Review: Qantas A380 premium economy
What can passengers expect from this value-oriented ‘in between’ cabin?
Qantas’ Airbus A380 premium economy straddles the gap between economy and business class in terms of price, comfort and service.
And with the Qantas superjumbos being upgraded to the airline’s latest premium economy seat – the same as featured on the Boeing 787 – here’s what travellers in Qantas A380 premium economy can expect.
- What is Qantas A380 premium economy like?
- Qantas A380 premium economy menu and meals
- The Qantas A380 premium economy cabin
- The best Qantas A380 premium economy seats
- Does Qantas A380 premium economy have its own toilets?
- Qantas A380 premium economy lounge access
- Is Qantas A380 premium economy worth it?
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.
(And yes, Executive Traveller can confirm there’s already a third-gen premium economy seat under development 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 late 2025.)
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.
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).
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
... 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.
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.
However, there’s no inflight WiFi on the Qantas A380 – at least not right now.
The airline has opted to hold back on international WiFi, saying current satellite technology doesn’t offer the speed or coverage needed to meet passenger expectations – especially in comparison to Qantas’ fast and free domestic offering.
This is set to change with the launch of the high-speed ViaSat-3, which by mid-2024 will achieve a global footprint.
The ViaSat system will be installed not only on the new Airbus A350s intended for non-stop Project Sunrise flights to London and New York, it will be retrofitted to the Airbus A380 superjumbo and other international jets.
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, and a recent overhaul to the Qantas premium economy menu is adding new mains such as salmon with tomato fennel sauce, braised lamb shank with red wine mushroom sauce and potato puree, and red quinoa and brown rice (ice cream is served later in the flight as a delightful treat).
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, a woollen blanket, and a basic amenity kit of eye mask, socks and dental 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 during the flight such as a small personal bag, an amenity kit, even your own PJs.
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.
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.
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.
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Review: Qantas A380 premium economy
24 Aug 2011
Total posts 1193
It was disappointing that when QF retrofitted these seats onto their A380s that they didn't fix the main issue that was so apparent from the same seats' installation on the 787s; the spacing of 38" is insufficient. Another couple of inches to take it to 40" (the same Air NZ) would have made all the difference.
Hopefully, when the A350s arrive, a different design is used where the recline doesn't impinge on the person behind.
20 Nov 2015
Total posts 426
I think ET, back when it was AusBT, was the first to call out the lack of legroom when this seat was launched on the 787, and I agree with what this site has said since then, which is basically that it's actually a great seat but it is let down by the lack of legroom, it just needs more pitch, at least 40".
Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards
20 Jan 2016
Total posts 62
This review seems to miss a few points, I have been on the last row a few times and never notice any restriction on the recline. The front row is certainly the pick, but the foot hammock is even less useful that the one in the rest of the seats. The side bins are great feature both for storage and as an additional space for drinks etc. The front row A and K seats really are the poor mans business class. The storage bins are mainly there because the overhead bins on the upstairs side on the A380 are small compared to the middle. So, they are needed. And the photographs in this article clearly date back to the initial launch as brown pleather finish on almost every seat is now visibly worn and tired. I would also rate the A380 PE over the 787 with the easier access to additional toilets at the back of business.
Overall QF overprice their PE, and this was never the revolution Joyce claimed. The promised extra space in the A350 will help, but it still very much economy plus not business lite.
05 Mar 2015
Total posts 393
Row 31, the front row, is definitely the place to b if you can get it. I agree with avoiding the seats in the last rows due mainly to the disturbances mentioned in this article. Whenever I have to fly in the A380 premium economy I will aim for 31A or 31K for the extra legroom and nobody reclining in front of me plus the side bins under the window.
07 May 2015
Total posts 41
Unpublished benefit: if you are in premium economy on the Qantas A380 but have a partner or friend travelling in business class who also has high status, eg Platinum or Chairman's Lounge, it's not unknown for the cabin crew to let them invite you to join them in the business class lounge at the front of the upper deck. That's certainly a nice place to spend an hour or two or three with a drink and some nibbles!
Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus
16 Jul 2019
Total posts 20
The seat looks nice compared to other 'off the shelf' PE products, but that's where the excitement ends. The food is akin to what's offered on QF domestic short haul domestic and the service is admittedly elevated from economy, more so than on airlines like Singapore Airlines and the US carriers.
But unlike airlines like BA which offer decent upgrade deals, QF prices their PE much higher than it deserves, especially given the limitations of the seat / space when reclined. I would either save my pennies and fly economy with an extra legroom seat or invest in a business class ticket.
24 Apr 2014
Total posts 272
Is there no economy seats at all now upstairs? I know there used to be
24 Aug 2011
Total posts 1193
Correct, the small Y class upstairs on QF A380s has been removed with Premium Economy taking over that space.
12 Feb 2014
Total posts 229
I’ve taken PE on QF1 a couple of times since covid restrictions ended. Both times I’ve snagged sale fares under $4000 return and double status credits getting me to gold membership. It’s a perfectly comfortable seat for the journey with decent food, and good service. Great value in my book. The London lounge is brilliant. Be interesting to try an alternative but no compelling reason to do so.
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
26 Nov 2012
Total posts 98
Dine in CX First then lounge in QF. Once you’ve done that, you’ll do it every time.
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
28 Aug 2015
Total posts 38
I used to fly Qantas PE regularly but can no longer justify the price. It seems I’m not alone, as on most recent flights there has been ample spare capacity in the PE cabin. Could be a coincidence, but perhaps not
04 Apr 2014
Total posts 208
Like others the issue for me with Qantas PE is the pitch; when the 787 launched we got to try all the classes at their event in LA and at 6'4" I simply don't fit in these seats. Hence I have never tried it on my regular trips between the US and Australia.
26 Oct 2017
Total posts 20
Nice, but still numbs the bum, as I discovered on LHR-SIN flight and -- as a number here note -- still not exactly cheap. Lie-flat's the only reliable (expensive) solution.