Review: Qantas A380 premium economy

What can passengers expect from this value-oriented ‘in between’ cabin?

By Staff Writers, May 29 2024
Review: Qantas A380 premium economy

Qantas’ Airbus A380 premium economy straddles the gap between economy and business class in terms of price, comfort and service. 

Passengers holding a ticket for it experience a dedicated check-in counter and access to priority boarding, in addition to elevated meals and service – starting with a glass of bubbles on arrival.

Here’s what else travellers in Qantas A380 premium economy can expect.

 

What is Qantas A380 premium economy like?

While Qantas first introduced premium economy on board its Airbus A380 jets in 2008, the superjumbos are now being upgraded with a second-generation premium economy seat with added comfort and high-tech touches.

It’s the same premium economy seat as you’ll find on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, so you can expect the same features – many of which are framed in relation to the economy experience, so it’s all about ‘more’ than what you get in economy.

The experience begins with a welcome drink.
The experience begins with a welcome drink.

(And yes, there’s also a third-gen premium economy seat on the way for the Qantas Airbus A350s, which will undertake globe-striding non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to the likes of London and New York from 2026.)

Qantas A380 premium economy.
Qantas A380 premium economy.

If you’re a stickler for the specs, the Qantas A380 premium economy seat has a pitch of 38” and is 19.5” wide (compare that to the 31” pitch and 17.5” width of the Qantas A380’s economy seat).

Qantas A380 premium economy.
Qantas A380 premium economy.

The wider seat and greater spacing between each row of seats gives you more room to settle in for the flight ahead.

The seat’s recline mechanism angles the cushions to create a ‘cradle’ that’s complemented – and sometimes complicated – by the unique design of the legrest-footrest.

Qantas A380 premium economy legroom.
Qantas A380 premium economy legroom.

You can swing a footrest down from the seat in front, or use this padded section to support the lower part of your leg while your feet rest in a mesh ‘hammock’.

Qantas A380 premium economy footrest.
Qantas A380 premium economy footrest.

The theory is that with the seat reclined, your body is fully supported from head to toe, which increases the chance of enjoying a decent sleep.

Qantas A380 premium economy foot 'hammock'.
Qantas A380 premium economy foot 'hammock'.

In practice, some premium economy flyers find the ‘hammock’ arrangement a little complex if they’re often getting in and out of the seat.

But there’s no denying that in full recline mode, Qantas’ A380 premium economy is a very relaxing place to be.

However, once the person in front of you reclines it’s relatively close quarters: the rear of their seat’s shell encroaches noticeably on ‘your’ space.

Qantas A380 premium economy seat recline.
Qantas A380 premium economy seat recline.

That’s not much of an issue if you’re both sleeping at the same time (except for when you want to get out of your seat), but if you’re trying to work or watch a video on your laptop it’s a tight squeeze.

That issue of pitch or seat spacing aside, the Qantas A380 premium economy seat itself is a smart design packing plenty of features.

With the exception of the first row, where smaller screens swing up from the armrest, each premium economy passenger on the Qantas A380 will find a vivid 13.3” HD video screen mounted on the rear of the seat in front of them.

Qantas A380 premium economy.
Qantas A380 premium economy.

There’s also a USB socket for charging up your phone or other pieces of travel tech, with a second USB charging outlet tucked in under the armrest and a shared AC socket for every two seats.

Qantas A380 premium economy AC and USB sockets.
Qantas A380 premium economy AC and USB sockets.

Directly under the screen is a small ‘personal electronic device ledge’ – pull this out and it provides a convenient perch for watching videos on your smartphone or tablet...

Qantas A380 premium economy tablet shelf.
Qantas A380 premium economy tablet shelf.

... and below that, a secure storage nook for your smartphone (a handy place to keep it while it’s recharging from the adjacent USB outlet), reading glasses and other oddments.

Qantas A380 premium economy storage nook.
Qantas A380 premium economy storage nook.

Another thoughtful touch is the personal ‘night light’ integrated into the seat’s little wrap-around wings, which provides gentle LED illumination without a glare that could disturb your seatmate.

This light is controlled via a button on your touchscreen monitor.
This light is controlled via a button on your touchscreen monitor.

