in the sky by any international standards)

3. A clear decline for somewhat understandable reasons, in cabin crew morale, which is infectious and transmitted to passengers

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2017

Total posts 30

Nothing inspirational here from Q,  For Europe give me Emirates anytime, short stopover in Dubai for shower and freshen up and a day flight to anywhere in Europe without having to land at horrible HR. Thankfully having reached LTG after many years of loyalty to Q can now try all other airlines after previous excellent Service from Emirates.

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 163

Great comprehensive article. 

Agree with some, appears very claustrophobic given the length of the flights these seats are designed for. Perhaps a more open and less dense arrangement would be the order of the day. The missing central bins will help but be annoying for window passengers having other passengers constantly hovering over them to access their bags during flight, but at least gives the look of space. 

This is my view through - these long flights require space where as these seats appear tight and designed for profits rather than comfort. Passengers will vote with their bookings - there are competitive options out there. For me a one stop A380 wins hands down. What is an extra 2 hrs travel time really - when you can fly Emirates, Singapore or Qatar and experience A380 comfort, space and bars.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 49

Ok, I suppose one is to give credit where it's due, so I am giving one to Qantas: I am with the opinion that the Qantas team has done substantial research regarding which elements of other airlines' business class seat that are useful, loved by customers, and still fall within Qantas' own budget and design criteria. The sliding door, closeable storage compartment (for amenities, headphones and what not), sliding work table beneath the monitor, wireless charging, are features I have seen in other airlines' recent business class seat.

So, by picking the 'best' (yes, subjective...) design features from existing samples out there and put them together, Qantas has managed to produce a business class cabin that ticks all the basic requirements, and in the best of the best scenarios, it may not go out of date too soon, highly functional, practical, and well, just works. This is nothing to scoff about, imho.

The down side is that it makes the 'new' design rather derivative. But I don't think it is unexpected.

I do make exception on the aesthetics though - I love the muted colour scheme, much better than the bling-bling or stronger colours preferred by some other airlines.

My beef, however, is that the new business class will only be for Project Sunrise? I expect it is going to cost a lot of money, like a lot a lot a lot. Points upgrade? Well..... if Project Sunrise is loved by so many customers (and it seems a lot of people would love to be on an airplane for like forever, something I can never understand), I expect low probability of successful points upgrade, unless you are Platinum One or Chairman perhaps. Platinum, let alone Gold, wont' cut it anymore I am sure (so many Platinum and Gold nowadays, don't you think???).

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