Review: Qantas Airbus A380 onboard lounges

These cosy spaces bring a social ‘speakeasy’ vibe to the superjumbo.

By David Flynn, March 10 2023
Review: Qantas Airbus A380 onboard lounges

On your next Qantas A380 superjumbo flight, take a break from your business class seat or first class suite and head for the relaxing onboard lounges at the front of the upper deck.

It’s one of the best ways to make a long flight feel shorter, and makes for a welcome ‘change of scenery’ and a chance to stretch out.

The Qantas A380 lounges are also social spaces where you can chat with fellow passengers and make new friends who share your love of travel.

Nestled at the very front of the A380’s top deck – on either side of the staircase connecting the upper and main decks – these are very different to the  lounges of the Emirates and Qatar Airways superjumbos.

While still serving as a ‘second space’ for getting away from your seat and mingling with fellow high flyers, the Qantas A380 lounges dial down the glam in favour of a cosier vibe which channels a Manhattan speakeasy or a ‘supper club’ above the clouds.

The new Qantas A380 onboard lounge.
The new Qantas A380 onboard lounge.

With olive-green leather couches set into cafe-style nooks, timber laminate walls and soft LED downlighting, it’s a gently sophisticated yet relaxing space.

The lounges are a stand-out feature of Qantas’ refurbished A380s, and part of a multi-million dollar makeover which also includes new business class and premium economy seats plus with a refresh for the 14 first class suites.

Business class on the refurbished Qantas A380s.
Business class on the refurbished Qantas A380s.

And it’s a world away from the original Qantas A380 lounge: a long and uncomfortably low red banquette in which travellers faced a wall rather than each other.

These concept images of the original Qantas A380 lounge included a fanciful fish tank set into the wall.
These concept images of the original Qantas A380 lounge included a fanciful fish tank set into the wall.

For Australian designer David Caon, who oversaw the Qantas A380’s modernisation program, the opportunity was to transform the lounge from being a mere piece of furniture into a thoughtfully-considered social space.

“Our lounge should be something where people are able to sit and face each other and talk and spend time together,” Caon told Executive Traveller in the early days of the lounge’s evolution.

That’s in stark contrast to the original configuration which saw “everybody sitting along the bench and facing one direction.”

The original Qantas A380 lounge was not overly popular with passengers.
The original Qantas A380 lounge was not overly popular with passengers.

As a first step, Caon removed the thick wall and magazine rack between the couch and the stairwell.

The larger section of the new Qantas A380 onboard lounge.
The larger section of the new Qantas A380 onboard lounge.

“It's really not necessary,” Caon explained at the time. “The magazine rack is not reinforcing our concept, which is about trying to find a way that we can get people to face each other.”

This early concept shows first hints of how the original narrow lounge could be reconfigured.
This early concept shows first hints of how the original narrow lounge could be reconfigured.

The video screen in that same wall was also relocated and dramatically upsized to become a feature at the front of the area, visible from both sides of the lounge.

This large video screen caps the lounge space.
This large video screen caps the lounge space.

The screen defaults to a slideshow of Australian locations between static flight information – although once the A380s are fitted with WiFi it could be fascinating to see the display used for live TV feeds such as news, a football match or the latest F1 round.

This large video screen caps the lounge space.
This large video screen caps the lounge space.
This large video screen caps the lounge space.
This large video screen caps the lounge space.

Caon’s team used both virtual reality headsets and life-size mockups to bring the new lounge space to life and designing booths, tables and lighting.

Full-size mockups of the lounges during development.
Full-size mockups of the lounges during development.

In addition to reimagining the original lounge, space to the left of the stairwell which housed a cabin crew office and locker room was opened up to create a second L-shaped lounge plus a self-serve minibar for drinks and snacks.

This L-shaped lounge is next to the self-serve snack bar.
This L-shaped lounge is next to the self-serve snack bar.
The new self-serve snack bar for business class passengers and lounge lizards.
The new self-serve snack bar for business class passengers and lounge lizards.

Most passengers gravitate towards the main lounge at the right of the staircase, which offers two seating nooks with tables topped by LED lamps.

The Qantas A380 lounge offers a change of scenery from your business class seat.
The Qantas A380 lounge offers a change of scenery from your business class seat.

Even the rear-most nook has plenty of leg room under the table, rather than being as cramped as one might first expect.

The Qantas A380 lounge offers a change of scenery from your business class seat.
The Qantas A380 lounge offers a change of scenery from your business class seat.

Beneath each table you’ll find AC and USB power outlets and headphone sockets.

