Qantas completes Airbus A380 revamp with more economy seats

By David Flynn, July 17 2013
Qantas completes Airbus A380 revamp with more economy seats

Qantas has completed a reconfiguration of its flagship Airbus A380 fleet, with all twelve aircraft now sporting an increased number of economy and premium economy seats.

The rejigged superjumbos can carry 484 passengers, an increase of 34 from the previous headcount of 450.

The overall tally sees 371 economy berths compared to the old 332 (an rise of 39 seats), with three more premium economy seats on top of the former 32.

The business class cabin has been reduced in size from 72 to 64 seats, with several of the self-service bars and snack areas axed to free up revenue-earning space for more seats as Qantas continues to face tough competition on international routes.

Qantas is placing its bets on more economy and premium economy travellers (just don't expect this much legroom!)
Qantas is placing its bets on more economy and premium economy travellers (just don't expect this much legroom!)

Most of the additional 39 economy seats are located in a new economy section at the rear of the upper deck, where premium economy cabin was previously found.

This will likely be the cabin of choice for travellers on a budget – especially if you can grab a window seat, as those come with a deep bin under the window for keeping your laptop, tablet, toiletries and other inflight kit within reach.

Premium economy has been nudged forward into the rear of the old business class cabin.

Qantas has orders in place for eight more A380s, with two due for 2016-2017 and six more starting from 2018-2019, but the airline has yet to advise if these will share the same configuration as the current superjumbos.

Read: Towards the 600-seat superjumbo 

Longer queues for the loo

But putting more bums on more seats could mean a longer line for the toilets, especially during peak times such as after meals, before bed-time and prior to landing.

We've done the maths: there used to be four bathrooms for 72 business class passengers, along with two reserved for 32 premium economy passengers.

But the new layout sees premium economy sharing the same two toilets as the bulk of business class, as those loos have been relocated from the front of the larger business class cabin to the rear boundary between business and premium economy.

The revised headcount and loo count means the same four bathrooms must be shared between 99 passengers.

There's also one fewer loo in the downstairs economy section, resulting in seven toilets for 341 economy passengers instead of eight toilets for 332.

Scoping out the best seats in the revamped Qantas A380s

This quick sketch illustrates the major changes upstairs, superimposed on the old A380 seating chart so you can see what's different.

Here's the official seatmap for the reconfigured Airbus A380, as supplied by Qantas to Australian Business Traveller – click on the image for a larger view or download the Qantas seatmap [1MB PDF].

Many favourite seats of frequent flyers have gone missing in the new configuration, including the business class seats in exit row 24; and in premium economy, row 38 (a middle block of three seats) plus 38J and 38K, which were top picks for their copious legroom beyond the standard 38 inch pitch.

So what are the new best seats to snare, and the ones to avoid if you can?

The best business class seats on the Qantas A380

Here's the new business class seatmap for the Qantas Airbus A380 with our recommendations. 

Row 11: in a three-row mini-cabin at the very front of the upper deck, and away from the traffic heading for the lavatories and galley kitchens behind row 13, these seats are a good bet – although they're close to the self-service bar and the business class lounge area, so move further back if absolutely undisturbed sleep is a priority.

Rows 12 & 13: these seats remain a good choice for reduced engine noise, with many AusBT readers making a beeline for row 12 when reserving their seats.

15A 15B 15J 15K: these are useful seats if privacy's important to you: with no centre pairs, they feel a bit more separate than in the main cabin. Beware that the galley kitchens are right in front of you, though.

Rows 18-19: right in the middle of the main cabin, these seats are likely to be among the quietest on the plane -- a bonus for getting a good night's sleep.

E & F seats: if you're an aisle fan, pick these centre pairs to avoid having a window passenger climbing over you.

A & K seats: need frequent access to your carry-on? There's a special side bin next to every window seat.

The worst business class seats on the Qantas A380

20A 20K: while every other window seat in business class has a storage compartment next to it, these seats don't, so avoid them if keeping your things close to you is important.

The best premium economy seats on the Qantas A380

Here's a seatmap of the compact premium economy cabin for your ready reference.

24A 24B 24J 24K: for legroom, these are the best seats in the cabin, since they're right behind the emergency exits. Bear in mind that this area is often used by other passengers as an 'inflight stretching zone', and if you're sensitive to the cold you'll want to wrap up warmly in case there's a draught.

24D 24E 24F: the legroom in these seats is curtailed slightly by the bulkhead wall in front, which also contains the only bassinet crib position in premium economy in front of 24E. We'd still pick it for the ease of getting in and out, though -- even in the middle E seat.

A and K seats: on the upper deck of the A380, there are window bins for each window passenger. That gives you a bit of extra elbow room, space to store your carry-ons, and somewhere to stash your laptop or tablet if you're watching something during a meal.

D and F seats: if you're an aisle fan, you're best off with one of the middle trio of seats: the middle seats will be the last to fill up, so you might luck out with an empty seat next to you. Even if there is a middle passenger, you should only be bothered half as often if they need to get out, since they could turn left or right to head to the aisle.

The worst premium economy seats on the Qantas A380

Row 28: right in front of economy, these are likely to be relatively noisy. Fortunately, there's no set of bassinet cribs behind you, but avoid the row if you can.

E seats: who wants a middle seat when six out of seven seats are either a window or an aisle?

