Review: Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner premium economy seat

By David Flynn, October 24 2017

Qantas touts its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner premium economy seat as 'revolutionary' and a world champion in the better-than-economy stakes.

There's much to like about Qantas' new premium economy seat, which sits in its own cabin of four rows with a 2-3-2 seating layout.

Sadly, a few issues – not all of them related to the seat itself – keep it from reaching its full crowd-pleasing potential.

First up is the legroom: or to be more precise, the lack of legroom when the seat in front of you is reclined.

We first raised this in our detailed preview of the seats published in February 2017, and last week's launch of the Qantas Boeing 787-9 and its subsequent delivery flight from Seattle to Sydney – during which we spent some hours sleeping in the premium economy seat – brings this into sharper focus.

The seat pitch – which approximates as an indicator of legroom, being a measure of the distance between your seat back and that of the seat in front of you, representing the room that's "yours" during the flight – is 38 inches.

That’s the same as the premium economy on Qantas’ Airbus A380, as well as most other airlines, and it means your legroom looks like this:

That's quite decent, although you can score more stretch-out space in the first row (row 20) of the four-row premium economy cabin, albeit with your feet propped uncomfortably against the bulkhead wall:

Unfortunately, a serious squeeze-factor sets in when passengers recline their seats.

A hint of this is already evident in this glossy PR photo (eyeball the proximity of the model's knees against the seatback) – and that's the recline of your own seat.

When the premium economy seat tilts back into a generous 9.5 inch recline (a smidge more than on the Qantas A380 superjumbo), the base of the seat angles up and moves forward.

Here's a shot of this in situ on the Boeing 787-9...

... and a clearer snap from the seat's launch earlier this year, which illustrates the difference once the seat reclines.

It's a very relaxing position to be in, but that comfort comes at a cost of reducing the knee-room at the very front of your seat.

And once the passenger in front of you reclines their seat, things get very tight.

Part of this is a function of the seat's deep recline – which is usually a good thing...

... and the solid shell which wraps around the seat, giving it more of a 'premium' feel.

Here's the side-on view with a front seat reclined:

Note the leg position of the passenger in the rear seat:

I'm in the shot below, and despite being bog-average in height you can still see how my legs are close to the rear of the seat without even the room to cross them. This won't make for a comfortable flight, especially not on the Dreamliner's 17+ hour non-stop trek between Perth and London.

This all comes back to pitch, to the distance between the seats.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that 38 inches simply isn't enough, and that at least 40 inches would be more appropriate – as this would deliver upwards of an extra two inches (5cm) at the knees.

So while Qantas' designer David Caon has delivered what is in most other respects a superb premium economy seat, the design has been short-changed by the implementation.

Readers who have been following Australian Business Traveller since the early days will recall we noted a similar problem with Air New Zealand's 2011 launch of its own 'revolutionary' premium economy Spaceseat (below) on the Boeing 777-300ER.

Responding to a wave of criticism, Air New Zealand quickly removed an entire row of seats from the premium economy cabin to deliver between four and six extra inches of legroom for each passenger. (The Kiwi carrier eventually ditched the radical Spaceseat design in favour of the more conventional seat flown on its own Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.)

There is, however, another wrinkle in the design of Qantas' premium economy seats: the foot hammock upon which much of the airline's 'revolutionary' claim has been built.

This goes beyond a small section of netting at the bottom of the seat. It's a complete construct combining a supportive calf-rest and a cradle into which you can tuck your feet.

The original concept was developed by Thompson Aero Seating – the same firm behind the Boeing 787’s business class seat – and brought into the real world by David Caon.

Unlike the premium economy seat of the Qantas A380, and most other airlines, there’s no legrest built into the front of the Dreamliner's seat – Caon says this is because it “has a limited range of motion” and “in the end it doesn't fully support your feet."

His solution is this 're-imagined' legrest which works in tandem with the reclined seat with the aim of cradling your body from head to toe.

It works on hydraulics and can be set into a wide range of positions, typically to support your calves while your feet slide into their own hammock.

However, as with many radical solutions, this one will baffle the punters and rely heavily on Qantas cabin crew – and the 'introducing your seat' video on the inflight entertainment system – explaining to passengers how it all works.

First of all, the 'hammock' can be deployed only when your seat is upright – not reclined. And while most travellers will be sufficiently familiar with a seatback footrest to try and swing the calf-rest down with their feet, that struggle will get you nowhere – you need to start by pulling out and holding the 'Footrest' lever under the video screen.

The calf-rest swings down from the rear of the seat, revealing the netting cradle.

Then it's a matter of finding the preferred position for your calf-rest – some passengers will like it up high towards their knees, others further down the leg.

For all that, I didn't find this to be miraculously comfortable during my kip in premium economy.

Perhaps I didn't have it adjusted 'just right' (and if I can't, how is the average passenger going to handle it?), but I'd have been happy for a more conventional legrest-and-footrest combo.

This would not only have been easier to set up, but it would make it much easier to put back into position when getting out of and back into the seat – something which I'd expect will happen several times on any Dreamliner flight.

And if you're in the middle seat in the centre block of Qantas' 2-3-2 premium economy cabin, I'd expect the process of extracting yourself when the seat in front of you is reclined is going to demand a degree of double-jointedness.

