Qantas will refit its Airbus A380 fleet with spacious new business class seats in the face of growing competition on its flagship routes to the USA and London.
There will also be a much larger lounge on the upper deck where both business and first class travellers can mix and mingle.
However, the 14 first class suites – which will remain on the lower deck – will receive a more modest refresh including contoured cushioning and larger, higher resolution video screens.
The overhaul will also extend to premium economy, with the new Boeing 787 seats installed in a 2-3-2 layout – although economy passengers will need to make do with new seat cushions and what Qantas broadly terms "improved inflight entertainment".
“We’re seeing increased demand for Premium Economy and Business Class on the long haul routes that the A380 operates, including from people using their Qantas points to upgrade" recounts Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
Each of the revamped A380s will gain six additional business class seats, to a new tally of 70; 25 more premium economy seats, for a total of 60; and 30 fewer economy seats, for a total of 341.
The revised layout will see the upper deck given over to business class and premium economy, with first class and economy on the lower deck.
The first of the 12-strong superjumbo fleet is expected to go under the knife in the second quarter of 2019, with the entire fleet completed by the end of 2020.
Qantas' new Airbus A380 business class seats
The superjumbo's Skybed II seats (below) – launched with the first Qantas Airbus A380 in 2008 – will be ripped out and replaced by the highly-regarded Business Suite already flying in the airline's Airbus A330s and also set for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The superjumbos will see the refined Boeing 787 version of the seat, which includes a movable divider between the middle seats so that travellers can choose between privacy and sociability.
It's a substantial improvement for business travellers, with the Business Suites boasting everything that the Skybed II designs lack: direct aisle access for every passenger through a 1-2-1 layout, a large video screen, bump-free flat bed and ample inflight storage and workspace.
Sleeping in Qantas' A380 business class will go from this...
... to this.
Qantas previously revamped its A380s in 2012-2013, trimming the upper deck business class cabin from 72 seats to 64 to boost the number of economy and premium economy seats.
The airline will also refurbish the final two Airbus A330 jets still flying with first-generation, angled-flat Skybeds to the new Qantas Business Suites, although a timeline for this is not yet known.