Australian Business Traveller delivers 'news you can use' to business travellers and frequent flyers: follow @AusBT on Twitter.


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.

02 Jan 2013

Total posts 142

I was lucky enough to fly a revamped A380 in May LAX - SYD. Was allocated 36J,K (last row on the upper deck). Although we only flew economy, the revamped upper economy section was 10 x more relaxing then flying lower deck. The cabin crew on the upper deck looked alot more relaxed and more respondent and to only have 30 odd people in that section made the trip more comfortable, no ques for toilets.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 354

My partner and I also recently chose 36J and 36K when travelling from MEL-LAX. It was a brilliant place to sit when compared to the hundreds crammed in downstairs. Likewise, the cabin crew were relaxed and friendly and there was never a queue for the toilets.


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 354

Flew one of these a few months back, also in upstairs economy. A nice little cabin and as David says, get a window seat and you're set. Only downside is that if somebody in the front row has a baby in the cot the cabin is so small there is no getting away form the noise. Qantas should follow the lead of MAS and make this smaller upstairs economy cabin a 'baby-free zone'.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 735

I am ok with airlines scrapping self service bars in favour of seats, but I really loath the fact they scrap toilets / keep the same ratio when increasing seats.

They were scarce as it were and will definitely decrease the flight expereince. Imagine the queues (as mentioned in the article) for people waiting. Also, I am sure that esp down the back they will not be regularly serviced. Would not want to sit near the lavatories on a long flight, that's for sure!

01 Feb 2012

Total posts 370

Agree - flew one of these in business 2 weeks ago and it was insane  trying to queue up for a toilet - and with the location so spread out its hard to queue up in an orderly way.

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 19

I agree. I flew MEL - LAX return in business last month.  The trip over was on the old configuration and toilets were not an issue. The trip back was on the new configuration and it was crazy trying to get to the toilet for most of the trip. I've always liked the Qantas A380 business service but this annoyed me so much I'm trying Virgin for the first time on next trip.

16 Aug 2011

Total posts 2

We're flying MEL to LAX this weekend and purchased PE seats.  So disappointed to find row 32 is now economy.  I love a bulkhead row as I never have to worry about the person in front spending all their time with the seat reclined.  If I'd known, I could have spent a third of the money & angled for that seat in economy!


Row 24 in PE is available and it's an emergency exit row. No one reclining over you there!


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1463

"as Qantas continues to face tough competition on international routes"

It will be like that and even tougher. I do not believe that marriage with Emirates wise dessision in long term. If I like Emirates, then I can book Emirates - they far cheaper then Qantas and connections usually better, so why bother?

Also there is no wonder that Qantas axing business - for example Singapore and BA (and Emirates for this merit) doing business to LHR for 7K+, while Qantas want 9K+ and I trully fail to see what extra I get for more then $2000. With such approach I fail to see very bright future for Qantas.

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 15

Your main stock image is the old livery. :/


16 Nov 2011

Total posts 603

Ha, good pickup. The irony of course is this livery never appeared on any Qantas A380. The livery modification was done for the A380 so that the legs of the roo on the A380 were not broken as shown in the image.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2013

Total posts 2

Qantas management sure know how to ruin a good airline. More available seats is one thing getting people to put up with crowded cramped conditions when they have a choice of airlines like SQ and EK just means they wont fill the seats. I venture that in five years EF will own Qantas International.


Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Feb 2012

Total posts 17

interesting decision by Qantas.  As a Business passenger  if work pays and a PE if I pay, it seems an interesting change.  Surely higher numbers only work if the plane fills.  squashed passengers with vacant seats doesn't produce the loyalty that a full plane with fewer seats, or so I would have thought......  But my major problem is as a resident of Darwin, I will be looking at being a full time Malaysian business passenger fairly soon!

23 Nov 2012

Total posts 24

I agree with what you're saying. Every time a new 'larger more improved' aircraft is born we get fed the usual spin.... The new plane will have bowling alley's, swimming pools, cycling tracks....etc, etc.  And what do we get?  3-3-3 Elbow crunching 787's. No, I'm cynical....  Tell that to the business class pax on a new BAA380 in the centre seat travelling backwards!

09 Sep 2012

Total posts 139

Not something which will affect many, as Samas becomes more and more focused on the south-east corner of the continent.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Dec 2012

Total posts 10

Thanks for a great article.

If QF keeps changing (upsizing passenger numbers & downsiding space) then I'll be moving to a different carrier to spend my $$$s with.

I wonder how oftern senior Management actually fly in the back of their aeroplanes? From my observations - not very often. 

For my part - what used to be a wonderful airline, but now, it is often just an ordinary flight and little else. Alas, I suspect I'll have to move more of my $$$ rather than take a very average product just now.   

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Sep 2011

Total posts 7

I am flying to europe on the a380 economy with the kids. They need to be as far forward as possible, so we will be in downstairs economy,.  Any advice on the best economy setas to select?  Are the bulkhead seats better, or do they have less legroom, because you cant stretch out under seat in fron?  Do arm rests fold up?  Any advice appreciated.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1252

Any recommendations for an economy class seat?  I suppose I should try to get a seat on the upper deck, despite being all the way to the rear of the aircraft and therefore among the last to disembark?

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Qantas completes Airbus A380 revamp with more economy seats