In short, all this is going take a lot of getting used to, and I can see many passengers abandoning it altogether and making do with less comfort than they should enjoy in what is, in every other respect, an excellent premium economy seat.

Space to spare

The well-padded seat cushion is 19.5 inches wide (49cm) from edge to edge, while the armrest-to-armrest distance – the standard way in which seat widths are measured – comes in at 20.5 inches (52cm), which is one inch more than on the Qantas A380.

On top of that, there's extra cut-out space chiselled into the wide armrests:

Qantas counts those recesses as ‘storage areas’, although they'd best suited to small slim items such as a notepad, travel diary or maybe a compact tablet in a protective case.

Allowing for this extra space between the edge of the cushion and the inner wall of the armrests brings the total of what could be called ‘hip width’ to 22.8 inches (58cm).

Need a smidge more room?

The middle seat of each premium economy row (the ‘E’ seats: 20E, 21E, 22E and 23E) is actually a bit wider again, at 23.3 inches (59cm), while passengers on the aisle seats (A, D, F and J) can recover more space to spread by pushing down the aisle-side armrest. 

The over-sized winged headrest has plenty of vertical adjustment to suit passengers of almost any height, and a thick custom pillow – more like a bolster in some ways – slides over the headrest for added comfort (especially when it's nap-time), an arrangement which also prevents the pillow from sliding around and slipping down behind your back.

The shroud of each seat contains a soft personal LED light.

Caon has added several other passenger-friendly touches.

Each seat has a 13.3 inch video screen...

... with those fitted to the armrests of the front-row seats showcasing how narrow today's video screens have become.

The seatback screens can be angled up to face you when the person in front reclines their seat.

Caon cannily built a convenient tablet-holder in front of the seatback screens, for passengers who prefer to BYO inflight video and movies, with sufficient size to hold even a 13-inch iPad Pro.

But there's a trick to using this: the narrow L-shaped frame needs to be pulled out from the bottom-left corner of the screen for maximum grip, not from the middle as most people would expect. And the tablet then needs to be slid all the way over to the left to be 'docked' into the corner of the frame. There's nothing to communicate either of these points to passengers.

Indeed, if you leave your tablet sitting in the middle of the frame – again, a natural assumption – the small grip area is insufficient to hold the tablet, which then does an Olympic-grade tumble dive into your hands.

Once the tablet is docked in position, hook it up to the nearby USB port and you're good to go...

... although with the low-power port supplying just 0.5A it will keep your tablet's battery stable than recharging it.

Just below the screen is a pocket for stowing your smartphone, reading glasses or other small bits of personal kit.

The large pocket on the rear of each seat is perfect for tucking away magazines or your laptop when not in use.

There’s a second USB jack the middle armrest of each seat, just above the headphone socket.

This is a high-powered 2A port pumping out plenty of juice to fully recharge your travel tech, while the location is ideal for charging up your smartphone, tablet or eBook reader while also using the device.

You can of course tuck your smartphone into the cubbyhole below the video screen and top up its batteries by using that 'upstairs' USB port – it'll just take longer to recharge, but on a long international flight that's ample time to fill up the tank.

Yet at odds with the double-dollop of USB ports is the single AC socket shared between each pair of seats – or two sockets for the middle set of three seats. This is a terrible oversight when you think about about laptop-toting travellers flying as long as 17 hours between Perth and London.

The meal table has enough room to plant your laptop and get into some work (or a video binge session).

If you're read this far into our exclusive review of Qantas' latest premium economy seat – which the airline also intends to fit to its flagship Airbus A380 fleet from mid-2019 – you'll know the take-out: we generally like the seat, apart from the calfrest+hammock combo and shared AC sockets, but we certainly don't like the lack of legroom forced upon it due to Qantas' tight-fit cabin configuration.

This premium economy seat – and Qantas' premium economy passengers on the Boeing 787-9 – deserve better.

Also read: AusBT reviews the Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner business class seat

David Flynn travelled on the Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner delivery flight from Seattle to Sydney as a guest of Qantas.

David

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 225

Looks uncomfortable alright, that legroom is inadequate I struggle to think how they can call this premium economy, more like modified economy.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 260

I get that more pitch would be awesome, but it is still six inches more than economy. Leaving aside the economics, I know where I would rather be.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 109

Having sat in the seat today at the open day in Melbourne and playing around with the recline (with both seat in infront and my seat reclined, I can honestly say I find it very comfortable and didn't have any issues with legroom at all. I'm about 180cm and had plenty of legroom.
Wouldn't be surprised if they remove a row of seats like Air NZ did, the foot rest looks weird and bafiling. That will probably need a rethink.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

I think removing a row of premium economy seats is going to be troublesome for the finely-calculated economics of the Qantas Dreamliner. Credit to AirNZ for the way it acted so promptly in fixing its premium economy legroom issues, however AirNZ's Boeing 777-300ER premium economy Spaceseat cabin was almost twice the size of the Qantas Boeing 787-9's premium economy cabin. I'm confident this will be revisited after many passengers make their feeling known (including lack of feeling in their legs after that 17 hour Perth-London trek), but at this stage of the game the fix might not be rolled out until the second wave of red-tailed Dreamliners from 2019-2010... hopefully at least the A380 refit will see more pitch in the premium economy cabibn.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 575

Whilst NZ did make the right decision by removing the row of its ironically named Spaceseat, it blew up its economics and doomed it to the scrapheap.

