Up close with Qantas’ luxurious new A350 first class suites

Join Executive Traveller as we take a detailed look at the next generation of Qantas first class.

By David Flynn, March 6 2023
Up close with Qantas’ luxurious new A350 first class suites
Executive Traveller exclusive

Travellers setting out on Qantas’ non-stop ‘Project Sunrise’ flights from Sydney and Melbourne to New York, London and Paris from late 2025 will find no better place to be than these private Qantas A350 first class suites.

And we’re talking about a lot of time: these will be the world’s longest flights, ranging from 18-21 hours aloft. Each of the ultra-long range Airbus A350s will be crowned by six First suites in a two-row 1-1-1 configuration.

The suites are a fully bespoke creation from David Caon and his Studio Caon team, the latest project in a series of design collaborations which have included the airline’s Boeing 787 and upgraded Airbus A380 seats, Brisbane’s Chairman’s Lounge and Singapore’s first class lounge, and even a collection of ultra-light Noritake tableware.

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

Each of the six Qantas A350 first class suites is surrounded by a 1.4m (57”) wall...

... and with sliding door closed they’re very much like a cosy room where you can wrap yourself in a cocoon of luxury during those globe-striding marathon flights.

Most noticeably, the Qantas A350 First suites contain a separate armchair and a bed, rather than a seat which converts into a bed.

While by no means a new concept – Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines made the same choice on their Airbus A380s, and the idea even stretches back to Lufthansa’s older Boeing 747 first class – it’s a passenger-pleasing setup which means there’s no compromise on comfort in either mode. The seat is a seat, and the bed is a bed.

Caon tells Executive Traveller his team originally considered the more common seat-which-becomes-a-bed model early on.

“We’ve been working on Project Sunrise with Qantas since 2018, when we started doing at some initial studies in terms of how the different spaces (on the plane) might work, and on different configurations… but this (seat and bed) configuration was always a front runner.”

Being able to enjoy a good sound sleep will be essential for high flyers on those 18+ hour treks, so a separate bed can be fully designed for comfort and “isn’t compromised by the transformation from a seat.” 

However, Caon notes the 22"-wide armchair “is also full functional (and) goes down almost flat by itself”, while the bed incorporates an angled backrest which, when covered with pillows, put passengers into ‘breakfast in bed’ mode or offers a relaxing way to watch a movie before hitting the hay.

The end result, Caon says, is a suite that offers maximum flexibility for how travellers want to spend their time.

The bed itself is two metres (80”) long and 28” wide. That’s slightly larger than Singapore Airlines’ A380 first class bed (76” x 27”) if a little less generous than Etihad’s A380 first class bed (82” x 30”).

The A380 first class suites of Singapore Airlines (left) and Etihad Airways (right).
The A380 first class suites of Singapore Airlines (left) and Etihad Airways (right).

(If you’re looking for a more down to earth comparison on bed size, a standard Australian single bed measures 74” x 36”, while a European single is 79” x 35” and a US single 74.5” x 38.5”.)

But while the Etihad and Singapore Airlines beds are fold-out designs, Caon’s Qantas A350 first class bed is a fixed piece of furniture – again, in the interest of reducing compromise and maximising comfort.

And in a quick test it certainly feels the part, although judgement will need to be reserved until we’ve clocked up a Sydney-London or Sydney-New York flight.

A padded ottoman facing the armchair enables companion dining across an extraordinary large bi-fold table – “and with the bed you can potentially seat three people,” Caon reflects. “It's not something that we’ve designed for, but you know, it's achievable.”

A cosy dining table for two.
A cosy dining table for two.

The suite itself has a footprint some 50% larger than Qantas’ A380 first class, and Caon tells Executive Traveller the A350 first class cabin won’t have any overhead luggage bins.

Instead, there’s space beneath the ottoman for two standard-sized cabin bags placed side by side.

“I think that’s really transformative of the space,” Caon reflects, “and it makes the suite feel so much more open.”

The suite’s aisle-facing wall conceals a deep personal wardrobe accessible from behind the door...

... where passengers can hang not just their jacket but their clothes once they’ve slipped into the supplied Martin Grant pyjamas (no need to visit the loo when you need to change clothes).

Next to the seat is a tablet-style pad which controls not only lighting but, according to Qantas, the suite’s temperature and humidity levels.

Under the armrest is space for your laptop plus AC, USB and wireless device charging.

Those outlets are replicated on a panel behind the seat and atop two benches which effectively double as a ‘bedside table’ where you can perch your phone while you sleep.

Another armrest between the chair and bed holds a smaller IFE controller, water bottle recess and a shallow recess for stowing your reading glasses, a smartphone or your noise-cancelling earbuds.

Those earbuds can be connected via Bluetooth to the the 32” video screen, which will be packed with enough movies and boxed-set TV series to help pass the time (across the course of an 18-hour flight you could watch The Lord of The Rings trilogy twice over).

