Photo tour: see what's new in Qantas' upgraded Airbus A380 superjumbo

A decade since the Qantas Airbus A380 took to the skies, the airline's superjumbo fleet is getting a mid-life make-over.

By David Flynn, October 1 2019
Photo tour: see what's new in Qantas' upgraded Airbus A380 superjumbo

The multimillion-dollar upgrade of Qantas' fleet or Airbus A380s is underway, bringing travellers a fresh take on first class, new business class and premium economy seats, and two new lounge spaces on the upper deck.

At the time of writing the first of the spruced-up superjumbos is already flying, with two more to be refurbished by the end of 2019 and the rest by the end of 2020 – just in time for Qantas' 100th birthday celebrations.

“The A380 is a crucial part of our long-haul fleet and this upgrade program will see customers enjoy everything the aircraft has to offer for years to come,” predicts Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce. “It also provides an increase in Business and Premium Economy seating to help match the demand we’re seeing on our long-haul routes.

“Working with Airbus, we’ve been able to use the cabin space more efficiently and improve the economics of the aircraft while also providing a better experience in every part of the aircraft. By the end of this upgrade, we’ll have next-generation seating across our entire long-haul fleet of A380s, A330s and 787s.”

Following their facelift, the Qantas superjumbos are expected to be flying through to the end of the next decade, by which time Qantas expects to have fully developed its Project Sunrise network with non-stop flights from the likes of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to London, Paris and New York. 

Here's a look inside the new-look Qantas Airbus A380.

Qantas’ new Airbus A380 first class suites

No major changes have been made to the 14 first class suites on the lower deck, which retain the same design as when the red-tailed A380s made their debut in 2008,.

That's not a bad thing by any stretch: there's basically nothing wrong with this bespoke Marc Newson design, which Executive Traveller rates among the best of the ‘open’ first class suites without sliding privacy doors.

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

This measured touch-up has seen the seat fitted with new contoured cushioning, some improved finishes and a larger, higher resolution entertainment screen.

The end result leaves the Qantas A380 first class suites looking the same yet a little different – totally familiar but undeniably a bit fresher.

Qantas’ new Airbus A380 business class seats

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.

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 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.

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 separated by the galley kitchen and toilets, will be the larger main cabin with 50 seats across 13 rows.

Also read: How to choose the best business class seats on Qantas' refurbished Airbus A380

Qantas’ new Airbus A380 business class lounges

Qantas' original Airbus A380 layout designated one side of the 'grand staircase' between decks to a narrow and little-used lounge. The 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.

This is quite a leap forward from the original lounge, which was more of a long low bench where everyone faced the same direction.

"That's not necessarily the best layout and the best arrangement for people to be in," Qantas designer David Caon tells Executive Traveller.

"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."

There's also a second lounge on the other side of the stairway, where a small cabin crew office used to be found. Caon has repurposed this nook with seating for three people and, based on these concept images, a self-serve minibar for drinks and snacks.

Across the two lounge areas there's seating for up to 10 business and first class passengers, and there's a massive flat-screen video panel visible from both lounge areas where passengers can enjoy a selection from the inflight entertasinment system.

This floorplan shows the layout of both lounges at the nose of the A380's upper deck, so you'll have a better idea of their relationship to one another.

The layout of Qantas' two new A380 passenger lounges.
The layout of Qantas' two new A380 passenger lounges.

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

Qantas’ new Airbus A380 premium economy seats

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

With a  2-3-2 layout in a dedicated cabin behind business class, a reconfiguration of the upper deck allows 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.

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

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.

Qantas' all-premium Airbus A380 upper deck

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, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce tells Executive Traveller.

"It’s going to have 30% more premium seats – new business class product, new premium economy product – and that shows you how well the premium market is going."

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

Anybody stuck in economy will see minimal change, with Qantas citing only new seat cushions and "improved inflight entertainment".


