Qantas: no plans for new transcon Boeing 737 business class

By David Flynn, July 17 2017
Qantas: no plans for new transcon Boeing 737 business class

Qantas plans to rely on the muscle of its Airbus A330 fleet rather than a new Boeing 737 business class in the continuing dogfight with Virgin Australia for transcontinental business travellers.

Virgin Australia will gradually draw down the number of A330s on the east-west corridor as the big twin-aisle jets are assigned to new Asian routes such as Melbourne-Hong Kong, with Sydney-Hong Kong and Brisbane-Hong Kong also on the to-do list alongside flights into mainland China.

While a spokesperson for the airline maintains "there will still be A330 services" on east-west routes, despite allowing that  "the majority of A330s will be concentrated in Asia", Virgin intends to fill any gaps in its A330 schedule with a new transcontinental business class fitted to its smaller single-aisle Boeing 737 fleet.

Virgin's new "Perth product", as it's being referred to internally – and which airline CEO John Borghetti touts as a “quantum leap in domestic business class” – will be revealed at the end of this year, but isn't expected to take wing until the second half of 2018.

Get used to these 2-2 recliners: Qantas has no plans to introduce a new business class for Boeing 737s flying east-west routes
Get used to these 2-2 recliners: Qantas has no plans to introduce a new business class for Boeing 737s flying east-west routes

However, Qantas has no plans to counter Virgin's move by launching its own transcontinental Boeing 737 business class.

Australian Business Traveller understands that Qantas plans to maintain its grip on coast-to-coast corporates by leveraging its sizeable Airbus A330 fleet, despite the appearance of Boeing 737s during low-demand periods such as weekends.

"We’re always focused on making sure we have the right aircraft on the right route based on market demand, which includes flying some of our A330s on east-west routes," a Qantas spokesman told Australian Business Traveller.

Virgin currently has six Airbus A330-200s in its fleet, while Qantas has 18 of the same A330-200 type along with 10 of the A330-300s, some of which also appear on transcontinental services.

Both airlines aim to keep their Airbus A330s on overnight services where business class passengers can fully appreciate the lie-flat business class beds, even given the relatively short 4-5 hour duration of those flights.

Borghetti's surprise announcement of a new Boeing 737 business class for east-west routes signals a new push in the business class battle which Qantas and Virgin Australia have waged for the past six years, beginning with the challenger's rebranding from Virgin Blue in May 2011.


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.

Well QF may have 'no plans' now, but if it makes sense later, they'll do it!


24 Apr 2017

Total posts 80

Qantas obviously know what demand they have for business class on those routes, but given Qantas Business Class is 6 times more expensive that other carriers Business Class, I can see why they have no demand.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Jan 2016

Total posts 60

"Both airlines aim to keep their Airbus A330s on overnight services where business class passengers can fully appreciate the lie-flat business class beds"

Does this suggest that Virgins new trans con J class will not be lie flat in the same way as Jetblue Mint seats? 

20 Feb 2012

Total posts 66

I would suggest that from all implications so far is that it will not be lie flat. That being said they could always change their mind.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2549

mcglynp: no, it does not.


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 77

It suggests it's jut not announced what they will be. So, no.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2014

Total posts 35

Well firstly VA has to seriously get their act together and gain some cash before talking about another business class. It's only adding more confusions and burning more money to their already sad balance sheet.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Could also be that QF adds a small subfleet of 321neos, from the Group 320 order.

Could do the SEAsia flights from PER and select east coast services.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 64

That maintains my thinking of flying outbound with one carrier and return with the other, to make sure I am continually happy with the respective products. It may just be that if QF are offering a 332 cabin then I'll be more likely to fly them than on a VA 738 (price differential notwithstanding).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 219

QF should look at AA 321T as a great blueprint. F/J/Main Cabin Extra and Y

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1024

That's an idea to look at, but American's A321T is only used on 2 high yield, premium heavy routes (JFK-LAX/SFO).
Do the transcon routes to PER justify such a large premium footprint?

