Qantas Airbus A380 business class lounge gets cafe-style refresh

By David Flynn, October 30 2017
Qantas Airbus A380 business class lounge gets cafe-style refresh

Qantas will reshape the upstairs lounge of its Airbus A380 to create more of a social space for the superjumbo’s first class and business class flyers as part of an extensive upgrade to the airline’s flagship double-decker jet.

The project – which will also see the airline’s latest business class and premium economy seats installed. and the first class cabin refreshed – will ditch the long red banquette for what concept sketches show as two seating clusters where passengers can mix and mingle, work or even hold impromptu meetings above the clouds.

A concept sketch for the new-look Qantas A380 business class lounge. David Caon / Qantas
A concept sketch for the new-look Qantas A380 business class lounge
David Caon / Qantas

UPDATE [August 23, 2018]: Australian Business Traveller can exclusively report that Qantas' Airbus A380 revamp will introduce two new business class lounges, with each lounge located either side of the 'grand staircase' leading down to first class. For details and photos click through to our latest article, Qantas Airbus A380s to get two inflight business class lounges

Australian designer David Caon, who is in charge of reimagining the lounge and has also shaped the airline’s next-gen business class, premium economy and economy seats which debuted on the Boeing 787-9, sees the lounge as being more of a social space than just a piece of furniture.

“The thinking is about trying to find a little bit more seating and make it a little bit more convivial” Caon tells Australian Business Traveller. 

“Today everybody’s sitting along the bench and facing one direction, and that's not necessarily the best layout and the best arrangement for people to be in.”

Concept art for the current Qantas A380 business class lounge (note the fish tank in the bulkhead!). Marc Newson / Qantas
Concept art for the current Qantas A380 business class lounge (note the fish tank in the bulkhead!)
Marc Newson / Qantas

“Our lounge should be something where people are able to sit and face each other and discuss and talk,” Caon explains.

“It’s supposed to be a sociable space, 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.”

Making the most of the lounge’s footprint will be paramount to Caon’s plans, as the refit program won’t involve structural changes such as relocating bulkhead walls or downsizing the ‘grand staircase’ to the first class cabin on the main deck.

The superjumbo's grand staircase will survive Qantas' 2019 make-over. Qantas
The superjumbo's grand staircase will survive Qantas' 2019 make-over

The magazine rack opposite the lounge is for the chop, while a bit more room will be freed up due to the sheer bulk of the red settee.

“We’re looking to remove the magazine rack simply because it's really not necessary,” Caon says. “The magazine rack is not reinforcing our concept, which is about trying to find a way that we can get people to face each other and to work together.”

The magazine rack from today's A380 will likely be dropped. Qantas
The magazine rack from today's A380 will likely be dropped

“My design philosophy has always been about making things as human as possible (so we want to) bring that human element into that space.”

Dampening the sound of lounge chit-chat so as not to disturb passengers in the front rows of the business class cabin is also under consideration – “using slightly less hard surfaces and things like that would be beneficial,” Caon says.

However, with Qantas’ Airbus A380 revamp not due to start until mid-2019 it’s still early days for Caon and his team.

“The sketch does a fair bit to illustrate our initial thinking, but we've got a lot of ideas that we're throwing around at the moment because we're still in the concept days, so I've got to stress that the sketches are (just) sketches to illustrate our thinking in how we evolve the space and bring it up to the next level… they're not necessarily representative of what we're going to do.”

Caon’s concept designs include a lighter colour palette for the lounge to help connect the space to the new-look business class cabin, “because they are supposed to be the same space” he explains.

Qantas' new Boeing 787-9 business class seats will also move onto the A380. Qantas
Qantas' new Boeing 787-9 business class seats will also move onto the A380

“One the things that we've been targeting in our thinking is having this ‘brand continuity’ throughout the airline, and anything that we'll do will refer to principles in the Qantas design DNA. The palette references that, but we are still testing different versions of that palette and experimenting where we use those tones. 

“Certainly enhancing the mood of that space and making it a little bit textured and layered would be something that is high on my list.”

