Qantas to relaunch A380 first class in March

The superjumbo is soaring again, but Qantas isn’t quite ready to resume selling its first class suites...

By David Flynn, January 10 2022
Qantas to relaunch A380 first class in March

Although Qantas’ flagship Airbus A380 has returned to the skies, the airline has decided not to put the superjumbo’s cosy first class suites on the market.

Instead, the highest fare that’s currently being sold on the initial three A380 flights per week between Sydney and Los Angeles is in business class.

But those Marc Newson-designed open suites, with their high-walled cocoon design and swivelling recliner chair, won’t be empty when the A380 takes off for that 14-hour Pacific crossing.

Instead, Qantas will be using them to upgrade top-tier frequent flyers who’ve booked into business class.

What’s behind these free upgrades to first class?

When Qantas grounded its 12 superjumbos at the beginning of the pandemic, the airline expected they’d remain out of action until at least 2023, at which point demand for international travel was likely to rebound to the levels needed to fill those double-decker behemoths.

However, the pace of post-pandemic travel began picking up faster than even Qantas forecast, and the A380s bounced back onto the schedule for July 2022, then March 2022 and most recently January 11.

Qantas brought back one A380 for what it described as “crew training and as an operational spare ahead of the summer holiday travel peak,” and that spare has now been pressed into service, with a second superjumbo returning over the past weekend.

While these moves will “provide additional operational flexibility” the airline says it’s still working through some of the onboard customer service elements which require a longer lead-time.

This means it’s impossible – or at least very unwise, to the point of PR suicide on social media  – for Qantas to justify charging the high cost of a first class fare when all the passenger is getting is a comfier seat.

(From Sydney to Los Angeles, a one-way first class fare can begin at close to $10,000, compared to $6,000-$8,000 for business class depending on the time of year.)

As a result, Qantas has temporarily suspended all sales of first class on the Sydney-Los Angeles route.

How to get your free ‘first class’ upgrade

Instead, the airline tells Executive Traveller that its A380 First suites are now being offered as a “complimentary upgrades for top-tier frequent flyers” travelling in business class.

They’ll still receive the same meals, drinks and service as anyone in business class – it’ll just be delivered in those spacious suites nestled away in the exclusive first class cabin at the front of the A380’s lower deck.

For the time being, some business class passengers will spend their flight in a first class suite.
For the time being, some business class passengers will spend their flight in a first class suite.

Executive Traveller understands that first cab off the rank will be Platinum One and Platinum Qantas Frequent Flyers booked in business class, who’ll be contacted several days before departure and offered the free upgrade.

There appears to be no provision for those Platinum-grade frequent flyers to plonk themselves into first class when doing advance seat selection as part of their booking – while they may be able to see the 14 first class suites showing on the seat map, they’ll be marked as unavailable. 

When will Qantas first class return?

At the time of writing, Qantas’ A380 first class comes back on sale from March 27 between Sydney and Los Angeles.

While this is naturally when you’d expect the primo Neil Perry dining experience (along with creature comforts like first class amenity tis and pyjamas) to also reappear, it’s not known how this will impact the all-important ground experience of the lounges.

The Sydney International First Lounge currently remains in ‘premium lounge’ mode, open to Qantas business class passengers, Gold-grade frees and Qantas Club members, with a pared-back menu and a ‘closed’ sign still adorning the indulgent day spa.

Meanwhile, Qantas’ Los Angeles International First Lounge is currently closed, with all travellers directed to the adjacent Qantas LAX business lounge.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 387

Thanks David, a good explanation of this and makes perfect sense. Good luck for those business class passengers who get the bump up to first class, I just hope Qantas makes it very clear to them from the get-go that they're just getting the better 'hard product', nothing more.

So F is back on sale from March 27, I wonder if that's when we will see the Sydney business lounge reopen? Seems a bit too early, friend who are flying tell me the Sydney F lounge is still nowhere near at capacity and of course so many Qantas routes are not back or are back only with a few flights a week and even those aren't full.

I think for March 27 Qantas should set aside a few of the F lounge bays and make them into an 'exclusive' area for A380 first class passengers, Platinum Ones and Platinums, give them a different menu with more of the classic F dishes plus Champagne and better wines too.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1035

I flew international for the first time last week and can safely say we are nowhere near anything approaching normal.  

On the day I left Melbourne there were only 14 arrivals listed all day and not all of these were carrying passengers.  Check-in takes ages as all your documents are reviewed.  The terminal is deserted with only the newsagent opening for the 90 minutes before each departure.  Apart from accessing the QF Lounge, there is nowhere to get a coffee airside in T2.  You can't even get through security until it is opened 90 minutes before a scheduled departure.  

The QF F Lounge was pretty empty; it was only serving an A332 and JQ 788 both going to SIN.  The staff there were trying their best to provide a regular service.

Returning from SIN was much the same.  SIN T1 was deserted on Saturday morning and I had to schlepp over to T3 to get a Hudsons Coffee.  As I was on a Jetstar 787, the QF Lounge didn't open and wouldn't until late that night for a couple of A330s going back to MEL and SYD.  To show how quiet SIN is, all the departures for T1 for the entire day could be seen on the display screens at once and this is now a terminal that has inherited all Scoot movements from T2.  In T3, all the departures were easily shown on 2 screens.  There continues to be a huge number of taped up SQ and TR planes all around Changi.

I hope the return of the A380s means things are going back to normal but the current requirements at both check-in and arrival mean scaling up is not a simple thing to do.  Maybe the second half of 2022 will show some recovery....

gsx
gsx

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Aug 2015

Total posts 36

I saw VH-OQD arrive into Sydney from Los Angeles this morning. 

