Review: Qantas A380 first class suite, Sydney-Hong Kong

Time for what could be one last ride in the original Qantas superjumbo suite…

By David Flynn, December 12 2023
Review: Qantas A380 first class suite, Sydney-Hong Kong

With most Qantas A380s now upgraded or in the process of that make-over, there’s just one superjumbo still flying in its original form, complete with circa-2008 suites and seats.

And it’s making regular appearances on the Sydney-Hong Kong route (QF127/QF128) in the lead-up to the peak travel season spanning from Australian summer through to Chinese New Year and beyond.

After all, compared to the smaller Airbus A330 which usually plies the 9+ hour route, the A380 has over twice as many business class seats and a hundred more economy seats (quite bearable for at least the Sydney-Hong Kong daytime leg) while also adding 35 premium economy recliners to the mix.

The Qantas A380 is once again soaring between Sydney and Hong Kong.
The Qantas A380 is once again soaring between Sydney and Hong Kong.

But unlike its refurbished siblings, which have been upgraded with the same business class and premium economy as the Boeing 787s plus a vastly better inflight lounge space, this HK-bound A380 remains in its original configuration until it too goes under the knife sometime in 2024.

The bad news: in business class, that means the old Marc Newson-designed Skybed berths in a 2-2-2 layout.

The original Qantas A380 business class.
The original Qantas A380 business class.

About the only positive thing to be said today of the Skybeds is their generous legroom – beyond that, the seats themselves have almost no privacy or storage space, and will droop and sag when extended into a lie-flat bed.

The original Qantas A380 business class.
The original Qantas A380 business class.

The good news, at least for 14 business class passengers, is the opportunity to escape into the A380’s calmer, less crowded and more refined first class cabin.

Nestled downstairs at the front the superjumbo, these spacious semi-private suites are being sold as business class seats on these A380 Sydney-Hong Kong flights.

The original Qantas A380 first class.
The original Qantas A380 first class.

Passengers get the same meals, wine and service as the business class cabin upstairs, and at the same price as any other business class ticket.

However, this all takes place in the A380’s high-walled first class suites.

On QF127 and QF128, business class meals are served in the first class cabin.
On QF127 and QF128, business class meals are served in the first class cabin.

In fact, while Hong Kong tourism continues to rebuild towards 2018-2019 levels, these red-tailed A380s are showing a decent amount of availability for points-based Classic Flight Reward booking across all cabins – including business class at a bargain 64,000 Qantas Points.

There are plenty of points-based seats going at bargain Classic Flight Reward rates.
There are plenty of points-based seats going at bargain Classic Flight Reward rates.

So I jumped at the chance for a quick visit to Hong Kong, which remains one of my favourite cities, and what might well be one last ride in the original Qantas A380 first suite.

Not that the spruced-up superjumbos deliver any major change to these ‘flagship’ first class suites.

First class gets a refresh on the refurbished Qantas A380s.
First class gets a refresh on the refurbished Qantas A380s.

There’s new upholstery (to cover more than a decade of wear and tear), a higher-res 18” screen compared to the clunky old 17” panel, better options on the seat control panel and, well, not much else.

(The next big thing in Qantas first class will of course arrive in late 2025, with six room-like Qantas A350 First suites at the pointy end of the ultra-long range ‘Project Sunrise’ Airbus A350 jets which will set out on non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York.)

The shape of suites to come: first class on the Qantas A350.
The shape of suites to come: first class on the Qantas A350.

That said, there’s still plenty to enjoy by plonking yourself in these original A380 First suites compared to the being stuck in a sad old Skybed business class seat.

Foremost would be the privacy – not just from the seat and how it’s wrapped in a tall, deep cocoon-like shell, but that there are only 14 suites in this cosy cabin, further enhancing the feeling that you’re in a world of your own (doubly so if you get a front row suite like 1A).

The suite’s large footprint also includes a generous shelf at one side, with two drawers for your travel knick-knacks.

The Qantas A380 first class suite is a cosy yet largely functional cocoon.
The Qantas A380 first class suite is a cosy yet largely functional cocoon.

