Qantas' first upgraded A380 begins flying next week

Qantas' spruced-up superjumbo, with revamped first class and new business class, returns to the skies from September 30.

By David Flynn, September 24 2019

The first of Qantas' twelve refurbished Airbus A380 will begin flying the flagship Sydney-Singapore-London route next week, following an extensive make-over which includes a modernisation of the first class cabin and installation of the airline's latest business class seats, along with two new upper deck lounges.

The airline will first assign this dressed-up debutante to the Sydney-Singapore-London route across the early October, although with only one of twelve aircraft refitted it won't be a daily occurrence. As a result, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce tells Executive Traveller that setting foot on the refurbished A380 will offer a bit of "surprise and delight" to travellers.

From mid-October the superjumbo is plotted to shift onto the trans-Pacific route as QF11 flying from Sydney to Los Angeles, while future flights could also take in the 15-16 hour marathon between Sydney and Dallas/Forth Worth.

With each aircraft taking approximately eight weeks to upgrade the airline plans to have two more refurbished A380s in the air by the end of 2019 and all twelve A380s upgraded by the end of 2020, in time for Qantas' 100th anniversary – which will also see the ageing but fondly-regarded Boeing 747s out out to pasture as more Boeing 787s join the fleet.

Inside the upgraded Qantas Airbus A380

Don’t expect any major changes to the 14 first class suites on the lower deck, although that’s not a bad thing by any stretch.

There's basically nothing wrong with Marc Newson's bespoke design, which Executive Traveller rates among the best of the ‘open’ first class suites without sliding privacy doors.

Qantas' Airbus A380 first class remains among the best 'open suites' in the sky

Newson is once again working with Qantas on a modest refresh of the cabin and its materials, including more comfortable contoured cushioning in each suite. A larger HD video screen will replace the current 17 inch panels.

Qantas will refresh its A380 first class suites for more comfort and better technology

The interior of the first class cabin will also draw from some of the contemporary design DNA at Qantas' latest lounges, including the new Singapore first class lounge which is slated to open in November 2019. The end result will leave the A380 first class suites looking the same yet different – at once totally familiar but undeniably fresher.

The best news in Qantas' superjumbo revamp is that the original Skybed II seats will be replaced by the highly-regarded Business Suite of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

The Business Suites of the Qantas Boeing 787 will replace the superjumbo's dated Skybed II seats

That seat, in turn, is a tweak of Airbus A330 Business Suite – and adds a movable divider between the middle seats so that travellers can choose between privacy and sociability.

The Business Suites of the Qantas Boeing 787 will replace the superjumbo's dated Skybed II seats

It's a substantial improvement for business travellers, with the Business Suites boasting everything that the Skybed II designs lack: direct aisle access for every passenger thanks to a 1-2-1 layout; a bump-free flat bed; ample inflight storage and workspace, plus a 16-inch HD video screen that's much brighter and sharper than the Skybed II's 12.1-inch panel.

The new A380 business class seats are a dramatic upgrade in almost every measure

The reconfiguration will also see a slight increase in the number of business class seats, from 64 in the current A380s to 70 in the refurb'd birds.

Choose the first five rows of the new A380 business class for the smaller, more intimate cabin

The prize spot for most frequent travellers will be the first five rows of business class, which will sit in their own small cabin with a more exclusive vibe; behind this, and seperated by the galley kitchen and toilets, will be the larger main cabin with 50 seats across 13 rows.

The front of the upper deck will also house two lounge areas, and they promise to be more comfortable and passenger-friendly compared to the narrow and little-used lounge of Qantas' original Airbus A380 layout.

The original and sadly little-used Qantas Airbus A380 business class lounge

Qantas' refurbished A380s sees this space reimagined as a social cafe-inspired design with two tables fitted with soft LED lighting surrounded by comfortable padded benches and room for five passengers.

The new Qantas A380 business lounge adopts a more social, cafe-inspired style

“Today everybody’s sitting along the bench and facing one direction, and that's not necessarily the best layout and the best arrangement for people to be in," Qantas designer David Caon tells Executive Traveller.

Designer David Caon is working with Qantas to make the Airbus A380 lounges more passenger-friendly

"Our lounge should be something where people are able to sit and face each other and discuss and talk... the kind of space that if there are two people that are travelling together but not necessarily sitting together, they can go (to the lounge) and spend time together."

The revamped A380s will also feature a second lounge on the other side of the stairway, where a small cabin crew office is currently tucked away.

Caon has repurposed this nook with seating for three people and, based on these concept images, a self-serve minibar for drinks and snacks plus what appears to be a large video screen for watching inflight movies.