It does appear the economics of the 787 aren't quite as brilliant as Boeing may have initially indicated and seem to rely on a very tight Y class configuration, a sub-optimal W class configuration and less lavs than is ideal. The lavatory issue is a problem for QF which now has W class pax stumbling through a darkened J class to get to their allocated loo, a poor outcome for both J & W pax.

14 Apr 2014

Total posts 47

Hmm... perhaps Qantas might revert back to 31" in Economy to make room for 40" in Premium Economy???

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2017

Total posts 39

Typical, qantas always behind the eight ball.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 84

Good article. I’m flying that on the inaugural QF9 mar24 and certainly confirms my initial thoughts of the publicity shots that it is tighter for legroom than I would expect. Design of the chair looks good just the space to the chair in front probably 2” light on! Still will be better than down back.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 128

Both Singapore and Virgin would appear to still have better seats...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Jan 2016

Total posts 61

Not an unexpected outcome from when this was first shown, a real shame as bringing this inline with VA and AirNZ at 41'' would I expect have made a great seat. Any indication that QF are aware of the situation? Or are they still believing this is revolutionary.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

Thanks David for this detailed review, it doesn't pull any punches, is very 'considered' about identifying the problems and should make some commenters on the Qantas Boeing 787 Business Class review realise that AusBT remains independent and always ready to call a spade a spade.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

Well said Bob. I thought some

of the comments unfair.

David, what would your prefer, A380 PE or 787?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

it's been a few years since I flew in Qantas' A380 premium economy, and only has a short stint in the 787 premium economy, but with the 787 experience fresh in my mind I'd have to say that all else being equal (eg same route and thus flight time) I'd go for the A380. The irony is that the Dreamliner has a much better premium economy seat but the implementation of that seat – in the pitch assigned to it – is where this falls down, IMHO.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2014

Total posts 52

An interesting review! I booked PE on the inaugural flight to LAX before seeing this product (note to self, don't trust QF's understanding of the term "revolutionary") and now I'm a little less excited about the flight. It certainly looks tight in there!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jun 2017

Total posts 41

Could not agree more! What a fantastic and detailed review David. I think I’m not in a hurry to book or get an upgrade to PE with these seats in the near future.

27 Apr 2017

Total posts 39

Great article with lots of detail.

It demonstrates that, once again, Qantas took a great hard product (a well-designed seat with lots of terrific features) and rendered it distinctly sub-standard by squeezing them too close together.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

24 Feb 2016

Total posts 18

Spot on. Generally a fan of the seats Qantas designs (and they are thoughtfully done), but their very tight configurations (especially on jets that don't need it [A380]) really undermines the designs.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 194

Sorry QF, it's a big thumbs down! PER-LHR non-stop like this? Not a chance in the world.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 575

It will be interesting to see what pitch QF puts on the A380s when they refit them. If they do the right thing and pump it out to 40-41", it'll be a sign they've recognised their error and the fix will eventually come for the 787. If not, it'll be a poor signal as to how QF view their W class customers and what could've been a class-leading seat will remain just average.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

Very astute observation, and I've been pondering the same thing – Qantas wants to use this same seat, which I consider a substantial improvement over the current one (apart from concerns over the hammock, but we'll need to see how those play out in reality once the 787 flights begin and there's a body of real-world feedback from thousands of passengers) but it deserves more pitch – so I'm hopeful with the amount of time to go for the A380 refit this can be addressed.

28 Aug 2014

Total posts 4

Very thorough and impartial article - great to see.

What a missed opportunity this is for QF and their beloved 789. I can’t quite get my head around the space (mis)calculation here given the 17 hour routes they are planning combined with what will be certainly a $ premium over established W competitors such as SQ and CX with their more comfortable seats and aircraft.

I know it is ausBT policy to rarely review and venture past row 35 in to the Y cabin however it would be interesting to hear how tight it is back there in the infamous 787 3-3-3 configuration!

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

Andy: it's actually not too bad, naturally gets less so once the seat in front reclines... will be posting a photo gallery/review of the economy seats when we can, but might not be until next week...
DGP
DGP

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jan 2012

Total posts 170

Great review and definitely what I thought about the leg room situation. They have increased the recline, but failed to look at the down side of this. What's funny is that we all make comments about how poorly executed this Premium Economy is......but then poor Economy Class is far worse for a 17+ Hr trip.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 210

Pity that Qantas decided to go middle of the road in regard to the important issue of space... that could never be called revolutionary.
Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 400

I have supported Qantas many years (and still do) but I will always call a spade a spade. Qantas PE and F classes are a total waste of money it seems. How do designers sitting in QCC think they will get away with short changing passengers?? removing lavs, mediocre food, using "enhancement" "revolutionary" "game breaking" ad nauseum making fools of us. They charge premium fares and give with one hand but take away with the other. I think its time for a new CEO and direction.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Joe:

"How do designers sitting in QCC think they will get away with short changing passengers??"

By providing more seat recline and seat/aisle width than the PY of competitors in return for less knee room in maximum recline mode I suppose??

"....making fools of us."