We still love the creative way this deep, wide comfortable seat swivels around to face the corner of the suite.

Pay a business class fare, but travel in a first class suite...
Pay a business class fare, but travel in a first class suite...

This not only boosts your privacy even more but lets the ottoman be used as a companion seat for sharing a meal, a drink or even a game of cards with a fellow traveller in first class (or in the case of this particular A380, a friend stuck in Ye Olde Skybeds upstairs).

The ottoman can be used as a footrest or 'companion' dining over the large table.
The ottoman can be used as a footrest or 'companion' dining over the large table.

And who couldn’t get a kick from the tall windows with two sets of concertina blinds – one to simply reduce the glare, the other to block out the light itself –  which rise and fall at the touch of a button?

Concertina blinds in the Qantas A380 first class suite.
Concertina blinds in the Qantas A380 first class suite.

Perhaps best of all, though, is how the Qantas A380 First seat transforms into a superbly soft bed.

Still a superbly comfortable bed...
Still a superbly comfortable bed...

It’ll give you as good a sleep as possible on the QF128 overnight leg from Hong Kong, and it’s a bonus if the 10.30am departure of QF127 from Sydney means an early morning start and a mid-flight nap.

I’ll pause here to note that Sydney-Hong Kong is not exclusively getting this original Qantas A380. November has seen several refurbished A380s (with a much better business class seat, although few would argue with a free bump to a first class suite) and a handful of A330s.

But the Qantas website shows the A380 running almost daily from mid-December through to February 23, 2024 – although I stress these schedules can change.

What to expect on the Qantas A380 to Hong Kong

And as mentioned before, even in these first class suites you’ll be served the same food and wine as everyone in business class.

On my flight, this began with a roast pumpkin and mozzarella arancini, followed by a choice of three starters:

  • Potato and leek soup (in regular and ‘plant-based’ versions)
  • Salad of prawn with fioretto, farro, snow peas, confit chilli and orange dressing
  • Pork and shiitake mushroom dumplings with pickled cucumber and sesame chilli dressing

The crew happily served me both the prawn salad and pork and shiitake mushroom dumplings, and both were delicious.

The aperitivo and two starters on QF127 from Sydney to Hong Kong.
The aperitivo and two starters on QF127 from Sydney to Hong Kong.

For mains, we had four choices:

  • Korean-style sesame baked eggplant with stir fried green beans, jasmine rice and pickled vegetable
  • Bannockburn chicken Kyiv with lettuce, peas, bacon and potato purée
  • Seared snapper with black bean sauce, seasonal greens, jasmine rice and salted chilli
  • Seared Grasslands beef fillet with thyme roasted carrots, silverbeet and Cafe de Paris butter

I opted for the beef fillet – not my usual choice when flying, but I was keen to see how well done (no pun intended) this turned out to be.

Seared beef fillet on QF127 from Sydney to Hong Kong.
Seared beef fillet on QF127 from Sydney to Hong Kong.

The answer: pretty decent for a slab of meat cooked in a galley oven some 38,000 feet above sea level.

To finish off, I declined the ice cream and dark chocolate cake in favour of the cheese platter with matured cheddar, ash brie and blue vein.

Cheese platter on QF127 from Sydney to Hong Kong.
Cheese platter on QF127 from Sydney to Hong Kong.

The wines accompanying the main and dessert courses were a well-rounded 2019 Penfolds Bin 82 Shiraz Mataro and a Nugan Estate Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon with surprisingly fruity undertones.

The two wines I enjoyed on Qf127 from Sydney to Hong Kong.
The two wines I enjoyed on Qf127 from Sydney to Hong Kong.

Midday hunger pangs at bay, I took the opportunity to focus on some work.

The massive and solid dinner table, designed with ‘dinner for two’ in mind, makes a stable base for your laptop, with AC and USB-A power outlets down at the base of the seat.

Alas, there’s no WiFi to stay connected above the clouds – and this remains missing from the upgraded A380s, as Qantas is waiting on the new ViaSat-3 satellite network to be in place before making the inflight Internet investment.

