Qantas revamps Airbus A380: less business class, more economy seats

By John Walton, June 20 2012
Qantas revamps Airbus A380: less business class, more economy seats

Qantas will boost the number of economy and premium economy seats on its Airbus A380s and shrink the high-priced business class cabin as the airline continues to face tough times on international routes.

The rejigged superjumbos will gain an extra 39 economy seats, with most of those on the upper deck where the premium economy cabin was previously located, for an overall tally of 371 economy berths compared to the current 332.

In turn, premium economy will be nudged forward into the rear of today's business cabin, picking up three more seats in the process for a total count of 35 over the current 32.

This shuffle sees the business class section lose eight of the lie-flat Skybed seats, going down from 72 to 64.

Another change that's sure to rankle business travellers: half of the toilets in the upper deck business class section must now be shared with premium economy passengers.

On the A380's lower deck, Qantas has retained its 14 luxe first class mini-suites while squeezing in an additional nine economy seats.

Five self-service snack bars axed

Qantas has also removed two self-service bars from the business class cabin and axed the sole self-service bar and snack area for premium economy passengers, while the downstairs economy section loses one self-serve facility at the front of the cabin.

The makeover allows Qantas to pack another 34 passengers onto its A380s, lifting the headcount from today's 450 to 484.

Five self-serve bars for drinks and snacks will be removed to fit more seats
Five self-serve bars for drinks and snacks will be removed to fit more seats

A Qantas spokeswoman confirmed the new A380 layout to Australian Business Traveller this morning, saying "The reconfiguration of 12 A380s better suits customer demand on long haul legs including Los Angeles and London."

The first reconfigured A380 was returned to Qantas over the weekend and will begin flying this week.

"All 12 Qantas A380s are scheduled to be reconfigured by April 2013 and operate on routes including Sydney - Hong Kong, Sydney - Los Angeles, Melbourne - Los Angeles and Sydney - Singapore - London" the spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller.

How the new A380s look

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

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 check out the full-sized seatmap if you want to scope it out on a super detailed seat-by-seat basis.

A higher-res version of the new Qantas A380 seatmap showing both decks
A higher-res version of the new Qantas A380 seatmap showing both decks

Business class and premium economy lose their best seats

Business class drops down from 72 to 64 seats on the upper deck -- so if you're booked in a business seat further back than row 22, best to check your booking to see that your seat hasn't changed.

The fantastic seats in exit row 24 have been lost to premium economy, unfortunately, leaving business class without exit row seats -- only less spacious bulkheads.

However, good news comes in the form of two sets of twin seats at the front of the second business cabin.

Seats 15AB and 15JK are now either side of the galley kitchen that separates them, making them a choice for privacy (but potentially not for quiet, since they're next to the galleys).

Some of the choice extra legroom seats vanish from premium economy
Some of the choice extra legroom seats vanish from premium economy

In premium economy, row 38 (a middle block of three seats) plus seats 38J and 38K were top picks for their copious legroom beyond the standard 38 inch pitch.

They now vanish, with all premium economy seats arrayed in a standard 2-3-2 layout and only the front row, which faces the emergency exit doors, offering extra room for your pins.

More premium economy (and economy, too) upstairs

You'll now find 35 premium economy seats upstairs, further forwards than on the other Qantas A380s.

It starts at row 24 and stretches back five rows in a 2-3-2 configuration. Pick emergency exit row 24 for the most leg room.

Where premium economy used to be at the back of the upper deck cabin, you'll now find economy, but it's slightly complicated in layout.

The front two rows, numbers 32-33, are in a standard 2-4-2 layout. Row 34 just has the centre four seats.

Rows 35 and 36, however, on the centre and right hand side of the cabin, in a 3-2 configuration. Seats D, E and F are in the centre, with J and K on the right.

The best economy seats look to be 35J and 35K, which have emergency exit legroom, with row 32 also decent.

Avoid seats D, E and F in rows 34-36: they're right next to the pair of lavatories.

Longer queues for the loo

You'll also face a longer wait to use the toilet, especially in business class.

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.

Premium economy will now share the same two toilets as the bulk of business class travellers, as those loos are 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.)

Where you'll find the revamped plane

With only one new plane in the fleet, it'll be pot luck as to whether your flight is on the new plane. The best way to tell is to check your seat options periodically:

  • First class: no change for you, so you won't need to have your people check
  • Business class: if you can see a row 24 in business, you're on one of the older planes
  • Premium economy: if there're six rows of premium economy in rows 34-39, you're on one of the older planes
  • Economy: if you can see seats on the upper deck, you're on the new plane 

If you're looking out for the refurbed bird, it's rego VH-OQD and named Fergus McMaster (after one of the three founders of the original Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services back in 1920).

And if you're travelling on this plane you'll want to check with a Qantas gate agent whether your seat assignment has changed -- and whether there's a better one available to you!