Not me as the design trade offs are obvious and 38inches seat pitch was not revealed by QF only yesterday....the deep recline capability was kinda news though.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Apr 2012

Total posts 89

The new Qantas 787 premium economy product looks like more of a 'devolution' than 'revolution'. Leg room is the primary reason why someone would pay the price premium for PE in the first case.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@wdeguara:

" Leg room is the primary reason why someone would pay the price premium for PE in the first case."

If the above is true and seat/aisle width and recline are therefore irrelevant/not primary reason, "someone' should just "pay the price premium" for Y+ "in the first case"....it's far far cheaper for airline to develop and consumers to afford anyway...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 55

David, in photo 16 (and shown in photo 17 with your writing notebook), does that side space have something at the bottom of the seat to ensure that whatever you put there, stays there (without slipping down into the bowels of the seat, necessitating a call to an FA)?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

Yes, happily this is not a bottomless pit.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Aug 2016

Total posts 16

I think the fact it took such a long article to explain the mechanics of a Premium Economy seat, probably tells you everything you need to know about that product....

British Airways Executive Club Gold

25 Jun 2015

Total posts 22

Looks very underwhelming and quite tight. I value legroom more than seat width so I'd rather just stick to Y and pay for an exit row seat - it would be a lot cheaper as well!
PK
PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 113

I am a big fan of Qantas and was very much looking forward to the new PE. The design is wonderful, but at 6’5” tall, I think I will have to give it a miss. Quite disappointing.

qf

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 5

SQ premium economy also 38". Why the same complaints not extended here on this forum. QF bashing again. I have used SQ premium economy, while nice, compared with standard economy, I prefer the QF product. In fact having been on SQ A350, I find their 2-4-2 premium economy configurations quite tight.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 213

"Why the same complaints not extended here on this forum"


Because QF overhyped their Premium Economy as 'revolutionary' and streets ahead of everyone else, when it's not.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Jedinak K:

"Because QF overhyped their Premium Economy as.."

I don't know about U but I personally never ever take the PR descriptive such as "revolutionary" or "streets ahead of..." fm any vendor without a heavy grain of salt.

What I tend to do is when available, I assess by seat product specs and hopefully, some clear photos/diagrams revealing the product fm all angles and all available adjustment config/setting.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 405

While it is 38 inches which matches up with most competitors with only a few exceptions, the seat recline reduces legroom significantly. When reclined it could be the tightest PE on the market. Great idea for short people. Not for me.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@freedomflyer:

"SQ premium economy also 38". Why the same complaints not extended here on this forum."

2 possible explanations:

1) Because many commentators here relentlessly regard SQ or 350 as an angel while QF or 787 as an evil.

2) SQ probably exists in unknown parallel universe where 38" is larger than the 38" in the known universe.....


"...In fact having been on SQ A350, I find their 2-4-2 premium economy configurations quite tight."

However for some folks, such obvious facts/actual cabin specs do no matter in their SQ better than QF or 350 better than 787 comments/speculations.....

Perception or bias rules here.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

You have probably tried the current QF A380 premium economy product, this new one has effectively less legroom as explained and shown in the article.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Bob Burgess:

"...tried the current QF A380 premium economy product, this new one has effectively less legroom as explained and shown in the article."

And I'm guessing the additional seat recline capability(causing the reduced knee room) also "explained and shown in the article" has zero comfort value and can be completely ignored.....

Always easy to declare a product as inferior when focusing only on its negative aspects and another product as superior when focusing only on its positive aspects.

11 Dec 2015

Total posts 86

Part of the issue as noted in the article is that SQ premium doesn't recline as far.

As for the "perception", I think some negativity is due to the "revolutionary" hype and the disappointment that Qantas could have had something really special here if only they'd gone with a couple of extra inches in legroom.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Trogdor:

"...SQ premium doesn't recline as far."

Which really doesn't matter because folks here attack this QF PY seat design purely on the basis of knee room and totally forgot that seat pitch contains a space for both recline AND knee room.

Apparently, the concept of design trade-offs is unknown for many here....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2016

Total posts 108

Not to mention that this is an Australian traveller website, where we focus on our Airlines...

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Packetman21:

"...this is an Australian traveller website, where we focus on our Airlines..."

Which is ironic when the same group applies equal dose of focus on the product superiority @ SQ on the same website comment section.

May be SQ is considered an Australian airline.....

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 128

Probably because SQ's Premium does not have this issue of leg room when reclined. The A350 seat is narrower than the A380 seat though.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@xtferz:

With mathematical/physical certainty, I think it's clear which of the following yields a wider seat or aisle width in PY:

 

A: SQ's 350(Also CX)

Distribute 8seats +2aisles across a cabin diameter of 221inches. Maximum 22.1inch width available per section.

 

B: QF's 787(In fact, also JQ & Scoot)

Distribute 7seats +2aisles across a cabin diameter of 216inches. Maximum 24inch width available per section.

 

Correction: I should say "an extremely significantly wider seat & aisle width in PY" because some folks already relentlessly declare here that Y in 350 is the nex best creation since slice bread while 787 is a "Nightmareliner" for Y pax over only 0.5inch of diff in seat width....

