While Qantas revealed with a flourish its new Airbus 350 first class – and the plush private suites are very much a ‘halo’ product – the airline has yet to pull back the curtain on its plans for the A350 business class.
However, it’s those 52 business class seats where the bulk of the premium passengers on ‘Project Sunrise’ flights will spend the 18-20 hours as they fly non-stop from Sydney and Melbourne to the likes of New York, London and Paris from the end of 2025.
And the A350s won’t just be for those ambitious record-breaking marathons.
Qantas has already confirmed the A350 will take over from the Boeing 787-9 on the Perth-London route in 2026, and it’s likely a second tranche of A350 orders will see these modern jets effectively replace the double-decker Airbus A380s when those superjumbos are retired around the end of this decade.
They’re also likely to inherit other flagship routes from the Boeing 787: while the A350s have almost an identical number of seats, far more of these are given over to the higher-yielding premium cabins (first, business and premium economy) than on the Dreamliner.
In short, the Airbus A350 represents the next generation of Qantas’ international business class.
So despite the current shroud of secrecy, what do we know so far about Qantas’ A350 business class?
Clues on Qantas’ A350 business class
Two diagrams shared by Qantas yield several clues for those who look closely.
Firstly, the cutaway diagram of the Qantas A350 supplied to media earlier this month, which exposes the cabin from tip to tail while also calling out the first class suites and the ‘wellbeing zone’ sandwiched between premium economy and economy.
Also in the mix is the business class cabin, and it’s immediately obvious the layout is different to that of the first-gen Business Suite launched on the Airbus A330 in 2014 and later finessed for the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A380.
Admittedly this is, as the diagram’s footnote attests, an ‘artist impression only, subject to change’ – but let’s zoom in for a closer look.
While the windows seats still alternate between being either immediately next to the window or next to the aisle, the centre seats are either directly next to one another in the middle of the two-seat module – or are far apart from one another, with each passenger at the opposite aisles.
In industry jargon, this arrangement is cutely referred to as a “honeymoon / divorce” layout – and it’s noteworthy because the Qantas Business Suites have their middle seats in a completely different layout (which is neither honeymoon nor divorce: perhaps “just good friends”?).
So the Qantas A350 business class seat is obviously not the same Vantage XL model from Thompson Aerospace as used for the airline’s current Business Suite, and Executive Traveller understands Thompson Aerospace is not a seat supplier for Project Sunrise.
Instead, the Qantas A350 business class seat could come from any number of other specialist firms – such as Adient, Collins, Recaro, Safran or Stelia – and it would not surprise us in the least if this was a new concept seat that’s yet to be officially launched (although that may change if the seat breaks cover in the coming months).
A second observation from the cutaway diagram: note that the business class seats located directly at the aisle have what appears to be a sliding door or some other form of ‘screen’ to provide greater privacy from traffic in the aisle and the passenger directly across from them.
None of the business class seats positioned away from the aisle – either in the middle section, or right next to the window – show this screen in place.
This treatment is repeated in this initial Qantas A350 seat map. Again, here is the full tip-to-tail image…
… and here is a closeup on the business class cabin. Notice how every seat located next to the aisle has some form of door, screen or panel extended to help passengers preserve their privacy?
That’s not the case with any of the Qantas A350 business class seats positioned away from the aisle. Go on, have another closer look.
Does this mean that only the aisle-adjacent seats will have those suite-style doors? If so, it’s a decidedly unique take on the trend towards doored suites, and would be a ‘first’ in business class design.
Moving back to the Qantas A350 cutaway, and all the business class seats appear to be framed by high walls – another measure to afford a greater degree of privacy and help turn these suites into cosy cocoons for the globe-trotting trek.
Again, this is an ‘artist impression only, subject to change’ – and the first class suites perched in front of the business class cabin certainly have the same generic feel.
Qantas predictably declined to comment on any of this, and Executive Traveller will share more details of Qantas’ Project Sunrise A350 business class as they come to hand.