Here is Qantas’ all-new premium economy seat

More legroom leads the ‘sweet spot’ play for Qantas’ non-stop flights to London and New York.

By David Flynn, January 19 2024
Here is Qantas’ all-new premium economy seat
Executive Traveller exclusive

  • New Qantas Airbus A350 jets will feature 40 premium economy seats in a 2-4-2 layout with a generous 40” pitch
  • The ‘cradle’ seats see an all-new design with upgraded legrests
  • Each A350 premium economy seat will have two high-power USB-C ports, but no AC outlets

Qantas has already revealed the Airbus A350 first class roomettes and business class suites which will cosset high flyers on its non-stop Project Sunrise marathons from Sydney and Melbourne to London, New York and Paris starting from late 2025.

The Qantas Airbus A350 will take wing in late 2025.
The Qantas Airbus A350 will take wing in late 2025.

But for those whose travel budget won’t stretch quite that far, the A350s will also be the launchpad for a fresh take on premium economy.

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

The airline has now pulled back the curtains on its third-gen premium economy seat, along with the inflight Wellbeing Zone located between the premium economy and economy cabins, completing the nose-to-tail A350 passenger experience.

The layout of the Qantas Airbus A350 jet.
The layout of the Qantas Airbus A350 jet.

Based on a product from seatmaker Safran, and customised by Qantas designer David Caon for greater comfort and convenience, the new Qantas A350 premium economy seat addresses the two concerns voiced by Executive Traveller since the previous-gen premium economy made its debut on the Boeing 787 (and has since been added to the Airbus A380 superjumbo fleet).

Firstly, there’s now more distance between the seats, removing that squeeze at the knees when the passenger in front of you reclines.

Qantas' current premium economy seat definitely deserved more legroom.
Qantas' current premium economy seat definitely deserved more legroom.

The 40” pitch is two inches greater than on the Boeing 787 and sits at the upper edge of the industry’s average 38” pitch (although some airlines top even that, such as 41” for Air New Zealand premium economy).

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

This should also make it easier to hop in and out of your seat during these ultra-long flights – something we expect a lot of travellers will be doing, and which Qantas will encourage via the Wellbeing Zone shared by premium economy and economy passengers.

Qantas A350 Wellbeing Zone.
Qantas A350 Wellbeing Zone.

Qantas and Caon have also done away with the current premium economy seat’s foot ‘hammock’ which often proved overly complicated, replacing it with a more conventional calf-rest extending from the front of the seat, while a footrest swings down from the bottom of the seat in front.

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

“We know that the foot netting presents challenges,” Caon admitted to Executive Traveller, “so we’ve developed something different down there…. what we’ve focused on is number one, ergonomics and number two, intuitive use (and) I think we've got it right on this product.”

The Qantas A350 premium economy seat still adheres to a ‘cradle’ concept which fully supports your body, “but it’s a more conventional approach” compared to the 787 and A380 premium economy seat, Caon says.

And he’s no stranger to flying at the back of the bus – when Executive Traveller spoke with Caon earlier this month he’d just returned from a trip to Milan where he clocked up the miles in premium economy and economy.

“We put the same level of detail and work into those seats as we do into first and business class,” Caon insists. “There are more people sitting in those seats than in the seats at the front, so we attach a lot of importance to them.”

A standout feature of the new A350 premium economy seat is the 8” wing on either side of the height-adjustable headrest, delivering increased privacy as well as giving passengers a comfortable napping position by resting their head to either side.

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

“I really wanted to give a little bit of privacy back to the passenger, which we’ve achieved with this winged headrest,” relates Caon, describing the feature as “a sort of ‘cobra head’ that’s quite pronounced.”

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

The new premium economy seat itself is more sculpted, with subtle touches such as scalloping the armrests to free up just a little extra room around the waist.

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

“We wanted to maximise passenger space and comfort, and although the A350 is so wide we are still working on every single little inch.”

Another creature comfort: a groove in the tray table lets you perch a phone or tablet for BYO entertainment, although this will make it more difficult to watch those movies or TV shows when there’s a meal sitting between you and your screen.

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

To keep your travel tech charged up, each Qantas A350 premium economy seat has two ‘high-power’ USB-C ports below the cocktail table under the shared armrest.

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

Qantas has opted to do away with the conventional shared AC power sockets in premium economy and economy, which makes sense when you consider that almost all devices from earbuds to laptops already use USB-C charging, with the iPhone 15 moving to USB-C this year.

A Qantas spokesperson tells Executive Traveller that both USB-C ports are together rated at 60W, so there’ll be ample juice to charge most mid-sized laptops.

Of course, you can also dial up Qantas’ library of inflight entertainment on the 13.3" seatback screen, which streams Bluetooth audio to the traveller’s own headphones or earbuds, or jump online, with each Qantas A350 offering fast free WiFi to every passenger.

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

Another shift introduced by Caon is the lighter and brighter colour palette used in the Qantas A350’s premium economy cabin.

Qantas A350 premium economy.
Qantas A350 premium economy.

“In the past we've had dark fabrics and darker charcoal plastic, but in the A350’s premium economy cabin it's all a bit lighter and elevated… there's a less contrasted look and feel to the entire cabin, it’s crisper and more refined, and that was very conscious effort on our part induce ‘calm’ with colours, materials and fabrics.”

The much darker premium economy cabin of the Qantas 787 and A380.
The much darker premium economy cabin of the Qantas 787 and A380.

It’s part of giving the Qantas A350 a more coherent aesthetic from tip to tail, Caon explains.

“We’ve purposefully tried to be very consistent with the materials and finishes all the way back” rather than giving each cabin its own character.

Qantas A350 business class cabin.
Qantas A350 business class cabin.