However, there’s no inflight WiFi on the Qantas A380 – at least not right now. But the good news is it is finally on the way.

Qantas intends to offer fast, free WiFi on flights to Asia by the end of 2024, starting with the Airbus A330 and later rolling out to the Boeing 787 and A380.

Flights to New Zealand and other Pacific destinations are up next, followed by Europe and the USA, before non-stop Project Sunrise A350 flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York take wing in the back half of 2026.

Qantas A380 premium economy menu and meals

The Qantas premium economy meal table is also noticeably larger than its economy sibling, as are the more substantial meals served during your flight. These arrive individually plated in proper china.

On a recent flight, the dinner service consisted of a small pearl couscous tabouleh salad and a choice of three mains: braised beef with vegetables, Asian noodle salad with grilled chicken, or a plant-based pasta in tomato sauce. 

Braised beef with carrots, potatoes and green beans, plus a blueberry cheesecake.
Braised beef with carrots, potatoes and green beans, plus a blueberry cheesecake.

This was later followed by breakfast, with the option of a continental or hot breakfast of eggs, Canadian bacon, hash brown and roasted tomatoes. 

A muffin and fruit salad complete the breakfast service.
A muffin and fruit salad complete the breakfast service.

Grab and go snacks are available from galley throughout the flight, in addition to a couple of hot snacks, such as chipotle pork embanadas or a cheese and mushroom toastie.

Take your pick of fresh fruit, biscuits or crisps.
Take your pick of fresh fruit, biscuits or crisps.

Creature comforts waiting for you on the Qantas premium economy seat include noise-cancelling headphones – although these will pale by comparison to your own headphones or earbuds – a plush cotton pillow, and a woollen blanket. 

A basic amenity kit is stocked with an eye mask, socks and dental kit, plus some lip balm. 

Qantas premium economy amenity kit.
Qantas premium economy amenity kit.

The Qantas A380 premium economy cabin

There are 60 premium economy seats in the Qantas A380, with the premium economy cabin located on the upper deck, behind business class.

Qantas A380 premium economy has a hard-shell design and fixed armrests.
Qantas A380 premium economy has a hard-shell design and fixed armrests.

Those 60 seats are spread across 10 rows, with rows 31 through 37 having a standard 2-3-2 layout – two seats (A and B) at the left, three seats (D, E and F) in the middle and two seats (J and K) at the right.

Qantas A380 premium economy cabin.
Qantas A380 premium economy cabin.

After this, the rows towards the very rear of the cabin are staggered: for example, row 39 has just for seats (two in the middle and two at the window), while row 4 is just a pair of seats at the window.

Qantas A380 premium economy: the rear rows in the offset cabin layout.
Qantas A380 premium economy: the rear rows in the offset cabin layout.

So if you’re flying premium economy on the Qantas Airbus A380, which the best seats to choose – and which should you avoid?

The best Qantas A380 premium economy seats

You’ll enjoy the most legroom in any seat in row 31, which is the first row of the Qantas A380 premium economy cabin.

And because row 31 faces a bulkhead wall to the business class cabin, you also won’t have anybody reclining their seat into ‘your' space:, making row 31 especially the prize pick for any passenger over say 6’ (182cm).

Qantas A380 premium economy legroom in the first row.
Qantas A380 premium economy legroom in the first row.

While the armrest-mounted video screens in row 31 are a bit smaller than those of other seats, this won’t be an issue if like many modern travellers you bring your own entertainment on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

The seats in this first row also have a swing-up foot hammock built into the bulkhead wall. Simply push at its base and then swing it up to your preferred angle. 

Qantas A380 premium economy footrests in the first row.
Qantas A380 premium economy footrests in the first row.

It’s a comfortable setup, particularly when trying to sleep, as the horizontal position feels almost like an extension of the seat. However, it isn’t much use when watching a movie, as the monitor height is very low. 

Then monitor stalk cannot be raised.
Then monitor stalk cannot be raised.

Barring children, most people wouldn’t be able to fit their legs beneath the monitor and onto the footrest. It’s not a deal breaker, but is worth noting. 