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.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2494

Readers are reminded to observe the Executive Traveller comment policy and ensure their comments are on topic and add value to the article. Comments which don't follow those simple guidelines may be edited or removed.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 63

At last flying on QF 380's will feel like the real world in business!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 63

The next one in line should be OQL, it's arrived in LHR on 29th and hasn't shown as left, so expect it's on its way to DRS.

03 Oct 2019

Total posts 5


OQL is headed to DRS for a maintenance check only. The next 2 A380's to be reconfigured will likely be OQH and OQJ.

07 May 2019

Total posts 8

What generally happens with the old seats that are removed? Do the crew areas get a refurb as well?

03 Oct 2019

Total posts 5

Hi D747,

Most of the removed seats will be broken down and recycled. The others will be donated as training aids.

Apart from some galley areas receiving a minor face lift the crew rest areas will not get a refurb.

25 Feb 2015

Total posts 32

Looks like quite a lot of use of timber finishes including a new timber colour for J. I quite like it.

David do you have any images of the refreshed economy cabins on the A380?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2494

We have one but it looks no different, and as a rule we don't cover international economy class on Executive Traveller, as we focus on the premium cabins.

28 Apr 2017

Total posts 6

I'm sorry but that's a lame excuse. Not all "executive travellers" are always travelling in premium cabins, and how is anyone supposed to understand what premium economy adds if we can't see what economy looks like?

Business Traveller does have a picture of the new A380 cabin and while it looks similar to before, it isn't the same.

29 Sep 2014

Total posts 13

The lounge looks very smart, but I think I prefer type of faux-wood they used on the Dreamliner.

29 Sep 2014

Total posts 13

To add, though, the dark grey on the 787 might look a bit too gloomy in a windowless space.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 135

This is all looking amazing! Excited to try out the new F and J. Also the lounge areas look fantastic!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 633

Wonderful pics David,

However ..

I have to wonder how long it will be before (or if), QF decides to introduce a policy on the use of the two lounge areas which sees the smaller three (3) seat lounge reserved exclusively for 14 First Class passengers and the seventy (70) J class passengers relegated to fight over the ten (10) seat larger lounge ?

Hopefully, the use of the two lounges will be monitored and kept somewhat fluid by the FA's. But I can also see both sides of the picture here. First Class passengers may well feel justifiably entitled to a somewhat more private lounge area for their exclusive use, given the higher premium they pay for fares. OTOH, J Class passengers may feel sufficiently entitled to claim as much of the lounge(s) as possible.

I will be patient and interested to see how this plays out. :-)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 432

Hmmm, in reality, I don't see many F pax using the space - it's not necessary for them - UNLESS they are travelling with others who are in lower classes and need a space to all get together.

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 75

I agree, I have seen first class passengers come up and use the lounge to spend time with somebody who is in business or even economy who comes to visit as a guest, but if I was in first I would probably stay there otherwise.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2016

Total posts 12

I'd be surprised if F passengers can be bothered to go upstairs to the lounge.


07 May 2014

Total posts 3

we have done so a couple of times when the beds are being made and to have a wander around with the toddler

31 Jul 2018

Total posts 23

Such a welcome update. It was surprising how quickly the original interiors aged. I am a big fan of the J design being carried over from the 787 and similar 330.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 247

Fantastic coverage, ET! The first class 'refresh' is underwhelming, it looks like the seats have been nothing more than steam-cleaned, but the new lounges look wonderful. I like the way Qantas has created two lounges to accommodate more people but also given each one a different type of design. And of course bringing the Boeing 787 Business Suites onto the A380 makes this aircraft properly competitive again.