Recharge your laptop, tablet, smartphone or ebook reader with the AC or USB outlets.
Recharge your laptop, tablet, smartphone or ebook reader with the AC or USB outlets.

The longer banquette-style seating at the other side of the stairwell has one table but no AC power.

Recharge your laptop, tablet, smartphone or ebook reader with the AC or USB outlets.
Recharge your laptop, tablet, smartphone or ebook reader with the AC or USB outlets.

Between both lounges there’s seating for 10 people, with seatbelts in case of turbulence.

On some flights you’ll find parents cradling infants head for the lounge early on, to help settle a travel-disturbed bub away from the rest of the business class cabin.

The lounges can get very busy mid-flight – after that first meal and maybe a movie – and you’re as likely to see solo travellers plugging in their laptop to work, as groups catching up over a drink.

On most A380 flights there’s also ‘Premium Lounge Menu’ of drinks and snacks – we recommend the cheese plate, accompanied by a matching wine.

Qantas' new A380 upper deck lounges add a dash of style to international travel.
Qantas' new A380 upper deck lounges add a dash of style to international travel.

(Note that Qantas doesn’t offer the full lounge menu on shorter overnight legs such as Singapore to Sydney, where travellers are more likely to be sleeping than socialising.)

Even with the refreshed A380s sporting the modern Qantas’ Business Suite in place of the droopy old Skybed II seats, it’s still a pleasure to be able to leave that comfy seat, part those thick charcoal drapes and step into a space where it also feels like you’re stepping back in time, to when flying was a little more special and rather more sophisticated.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Aug 2022

Total posts 14

I love onboard lounges. The change of scenery an chance to stretch your legs is so great and unvalued. Thanks ET for making this story. The behind the scenes articles are always a treat.

Cheers,

QFflyer_10

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Jun 2019

Total posts 17

I am travelling to LAX in a few weeks on the A380. Does anyone know if Qantas allows you to have your meals in the lounge so you can eat with friends?

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 390

I don't believe so, not for the main course, but I reckon if you and your friends asked to have dessert in the lounge the cabin crew might be willing.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Jun 2019

Total posts 17

Ahhhh good idea, thank you. 

These lounges are such an improvement over the old ones, I make a point of using them during most flights, even Singapore-Sydney overnight. I'm sure some people will chime in and say it's not as good as the Emirates one, and that's true, but Qantas works to very different economics than Emirates, and at least it has a nice lounge space where you can relax, even SQ didn't put any lounges on its A380s.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 390

In one way I hope the A380 WiFi doesn't mean live footy matches on the lounge TV screen, I can imagine that would get very noisy and be very annoying for passengers in the front cabin of business class!

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 83

Agree 150%. Interesting that the story tells us the lounge will be good for people (usually women) to disappear to with a crying baby so as not to bother other J/F pax, but seems happy that there might be shouting and cheering (usually men) at a football match. I know that most J/Y pax are men, but still...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jan 2017

Total posts 18

Looking forward to that.

After testing Emirates' (excellent) bar and lounge at the back of the upper deck, I hope Qantas' lounge will be almost as good. 

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 390

Reset and lower your expectations, the Qantas A380 lounge is nothing like the Emirates lounge & bar. I think this article provides a very good and accurate representation of the Qantas A380 lounge, so consider it as your guide to what to expect. It's a totally different lounge to what Emirates has, but then it's a different concept and in a different much smaller space. FWIW, I reckon Qantas and David Caon have made the best of what they have to work with, which isn't much and is usually sort of 'dead space' on the A380 anyway unless it's used for a lounge, a lav or shower, or in the case of Etihad it was also part of the Residence.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 230

Sage advice. You really can't 'compare' the QF A380 lounge with the EK or QR ones or you are bound to be disappointed. This review makes it pretty clear what you can expect, so just take it for what it is and enjoy it.

This 'new' lounge gets so much more use than the old one because it's really designed for passengers and interaction. On one flight I saw some people playing a game of cards, which I thought was a great fun way to spend time together and also pass the time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Jan 2017

Total posts 3

Absolutely agree. I did the SYD - DFW on the A380 on a regular basis for 2 years on the old model. Apart from stretching my legs, it’s a waste of space and nowhere near the other serious lounge space offerings of Emirates / Qatar. Even the new design inspires little want to use it and would be surprised it does more than the previous offering.

I think we're all agreed that the Qantas A380 lounge is a totally different proposition than Emirates or Qatar, so let's not get side-tracked into tired old ground. As for old vs new design, you seriously don't think the new design is far more 'friendly' and more usable as well as having more actual seats and space for passengers? When I fly the upgraded A380s I see this new lounge getting a LOT more use than the old one.

