Qantas plans a Project Sunrise surprise with A350 business class

There’s an all-new Qantas Business Suite on the way, and it looks like some but not all seats could have privacy doors…

By David Flynn, May 23 2022
Qantas plans a Project Sunrise surprise with A350 business class

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. 

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 8

"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."

This is not true, as the Vantage XL model is available in a 'honeymoon' version: See the LATAM business seat as shown in this ET article. 

Therefore, the A350 could well see an updated version of the Vantage XL, perhaps with doors akin to the Delta One suite. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 126

In my Q-suite experience you don’t really ‘need’ a door when you are away from the isle, but you definitely do when you are on it

Reverse herringbones are democratic, everyone has movement around their head!

Is it not just the new Aeroflot A350 seat? Matches everything in the diagram.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1103

The Collins Super Diamond and Thomson Vantage XL seats are almost ubiquitous albeit with a few clones from Stelia etc running around.  QR is one of the few airlines that has made a serious attempt to break the mould.  

You would hope that QF would try to do something a bit different given the basics of the 2 most common J class seats have now been around for over a decade.  The planned map doesn't give much away and it is possible QF may surprise and do something completely new but, as shown, it looks like a very cookie cutter approach to J class that doesn't offer anything revolutionary at all. (Maybe after the W class "revolution" on the 787, they are leaving the revolutionary stuff to someone else.)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Nov 2017

Total posts 108

It's pretty standard from QF to give out teasers, build up the media hype, and then deliver the usual sub-standard product.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 410

I just hope they provide a bit less shelf space to make it feel wider and reposition the TV so you don't feel like legs are in a tunnel when the seat is a bed. That would be a help for any of us who feel claustrophobic. I for one feel it badly on the QF and QR seats. Don't have the issue on QF first as its more open;  was on EK first last week to Paris and it was generally ok. In march hardly slept SYD-DFW because I was feeling overwhelmed in the QF business seat.

28 Nov 2012

Total posts 94

There needs to be a break between first class and business class.

It looks to me that the "door" is no more then the return shown on the opposing 💺 assembly. I highly doubt there will be a door. Just the return like the current seats

05 Feb 2020

Total posts 31

Wow, all this hype and supposition over business class which is pure luxury when you are stuck in Economy with people climbing over you all night just to go the toilet, a seat you cant sleep in and the person in front virtually in your lap when they recline the seat. But wait, there's a wellness zone to provide instant relief, what rubbish. 

sid
sid

07 Jan 2011

Total posts 48

Simple solution: don't fly economy long-haul. 

You wouldn't enjoy it one little bit Brett, not much egalitarianism toward the pointy end and gets even less forward of the Business bulkhead. Sublime.

23 Mar 2020

Total posts 6

based on those photos, all the business class seats appear to be straight or straight ahead type seats.Thankfully!

Having flown in the past few months on a number of other carriers on (A350 aircraft) the use of seats swivelled at an angle to aisles is a right PITA. Hard to get into and out of out, this type of seat leads to a very narrow curving footwell when the seat is laid down for sleeping. Contortion of the body into an S shape when laying down leads to little sleep.  Plus these have a nonadjustable screen that also impedes entry and exit to the seat. so FINNAIR for example got a zero for business class comfort in the survey they sent after my flight (and that after a full refurb of business class in their A350s... millions spent for less comfort!)

It actually was nice (and a good nights sleep) to get on an old A330 used on my return QF flight with a seat that is straight ahead, has plenty of feet space and even allows one to sleep on your side


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