Qantas vs Emirates: how their business class seats compare

By John Walton, September 6 2012
Qantas vs Emirates: how their business class seats compare

Qantas frequent flyers may not be familiar with Emirates business class -- but thanks to the new Qantas-Emirates partnership, there's a very high chance that next year's international flights will include plenty of miles on Emirates' metal.

And while Qantas has moved towards standardising its business class on the A380 and Boeing 747 it uses for long-haul flights, Emirates' business class offerings vary widely between the planes in its fleet.

We've put together this guide to business class across the Emirates' Australian and European fleet -- from the flagship Airbus A380 to the long-range Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 -- to explain what's different to Qantas' offerings and which one you should choose, should you have the chance.

The top sheet? Emirates A380 superjumbo boasts one of the best business classes in the sky -- we reckon it's ahead of Qantas' own A380 second-generation Skybed -- but its Boeing 777 and Airbus A330/A340 business class seats are markedly less comfortable for sitting and sleeping.

Emirates Airbus A380 business class

Located to the rear of the A380's upstairs cabin, Emirates' superjumbo business class boasts a fully-flat bed in the popular staggered 1-2-1 layout so that every passenger enjoys direct aisle access.

You also get a personal minibar (!), heaps of storage and Emirates' top-notch ICE inflight entertainment system.

We've reviewed Emirates' A380 business class: find out what we thought of the seats and service.

Want to stretch your legs, socialise or simply can't sleep? Down the back of the A380 is a fully-stocked bar for business class passengers.

Where it flies: You'll find the Emirates A380 on Australian routes between Sydney and Dubai (plus the onwards leg from Sydney to Auckland), with a superjumbo joining the Melbourne-Dubai (and Melbourne-Auckland) route later this year.

Don't miss our guide to picking the best seats in business class on board Emirates' A380

Emirates Boeing 777 business class

Emirates' 777 business class is significantly less appealing -- we rate it below Qantas' first and second generation Skybeds.

It's a narrow angled lie-flat seat which leaves a lot to be desired on the long haul, while the 2-3-2 cabin configuration means window and middle seat passengers have to clamber over the passenger next to them in the aisle.

We've reviewed Emirates' 777 business class: find out what we thought of the seats and service.

There's much less room at elbow and shoulder height too, and of course you'll run into the usual problem with sleeping on a sloped surface: you slide down while your clothes stay where they are.

Where it flies: Boeing 777s are used on all Emirates' non-A380 flights from Australia, including some "tag-on" hops across the Tasman to New Zealand, and all "stopping services" via southeast Asia to Dubai.

Don't miss our guide to picking the best seats in business class on board Emirates' 777

Emirates Airbus A330 business class

If you've flown on Virgin Australia's original A330 recliner business class seats (not the new angled lie-flat Singapore Airlines version released earlier this year), you'll be familiar with Emirates' A330 business seats, since Virgin bought the planes -- interiors and all -- from Emirates.

It's not a particularly comfortable ride when compared with the competition, since the seats are relatively narrow and there's not a lot of elbow room.

They have to be, in order to squeeze a 2-3-2 layout into the tighter confines of the smaller A330 where Qantas has a 2-2-2 layout for its internationally configured first-gen Skybed angled lie-flat seats.

Where it flies: Emirates uses the A330 as a "starter plane" for its newer routes, and for medium-distance flights that don't have the demand to add a 777 or A380. You'll find it on connecting flights to many secondary European and African destinations.

Don't miss our guide to picking the best seats in business class on board Emirates' A330

Emirates Airbus A340 business class

Emirates' A340s are being phased out, but you'll still see them on the occasional route.

Business class varies according to whether you're on a shorter-range A340-300 or longer-range A340-500. The former is closer to the recliners of the A330, while the latter is more like the lie-flat beds of the 777.

Business class cheat cheat: Qantas vs Emirates

Emirates' A380 business class is firmly ahead of Qantas' A380 offering in terms of privacy, aisle access, personal space and storage -- not to mention that bar at the back of the cabin.

But once you get down into the Emirates 777s and A330/A340s, things are much less comfortable, so we've put together a handy list of their relative comfort levels that you can issue to the person making your travel bookings.

In descending order of comfort:

  1. Emirates Airbus A380
  2. Qantas Airbus A380 and refurbished Boeing 747 (Skybed v2)
  3. Qantas international-grade Airbus A330 and non-refurbished Boeing 747 (Skybed v1)
  4. Emirates Boeing 777
  5. Emirates Airbus A340
  6. Emirates Airbus A330
  7. Qantas domestic/regional-grade Airbus A330

For the very latest news for business travellers and frequent flyers, tune into @AusBT on Twitter.

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.


06 Sep 2012

Total posts 2

I think Qantas will be changing its cabin layouts and service mighty quickly in order to compete


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

Great rundown, John! I love the detail that AusBT goes into and that you guys are always fair-minded, you don't s*ck up to the airline or hotel but call it as you see it for the busines traveller! Are you going to do one of these for economy? Also, what will happen if you're booked in premium economy, which Qantas has but Emirates doesn't have?

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

Thanks Al -- yes, one for economy is in the works, as is destination-by-destination breakdowns for major European destinations that will be changing significantly.

The "what happens to premium economy passengers" question is one that Qantas hasn't answered yet, but it's firmly on our list!

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 86

John, I was of the understanding that the Brisbane Dubai service was operated by a 777 300ER and this has lie flat seats. Are there then two types of 777 they fly?

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 192

yes I agree-since I'm a skyward member and fly business on emirates can agree with the article-there is a huge difference between the 380 and 777-300 in every aspect

unfortunately all Adelaide passenger have to put up with the crappier version of the business class-have to use a rundown domestic qantas business lounge to start with-virtually no food-only some inferior crap that you don't even want to touch-hardly any quality wine or spirit-it's simply outrageous that Emirates puts their passengers into a domestic "business class' facility.

They fly the outdated and most uncomfortable 777-300 still more than 2 years although they got the loading on it as it's full most of the time.

The food and other services are the same so no complaint about it but why do South Australians are treated like rubbish?

Even Perth got the 380's now why can't this company fly it here too?

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