This second social space replaces a tiny crew 'office' with seating for three passengers plus a self-serve snack bar

Qantas is also said to be working on ways to damp the lounge’s sound profile so as not to disturb passengers in the front rows of the business class cabin.

Also read: Six reasons I'll use the new Qantas A380 inflight business lounges 

The A380 overhaul will also extend to premium economy, with the same seats as the Boeing 787.

Qantas' Boeing 787 premium economy seats are also making the move to the refurbished A380s

These will be installed in a 2-3-2 layout in a dedicated cabin behind business class, where a reconfiguration of the upper deck will allow room for 25 more premium economy seats, bringing the tally to 60.

The seats themselves are quite the leap for business travellers on a budget with a comfortable cradle design, some handy storage space, USB and shared AC power sockets, a decent-sized personal video screen and even a natty tablet holder if you belong to the 'BYO video' brigade.

The good news: Qantas' new superjumbo premium economy seats are better-appointed than the original ones

However, one thing the A380 premium economy seats won't have is more legroom than their Boeing 787 counterparts.

The not-so-good news: legroom, or lack of it, is likely to be an issue for the A380's premium economy flyers

Qantas has confirmed to Executive Traveller that the pitch - or distance between the seats - will be the same as on the Dreamliners, which means these otherwise excellent seats will remain squashed too close together.  That proximity has been the most common criticism of premium economy passengers on the Qantas Boeing 787s.

Part of the A380 refresh will see the upper deck become an all-premium affair of business class and premium economy, with almost a third more premium seating than the current layout.

The Qantas A380's revamped upper deck will be dedicated to 'premium' passengers

Ironically, this 'all premium upper deck' layout is the same as when the Qantas A380 made its debut in 2008. This change will also mean an end to the quiet and cosy economy 'mini-cabin' at the rear of the today's Qantas A80 upper deck.

There's less change for economy class travellers, who won't even see new seats such as those of the Boeing 787. Instead, they'll have to make do with new seat cushions and what Qantas broadly refers to as "improved inflight entertainment", which we expect will mean better seatback screens.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

mviy

mviy

05 May 2016

Total posts 527

Looking forward to flying on a refurbished A380 sometime. Haven't booked yet.

Targangil

Targangil

24 Sep 2019

Total posts 2

How do you go about finding which A380 will fly on any given sector? Am flying LHR-SYD QF2 in first in April 2020 and would be nice to know (although a surprise when on board would be good, too!).

AJW

AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 507

The seat map would be the tell tale sign. But doubt with just 1 in the fleet they would load the operating schedule this far out.

Bruce777

Bruce777

Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus

17 Sep 2017

Total posts 17

After some research, it seems VH-OQI is the first plane to be retrofitted considering it has been in Abu Dhabi since the 9th of September. I wouldn't be surprised if they repainted it in the meantime as well.

AJW

AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 507

The refit is being done in Dresden not Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is where some planes are having maintenance done.

As mentioned the first one is OQK which has been in Dresden since 16th July.

QFcrew

QFcrew

19 Nov 2012

Total posts 41

It's OQK

olorinn

olorinn

17 Oct 2014

Total posts 1

Wish they'd do a points plane to Dresden, shame to fly to/from Germany empty

QFcrew

QFcrew

19 Nov 2012

Total posts 41

They position it from LHR.

Mattr72

Mattr72

21 Apr 2017

Total posts 8

Seems to me that Qantas are only playing catch up to some of their competitors. Their business class has been below par for quite some time. I guess better late that never. It will be welcome to many travelers.

Performa

Performa

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

26 Jul 2012

Total posts 32

What is the reg number of the revamped ac?

fish1983

fish1983

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

03 Jun 2014

Total posts 6

Try an app like expertflyer and put the details in it can give you an idea or look at the seat selection map on QF website

SimonFrost

SimonFrost

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jul 2013

Total posts 31

Just had a quick look on QF website for 5/10 there and 9/10 back. Showed a strange “1-1-1” layout in business and only “1-1” in first. It looks like they're not showing the “K” seats. Website glitch perhaps? Or some other odd reason I'm not thinking of?

born2fish

born2fish

01 Apr 2014

Total posts 52

Just had a look on Expertflyer, and correctly shows as new config for QF1

PLEASEupgrademe

PLEASEupgrademe

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Nov 2017

Total posts 12

Hi born2fish,

I don't have a pro account on expert flyer, would ou be able to post a diagram of the new layout on the "suprise and delight" discussion forum in Qantas & Jetstar Please?