10 Dec 2019

Total posts 14

I think Emirates and QATAR want their first-class area to be more a replacement for a private jet. I'm not sure QANTAS has gotten to that stage yet. 

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 230

It's not just the bar menu that goes AWOL on the SIN-SYD leg of QF2, the self-service mini bar is also pretty bare bones. I asked cabin crew about this, they say it's because most business class passengers are sleeping, but on the QF2's I have done the lounge is still popular for a surprisingly long part of the flight, so it would be good if there were more snacks available.

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 130

I get where the staff are coming from - on an overnight you don't want people tramping around the cabin disturbing people trying to sleep so the less incentive there is to move around the better.

I think that's fair enough too.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 42

I think this is a creme-de-la-creme first-class first world problem. Being able to fly business/first class is already such a privilege... Given an onboard lounge and we still complain abt how not good enough it is? mmhh...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 111

It works s a useful space to:

1. Spend time alone away from the F or J cabin

2. Catch up with a friend (particularly if split between F and J eg upgrades etc)

3. Those odd times when you wake and everyone ist asleep and you want to work, have a drink or a snack (I have always been served a snack and wine when in F, in the lounge - unlikely mains would be served) 

However, on flights late last year, the self-service bar was pitiful in extremis

Flying in F next week and in May

Will report back 

07 Dec 2016

Total posts 7

Why, in the photos, does it look so dark?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2555

Hi Waikato – it looks dark in many pics because it's a dark space in real life. Most of my own pics in the article (easy to tell which are mine, they are the less artful and less professional ones LOL) were lightened to help bring out some details. On the whole, when you walk into the lounge it has this dimmer aesthetic which suits the design and vibe - it's simply not a brightly-lit space - but there are LED lights in the overhead panels which for onto each passenger seating area and these do lift the space quite a bit.

SYD
SYD

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 12

Also, unlike the EK and QR bars down aft, there are no windows on the A380 forward of row 11. So no natural light. Which is actually another nice thing about the EK/QR “bars”. You can leave the often entirely darkened business cabin and step into some natural light without disturbing other PAX.

Anyway, I get to checkout the new config in 2 wks flying to LAX.

That's a very good point, having windows in the Qantas A380 lounges would be nice, as long as the various people people didn't end up disagreeing over if they should be up or down. I loved sitting on the window-side couch of the Qatar A380 lounge and looking out the window every now and again, and the windows really made the lounge space very light.

10 Dec 2019

Total posts 14

It would be great if you reply with your experience!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Jan 2016

Total posts 87

Forgot that they were there last time...maybe I should be more motivated to move further from my seat...!!!

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 17

I used the lounge last October on QF2. When I walked in, the only other person was a man working away at his laptop. He was startled when he saw me, quickly ducked his head and for the rest of my visit we pretended the other person didn't exist. I never saw anyone else use the space. I agree with Ian62 that the contents of the minibar were woeful, and the comments above regarding windows were also mentioned by a staff member I chatted with. Nevertheless, the lounge does provide an opportunity to move around and escape the confines of the Business Class cabin.

23 Jul 2012

Total posts 22

Hi, how do we tell which version of the A380 we are on? 

At the moment the only un-refurbished Qantas A380 is the one flying between Sydney and Hong Kong from the end of this month. All the others, eg Sydney-Singapore-London and Sydney-Los Angeles, have been upgraded and have this newer lounge. All the A380s returning from storage this year will also have been upgraded.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Oct 2012

Total posts 32

Having flown on the A380 Qantas and Emirates flights I agree there's no comparison between the offerings of the onboard lounges.  Qantas would be the first to acknowledge that fact.  However one of the key issues I find as a tall person is the lack of space in the toilets.  I think the should of repurposed the space to provide a decent toilet / change room.  

10 Dec 2019

Total posts 14

Wasn't there some controversy on a Virgin aircraft where rugby players used the lounge all flight and no-one else could use it? Seems at least some people (other than rugby players) want to use the lounge if there was a complaint. 

12 Aug 2014

Total posts 16

5 out of the last 6 times I've flown the Qantas A380, they haven't bothered to stock the lounge bar at all with anything (not even water).

18 Feb 2018

Total posts 11

It's all well and good having a refurbished lounge but the thought of a group watching a live streamed footie match whilst partaking of a well-stocked bar.......... The lack of the magazine rack and associated 'wall' means that the noise will travel easier into the cabin below (and greater lounge use probably means that even more business class passengers will decide to slip down stairs to use the first-class toilets - I can see this being a headache for the crew).  I guess the appeal of being in Seat 1A will lessen somewhat!


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