 

For the record, I still wouldn't call the PY seat width on SQ's 350 as unacceptable for the same reason I wouldn't call Y on any 787 as significantly worse than 350.....

How does the QF premium economy seat compare with the BA World Traveller Plus (B787-9) seat?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

Can 't say as I haven't flown in that BA product.
Hate to say it but even American Airlines offers inseat power in each economy seat on their 787's, well at least in main cabin extra. Correct me if I'm wrong. Qantas can't even "afford" to do that for their Premium Economy product? Penny pinching to say the least.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

No it just hasn't been mentioned in the article. The entire aircraft has in seat power at every seat.

The more surprising feature that's lacking is inflight wifi. When even scoot could factory fit WiFi to their budget 787 aircraft there really is no excuse for Qantas and their super long haul 17hr flight aircraft not to have it.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

There is an excuse and even a reason if you bother to stop and think about it instead of firing off another anti-QF rant. Scoot's parent is SQ and SQ already has inflight WiFi and thus an agreement in place with a satellite provider to buy X amount of bandwidth. Scoot simply taps into this same agreement and the same service. Also, SQ is a 100% international airline for obvious reasons.
Qantas on the other hand is as much a domestic airline as an international one, perhaps even more so, and it's chosen to outfit its domestic fleet first, for obvious reasons that it will help QF stay ahead in the two-horse race against Virgin, while international is already a very broad field where WiFi won't add as much advantage, so QF's contracts for satellite provider are for Australian coverage (via the NBN satellite), it doesn't have any agreement with an international satellite provider.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

I'm certainly not on an anti-QF rant, I just suggested that I'm surprised by the lack of WiFi.

Air New Zealand on the new 787's has done the same thing (not factory fitting aircraft with WiFi) which is also surprising when they claim that they'll have WiFi fleetwide in the next couple of years.

I'd also love to know where you heard about Scoot and Singapore Airlines sharing bandwidth from cause I've never heard of such thing before.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

I'd suggest the reason that satellite tech isn't factory-fitted is that with the rollout of international inflight Internet still a few years away, the tech itself can and will change. Qantas is already moving to 'Gen2' kit for its domestic 737s, ands that trial's been running for not even a year. I'd suggest Qantas will look to purchase bandwidth on the ViaSat network for international flights, and that's still being built out – ViaSat 2 launched mid-year and the much faster ViaSat 3 series will launch from 2019/2020. So it makes little sense to pay for what could well be obsolete or just last-gen (or last-last gen) kit now, versus waiting until you're ready to go and can buy and retrofit the latest kit for maximum performance.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@henrus:

"When even scoot could factory fit WiFi to their budget 787 aircraft.."

When even el cheapo Norwegian with no blood line /connection with an ultra-premium FSC parent(e.g. Scoot with SQ) could factory fit an AVOD system screen to EVERY el cheapo Y seat on their also budget 787, there really is no excuse for Scoot not to hv the same even just for the pricey ScootBiz seat.

Oh wait, there may be an excuse for Scoot.....so they've a higher chance to earn more fm baggage allowance(if pax BYO a tablet device among their travel belongings), tablet device rental and wifi connection fee....excellent excuse indeed.

"..there really is no excuse for Qantas..."

Access to all AVOD system content thru a built-in screen @ every seat onboard 787 free of charge is soooo obviously not an excuse for the lack of inflight wifi by QF.....

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 428

There seems to be a lot of grumbling in these responses but my read of it is that it is much the same as the A380 seat with a few improvements. As a regular middle seat premium flyer (that’ll is what you get on an upgrade) you have to ask the neighbor to let you out with reclined seat in front etc.So what is new. This is not business class!! but a much nicer seat to sleep in than economy. To quote Shakespeare ‘me thinketh thou complain too much’

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

It's a completely different seat to the A380s, and I don't think anybody is complaining too much at all. Premium Economy is supposed to be a lot better than economy, nobody here is asking for business class at PE prices, but adequate legroom is an essential part of the PE product offering and this seat or rather the pitch assigned to it by Qantas doesn't deliver.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 428

Bob I presume spoken by one who was on the delivery flight! Otherwise how would you know!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 405

From an AUSBT comment on Facebook: “I actually think it's a *very* good seat, it's just let down by lack of legroom – the assigned pitch would have been fine for a conventional A380-style premium economy seat, but this seat simply needs more pitch”

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

PatrickK: Bon is correct, this is a different seat.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2015

Total posts 39

Nup, not for me. I was prepared to change my stripes for my quarterly trips to NYC based on this product but I'll stay with VA/DL thanks. What a shame...

16 Feb 2016

Total posts 30

Hi David, Great article, just one quick question.. does the legroom stay as tight if you are reclined as well as the pax in front? Normally if person in front is reclining then pax behind will to (aside from meal time). As the seat goes into the lazy z does it not open back up that space? Do you have a pic of both seat in front and pax seat side one?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

Still a tight fit, didn't get pics along the lines you suggested (due to limited time during the walk-through pre-delivery, and then the premium economy cabin being near-full of sleeping media on the overnight leg of the delivery flight itself).

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 109

Some facts just can’t be overlooked.

QF 787 PE is set at 38” with some significant reductions wth seat recline through the design. VA 777 for example PE is set at 41”, booking wise more bang for buck there.

