Qantas plans a fast roll-out for its new Business Suite business class seat on domestic and international Airbus A330 jets, and will focus on Singapore as the first city to see Business Suites on flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
"We want to focus on getting good penetration into Singapore, and then as we get more (upgraded) aircraft we’ll focus on other Asian destinations and Honolulu" explains Kylie Morris, Qantas' Head of Customer Experience.
Qantas plans to debut the international Business Suite on Melbourne-Singapore from mid-January, with the Sydney-Singapore and Brisbane-Singapore routes expected to follow.
Detailed AusBT review: Qantas Business Suite A330 business class
"We really want to get penetration into each market" Morris tells Australian Business Traveller. "As soon as they try the Business Suite the current seats just won’t be good enough, so we want to give them the Business Suite with reliability and consistency."
“By March we’ll have five domestic and international A330s, and by August we’ll have 11” Morris says of the rapid ramp-up, which sees each A330 upgraded at Qantas’ Brisbane maintenance hangar.
While both the domestic A330-200 and international A330-300 jets will carry 28 Business Suites, the domestic seats are covered in leather while the international ones will be clad in cloth.
"The domestic A330-200s leather seats aligns with what we have in business class on our Boeing 737s" Morris says.
"On the international A330-300s we’ve gone for cloth because we know from an ergonomic perspective that cloth is more comfortable than leather after a period of about six hours."
In addition to all-new Business Suites neing fitted at the pointy end, the 10 international A330s will receive Recaro economy seats based on those of the airline's flagship Airbus A380.
Each seat includes a 'footnet' into which passengers can tuck their feet, an oversized 'multidirectional' headrest, a 11.1 inch video screen with USB port and a shared AC power socket.
The economy seats on their 18 domestic counterparts will be refreshed with new cushions and fabrics.
Both the domestic and international A330s are also being fitted with Qantas' Q Streaming Wi-Fi system, which beams video and music from the plane's inflight entertainment system directly to a passengers' own tablet or smartphone.
Video & review: Q Streaming in action
The first of 18 revamped domestic A330-200s took wing on December 31 and is now flying on the Sydney-Perth, Melbourne-Perth and Sydney-Melbourne routes, allowing as many passengers as possible to sample the new seats before being joined by a second A330-200 at the end of this month.
However, Qantas has a very limited window of opportunity before Virgin Australia's next-gen A330 business class seat takes flight on east-west routes in March.
Like the Qantas Business Suite, Virgin's seat – which CEO John Borghetti says he "would classify as more ‘business first’ than business class" – adopts a 1-2-1 layout to provide direct aisle access for every passenger.
Virgin's seat also converts into a fully-flat bed and sports a 16 inch video screen.
Borghetti expects all six of the airline's A330 jets to upgraded by July, with the seats then being fitted to its five Boeing 777s from November 2015 through to February 2016.
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