07 May 2015

Total posts 14

To be fair, Qantas First is overhyped and overpriced. I think the only reason you would pay that much for it would be because you value the privacy of being in these more enclosed suites and in the small private cabin, instead of being up in business class where everyone can see you. So certain VIPs, celebrities, high-profile people would gravitate towards first class anyway. But there's nothing that special about the F&B, certainly not compared to the old days of the amazing 'degustation menu.'

On SYD-LAX it's the only first class cabin but if you were flying to London, the first class of Singapore Airlines and Emirates is much better value. Etihad's A380s were also incredibly first class, I just hope they come back. Qatar Airways' A380 first class was even more 'open' than the Qantas design, but F&B was out of this world.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 271

Yes   exactly why would you bother with Qantas First  Im a fan of Qatar Cathay Allnippon  Thai  Lufthansa and the last deneration open air Swiss First before they added the coffin doors 

The First lounge in Sydney is outdated, has incredibly poor ventilation and airconditioning  and substandard food choices   Have a look at Al Safwa lounge in Doha of Swiss First lounges in E and now A gates at Zurich - fantastic dining  

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 198

I flew LAX-AKL return over Christmas.  LAX was close to pre-pandemic, AKL was like a morgue.  

Well that doesn't surprise me about AKL given that NZ is still in total lockdown mode. Interesting to hear LAX has picked up so much, a good sign!

I'm not a 'Qantas basher' but I don't see why anybody would pay money for A380 First unless it's not their money, eg their company is paying because it's in their contract, or because they're wealthy and basically "money is no object", but in that case I'd still wonder why they don't fly SQ for example. If you have a stack of Qantas Points and earn stacks on an ongoing basis through your own business for example, then sure, Qantas A380 First is a great treat, but it's also less appealing if you are Platinum and already get into the First Lounges at both ends of the journey. New Qantas A380 Business, totally different and very much worth it, unless you can get Qatar Qsuites in which case that's the way to go, and again if you have Platinum so you can use the Qantas First lounge before your flight.

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 99

Just returned on QF 12 from LAX to SYD . The Qantas Business Lounge was closed and Business passengers provided access to the Star Alliance Lounge no other option . I was informed at checkin the Qantas Business Lounge in LAX was not, nor had been ,operational even though the Qantas website and in fact this article indicates the lounge is open . Not the case last week !

08 Jul 2017

Total posts 31

Reports on FlyerTalk the lounge is closed "until further notice" due to "maintenance" issues - the poster indicated the issues related to plumbing. 

https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/33878453-post282.html

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 271

This is not a new concept  -and its a good one  -Swiss has for many many years flown wide-bodied aircraft (A330 and more recently 777) and upgrades anyone with First ticket into Zurich continuing on to Tel Aviv First seating.  Additionally Hon and Senators are often upgraded to First from Business  - I have generally always sat in First (with business class service, usually alone Zurich-Tel Aviv  flights, with a C ticket but arriving in First to Zurich , and also returning from Tel Aviv to Zurich where the First cabin is usually full due to the high numbers of HON/Senators based in Israel or regularly returning from Israel.  As mentioned, it is the standard business class catering but First seating, and depending upon how many people are sitting in First-Business there is intermittent surveileine of the First cabin by crew, or dedicated First crew if highly loaded in First with Business Service  On a side note, due to lower pax loads, Swiss occasionally resort to an A321 to/from Tel Aviv, either one one or both (as seen recently with COVID)  of the 2 daily flights to/from Tel Aviv  Lufthansa chose many years ago to stop 747/A346 flights from Munich/Frankfurt in favour of the A321, and lost a lot of customers to Swiss (albeit another Lufthansa Group member) 

They did this with the 747’s to Hawaii back in the day. Chairman & Platinum were upgraded to the First Class cabin but received meals on trays like Business. The the space and quiet was what was really appreciated especially with heaps of kids on the Hawaii route.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

01 Oct 2021

Total posts 6

Rember folks people fly Qantas because they have to not because they want to.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 118

Oh, yeah, I hear ya. It wasn't always like that though. I genuinely loved QF through the 80s and 90s. But things began changing in the 00s and accelerated in the 10s.....can't put a finger on it. Maybe it was a lot of 'little' things that just added up. Actually, it would be more appropriate to say it was the little things that were taken away. I think that's a much more accurate way to put it. I still like QF, but I don't 'love' it the way I used to...........

Etihad - Etihad Guest

11 May 2018

Total posts 4

Thanks very much for this article.
I try to keep up to date on what's happening with Qantas on the USA - Australia routes, so this is very helpful info for me.

David Flynn, am I correct in reading the headline that commencing March 27th, the "new" first class will appear in the A380 on the SYD-LAX leg?

I'm flying QF11 on March 30th and am hopeful my return to Qantas (after many years absence) will re-invigorate my once high admiration of Qantas and crew on the 747's. I recognise that the cabin won't match my experiences with Singapore Airlines Suites but, I have been looking for a good reason to fly Qantas again. I'm very hopeful this will be it.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2577

Hey VC – all we can say is what Qantas has confirmed to us, which is that "at the time of writing, Qantas’ A380 first class comes back on sale from March 27 between Sydney and Los Angeles." What shape that takes on March 27 – and more importantly for you, March 30 – remains to be seen.

Thanks David. 

Yes that' s what my concern is, "what shape it will take come Mar 30th". As I said, I remain hopeful.


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