Qantas begins Boeing 747 service between Sydney-Perth today, with Skybed business class

By David Flynn, May 30 2011
Qantas begins Boeing 747 service between Sydney-Perth today, with Skybed business class

Qantas will commence a daily Boeing 747-400 service between Sydney and Perth this morning, taking on challenger Virgin Australia over the popular coast-to-coast service.

Virgin Australia began its own daily Airbus A330 flights with business class seats and service last week, as detailed in our report on the flight and service .

The Red Roo 747-400 will run as QF581, which departs Sydney at 10.10am for arrival in Perth at 1.05pm; and the partner QF582, which is wheels-up at Perth at 2.35pm to reach Sydney at 8.20pm.

The jumbo sports Qantas' original two-class configuration, so there's no premium economy cabin – just 56 business class seats and 356 economy. (If you're looking to book this flight, check out our guide to the best of those business class seats as well as the ones to avoid if possible).

Business-class passengers will be issued with 'noise-reduction' headsets.

A Qantas spokesman told Australian Business Traveller that the flights will serve one meal each way: lunch on QF581 out of Sydney and dinner on QF582 out of Perth. "Meal times are based on natural feeding time per time of day" the spokesman offered, "but also with the time difference, what time of day it is when passengers land and whether it is a natural time to eat again or not."

However, he was quick to assure us that the much-enjoyed ice-cream will also be served on both flights in business and economy.

The first week of the 747 service is not heavily booked, no doubt partly reflecting the high excess capacity of the 747-400 over the A330-200 which Qantas usually runs on this service – which has just 36 seats in business class and 265 in economy.

An overall 120-seat surplus will allow Qantas some headroom to undercut Virgin Australia on fares, especially for business class, as well as allowing selective upgrades for high status frequent flyers travelling in economy.

Qantas' spoiler strategy is aimed at keeping lucrative business-class corporate accounts flying with Qantas rather than defecting to Virgin Australia, which is spruiking the 62 inches of legroom in its new A330 business class as being the most generous on any domestic service.

Qantas' 747 will still fall just two inches short of this, with a 60 inch pitch in business class, but that's still plenty more than the 37 inches in the Airbus A330-200 which the 747 will replace.

And of course, these are the international-grade Skybed cocoons first created for the longest of long haul flights.

They're actually the first-gen models which go into a fully-flat mode on an angle rather than lying flat to the horizontal, but that's still going to offer extraordinary cross-country comfort.

(What's the difference between angled, lie-flat and fully-flat seats? Read our story on The Lie-flat Lie.)

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously trumpeted that "Increasing the premium service we provide business customers flying from east to west will help further cement our position as the ‘Best for Business’ airline." 

“Our competitors can simply not match the service that Qantas offers, particularly the Skybeds, which provide increased comfort on the longer routes between the eastern states and Perth."

For his part, Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti considers the pointy end of his new A330s as being "the best domestic business class in the market" adding that "it's here to stay – it won't come in and out of routes like other large-body aircraft", unable to resist taking a shot at Qantas.


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.

06 Apr 2011

Total posts 1

I suspect there is more than what meets the eye here, As a frequent Perth->Sydney ->Perth on Qantas, we used to have the 747s and they were quick Well faster than the previous 767s (?) anyway.

Then lo and behold about 12 or so months ago we got brand new A330s complete with 13 million entertainment channels and seat power plus USB. Now we are back to 747s with 'Skybeds'. Skybeds? For a 3 1/2 trip one way and 4 the other. Whoopee! Not.

My bet is that the superior new A330s are going to more profitable / regular short hauls while out west we get the old 747s before they are pensioned off. Often the A330 back to Perth is only 3/4 full, but I bet a Syd or Melb -> Cairns flight is always chockers .... Or Syd / Melb Japan anyone?


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

I think that you're overthinking it.

The planes that are being diverted off the single daily A330 rotation that is being replaced by the 747 have already been assigned to do additional A330 runs from Melbourne and Brisbane to replace the 767s plying those routes at the moment...

Cairns is busy as a route (from what I've heard) but QF would much rather add frequencies seeing as it as a leisure based route so the superior product really isn't necessary (well from their standpoint at least!)

And these planes have the domestic product, which would be disasterous if they were to send them on long haul to Japan... And bear in mind that the 747 is all about offering a superior business product -- personal space, the upper deck, and first class seats in the nose are all big draw cards... Around half of the seat increase from 300 on an A330 to 350 on the 747 is in business class seats... Status Frequent Flyers can also gain access to the Premium Economy cabin, which will be a massive pull for those who are restricted to domestic economy fares...

Sadly I don't think we'll see the 747s on full scale transcontinental like we used to :(

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2540

I reckon you're bang on the money, am - this is just a smart competitive move from Qantas, and with so many extra biz-class seats there's good room for upgrading high-profile frequent frequent flyers, as long as QF gets out that word (without of course building expectations too high).

I'm also glad to see that for now, Qantas vs Virgin Australia is not being fought as a race to the bottom with pricing (nobody really wins in that except the consumers and that's only in the shortest of terms, in an immediate hip-pocket sense) but more a contest of product and service.

We've got people on business class of both the Virgin Australia A330 and Qantas's QF 747 so we're looking forward to a bit of a 'coast to coast comparison of business class' next week!


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

Can't wait to see the verdict! The Virgin product looks very young and fun, but I think the QF product will probably be more refined and attractive to the 50 year old partner/CEO... 

And I agree with your point re nature of this battle - anything that brings quality up across the market has got to be good for travellers!!

Virgin Blue - Velocity Rewards

12 May 2011

Total posts 66

In my view, a money loosing route, 747 is just over-reacting, no way they could fill it up, and why would you rather to go on an airline which is going down literally, and can get much better service on virgin, and its new, and been rated very good!

Well good luck to the people on it.

Qantas - Platinum One

18 Jan 2011

Total posts 82

When you mention that the original SkyBed "recline rather than lie fully flat", it's worth pointing out that they do transform to a flat bed, it's just at an angle rather than 180 degrees. "Recline" sounds as though the seat still contours with an upright back.

Also, it's worth noting that some of the Mel-Per services use A330 planes with Skybeds - Qantas has been running SkyBeds to Perth for some time.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2540

Good point on clarifying the beds, sdwylie – that nomenclature can be a bit tricky, lie-flat vs fully-dlat and all that – but definitely not just a 'recliner' per se, I'll tweak the article to make this more clear!

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