Pretty impressive, I wish more had been done in first class but it's a decent product, business is the biggest win. But I will miss the legroom of the old Skybed business class seats compared to the 'foot cubbyholes' of the Business Suites. The lounges are going to be popular, I hope there are sound-deadening curtains between the lounge and the start of the business class cabin.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

23 May 2013

Total posts 45

AJ states the whole long-haul fleet of A380/A330/B787 will have the same J seats. Does that mean the last 2 A332 were upgraded?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 432

Yes, EBG and EBL have both been upgraded to the J suites over the past few months so all A330s now have them.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 347

You have to hand it to them, looks very stylish and high quality. The F class in the "blond leather" looks great with J and PY looking great too. I'm loving the dark wood grain throughout, a nice touch, just subtle enough and from the photos doesn't have that imitation feel that always reminds me of another big airline. The lounge areas look good and functional too. I think the QF A380 just may have overtaken their 787 in the popularity stakes!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 May 2019

Total posts 28

This First refresh is abysmal and incredibly disappointing. They'd been conspicuously trying to manage expectations for months so mine were low but I'm actually shocked. To the extent I can tell the difference between this seat and the last one, I actually think it looks worse. They've basically just reupholstered the seats with the same fabric and put an ugly brown border around the edges of the seat enclosure which, as anyone who travels First regularly would know, were starting to look increasingly dented and worn about 3 years ago. I can't see any difference with the IFE screen.

It's pretty hilarious that they invested in a more revolutionary refresh of VH-OEB when it had 18 months of life left than they did with their entire A380 fleet. My bigger concern, though, is what it says about their commitment to the First product. They say they're going with a four class product for project sunrise but surely they have to be quietly ditching First if this is their A380 effort.

It's almost insulting to regular First customers given the level of investment of all of their major competitors who fly on European routes. How does this compete with Singapore? Or Emirates? Or Etihad? Also, if I'm doing 15-20 international business legs with Qantas internationally per year, why would I build up status with them if my reward is going to be an occasional 11 (or by end of life, 21) year old first seat that barely competes with decent business products as at 2019. Like seriously, Singapore business is much nicer at this point. Where will this hard product be in 5 years time?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jul 2014

Total posts 58

I, for one, am relieved that the QF first product is little changed. The seats are much less claustrophobic than those on Emirates, the bed is much more comfortable than that on Etihad, and comparisons with Singapore's business class are a a bit of a stretch, given SQ's cramped quarters that - on most aircraft - require one to lie on an angle. The first class bedding on QF is the best in the sky, in my experience, and the champagnes remain excellent . . . I look forward to enjoying this product on my TPAC flights over the next decade.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Mar 2018

Total posts 18

Hah. Have you flown SQ Suites, either the old version or the new, each with a drop-down or fold-down bed separate from the seat? Leaves QF First seat-to-bed for dead. What a dreary update for the QF First "cabin".

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2016

Total posts 12

It's great to see the Skybed seats getting ditched. Great improvement. I've enjoyed the the new J seats in the A332/A333s.

Last week I went SQ first to Narita and back from Sydney and got to fly both the old and new Singapore suites. The new suites are far superior to QF.

I do think SQ service levels and food, especially book the cook, is also far superior. QF needs to address this area too.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2015

Total posts 15

Onboard the delayed QF 2 tonight and this a great update to the A380 for QF. the lounge area is excellent - I am sure it will be well utilised

Row 11 business class seats has plenty of leg room

Now for some sleep


03 May 2013

Total posts 591

First is simply plain and pathetic. I cant see any difference in screen size either? Seems I'll be sticking to my usual of QF paper and EK metal.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 633

As I understand it, the improvement in First Class IFE are higher definition screens, not larger in size.

22 Apr 2013

Total posts 12

Fresh & Attractive! With the adjustable divider for couples compared to the A330 & cloth material for a comfortable sleep, this J product is certainly attractive. Will now aim to fly the A380 with this revamp.

A slight increase in PE pitch would of been nice

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 May 2016

Total posts 16

I have a question about this rollout - I am booked on QF11 and 12 in a couple weeks in J. The seat map is showing the 2x2x2 layout. Do people think that Qantas has already scheduled the refurbished plane and those flights wherever they might be going are showing the new layout? Or will there be a seat layout change closer to departure for the lucky people who score a ride on this new plane? I know it's highly unlikely that I'll win the jackpot - just wondering if there's any kind of hope...