A few hours’ of work was followed by a light snooze, and before long the ‘moving map’ showed we were getting close to Hong Kong.

That was the cue for the cabin crew to offer a pre-arrival dish of

  • Crumbed snapper roll with pickled cabbage and tartare sauce
  • Stir fried noodles with wombok, cucumber, sesame and chilli oil

I’d heard the snapper roll was the go-to, but this small dish seemed more like a mere ‘fish burger’ which proved an underwhelming finish to the inflight dining.

The crumbed snapper roll proved an underwhelming finish to the flight's dining.
The crumbed snapper roll proved an underwhelming finish to the flight's dining.

QF127 reaches Hong Kong around 4.35pm, and across recent weeks it’s been generally on time (within around 30 minutes).

With no checked luggage to slow me down, and my Australian passport being registered for use at the airport’s automated e-Channel lanes, I tapped onto the Airport Express train with my Octopus card and in little more than 30 minutes was back in the thick of this buzzing Asian metropolis.

Getting your A380 ‘business to first’ upgrade

If you’re travelling in business class on the Qantas A380 between Sydney and Hong Kong, how can you land yourself in the first class cabin?

As has been the case with previous A380 ‘first-sold-as-business’ ventures, the first class cabin actually shows up on the seat selection chart for business class, so it’s just a matter of choosing a seat between row 1 and row 5.

The A380's first class cabin shows up on the business class seat map – and yes, I couldn't resist 1A.
The A380's first class cabin shows up on the business class seat map – and yes, I couldn't resist 1A.

Executive Traveller understands that Qantas Platinum One frequent flyers, along with Chairman’s Lounge members, are the first to see the primo cabin exposed when choosing their business class seat.

For everyone else, use the Qantas T-80 rule as your departure date nears, where the seats usually kept aside for top-tier frequent flyers are unlocked 80 hours before a flight departs.

For example, for the 10.15am departure of QF127, the ’80 hours prior’ dictated by T-80 is 2.15am (Sydney time) three days prior: just go back three days (72 hours) and then turn the clock back an extra eight hours.

Any A380 First suites remaining unoccupied in the days prior to the flight can be assigned by Qantas to selected frequent flyers, or they may even appear on the business class seating chart if you use the Manage My Booking page to check or change your seat.

You can even ask at the check-in desk or the lounge if there’s a vacant suite still up for grabs; on the day of the flight, Qantas will likely offer any unallocated First seats to top-tier frequent flyers.

As to which suite to choose: suites 1A and 1K generally give you that ‘private jet’ feeling, while 2F – also known as the Harry Potter suite – delivers a cosy nest, and 5A and 5K amp up the privacy.

2F is the 'Harry Potter suite' below the stairs in Qantas' A380 first class cabin.
2F is the 'Harry Potter suite' below the stairs in Qantas' A380 first class cabin.

For the best view on the daytime flight to Hong Kong, opt for 4A and 4K, while on the overnight return leg, light sleepers should avoid 5F.

If you’re not in business class, Qantas is selling premium economy on the Hong Kong-bound A380s – and if you’re on the classic config A380, there’s also that delightful economy mini-cabin tucked away at the very back of the upper deck, from rows 32 to 36.

Headed to Hong Kong? Here’s how your Australian passport can be used to skip the immigration queues at Hong Kong Airport via the automated e-Channel lanes, plus a complete guide to Hong Kong’s Oneworld (Cathay and Qantas) lounges.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Apr 2016

Total posts 6

I flew business class on this aircraft (VH-OQL) from LAX to SYD on the 7th after they changed the aircraft a few weeks prior. It was a disgrace, the seat 18k was dirty, only 2/3 of the seat was flat with the foot 3rd angling down to an inch off the floor. The seat had a mind of its own and wouldnt return to an upright position after being put into bed mode, take finger off the button and it would return to a bed. Massage function didn't work. Its hard to be loyal to qantas when they serve this garbage up.  To charge people what they do for product is a disgrace.