A stand-out feature of the new lounge concept is a curved wooden panel following the line of the fuselage.

“Timber laminate is a part of the Qantas business palette now, so (the lounge) could be an obvious place we could use it – but that's a pretty big challenge because once you start talking about the sidewall then we really have to think about designing quite bespoke elements.”

“And everything we do is very dependent on regulations so there’s quite a significant process of engineering and assessment as to whether it's even possible.”

The whole process is however being streamlined by the use of virtual reality, with VR headsets providing what Caon terms “immersive technology” rather than simply looking at an on-screen rendering.

“VR gives you that instant perspective and allows you to understand with immediacy how everything works together” Caon enthuses. 

“We can make decisions a lot faster because we can visualise things… I think it's really exciting and will be the path forward for design in general.”


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.

Skywards Gold

21 Apr 2011

Total posts 54

Does anyone know when the A380 business seats will be updated?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 601

it says in the article "However, with Qantas’ Airbus A380 revamp not due to start until mid-2019 "

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Jun 2015

Total posts 69

I really hope they bring it forward. Those seats are well outdated now, will be prehistoric by 2019.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 Mar 2015

Total posts 52

Totally useless at the moment, dark & uncomfortable, plus very noisy due to air rush. Needs a lot more than a bench.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 271

Why redesign something that will always have low utility rather than look for other space uses. Seems odd to me.

Surely an extra toilet (acknowledging the cost of this) or a simple walk up bar for cocktails that are then taken back to your seat would be better than any revamp?

29 Sep 2014

Total posts 13

I have flown on Qantas and Asiana (who also have a "lounge" in that space) A380s dozens of times and I don't recall ever seeing someone using the lounge.

It's kind of "dead space" but I am surprised they can't come up with something more interesting and practical that a gloomy alcove with a bench in it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 404

You haven't flown with me as I always use it for a bit of a change.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1394

Getting rid of some or all of the wall around the grand staircase would make the area feel a lot bigger.

And then you have the CSMs station on the other side which is mostly unused.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jun 2017

Total posts 41

I've used the space once just what it's like but it was extremely underwhelming. I was there probably for 5 minutes to stretch my legs. It does not make any sense. Agreed, it could be used for a variety of other things (walk up bar, larger snack bar, you name it...) doesn't have to be the flashy type Qatar/Emirates bar (although it would be welcomed).

This refresh looks to me like reorganising couches in a 2x2 space... I love Qantas, but this is extremely behind other A380s competitors or even transpacific competitors (VA).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 470

The space needs to be able to be used as changerooms for the beginning and end of flights. People just changing into and out of pyjamas should not be doing so in the toilets (especially when the number of Business class toilets is barely adequate).


04 Apr 2014

Total posts 198

Excellent idea.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jul 2014

Total posts 57

Agree entirely, and have thought this for some time. Although the Qantas fact-sheet on the refurbishment describes a 'larger lounge area', it is difficult to see how this could be achieved if the bulkhead isn't going to be altered - the magazine rack doesn't really take up that much space. Extending it into the CSM station on the other side (as suggested above, and in the fact-sheet) may help, but it would remain an awkward space that would best be used as much-needed changerooms.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 209

YES!! YES!! YES!! @John Phelan, you've nailed it! An extra toilet and a couple of changing rooms in this space would be way more valuable and appreciated!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Oct 2017

Total posts 6

Great idea! I find I normally have to start planning my toilet run 2.5 hours out, and it really is something that one shouldn't have to think about

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Jul 2014

Total posts 22

Agree John Phelan, but I wouldn't describe the A380 Business Class toilets as "barely adequate". They are inadequate and equate only to what you find on budget airlines.

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 122

Very good idea. It wouldn't even need to be a permanent change room area. There could be a retractable curtain (like around a hospital bed). It would need to take up an area just over 1 square metre.

At the moment, even in the QF A380 first bathroom, it is still very difficult for me to get changed (188cm tall). I've hit my head a few times.

