The 8 biggest changes in Qantas' new Airbus A380 business class

A far better business class experience awaits travellers on Qantas' refurbished Airbus A380s.

By David Flynn, October 9 2019

Qantas' flagship Airbus A380 jets are getting a new business class seat which will make the red-tailed superjumbo a far more more appealing proposition for business travellers.

At the time of writing, the first of the refurbished A380s is now flying on a chequerboard roster which will include Singapore, London, Los Angeles and potentially Dallas/Forth Worth, although nothing is set in stone and there's no reliable way of knowing if you'll be flying on the refurb'd bird or one of its 'classic' cousins.

With each aircraft taking approximately eight weeks to upgrade, Qantas 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 (perfect timing for Qantas' 100th anniversary).

Here's what travellers can expect from Qantas' new Airbus A380 business class. 

1. The best seat in the fleet

Formally branded as the Qantas Business Suite, Qantas' new A380 business class seat is the same as that of the airline's Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which in turn was an evolution of what you'll find on all Qantas Airbus A330s.

If you've flown on those aircraft before, then you'll already have a pretty good idea of what's in store and the many ways in which the Business Suite is superior to the A380's Skybed II seat.

2. Direct aisle access

The most fundamental flaw of Qantas' decade-old Airbus A380 business class seat was a 'two-across' (2-2-2) layout which meant passengers sitting by the window had to clamber across their neighbour to get out of (and back into) the seat.

That's a pain at any time, doubly so during the overnight flights which make up the bulk of the A380 routes. And it's no fun being the passenger between the window seat and the aisle, either.

The new A380 Business Suite sees Qantas do away with this by switching to a 1-2-1 layout which gives every passenger direct access to the aisle.

3. More privacy

The Business Suite's design and 1-2-1 layout sees travellers enjoy much more privacy during the flight. Even if you're in an aisle seat, part of the Business Suite's rear shell extends forward like a wrap-around wing to help create a personal cocoon.

If you're travelling with a partner, the middle seats have a divider that can be lowered so you can share a bit of the experience.

However, the best place to get a touch of that 'private jet' feeling are the seats located directly at the window: there's a side shelf plus the seat's curved shell between you and the aisle.

4. A fully flat bed, not a sagging one

A common criticism of the Skybed II was that, due largely to its age, the seat developed a noticeable sag or droop when it was extended into a bed mode. The Business Suite offers a proper flat bed, with more support where it's needed.

However, this leads to the one area where the Skybed II is arguably better than the Business Suite.

The Skybed's pod-like design (below) left plenty of room at the front of the seat, while the Business Suite sees your feet tucked into a 'cubbyhole'.

Some travellers find this makes for rather a tight fit, especially if their feet are above average size.

Our tip: if you have plus-sized plods or simply like more wiggle-room for your feet, the seats in the front row of the A380's two business class cabins have a far larger cutout.  Those seats are 11A, 11E, 11F, 11K, 16A, 16K, 17E and 17F.

These eight seats on Qantas' refurbished Airbus A380 offer maximum room for your feet.
These eight seats on Qantas' refurbished Airbus A380 offer maximum room for your feet.

These photos show the oversized 'foot nook' for seats in the A380's two bulkhead rows, those being rows 11 and 16/17.

Obviously, choosing a seat at the front of the main business class cabin comes with the risk of infants being booked into the two bassinet positions at 17E and 17F.

Read more: How top pick the best business class seats on Qantas' refurbished Airbus A380

5. More personal and stowage space

Another substantial improvement of the Business Suite is the extra room it provides for items as large as laptops down to smartphones and reading glasses.

This was a serious failing of the previous Qantas A380 business class seat: you had to deftly juggle pretty much anything you wanted to use or keep close at hand during the flight.

The large flat bench next to each Business Suite is an obvious place to temporarily plonk your notebook, with an L-shaped recess behind this; meanwhile, a large bin below and in front of the bench is perfect for tucking away your shoes, amenity kit, gadget bag or what-not.

Still not enough space for you? Grab a seat located at the window (by way of example, in the seatmap above, compare the window-adjacent 18A to the aisle-adjacent 17A or 19A).

This affords easy access to the long, deep capacious bins below the A380's upper deck windows, and those bins are ideal for your shoes, pillow, blanket and even a slim bag or backpack.

You can still get to those bins if you're in a window seat located closer to the aisle, but it will involve a bit of stretching across the seat's shelving unit.

6. A better office in the sky

When there's work to be done, the privacy and storage space are keys to transforming the A380 Business Suite into your temporary office suite. And there are two more marks in its favour.

The AC and USB ports are located on that side shelf, so you'll no longer need to go blindly fumbling around the bottom of the Skybed to plug in your AC adaptor (and there's no chance that you or your seatmate will accidentally knock it out of place).

Gone is the Skybed's wobbly tray table. The table which slides out from the Business Suite's shelf is not only large enough for a 17-inch laptop, it's pleasingly stable.

All that's missing for the busy business traveller is inflight Internet, as Qantas' current system is restricted to domestic flights: the airline doesn't expect to see international WiFi until at least 2021

7. The 'big screen' experience

If you're fond of winding down with an inflight movie or indulging in a boxed-set bingefest above the clouds, the Qantas A380 Business Suite is just the ticket. After years of putting up with A380's dim low-contrast 12-inch screen, the new A380 Business Suite is like a personal IMAX screen.