09 Feb 2021

Total posts 11

The "droop" on the Skybeds is notorious.  A cabin baggage suitace wedged under the seat can make a big difference.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1513

I would not say it "disgrace" to use old fleet, but IMHO it is true disgrace when airlines (not just Qantas!) charging the same money/points for products that streets apart. And indeed biggest disgrace when pax made research and specifically book ticket on certain day knowing to have certain aircraft configuration only to find at the gate that aircraft been changed for "operational reason". And of course no compensation or even apology.

09 Feb 2021

Total posts 11

I'm struggling to understand how there's a version of potato and leek soup which is not plant-based?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2561

The full menu description lists the standard potato and leek soup as including Pepe Saya crème fraîche – as vegans don't consume foods which come from animals, including dairy products, the plant-based version drops the crème fraîche and instead comes with sourdough croutons.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2018

Total posts 48

The cream based soups.

09 Sep 2015

Total posts 4

Generally on time is a pretty generous description....

Quick check of ExpertFlyer shows a 38% reliability factor and 48 minutes of delay. Further checks of Flightradar show a sea of yellow and red dots with a few greens in between which  are generally the A330.  That being said even today's A330 is expected 1 hour late. 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2561

Hi Fly81 – well, to quote my article "across recent weeks it’s been generally on time (within around 30 minutes)" – italics mine, for emphasis.

“Across recent weeks” – I allowed three weeks back from Dec11, when the article was completed, and based on FlightRadar 24's record for QF127. 

“it’s been generally on time (within around 30 minutes)” – I specified “within 30 minutes” to cover plus-or-minus-30m against the scheduled 4.35pm arrival time, so there’s what I would consider a sensible window either way for an 8h30m flight (30m early is a welcome bonus, while I’d consider 30m late is no significant hardship against a scheduled 8h30m flight to Hong Kong where there’d be minimal passengers with onwards connections). 

So, that said: across the past 21 days (three weeks), FlightRadar24 shows QF127 arrived more than 30m late only five times. The other 16 arrivals were mostly within that 30m margin, except for Dec11 when it arrived an hour early (!) – and if you want to run an average across those 16 days it was 11m late. (The total average of those 21 days is 26m, which falls within that 30m margin).

Not defending QF127's OTP record, just clarifying that my statement is correct within the parameters made clear in that par. One could argue for OTP being measured across six months or a year, and one could argue that allowing a 30m window either way is nonsense, but I based my statement on three weeks with a 30m+- allowance.

Now, that diversion into stats over, we'll return to usual programming...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 139

Good article which is fair and balanced regarding pros and cons.

More worrying is that VH-OQL is also being used for QF 11 with First class 

Readers may wish to read sfo777, a hugely influential travel blogger who flew this from Sydney to Lax a few weeks ago and has described Qantas as "the worst first class in the world" (there are pictures of a worn F seat etc.).  Worth a read to see what you think.

Qantas A380 First reminds me a little of Cathay's 777 First, in that both are an 'open suite design' with same 1-1-1 layout which remains a 'decent' product even though the design is no longer cutting edge with things like sliding doors, being fully private and of course not having massive video screens, USB-C or wireless charging etc. But what also stands out is that this is the first time Qantas has refreshed its A380 First suites since 2008, while I think CX has done two refreshes since its own 777 First launched? Anyway, no escaping the fact that even with this 'upgrade' the best days of QF First are behind us, back when they had that amazing multi-course degustation menu and the dishes were all pretty much exclusive to First, the last time I saw a QF A380 First degustation menu it was more like a sampler from business class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 48

Or for around the same price you could choose Cathay. Sorry Qantas, an inferior product, well past its use by date.

Sure could, Cathay's A350 business class is tops, I reckon the biggest appeal of the Qantas A380 on SYD-HKG right now is plenty of availability of classic reward seats if you are sitting on a lot of points and would rather keep those thousands of dollars for airfare in your pocket at this time of year.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1513

I cannot get meaning of this article. Yes very fewwith relevant status will enjoy this "upgrade" while for mere mortals this "possibility" is no more than mockery and we going to use "business" that is only superior to "business" from Perth to Singapore in B737

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 669

Qantas 'first' is a notch below Qatar J in every way except the wider seat. Disgrace for ehat is charged for that cabin.


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