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 2

The architecture of QF First is inherently competitive; 3 across on main deck of an A380 is uncommon. Overall a good effort on refreshing the hard product and great to be seeing the A380 fly in Qantas colours for another decade to come.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Oct 2017

Total posts 4

Considering the offering they had was already 3yrs behind 2yrs ago. They should have had these upgrades commence sooner! Fly to KL quite regularly and I lost my patience on my most recent trip that tomorrow I am flying SIA.

Looks like a sports bar with 1960's style cafeteria seats. I would rather have more toilets.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 14

I think it unlikely that many first passengers will bother with the lounge, the first class suites are designed to accomodate two for dinner and/or drinks (although not super comfortable for the "visitor" ) if people really want to chat. I climbed the stairs a few times before, late at night, only to get a snack and return downstairs seemed to be rarely used, hopefully the new design will change that. The new business class looks excellent and may make some consider if First is worth the extra cost. As suggested above maybe Qantas isn't keen to promote First class or doesn't have high demand outside of Upgrades.

19 Sep 2018

Total posts 1

I love that AJ is still referring to the QF Business Suite as "Next Generation seating". Does that make Skybed II "Current Generation"?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jul 2013

Total posts 35

Any ideas as to why the hard shell on the Business Suite is a darker colour than on the 787 and A330? I assume the seats aren't swappable between aircraft (otherwise it might make sense for a maintenance point of view) - but does it seem a little dark and gloomy compared to the others? And the F cabin?

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jan 2017

Total posts 10

To me its just a new big screen and a small paint job.

The new lounge lets see how that stands up.

And as

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Jan 2016

Total posts 81

Will miss the old 'Skybed II' in some weird tortured way, maybe the room for camera bags, computers and other stuff. Looking forward to flying on an upgraded version in the new year although the odds are not stacked my way as yet.


04 Apr 2014

Total posts 178

Me too! I'm tall so never really had an issue with aisle access, and the space. Just so much room. But in lie flat mode, well we all know that was in name only.

Re. the First upgrade here, I'm firmly in the camp of leave well enough alone. Those beds really are great and again the space is fantastic. I do hope they actually replaced the surfaces though, they were pretty tired in many cases. And I am a but surprised the control screen on the side survived. It's very old tech now.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Oct 2017

Total posts 4

Took them all this time to carry out a refurb and PLEASE tell me there is WIFI? Some of us on business actually need to get work done!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Dec 2014

Total posts 44

“All this time”..... They have done the refurb when the aircraft are approaching 10 years of age, which is completely normal. There will be no wifi because, as Qantas have explained many times, they are waiting for a decent wifi service to become available. They don't want to install an inferior service that drops out all the time like everyone else has.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 174

Much Appreciated, David.

I'm doing the QF 7/8 dash next week in First and it would have been nice to give the new layout a burl, alas. As Maxwell Smart would say, 'missed it, by that much'. (Despite some other comments, I like QF First as is and the new seat fabric looks and should feel, spot-on for the long haul). Cheers!

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

26 Jul 2012

Total posts 35


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Nov 2016

Total posts 76

I'm not sure I would call the Business Lounges a "Game Changer" as reported in the press. The Business suites are a great improvement but First looks refreshed at best. Maybe the money was spent on the Singapore First Lounge. Emirates Bar in the sky is impressive as it has a bar with an attendant and a nice view out the many windows. That is a Game Changer. I can't see many reasons to leave a First seat to sit in a small den unless to meet a friend who was in Business. That said, a refresh is welcomed.

QANTAS still has a long way to go if they are going to catch up with SIA.

The new suites on SIA are excellent backed up by the incredible SIA service makes travelling a lot more exciting than dreary old QANTAS.The large tv in the new suites is like sitting in a cinema and watching new released movies on the big screen is magic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 80

"PE will not have more legroom than the Dreamliner?" Lets be more honest and tell it how it really is. Legroom in the A380 is decreasing from 42inches to 36 or 38 inches. Less premium, more economy. Will the price lower to compensate?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 May 2019

Total posts 7

Recently returned to SYD from SIN on QF2 in BC. Must have been the original A380. It was falling apart as well as the food and the crew. What a complete disappointment. Lift your game QF

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