The business revolution on the 787 seams lacking. Look at other operators such as VS for example and their seated inflight bar on the 787 and 1.1.1 business config.

That’s revolutionary compared to this layout. To push the point further if your flying an extra (3-4hrs) for a 17hr leg wouldn’t that flying demand a bar type area to stretch out, and take a break from the seat. Successful for EK on their long haul model (no 787’s for comparison though) also successful on the VA 777 business class @ 14hr flights.

QF 787 Y 3:3:3 layout, VA 777 is 3:3:3 on a much wider fuselage so again it’s less seat (narrower) longer flights no revolution there, US flights the VA Y seat looks again more spacious.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@DownSouth:

"Some facts just can’t be overlooked."

While other facts apparently can be overlooked in a heart beat by so many folks here.

"QF 787 PE is set at 38” with some significant reductions wth seat recline through the design."

Along "with some significant" increase in recline angle actually rarely seen among PY designs in service today worldwide....

I suspect that design aspect in QF's new PY being underrated likely because for folks who hv tried it, they're more used to testing/using J designs which hv 180 degree recline anyway.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 109

FLX sorry I’m not contradicting myself, “further reductions in recline” I was referring from the article when the seat in FRONT is RECLINED the seat behind space is further reduced due to the design, look at the pics and review above, it’s clear cut.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@DownSouth:

"...look at the pics and review above, it’s clear cut."

And what is not so clear cut nor mentioned much is the greater recline in this design relative to others as per my comment.

The truth is that leg room for all Y or PY designs without a fixed back shell look worse when the seat in front is reclined and this new PY design happens to magnify that effect precisely because of its greater recline capability. That's also pretty clear cut too for me.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 109

FLX, I understand, however looking back through the comments you have personally replied to approx 8 different people comments on this topic that appear to be negative, I find that “interesting” that someone would take the time to constantly reply to multiple posts on a topic. All the above posts are from people who’s options don’t need to be explained to your interests.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jun 2017

Total posts 29

Great review. Well done.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 405

Qantas could fix the PE legroom issue by removing one row of Y from the forward cabin and the distribute the 32inches across PE and the remaining rows of Y. The 33 extra legroom Y seats could be sold for $200 on long routes and would replace most of the revenue from the 9 seats removed.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2017

Total posts 25

Wow. EPIC fail due to poor seat pitch... QANTAS need to correct this quickly.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

Excellent article: very considered, and terrific photos. David also looks extremely well dressed, with a tie, as male business travellers ought have except in tropical climates.

W class (premium economy) on any airline is a waste of money. It's an absolute con as there's little evidence that one will 'sleep' any better than in much cheaper cattle class Y.

 

Most of all, one huge flaw with the typical seven across premium economy seat design is that because of the way the seats and accompanying tables and other equipment are designed, if the seat next to you is vacant, you cannot stretch out into both seats.

 

Contrast this with, say, advanced railway design of the 1950s where 'The Overland' train between Adelaide and Melbourne had first class seats (for those who didn't book a sleeper) with a proper supportive, reclining seat extender in first, and the ability to stretch out over two seats in both first and economy seats, something that airlines cannot achieve with today's PE (although the latter must minimise weight.) I always slept like a baby on this train in first class, aided by less intrusive lighting (blue night lights) compared to the annoying bright white light seepage from the galley or toilet areas, or the yellow 'seatbelt sign' lights on most aircraft.

 

Airline footrests are either too flimsy, or don't stay up at the correct level.

 

This article is more proof how the QF 'Dreamliner' could be more correctly be called the 'Nightmareliner' (for all but the small number in business class.)

 

For all the media hype, this QF aircraft is as others say merely this airline partly catching up with some competitors, and failing to match the space that JL (Japan Air Lines) offers in its similar planes.

 

17 hours on the London route via Perth with QF?

 

No thanks!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

I'd be inclined to agree. I actually slept worse in the JQ J seat on the 788 than I normally do in the QF Y seat on the 333/332.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

Funny you say that, I've flown PE on Qantas and Cathay and found I couldn't get my legs in a comfortable position which hindered sleep. I sleep better in economy with no leg rest.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

I find there are two big variables in sleeping on aircraft in premium cabins – one is, as you've noted, legrest or not; the other in business class is lie-flat or recline, sometimes I much prefer a deep recline with the legrest up to make the seat like a comfy lounge chair, rather than a fully-flat bed.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

I agree, I like more of the recline than fully flat in Business. And premium I just can't get as comfortable as economy which is ironic. I'm 6ft and the PE seat seems to impinge calves causing the discomfort. I'll keep an open mind and give it a go sometime.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@SteveCF:

"I like more of the recline than fully flat in Business. And premium I just can't get as comfortable as economy which is ironic."

Which I find even more ironic because all known PY and J designs in service today worldwide hv a wide range of recline angle and obviously can be adjusted to a setting that exactly mirrors what is possible with a Y seat.

However, it is true that all PY and J designs cannot mirror the seat pitch of a Y....

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

But that's the point David and I were making, rather than setting the seat to flat we prefer setting it to a recliner position for sleep.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@SteveCF:

But my point is comments like "I actually slept worse in the JQ J seat on the 788 than I normally do in the QF Y seat on the 333/332." or "I sleep better in economy with no leg rest." don't seem logical because all PY or J seat can be adjusted to the exact same config as Y.....unless more leg room & recline flexibility in PY or J designs can somehow be considered a negative pax comfort factor relative to Y.....

