Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates: fewer first class upgrades?

By David Flynn, June 5 2017
Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates: fewer first class upgrades?

It's about to get harder to turn your frequent flyer points into a first class suite – or an upgrade from business class – with Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Emirates.

Changes rippling through each of those airlines will reduce the availability of first class 'reward seats' booked using points instead of cash.

Funnelling your points into the premium cabins has always represented some of the best value.

A classic and oft-quoted example is the mere 60,000 – 75,000 points needed to bump up from business class to first class on Qantas' Airbus A380 flights from Sydney or Melbourne all the way to London.

That's a fantastic deal given the 20+ hours you'll spend in the suite – along with access to the Qantas first class lounges at Sydney or Melbourne, and the Emirates' flagship first class lounge during your Dubai stopover.

Read more: Using Qantas frequent flyer points to upgrade to first class

Sadly, that opportunity will shrink from March 2018 when Qantas shutters its Melbourne-Dubai-London Airbus 380 flights in favour of the new non-stop Boeing 787 service between Perth and London.

Many Melbourne-based travellers who currently fly first class on the daily red-tailed superjumbo to London are expected to shift their bookings onto the Sydney-Dubai-London A380 service, rather than patronise the Melbourne-Perth-London Boeing 787, which tops out at business class.

This will see far fewer of the superjumbo's 14 first class suites left empty from commercial bookings and thus made available for points-based upgrades.

Singapore Airlines, meanwhile, is expected to halve the number of first class suites on its Airbus A380s when its latest superjumbo fleet takes wing from October 2017.

The first class cabin is tipped to sport just six suites instead of the twelve of the current A380s, while also relocating the cabin from the lower deck to the upper deck.

While those all-new suites are said to be larger than what first class flyers enjoy today, the 50% cut will drastically reduce the stock set aside for upgrades by SQ's KrisFlyer members.

The Star Alliance member will take delivery of five new A380s to replace its first five superjumbos which the airline leased from 2007, although it's not yet advised if the other A380s will be reconfigured with the new first class suites.

Read more: Singapore Airlines' new six-suite A380 first class layout leaked?

Qantas' partner Emirates is also trimming the number of first class berths on its Boeing 777-300ER, with a similar move expected for the Gulf airline's forthcoming Airbus A380 superjumbo suites.

The Boeing 777's revised first class layout will cut the number of suites from eight down to six and adopt a 1-1-1 configuration for the luxe cribs, compared to today's 1-2-1 configuration.

The fewer-but-larger suites will be unveiled in early November at the Dubai Air Show and debut on a Boeing 777-300ER.

Emirates CEO Tim Clark has previously described the suites as being even more private than the current closed-door cabin, saying "we’re talking fully enclosed rooms, with all the touches and amenities that you’d expect in hotel or a private bedroom on a luxury yacht, room service and so on."

Read more: Emirates reveals new first class suites layout


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.

27 Apr 2017

Total posts 39

Don't forget fewer J seats (for awards and upgrades) on QF metal to LHR with the 787 as well. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 360

Well, you gain some you lose some. Can't expect to have lots of floor space and still the same amount of award space. 

Personally I feel the extra floor space is a bit unnecessary. I've been to EY apartment and after the first 10 min of excitement I don't find it much better than a typical first class in 1-2-1. (Not to mention 90% of the time when I fly F I was given another empty seat to use as my bed while retaining my own seat for lounging).

To me, first class is more than the floor space and hard product. Ground service (limo, massage, a la carte dining) and onboard service (champagne, caviar and catering) are also important. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

And I suspect QF is also likely to trim the number of F seats with the rumoured A380 refresh and reconfiguration


22 Oct 2012

Total posts 316

Which is likely to see the number of F seats on QF to London going from 28 a day to just 12.  Not happy.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 385

And it's highly unlikely QF will sell F class on those A380s when they are deployed to SIN/HKG down the track (when they come off MEL-DXB-LON) so you really have to wonder about how committed QF are to the true end-to-end F class experience.

05 May 2016

Total posts 631

A big test will be whether QF offers F once they have planes that fly direct from the East Coast to LHR and JFK.

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