AA A321T: 10F/20J/72Y
AA A321: 16J/171Y

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jul 2017

Total posts 15

If QF intend to continue to fly 737s to and from Perth, then it would be very reasonable to offer tiered pricing as the difference between flying a A330 and 737 in business class upsets alot of passengers who pay a premium for the privilege.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 441

That's an excellent idea but QF would never dream of losing revenue by discounting an inferior product - they would argue 'its just as good as the A330'

21 Aug 2015

Total posts 86

Can the QF in flight experience get any worse? YES............and will. Just did HK/SYD in J class on 747..appalled. Crew cranky, catering awful, noisy, entertainment poor, and not a bread roll  etc for breakfast with the world's worst pseudo eggs.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 May 2013

Total posts 25

And the Zen Master said "WE'LL SEE".

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 55

Qantas doesn't need to create a 737 version of its A330 'Business Suite' but it should consider something better than today's 737 business class for east-west flights, otherwise it should charge less for business class on a Boeing 737 flying from Sydney to Perth for example, than it charges for an A330 on the same route. The products are sufficiently different, even the meals due to the different galleys, to allow this different pricing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 700

Whilst, in theory, they should charge depending on the experience, it's impossible for them to do this in practice. Flights are often switched to/from 737's even at the last minute so it would be hardly fair to those who initially paid more to fly on an A330.

Considering that QF will also have 787s flying on the transcon legs eventually (the first example being the PER-MEL-LAX-MEL-PER-LHR-PER route), and could probably shift A330-200s over to the route when 787s start replacing the A330 fleet... 

The only flaw in this strategy is frequency.

I love the whole "premium transcon narrowbody" idea but it may not be necessary for Qantas if the corporate demand is clustered almost entirely around specific frequencies which widebodies can cater to. The downside is that product inconsistency is a terrible thing. 

If Virgin's more consistent-across-frequencies premium transcon narrowbody proves very attractive to the market, Qantas will of course change their tune. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 784

I can imagine an Italian and an Irishman having a clandestine meeting in the back of the MEL Rex lounge - agreeing to not do a thing with domestic J as neither airline really wants to spend any more money than they have to. 

21 May 2017

Total posts 3

In the last 12 months I have not flown business class with QF on the 737 it simply is not worth the money.No entertainment very ordinary food no leg room no lie flat bed.I would not even use my points for an upgrade upgrade to what better to go Y class just about no difference

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2015

Total posts 55

Time for Qantas to get some more 787-9 with some more seats on the Asian routes and and free up the A330 to be a domestic workhorse and across the Tasman to NZ.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Jan 2013

Total posts 3

Both my partner and myself returned from New York via LAX onbound to Perth via Melbourne. We had travelled business class all the way to Melbourne and were very disappointed to travel onboard the 737 with the current configuration of business class seats. Have previously travelled this leg on a A330 (on a weekday and not weekend like our recent flight) and got the full use of a fully reclined bed like seat which we both slept on the way back to Perth. Got to say I felt a bit ripped off this time.....


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 381

Seriously ... if anyone on this thread was in charge of domestic product at Qantas, the last thing you would approve is lie flat seats on a 737! Common sense tells you the only economic viable product in J is a recliner, with the ability to serve multiple short haul sectors. Disappointed with a recliner or not, stop and think about the real economics of the issue. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 172

How full are these aircraft that the service warrants an A330 service; or is the frequency such that it is much scaled back compared to say the other east-cost cities?

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 5

For me personally, if the flight I want is on a QF 737 then I'll pick a different flight to get an A330. As a QF Lifetime Gold I don't need to travel QF so if VA have a lie flat seat at the time I want then they'll get my money.  Fortunately, being retired, I can do this. I wont travel anywhere longer than 1 hour in anything other than J. My wife is the same. If you have a "young" body, then great, go for it in a recliner. Nothing gets me upset more than after paying $2000 for an A330 seat QF switches me out to a 737 recliner. 

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