Thank You so much :)

qld gooner

qld gooner

02 Aug 2016

Total posts 10

we are on QF1 from Singapore to London on Oct 9th. gutted we are missing out on the refurbished A380. hopefully they change the schedule just for me.

Performa

Performa

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

26 Jul 2012

Total posts 32

The aircraft reg is VH-OQK

TLH1964

TLH1964

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 7

Does anyone have any idea when the refurbished A380 might get a run from MEL to LAX? Am flying J class to LAX in Jan 2020 - would be nice to be in the refurbished aircraft - QF's current A380 J class sucks! Flew it in Jan this year (to LAX) and couldn't believe how far behind its competitors QF had fallen! Have been flying Emirates A380 J class for years (to NCE) and even though their offering is getting a little tired it still leaves QF's A380 J class for dead!

AJW

AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 507

I would assume it will get a run the week after the rotations shown above. Qantas have said the plane will just follow the standard rotations.

Pity not 12 Oct as I'm on QF93. In fact my first time in J in a Qantas A380. Don't know how I've managed to miss out all these years.

QFcrew

QFcrew

19 Nov 2012

Total posts 41

There will be 4 A/C refit by Jan so your chances are improving.

jmcgeough

jmcgeough

22 Oct 2014

Total posts 5

As far as inflight ‘lounge' designs go, the new updated layout is not really hitting the target. They are still useless spaces and I believe time will show this. The only design that has worked is the Emirates lounge and that's the winning formula that keeps working... so QF pay attention.

Targangil

Targangil

24 Sep 2019

Total posts 2

Came back QF2 F class in April on A380 "Nancy Bird Walton" and the hostess said that this was the first plane going to be refurbished. Is this VH-OQK? NBW is also the first Qantas A380, so must be, what, 12 years old?

born2fish

born2fish

01 Apr 2014

Total posts 52

Nancy Bird Walton = VH-OQA and currently on the ground in LHR after arriving from SIN as QF1 a couple of hours ago. VH-OQK = John Duigan (name on port side)

AJW

AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 507

Maybe they assumed that because it is the oldest. But like the repaints they are not being done in order of age. There would be a heap of variables that would dictate the schedule.

GregXL

GregXL

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 398

While VH-OQA is the oldest in the QF A380 fleet, it also had an extended period out of service in Singapore early in its life. It is possibly down the order of needing the major maintenance check that is occurring at the same time as the refit.

flatout

flatout

10 Nov 2013

Total posts 14

Y+, that photo is tight. I wonder what the back exit row looks like, used to be the best seat with the original PE config (row 38?).

AJW

AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 507

There won't be a back exit row Y+ seat. The back exit is gone with the refit with the top deck exits being the first two doors.

Marks2

Marks2

10 Jun 2018

Total posts 13

An upgraded F seat is really appreciated. The existing ones are noticeably less comfortable than BA or Emirates.

bl812

bl812

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 178

long overdue-maybe 5 years or more-most airlines contemplating to retire the 380's-QF should have done this a long time ago while the planes were still "fresh'--indeed the first class is no match to Singapore,Emirates or Qatar or Etihad-only those knows who flew all of them-they should learn from them how to make a first class first class the current product is even less than Qatar's Q business suites! Not to mention the poor and pathetic meals .Book the cook-anytime meals etc go and learn mr joyce!23 million would give you plenty of options to decide!

Metoo

Metoo

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Nov 2016

Total posts 66

Skytrax rated Qantas First in ninth position in the best First Class 2019. Singapore number one again and deservedly so. The Qantas First seats on the A380s are tired and certainly need an upgrade. Singapore opted to reduce the number of seats from 12 to 6 to create their terrific suites, I don't see Qantas doing that. It will be interesting to see if Qantas climbs the ladder in the next Skytrax review of First seats. I do look forward to giving them a try soon to see how much improvement there is.

AsiaBizTraveller

AsiaBizTraveller

20 Nov 2015

Total posts 59

Nobody serious pays any attention to Skytrax ratings. They are an industry scam, run by a private company with no transparency and are legendary for being associated with how much an airline pays the parent company to do 'consultancy work' for them. Do some research and you will quickly see how much of an industry scam this is. Airlines who decide to leave Skytrax suddenly see their ratings plummet the next year, they rejoin and the rating is restored, while other airlines which are decidedly second-class or even third-class are mysteriously bestowed a 'five star' rating. Look up the ratings for yourself and ask if you think they truly make sense.

pungpui

pungpui

22 May 2011

Total posts 49

Anyone know where we can get the new seat map?


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