“Aesthetically it’s carrying through a lot of the same language in terms of colours, lighting and mood from even first class, because we want it all to feel connected and holistic.”

This approach also extends not onto to the Wellbeing Zone but into economy class, where there’ll be 140 seats in a standard 3-3-3 arrangement but with a 33” pitch provide an extra inch over the 787.

Qantas A350 economy.
Qantas A350 economy.

“We've done away with the dark red fabric, the purple-type colours and just lightened everything up,” Caon says.  “We just want everything to feel a little bit more peaceful.”

Qantas A350 economy.
Qantas A350 economy.

“But there’s this same fleck of the burgundy coming through: the same ox-blood burgundy leather that's in business is also in the literature pocket in premium economy, and in economy we've used it as the headrest, but we've also gone away from that dark fabric on the seat.”

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jun 2017

Total posts 49

The fixed headrest thing is brutal. Air Canada has them in PE, and they’re wildly uncomfortable unless they’re exactly your size. It also prevents anyone in the window from leaning on it.

Disappointed - wouldn’t fly it. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 233

Looks decent, but not really 'revolutionary' nor industry leading. I suppose judgment should be reserved until the flights officily commence.

18 Aug 2021

Total posts 6

I have to agree with Mjkcan. I would expect that one of the most important features for such a long haul flight would be an adjustable headrest. Nothing worse than waking with a sore neck. I think the fixed headrest is a big miss.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 373

Looks good, but not a fan of those head rests in premium economy.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 670

I hope Qantas gets rid of those ridiculous and unnecessary business class seat side panels which block window view. Which brainiac at Qantas thought that would be a good idea?

26 Oct 2018

Total posts 1

Economy and business may well be better on the A350 than other planes but premium economy seems to be an exception. You only gain one economy seat width to share among 8 PE seats.  This will be a narrower and less comfortable seat than PE on any other plane I can think of (the exception being airlines like Lufthansa or China Airlines that do 2-3-2). I’d avoid it and go economy or a different aircraft, assuming Qantas doesn’t sell this higher density PE product more cheaply.

12 Aug 2022

Total posts 9

As someone who likes to lean against the window with multiple headrests those fixed headrests are a dealbreaker for me too. Nice work on the 40" though!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2017

Total posts 17

The article said the headrests are height adjustable. I would have thought the wings would swing in and out (left and right) as well. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1202

Good to see the 40"pitch though pictures look like recline in to space behind may still be an issue.  Is it me or do the shared armrests look narrow?

Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus

16 Jul 2019

Total posts 26

2-4-2? Ouch. 

Those headrests look well and truly fixed unfortunately. 

Looks good though. If this was offered for a small premium over Economy I'd take it. But if it's double, I'd prefer to pay for Business or buy 2 seats in Y and spread out. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 390

Isn’t 13.3” display a bit small for PE going forward with airlines shifting to a 15.6” display which is what the Safran seat is designed for?

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Apr 2012

Total posts 123

The smaller screens may be a weight saving for the aircraft.   I imagine Qantas would be very focused on saving weight n in the fitout wherever possible given the ultra long haul routes these aircraft are intended to fly.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 390

Possibly yeah. Would a 3 inch larger screen weigh much more though? And J should be 22inches.  

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 174

With these flights having 20+ hrs onboard rather than the standard 12, lets at least increase the legroom. QF is charging a surcharge for the "privilege' to fly on these Sunrise flights, then lets make it comfortable. And why not as we're at it make PE 6 seats abreast and Y 8 seats abreast. This will eat into the profits, but will at least makes the experience a little more attractive.

For me, the competition with 1 stop is looking the way to go.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 126

I guess that comes down to the individual. No doubt it will be popular as they ‘upgrade’ the rest of the fleet with this product. Although I would say that 7/8 abreast in Y+ is not going to go away. All airlines are targeting economy upgrades to Y+ as opposed to business downgrades. Even with economy note having 33” is an upgrade on the current product and I can see that also being popular for that reason. The one stop prolongs the agony in 31-32” and adds extra time. Personally I’d rather the non stop if in not intending to stopover. 

07 Dec 2023

Total posts 2

I would also pass on this prem. econ. fixed headrests are a hard no as they are super uncomfortable and like others have mentioned, unless your a perfect fit they dont work.  Not a revolutionary hard product at all.  Sorry Qantas but your just pushing even more business away with mediocre products. 

One positive is the new colour scheme. That looks nice.

PK
PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 120

Hi David, could I please make a humble request that you ask the airlines, and include in the article, what the seat width is. It is very important information for judging the comfort of the seat. 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2549

Hi PK – that's a good suggestion, we can certainly ask for that information if it's a seat we've not yet reviewed, and try to incorporate it in reviews.

PK
PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 120

Thank you, that is very much appreciated.  As someone who is 6’5”, I find that two seats with equal pitch but different widths makes a dramatic difference to general comfort as well as being able to keep slight movement in my legs on a long flight. 

12 Feb 2014

Total posts 228

The current PE seat in the A380 allows you to slip a pillow over the headrest.  I find that works pretty well.  The mock-ups shown here don’t seem to incorporate that in the A350 design.  Maybe that could be clarified with Qantas?

I think PE is good value.  I compare it with what you get for double the price in business, rather than half in economy.  Happy to use points for a business class seat but I wouldn’t  pay for one.  

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 55

the location of those USB-C points are terrible, who thought that it would be a good idea to have them stick out into where your sitting rather that install them so the charge point  faces the seat in front or have it situated in the seat back. 

21 Jun 2019

Total posts 7

Photos show they may be very slightly recessed which may help a little. Where to locate is an ongoing challenge..in the seatback inconvenient for window and non-aisle when want to get up, front of armrest  means hard to locate for some pax.


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