It's a generous 16 inches, so you can really lose yourself in the show. It's also  a high-definition panel, just like your flatscreen TV at home, with more brightness and greater contrast.

8. Two onboard business class lounges

As solid an improvement as Qantas' Airbus A380 business class is, we highly recommend you spend some time out of that seat and in one of the two new lounges at the very front of the upper deck.

The deep green leather couches, wood panelled walls and low lighting invokes a bit of a 'cocktail lounge' vibe, and you can order from a menu of snacks, light meals and drinks, including signature cocktails such as an 'Australian Negroni' with mountain pepper and river mint.

To the left of the staircase, where a crew office used to be, you'll find a long banquette similar to the original Qantas A380 lounge, but far more comfortable. This is also where the self-service bar is located.

The old and generally under-utilised lounge to the right of the staircase has been completely re-imagined as a social area with cafe-style tables and bench seating.

AC and USB sockets are tucked away under the tables, with a large flat-screen monitor on the wall between the lounges so you can grab a drink and some snacks, settle back and enjoy a movie with your mates.

Also read: How top pick the best business class seats on Qantas' refurbished Airbus A380

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 May 2016

Total posts 16

HI there - you mention that there's no reliable way of knowing which layout you'll be getting - but won't the seat map give it away when you choose your seats in the manage booking page? Thank you.

05 May 2016

Total posts 526

syd_dan you're assuming that aircraft don't break down or get moved on to a different route for other reasons e.g. higher demand. If one such change happens suddenly the whole schedule for the dates, times and routes could change for the aircraft.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 May 2016

Total posts 16

Hi mviy - of course - you can never be sure that there won't be a change of aircraft - I suppose my question should have been "is Qantas showing the new layout on those flights it's currently planning on putting the refurbished aircraft on? Or are they just showing the 2-2-2 layout on all A380 flights and then reallocating seats at the very last minute?"

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 47

Hi syd_dan you will be able to see it on the seat map yes.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 566

It's a great improvement on the prior product but it hasn't leap-frogged everyone to become a standard-setter. The lounge areas on both EK and EY still look superior to what QF is offering. The seat is fine as would be expected given it is hard to go too wrong when you start with the Vantage XL as the donor seat.

It is a shame QF didn't take the opportunity to fix up the product issues it has with the W seat but instead chose to adopt the 787 product unchanged.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Mar 2019

Total posts 10

Is that large qantas logo in the lounge actually a screen? If so, how do they propose you watch anything on it? It faces the staircase. How do you pick what to watch?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 47

If it's like the screen on the previous lounge then there is a handset controller there from memory.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Mar 2019

Total posts 10

Shame they didn't retrofit live TV to the planes for sport and news. Would be great to watch it in the lounge.

05 May 2016

Total posts 526

Part of the satellite network they want to use for inflight internet isn't ready yet. Once it is and they have that setup maybe they'll consider loading some live tv streams though it may not be reliable enough for that.

The vantage XL is a great starting point. Readers beware that Malaysia use the Vantage version not the XL and the seat is positively claustrophobic since the seat is narrower, especially the feet. I have just got off a Singapore A350 and although the seat is uber wide the feet space is very limited too.

Bar area is a good upgrade from the bench seat they used to have. Pity didn't go for the bar area like Emirates, one of the best features of their A380s.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Jan 2016

Total posts 57

Yes, the EK bar area sure does look good, but in reality, unless you're travelling with a few other people it is just the same (albeit @ 40,000 ft) as being in a motel bar with no mates. This I expect will be the same for the QF lounges, but happy to try out all the same, as has been done with the EK bar area, which in reality and on a truthful reflection, is not that exciting.

On the upside though, looking forward to jagging a new plane to test the seat, lounge and anything else...!!

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 220

The Emirates staff become your mates

British Airways - Executive Club

23 Mar 2018

Total posts 4

I wonder if fewer people will use points to upgrade from business to first class on these refurbished planes? I would find it harder to justify parting with 50,000 + points when the business suite is so good.

On the flip side, I could totally justify upgrading from premium economy! I'm really surprised Qantas didn't take on board the feedback from countless travellers about the seat pitch.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 403

Interesting point on the diminished value of a points upgrade to F. The outcome might be more ops upgrades from J to F, particularly if QF would clear space in J to enable PE to J upgrades.

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 57

I've yet to any airline successfully implement a lounge areas on an A380. I've been in the QF front lounge - empty several times. Thai First lounge - empty. Emirates back lounge - empty apart from the odd person taking photos. Qatar lounge - one person. Maybe I've been unlucky, but I think these spaces are a waste and are just used for marketing purposes. What do other people think?

30 May 2018

Total posts 9

I have seen the Emirates A380 lounge packed and empty in equal measures. The old QF (non-)lounge was grim and no one used it, except me when in First and sitting waiting for the turn down service to complete before retiring to bed.

05 Dec 2018

Total posts 135

I love the QR lounge area, great to stretch out, grab a drink and chat. However yes I agree in my last 14 hour flight in Business, via the Qantas 787, I didn't miss not having a lounge.

I'm sure it's costs/consistency reasons, but would have been nice if Qantas installed larger screens in the A380's. Those 16” screens will be perceived as miniature by end of life. There is a heap of space with those huge borders around the screen.

I wonder if the seating will feel more spacious in the A380 setup, compared to the 787.

18 Oct 2019

Total posts 13

Still no internet access? Even as slow as it is on Emirates, it is great if you have to work during a long flight


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