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

How do you rate Qantas' new A380 seat layout? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2011

Total posts 184

Thanks for the update.  Shame, the "old" PE was great it was its own little cabin which was very comfortable.

08 Apr 2011

Total posts 24

Sad news indeed for those used to the 'old'  PE.

Where has the snack bar gone: are we expected to go downstairs for it now?

And the loss of 38 J and 38 K is sad news. Look at the Qantas A380 Seat Map, and you'll see why that has to be my favourite seat on the plane.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 529

I guess it means that it will be that much more difficult to get a Frequent Flyer J class seat now there are even less to choose from. I'm surprised that First got away scot free - I would have thought there was more demand for Business than for First.

11 Jan 2012

Total posts 20

Mourning the sad loss of 38K, for me the best value seat in the entire QFi fleet.

26 May 2011

Total posts 62

Don't know how accurate it is, if QF haven't released a seat map, but has what they say is the new seat map, and the 4 toilets for J remain aft of Row 13, similar to where they are now. If this is correct, J will NOT be sharing toilets with PY, but PY will be sharing the existing 2 toilets with the new Y cabin. 


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 672

The Qantas Source and a few other sites changed had this listed as 362 economy seats for some time this morning, Qantas has confirmed to AusBT in this article that the count is 371 seats so I think TQS and others might not have the latest information?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2555

Hi Daniell - as you can see, we now have the official seatmap and this confirms our observations above (it's also different to the one on The Qantas Source, at the time of writing, although no doubt The Qantas Source will be quick to update theirs).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2012

Total posts 268

I don't mind new seats but the self-serve snack bars was definitely the thing to look out for on Qantas A380s. I wonder if Qantas may even reconfigure their 747s by the looks of things.

I was told last year the Sydney Morning Herald that Qantas wanted to get rid of their First Class or shorten it to 8 seats but it doesn't look like so. I guess this comes after winning about 5 awards for best economy, 2 for best premium, no awards for new 'and better' business (said Marc Newson) and not getting any awards for the A380 design.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jan 2012

Total posts 171

Here we go again...Qantas downgrading their product offering even more.  Sure you want to make more money with extra seats, but maybe they should have looked at a better configured Business Class seat instead of ripping out things such as the self service bars. 

It's the little things that make an airline stand out.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 672

Premium economy is 'the biggest loser' in this A380 reconfig. I love the Qantas A380 PE cabin, it really added an extra bit of 'premium' being like a little private cabin.

Now it will still have some of that of course but as this article makes clear you lose some of those 'extra legroom' seats plus the self-serve snack bar plus you now have to share the toilets with business class. It's nice that you get to use business class washrooms because they have nicer lotions but for premium ecnomy this reconfig is pretty much 'all take and no give'. :(

20 Jul 2011

Total posts 73

The self-service bars are scarcely used, and I'm sure they'll have snacks laid out in the galley if you're looking.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Nov 2011

Total posts 186

"All 12 Qantas A380s are scheduled to be reconfigured by April 2013 and operate on routes including Sydney - Hong Kong, Sydney - Los Angeles, Melbourne - Los Angeles and Sydney - Singapore - London" the spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller.

John by this statement are we ment to conclude that as of next year the A380 will NOT be flying Melbourne - Singapore - London?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2555

Dr T, I suggest that's an Olympic medal-winning jump to conclusions – Qantas said "routes including...", which means the list that follows is not a full list.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 214

at the risk of sounding like one of those armchair CEO's - it seems an interesting business strategy to reduce levels of amenity for your clients at the same time you try to claim to be a leading carrier and are struggling to convince people to fly with you. Then again what do I know. Glad I took up the Virgin match offer. The Virgin A330 business seats are WAY better than those in the poor old QF 767's and new A330-200's with the super cramped 'updated' seats, which are 2-2-2 but with an extra row thrown in for good measure over the original aircraft.

20 Jun 2012

Total posts 1

John please don't tell customers to check with the gate agent. The gate agents are very much preoccupied with the on-time-depature and don't have time to change seats last minute!

Seating allowcation is done only at check-in by the Customer Service Agent or at the check-in Service Desk.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

Thanks for the suggestion, TJau -- where will readers find those particular staffers near the gates at Qantas' A380 airports?

26 Aug 2011

Total posts 17

Hey, if anyone has travelled on the new Qantas A380 (I mean the revamped one) in Business Class, can people please put up the best seats as I am travelling next year to LAX from SYD, and I, personally, are fretting about what seats to choose!

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

Not to worry, Jack, it's in hand -- we had a reader on a flight just today. Our Best Seats will be up soon.

30 Jul 2011

Total posts 2

Gee, what a surprise! Guessing that we couldn't have seen this coming? In a year or so, the A380's will be as cramped as every other aircraft. And getting people on and off will take even longer now - it was bad enough as it was!

I was wondering if there are any Australian and/or international health and safety standards covering the number of loos per passenger (i.e., must be at least "X" loos per "Y" passengers for aircraft carrying at least "Z" passengers)?

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