Or it can simply be desperately citing evidence to highlight 330 being better than 787 for QF Group pax....

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

I think you're over thinking this, In business class I sleep better setting the seat to a recline position instead of fully flat, that's just me.

I've personally found PE not comfortable, once again that's just me, hence saying ironic that I'd prefer economy.

I'm not desperately citing anything except my personal experience, I'm not telling anyone they should or would experience the same as I do.

Let's leave it there.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Feb 2017

Total posts 9

Is that storage area below the screen metal? Surely thats a safety issue if it is.
Its a shame about this product. Like others have said, people book premium economy for some extra space. Obviously not up to business, but enough to be comfortable, especially for the premium prices QF charge.
I hope QF looks at this issue and removes a row to create extra space. If this product is what we can expect to put up with for 17+hrs, the PER-LHR experiment will be a failure.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Aug 2014

Total posts 76

No thanks Qantas,

It will be a good idea to get Mr Qantas CEO & his mates to do a 14 hour flight in PE and see how they pull up!!!!!

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 428

Zaps I do it all the time (to DFW) and it is fine; better than economy which is the point.

04 May 2016

Total posts 34

I'm all for recline, but the implementation here looks dreadful - loss of leg room, and getting way more 'up close and personal' with the head of the person in front than I've seen before ! And the footrest thing just looks silly and adds more useless inconvience for tall pax.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 575

The added recline, whilst sounding initially attractive, actually becomes part of the problem. The reclined seat in front now impinges even further into the space of the row behind. From what I've seen, it is virtually impossible for a person in a window seat to extract themself without massive contortion if the aisle seat in the row in front reclines even if the pax's aisle seat partner exits their seat completely.

Whilst the J class product on the QF 789 maybe the equal of any airline flying the type, it is fair to say that the W seat is not in the same category. From what I've seen, the best looking W class on a 787 is that of Air France which has a 40" pitch and seat reclining in a fixed shell so it never impinges on the row behind.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Jan 2016

Total posts 61

The Air France PE suffers the same fate as the Air NZ Spaceseat. Fixed shell seats are great for protecting your personal space but they trade this off with a limited recline within the shell making it tough to sleep. The Air NZ space seats replacement are great for sleeping, and at 41'' they still have good personal space. But I have yet to see a PE seat that retains the sense of space and comfort.

Not sure any airline, QF included are too keen to resolve the issue. If you make PE too good your not going to pay for business.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@mcglynp:

"Fixed shell seats are great for protecting your personal space but they trade this off with a limited recline within the shell making it tough to sleep."

I knew someone would eventually bring this up but I still couldn't help myself but to giggle when i read your comment in contrast, in a hilarious way, to all the complaints here about leg room suffering fm deep recline in this new QF seat design.

Not only AF and NZ hv the same seat design issue when they try to protect leg room/personal space thru a fixed seat back design, CX had a huge pax backlash when they tried similar design fleetwide 4~5yrs ago for the same goal and then had to abandon it quickly for longhaul(U can still see it in CX regional).

It's a seat design tradeoff and recent history plus negative comments here hv already shown U can't win positive pax response either way and it's just keep going around in costly seat design & development circles if airlines do continue to act according to consumer feedbacks such as the comment section here.

"The Air NZ space seats replacement...41''

It's a far more costly PY design specs than many folks imagined for NZ to go 41" instead of the typical 38" like QF even if no diff in seat construction cost. Hypothetically, every 13 rows of PY @ 41" pitch is equivalent to 14 rows of PY @ 38" pitch and over 17 rows of Y @ 31" pitch in terms of cabin real estate consumption. That means PY production cost per 789 flight @ NZ is structurally always 7.7% higher than QF. That's ok if NZ can consistently earn 7.7% higher PY fare than QF on similar 787 sectors...a shaky assumption in the real PY consumer mkt.

"If you make PE too good your not going to pay for business."

Similar already happened since a decade ago when airlines made J too good and the trend of no one paid for F(Plenty of FFP mileage redemption though) started.

Of course, consumers and their feedbacks don't care about design specs of PY being too close to J and the Rev$ consequences....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Jul 2014

Total posts 22

Don’t forget aircraft fly with a nose-up attitude so a fully flat J bed puts your head lower than your legs. Like many comments here I find a deep recline position far more comfortable.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

David, there seems to be inconsistency in the website in that sometimes I can see comments on my browser (i.e. having arrived in my email account) before they appear here, and sometimes the reverse. For instance FLX1 seems to have made further comments - I can read them on my email - but they don't yet seem to be in the thread here.

09 Jan 2016

Total posts 44

Wow what a nightmare, and that's 'Premium' Economy (at a premium price). Imagine being in economy for 17 hours.

And people wonder why we bag Qantas as being a crap airline!

We dont want new planes, we want space!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 84

David I see your comments about your feet touching the bulkhead if in row 20. Would this still be the preferable row in your opinion over the other 3 rows behind and no one reclining into you?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Apr 2011

Total posts 99

Interesting review, thanks, David. Will be interesting to see comments once people start using the seat

PS Can't help but think FLX1 is a Qantas troll

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Agfox:

"Can't help but think FLX1 is a Qantas troll"

Sorry to disappoint U but I hv no connection with QF. In fact, I hv never bought a single QF ticket despite flying @ least 12 flight sectors per yr across multiple airlines for the past 2decades.

