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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.
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.
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).
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.
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