Another tradeoff in the first row (at least for the centre seats) is storage is very limited, without the additional nooks of those behind it. 

If storage is important, any of the Qantas A380 premium economy seats directly next to the window – specifically, the A and K seats – are good because you can use the deep bins built into each side of the A380’s upper deck for storing anything you’d like to keep close at hand, such as a small personal bag, an amenity kit, or even your own PJs.

Qantas A380 premium economy storage bins next to the window seats.
Qantas A380 premium economy storage bins next to the window seats.

This bin is also ideal for getting the supplied pillow and blanket out of your way until needed.

Where possible, avoid seats in each of the last rows of the staggered Qantas A380 premium economy cabin: those are seats 37A, 37B, 39E, 39F, 40J and 40K.

Qantas A380 premium economy: the last rows in the cabin.
Qantas A380 premium economy: the last rows in the cabin.

Those seats are rather close to the cabin’s rear wall and have a somewhat limited recline, and you’ll have to put up with a bit of movement and noise as passengers head to and from the loo during the flight. 

Qantas A380 premium economy: the last rows in the cabin.
Qantas A380 premium economy: the last rows in the cabin.

Does Qantas A380 premium economy have its own toilets?

Yes, the superjumbo’s premium economy cabin has two lavs exclusive for premium economy passengers. The washrooms are at the very rear of the cabin, one either side of the plane, between the passenger cabin and the crew galley area.

One of those loos is directly behind seats 40J and 40K, so we’d suggest avoiding those seats unless you especially want to be near a lavatory. 

Qantas A380 premium economy lounge access

As is the norm across the airline industry, flying in Qantas premium economy doesn’t come with lounge access.

Of course, if you have suitable frequent flyers status, that’s a different story.

Qantas Gold frequent flyers and Qantas Club members booked into premium economy are admitted into the airline’s international business class lounges, while Qantas Platinum frequent flyers can make their way to any Qantas international first class lounge.

Note that if you’re on a Qantas A380 heading out of London, your Qantas Platinum or Gold frequent flyer status also opens the doors at Cathay Pacific’s excellent business class and first class lounges, which are handily located next door to Qantas’s own London lounge.

Is Qantas A380 premium economy worth it?

While you’re obviously paying more money to fly in Qantas premium economy over standard economy, the extra comfort will make a substantial difference to how you feel both during the long flight and when you step off the plane anywhere from 12-14 hours later.

The wider seat, snooze-friendly recline and additional room to stretch your legs all come in to play on a Qantas A380 flight, as the superjumbo routes typically include an overnight leg.

But as with any “is it worth it?” question, cost is a key part of the equation  – and Qantas premium economy can be twice the price of economy.

Turkish Airlines - Miles & Smiles

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 266

Recently flew Y+ from MEL to PER which was then onto LHR... the seats were very worn out. Tight too. I wasn't impressed even for such a short leg. And this was on the 787. I have though flown on the A380 but it was a bulk head. QF really need to keep their seats and planes fresh and cleaner. Disappointing even flying both Y and J to and from SIN. 

30 Jan 2020

Total posts 2

Always been impressed by Qantas Premium Economy.  Review didn't mention Wines are usually very decent (Same as J cabin?).   I rate the seat (especially footrest) and service offering higher than BA, SQ and CX.  Recently flew QF Finnair and found without the actual footrest seat was awful when trying to sleep.

28 Apr 2021

Total posts 24

A very well presented outline of what is offered to Passengers requiring an improved level of comfort plus a number of enhancements on long haul travel over the standard Economy section of the aircraft.

Yes the fare structure will be higher, however for those not prepared to go the extra step and pay for Business Class, then 'thumbs up' to Qantas for allowing Passengers to elevate their experience in the sky.

Full marks to the Staff Writers for the comprehensive insight of what is offered to those Passengers who might choose to fly in the A380 Premium Economy section.

It was also most pleasing that throughout the article the correct terminology 'Passenger' was used, whereas the Top Brass at Qantas HQ are still having difficulties in coming to the comprehension that in fact any person/s who travel in a train, bus car and even an Aircraft are in fact not customers.  Yes indeed a customer when they purchase a ticket.


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