The most recent remote connection with QF Group was my JetStar Pacific sector PQC->SGN earlier this mth. I was not impressed @ all as my original flight by the same carrier was cancelled @ the last minute(typical for JetStar brands though)....U can imagine how neutral I'm towards QF as a corp fm a pax perspective.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

Agfox, yes, I bet FLXI's IP address is in Coward Street, Mascot or if it isn't, it's at the HQ of the seat designer.

Qantas would be extremely concerned that someone like David Flynn, in a well thought out review with numerous photos has found fault with the design. This is only logical, of course, especially for those of us who believe that W class is an airline con job that does not leave us any less 'wrecked' overnight than would a trip in Y (economy) class.

So from what I see the problem is that the "shell" around the back of the seat takes up too much room when the seat reclines?

Seems like a big design flaw but the footrest looks nice and the overall product seems quite good.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

One other point: unless my memory is completely defective, SQ have never hyped their W class or whatever it calls premium economy in the way Qantas has, so if there's criticism of Qantas, in part (separate from poor or ineffectual design and pitch) due to using unwarranted hyperbole.

Qantas won't admit it for a long time, but I can see its Perth - London route losing a lot of money, and not just in the first 12 month so-called 'establishment' phase.

Masochists can sit in a W or Y seat on QF9 or QF10 but I won't be joining them.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

27 Nov 2012

Total posts 41

Great article David.

Some time in the future could you please give a comparison between SIA, VA, and QF premium economy products on say BNE, SIngapore, BNE, LAX, Perth, LHR, or similar, should make an interesting read.

maq
maq

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jul 2017

Total posts 5

Premium Economy sounds and looks terribly uncomfortable. Really interesting how another review l recently read, gave PE a glowing report - however that reviewer travelled as a guest of QF. I pay no attention to any review where the pax flew 'courtesy of'. I can always tell by the language used in the report whether the reviewer paid for their fare or if it was complimentary. Please keep it real. We're not fools.

24 Dec 2013

Total posts 3

Hmm. Ok, apart from the hammock thing it's no advance over something like the prev gen PE seating on EVA - Which at it's height had 40" pitch (reduced to 38 when they reconfigured the J cabin), same pivot-cradle style seat but executed better - with leg-rest, and seat dropped into it's own space when reclined, minimising the space encroachment on the passenger behind. Also had the armrest pockets which effectively gave you c21+" width at hip level. Absolutely best in class at the time. C'mon Qantas, you're a ULH carrier, get it right!

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 4

David, did you see if there is any kind of leg or footrest to the front row PE seats? Without a seat in front with footrest, do ones legs just dangle off the tilted seat if they don’t reach the bulkhead? Thanks 👍

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 76

Oooo that seat pitch looks like economy of a few decades ago. Sincerely hope the A380 refit doesn't go the same way. Not a big fan of the new Business seat either.

29 Oct 2016

Total posts 35

An excellent review from Mr Flynn, and nice to see an independent evaluation rather than a reproduction Qantas propaganda as per their earlier PR releases.

Imagine being on the window seat or middle of the middle seats behind a fully reclined seatback,and having to climb across one's neighbours to get to the isle to queue for the loo - and paying a premium price for the privelege, although while this may have needed a flight from Seattle to realise, in the literal sense of the word, it was obvious right from the start that young Mr Caon had got it wrong.

Together with the comments add to the impression that PE is a class too many in the small aircraft which is the B787, and that JAL has done it right in regard to the aircraft it has configured for flights to/from Australia. Young Mr Caon can't do a thing with it. Such a shame compared with the promise outlined to me by a friend who was an interior design engineer in the B787 project at Everett, as we checked out the fuselage mockup in 2007 during a visit there.

The economics of market competition plus high barriers to exit might mean that eventually they too will succumb unfortunately, rather than try a modest price increase.

So sad that the Dreamliner tag still applies but the concept which the term encapsulated when it was coined by Boeing in the early days has gone down the gurgler.

30 Oct 2017

Total posts 4

I recall having my knees actually 'jammed' could not move...with a Cathay flight by my fellow passenger in front ( obnoxious very short woman who's feet wouldn't have even been able to touch the back of her seat - in front of her) only to be told if the seat reclines they are quite within their right to fully recline it! No way will I risk that ever again..so disappointed to hear this on the Dreamliner...suppose I'm dreaming to think they could make seats for tall...& some for short ? Question....can I book two economy seats for myself!??

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 152

I was able to try the premium economy seat yesterday. Unfortunately at 190cm I just don’t fit.

Qantas

19 Jun 2015

Total posts 18

Booked economy Per Mel on 787-9 and was able to book row 20, first row in economy but in fact its premium economy seating. These seats can only be selected by Gold and above FF's. Cabin manager said QF are giving premium customers a a chance to "check out the PE seats" whilst the 787 is doing the the PER-MEL-PER runs. Great seats, wide spacious cabin in 2 3 2 config. If you can book these seats ignore business.

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