PREVIOUS | Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has confirmed that the airline's flagship Airbus A380 fleet will be upgraded with new seats.
Speaking at a press conference for the airline's July-December financial result – which saw Qantas record a pretax profit of $852 million – Joyce said "we are (currently) working through our plans for upgrading the A380."
Joyce described such upgrades as typically taking place "when aircraft get to middle of their life... so you can expect over next year or so for us to comment on where this is going and when it will happen. But it will happen."
PREVIOUS | Qantas could begin upgrading its Airbus A380 fleet as early as 2018, with the superjumbos seeing new seats from tip to tail in order to sharpen their competitive edge on routes to the USA and London.
The airlines is believed to be planning an extensive A380 refurbishment program to fit the latest-generation seats created for the Qantas Boeing 787-9 – or a future evolution of same – to the double-decker jets.
It's notable that by the time Qantas' first Boeing 787-9 arrives in October 2017, the airline's original Airbus A380 will be close to ten years old – the point at which airlines typically begin a mid-life refresh for their largest jets.
Qantas' twelve superjumbos were delivered between September 2008 and December 2011, and the make-over could co-incide with their scheduled 'heavy maintenance' checks.
The upgrade would give the A380s a new lease of life for another 10-12 years, at which point they are likely to be retired in favour of next-gen aircraft such as the Boeing 777-X series (below) as Qantas moves to a new strategy of long-range non-stop flights.
The biggest winners from the A380 upgrade would be corporate travellers, with business class going from the current Skybed II seats with their lack of storage space and cramped 2-2-2 layout...
... to the Dreamliner Business Suite, which like the A330 Business Suite offers copious personal space, a massive 16 inch video screen and direct aisle access for every passenger.
The Skybed pods are a clear generation behind the business class curve and on US routes, for example, pale by comparison with Virgin Australia's Boeing 777 business class...
... that of Qantas' own partner American Airlines...
... United Airline's forthcoming Boeing 787 Polaris business class...
... and potentially Delta's Airbus A350 Delta One suites.
Qantas' Boeing 787's economy seats – with their 12 inch screens, inbuilt iPad stands and AC and USB power sockets – are also expected to make their way onto the A380's lower deck.
Qantas would also replace today's A380 premium economy seats with Dreamliner's all-new premium economy seats.
A revamp of the A380's first class cabin is also on the cards, although it's not known if Qantas will settle for a touch-up of today's first class, a total transformation to an all-new suite or strike somewhere in-between.
Qantas may also use the upgrade period to add inflight Internet and WiFi across the A380 fleet so that travellers can fire up their laptop, tablet or smartphone to tap into a high-speed satellite connection.