Qantas' "new spirit": what you'll actually see on flights to the UK

By John Walton, August 18 2011

London-bound passengers will see the greatest changes under Qantas' "new spirit" strategy -- if they choose a route that connects in Bangkok and Hong Kong, they'll be on British Airways, not Qantas, for the Britain-bound leg of the flight.

However, flights transiting in Singapore will also see changes -- greater frequency of A380 aircraft, and for the rest, Airbus A380-style fully flat Skybeds installed on Qantas' Boeing 747-400 aircraft too. 

We've sifted through the information to explain exactly what changes you'll see on your next business trip, with a particular focus on business travellers and business class.

What's changing?

Essentially, from "early 2012", the airlines are splitting the two-leg flights on the Australia-Bangkok-London and Australia-Hong Kong-London routes. Qantas will fly to those cities, while BA will fly onwards to London.

Sydney-Singapore-London and Melbourne-Singapore-London flights on Qantas will continue. British Airways will also continue its Sydney-Singapore-London flight, once daily.

So what does that mean if you're connecting via Hong Kong or Bangkok?

In business class, you'll be moving from Qantas' fully flat second-generation Skybed in a 2-3-2 forward-facing configuration onto British Airways' fully flat Club World bed in a 2-4-2 forward-and-back staggered layout.

"Strengthening our relationship with British Airways is an important element of our new strategy for Qantas International," said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. "Singapore will become the focal point of the JSA relationship, with daily Qantas A380 services from Melbourne and Sydney and onward to London, increased British Airways capacity and a new premium lounge."

The joint venture between BA and Qantas on London-Australia flights started in 1995, predating the oneworld alliance (of which both airlines were founding members) by four years.

Route changes from early 2012

Qantas will: 

  • drop Bangkok-London and Hong Kong-London flights
  • continue to fly Australia-Bangkok and Australia-Hong Kong
  • maintain one daily A380 flight from each of Sydney and Melbourne to London via Singapore

Qantas promises that "customers will still be able to connect swiftly and efficiently through both cities".

British Airways will:

  • continue to fly Bangkok-London and Hong Kong-London
  • upgrade its daily Sydney-Singapore-London flights from the Boeing 777 we reviewed to a larger (and more popular with business travellers) 747
  • add three more weekly Hong Kong-London return flights, up to a total of 17 per week, which means two flights every day, and an extra flight on three days of the week

New first class lounges in Singapore and Hong Kong will also feature the stunning Marc Newson design, along the same lines as the existing excellent Qantas lounges in Sydney. (An upgrade to the frankly inadequate lounge in Singapore can't come fast enough.)

More seats on British Airways flights from Sydney

Depending on the planes that BA uses on the route, there may not be that much of a business class capacity hike. The Boeing 777-200ER currently on the flight has 48 seats.

British Airways has two 747 configurations that it can use on the flights, with 20 seats upstairs and either 32 or 50 seats downstairs, depending on layout. So the "increased British Airways capacity" may just be four more seats in business class.

Top tip when travelling on BA's 747-400 aircraft: pick seats upstairs, rows 60-64 if you can. The 2-2 seat layout on the upper deck is quieter, has a greater proportion of bulkheads and exit rows (so window passengers don't have to clamber over the aisle seat to get out) and no middle seats.

For more on picking the best seats on British Airways, check out our guides to the best seats on BA's Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 777-200ER on Australian routes and its European route mainstay, the Airbus A320.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 527

How will "British Airways continue its Sydney-Singapore-London flights, twice daily"?

Don't BA only have one daily flight via SIN?

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 666

(See following comment)

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 527

Interesting... I always thought BA 9/10 (the 747 flight) was via Bangkok not Singapore. Certainly whenever I have flown it I've always stopped in Bangkok and it's also what it says on the BA website.....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 167

Absolutely.  BA does NOT have two flights a day LHR-SIN-SYD, but rather one LHR-SIN-SYD on a 77E and one LHR-BKK-SYD on a 747.

BA and Qantas are both halving their LHR-Australia capacity, substituting with capacity only to BKK and HKG.  That is a significant story in itself, for it means Qantas going from 4x aircraft daily at LHR to 2x, only slightly more than Air NZ, and significantly cutting European based staff.  BA has been scaling down its ops to Australia for some time of course, since it abandoned Melbourne a few years ago, now it will be down to close to a bare minimum.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 666

Apologies -- the schedules, my own off-flight-number connections from BA16-BA12 in SIN and interestingly-worded press releases got the better of me.

You're quite right in that BA's current second flight is via BKK, which will be disappearing. BA does have a second flight daily LHR-SIN on a 747 (BA11/12), but it appears that this won't now be extended to Sydney, nor will BA9/10 be transferred there. BA15/16 will get the 747 instead of its current 777.

13 May 2011

Total posts 5

Won't Premium Economy passengers flying via BKK and HKG lose out when they have to change to a BA flight halfway? Even if BA upgrades their cabin to match their new 777 standard then the service will still be a let down. I bet the prices won't reflect this.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 527

I think it is guaranteed that anyone flying via BKK or HKG to LHR will lose out having to transfer to a BA flight! I guess Frequent Flyers will miss out as I'm sure there won't be seats on the QF flight via SIN available. 

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 666

Agreed. As our BA/Virgin Atlantic/Qantas premium economy comparison shows, there are significant seat and service differences. BA's is very "economy plus" whereas Qantas is "business minus".

BA's booking engine currently puts a price premium on flying Qantas Premium Economy rather than World Traveller Plus. (Which, in theory, it shouldn't on the JV.) I can't remember what Qantas' booking engine does...any readers know?

It'll be interesting to see comparison premium economy fares between Australia and London via SIN, BKK and HKG.

I'll also be very interested to see whether there will be reciprocal point/mile spending and upgrade privileges for the "split" flights via HKG and BKK: currently Qantas Frequent Flyers and BA Executive Club members can only upgrade on their own airline's JV flights.

(On the plus side, at least it's not USA-based airlines' premium economy, which is just extra legroom...)

Will Qantas continue flights to Honolulu?

12 Jul 2011

Total posts 75

Honolulu will stay on the route map, however it will continue to be operated on their 767. I've heard that it is to be operated on the new 787's when they arrive.


05 Feb 2013

Total posts 1

Qantas will NOT be continuing the A380 flights through Singapore to/from London. 

A major part of the QF/EK strategy is that the hub moves fom Singapore to Dubai. 

This means that, until further notice, from 31 March ALL flights to London (on Qantas aircraft) will transit Dubai NOT Singapore. 

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