If you’re hankering for more storage space, there’s a two-level shelf built into the cabinetry next to that screen (with a vanity mirror mounted inside the door)...

... and a handy drawer below the ottoman.

Caon hopes passengers will notice and appreciate little ‘attention to detail’ touches such as the leather pull-tabs for that drawer and the bed’s backrest, which he describes as “very discreet but still intuitive” and in keeping with “a premium luxury feel which is a really important part of the overall look and feel of the first class cabin.”

But while travellers in the A and K suites will enjoy the view through the A350’s large windows, what about those nestled in the window-less middle suite?

Caon opted not to follow the lead of Emirates’ Boeing 777 first class and install video screens which take their feed from external cameras.

“We decided very early on not to try to replicate windows. I don't think anybody's fooled by that,” he says.

“We wanted a really unique experience, so we’ve created a light panel as a formed and textured piece of design (which) compensates for the lack of having a window, for missing out on that view.”

The middle suite features a subtle diffused light panel in place of windows.
The middle suite features a subtle diffused light panel in place of windows.

Occupying most of one wall, the panel will potentially bathe the suite and passenger in soothing light “that will adjust in cabin conditions to be part of the wellness characteristics of the suite.”

The tech is something “completely developed ground-up” by Caon and Qantas. “We’re actually still developing it now, in how the light is programmed… we tend to play with the sunset colours and sunrise colours… so it’ll be really interesting to see the effects that we can create.”

“In fact, you could argue the middle is actually the most spacious suite out of the three because it doesn't have to deal with the curved side walls of the aircraft, or at the front row where the aircraft starts to narrow a little bit.”

“That said, I think people who like 1A (on the A380) are going to love 1A on the A350.”

Lmc
Lmc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 105

Wonder what the premium to fly first on Qantas non stop will be, fares with a stop in Dubai and singapore are currently $17k+ ….. so would expect around the $20k mark

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Nov 2011

Total posts 25

I wouldn't be surprised if they even topped 25-26k.  Cathay regularly has fares above 30k - admittedly Sydney nor Melbourne have the financial centre clout of HKG, but no doubt there are AU based C-suite frequent flyers who's companies will shell out for the faster and more streamlined nonstop service.  

Lmc
Lmc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 105

Let’s hope not…. But this is Qantas, so will charge accordingly!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Nov 2016

Total posts 47

Can't wait to fly this product

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Nov 2011

Total posts 25

The design and materials look fantastic.  I wonder how long it will be before they reveal seat will recline flush with the bed to make one huge sleeping surface, with a very luxe mattress topper to prevent the recognition of any creases between surfaces.  I am convinced this will be a surprise revealed before the launch of the flights.  

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 966

Could be improved by having two suites join together with the centre wall coming away but that won't stop me trying this out.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 158

There's an aisle inbetween. Seating config is 1-1-1. Not sure how you could join 2 together. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Nov 2016

Total posts 47

There are two rows of First so the idea is to join, say, 1A and 2A

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 966

Correct, and it would work well the same as the SQ Suites.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 966

Not sure why I got voted down to many QF staff trying to support the brand.

Compared to the the SQ product the QF product looks like a rock, the chair and bed are to close together and is cramped into a small space. On the other hand, the SQ product joins together to have double suite and double bed (1A and 2A), the lounge chair is that comfortable you could sleep in it (I have).  

 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 233

Ignoring the QF fanboyism in this thread, I think the reason why people are downvoting your idea of the double bed config is that the QF A350 beds are positioned end to end from Row 1A to 2A (parallel to the fuselage walls), not side by side like the SQ First Class Suite. You would have to swivel the beds to be perpendicular to the fuselage walls to get the double bed, which isn't going to work with this configuration. 

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 55

Sorry Qantas, but this looks like a fail. I realise it is on a smaller airframe (350 vs 380) but its still not to the same standard as Etihads decade old design or Singapore airlines 3 year old design. 

I will continue to stick with the tried and tested Singapore airlines 380 first class 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 172

I'm not sure I'd call it a "fail" ... It certainly an appropriate step up from business.

I do agree it's not on par with the Singapore suite or Etihad 'apartment' on their A380s, but it does appear to beat those airlines' A350, 777 and 787 offerings.

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 126

It’s not private enough with the very low walls. The new Lufthansa/Swiss privacy is better.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Jun 2012

Total posts 58

I only wish it wasn't being rolled out until 2025! Looks fantastic.

PS Does anyone smarter than me know why this is taking so long? 

Yes, because this is for the A350s and they won't be delivered until "late 2025". The launch of the new seats is tied to the launch of the new aircraft, this is actually something a lot of airlines do.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 671

Nothing really ground breaking if you compare with SQ suite. Now Qantas needs to compliment the new hard product with enhanced catering amenities, service standards and general soft product.


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