Actually one thing I liked about the Emirates first class seat was that I could close the door and literally strip naked and feel comfortable (in addition I could also get changed in the bathroom).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 601

erm those EK doors aren't that high and taller people walking down the aisle can easily see in

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 127

Great idea. Swiss has a curtain that lets them partition off the space around door 1L so F passengers can change without the lav acrobatics. It’s such a simple solution that I’m surprised no one else has done it.

05 May 2016

Total posts 636

I hope whatever QF does that they get it right so that they bring it to more aircraft. When QF get planes that fly non-stop to LHR from the East Cost having an area that Business customers can stretch their legs in other than the galley or near the toilets would be ideal.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 156

Is it too much to ask for some windows?

Olympic Air - Travelair

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 6

Probably is too much to ask, it wouldn't be an easy feat to add them in. But I agree, it would make the space a little less dull and confined.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2014

Total posts 217

Replacing a non-functional red couch with a non-functional brown couch? Groundbreaking.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Oct 2017

Total posts 6

That is very funny

30 Oct 2017

Total posts 4

Current offering is useless. I say put in a bar and be done with it!


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 367

the red bench is one of the most uncomfortable seats to ever sit on and the new brown bench looks like the most uncomfortable bench to ever sit on.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jul 2013

Total posts 35

Hopefully the new layout for PE will add a few inches to the Dreamliner configuration to remove that overlap that’s so obvious in the renders and the reviews so far.....

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 445

A waste of space now and a waste of space in the future.

18 Jul 2013

Total posts 27

I've only flown on the Qantas A380 a few times and twice the red couch was unable to be used for most of the flight because it was being used as a bed for ill passengers. I felt sorry for the unwell people and am glad they had some space to receive attention and to rest, but it was at the expense of all of the business class passengers who were unable to utilise the lounge. That said, given that most people find the current layout fairly useless, it was good to see that the space serves a purpose at times.

30 Dec 2014

Total posts 9

I've got it! An exercise area similar to the public exercise equipment dotted around public parks. Mini exercise equipment like steps, chin up bars and foot rolly things to massage your feet and dissolve calf blood clots.

25 Oct 2017

Total posts 3

Having traveled a number of times in the adjacent cabin, I was pleased that the lounge was uncomfortable and underused. Even with the poor design, a couple of times people have thought it was ok to have very loud conversations/parties in that lounge. If the aim is to make the space more useful, hope the redesign puts more than a flimsy curtain (i.e. better soundproofing) between the lounge and the adjacent cabin.


03 May 2013

Total posts 663

Honestly QF are living in a shell. The space needs a bar Emirates/Qatar style. People use it and love it and its a major hit for Business and First passengers-full stop!. The fact Qantas 'designers' and brainiacs can only come up with an alcove bench seat is mind boggling. No doubt they will sell this to us as the best thing since sliced bread in the airline industry just like the 787 was their idea. What a boring bland unimaginative bunch QF are when it comes to aircraft amenities.


21 Jul 2011

Total posts 74

I see no point. Save your money Mr Joyce, no one will use it.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 266

Qantas really don't know what they're doing with this space do they?

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jan 2017

Total posts 10

I try and use it all the time,but on several flights the cabin crew friends or children are sleeping there.
One other time a man who had a sore back from ecomony was sleeping there as its used as a sick bed as well.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2013

Total posts 33

I have flown Qantas A380 Business Class to LHR regularly for about six years and have never-ever seen anybody sitting in that unprepossessing space. Last trip, earlier this year, I purposely sat there for a while, which surprised a flight attendant. He'd probably never seen anybody there either. I discovered just how incredibly ordinary and uninviting it is. Surely something better can be done with this space.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Apr 2018

Total posts 1

Replace the lounge with a series of fold-up/down lounge chairs and curtains. For the first and last hour of the flight, it becomes a series of change-rooms (freeing up toilet queues), then pull back the curtains for the majority of the flight and fold down the padded lounge chairs, which do double-duty as either a lounge or emergency sickbed, if there are ill passengers requiring treatment/medical attention during the flight.

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