The best seats in business class on Qantas' four-class Boeing 747

By John Walton, July 27 2011
The best seats in business class on Qantas' four-class Boeing 747

If you're travelling on Qantas flights to Johannesburg, Hong Kong, London Heathrow via Hong Kong and Bangkok, or Melbourne-Singapore, you're likely to be flying on one of the airline's four-class Boeing 747-400 planes.

But which is the best seat in business class? Read on for the latest in our ongoing series on the best seats for your flight.

The plane

Qantas has over a dozen of the four-class 747s in its fleet.

Now, it's not the two-class or three-class version that runs between Sydney and Perth and on other international routes, nor the extended-range 747-400ER that goes to Dallas and elsewhere.

This is the one with both First Class and Premium Economy in addition to Business Class and Economy.

First class is, as usual, in the nose, with business behind and in the upper deck. Behind business comes premium economy and, at the very back, economy.

The cabin

There are two cabins in business, with 28 seats downstairs behind First Class in a 2-3-2 configuration. Upstairs, there are 24 seats, in a much more private-feeling 2-2 layout. Window seats upstairs also get a side storage compartment.

Qantas has one 747-400 plane with two extra rows of business class behind the main galley kitchens and just in front of Premium Economy, which is separated by a thin wall and a curtain. (This is, however, the normal layout on the extended-range 747-400ER planes.)

The seats are Qantas' first-generation angled lie-flat Skybed, which isn't the same as the new fully flat Skybed on the Airbus A380.

(Why aren't angled lie-flat seats as comfortable as fully flat beds? Check out our article on the Lie-Flat Lie.)

Each seat is 21 inches wide, with 60 inches of pitch -- that's "your space" on board, between your seat back and the seat in front. There's an on-demand entertainment system with a small TV screen and an AC power point.

The best seats on the plane

(Note only one of these planes has rows 29 and 30 as Business Class.)

Row 16: on the upper deck, these seats are fantastic because there's extra legroom, the window passenger doesn't have to climb over the aisle seat, and the entertainment monitors are in the armrest rather than on the back of the seat in front, making them much more comfortable to watch lying down.

Row 11: still upstairs, these seats also get extra legroom and armrest TVs, but the lavatory is in front of 11J and 11K, which is less ideal. 11J and 11K are also the bassinet crib position for infants, so you may be moved to make way for a baby.

Rows 12-18: any seat on the upper deck is better than one downstairs, since there are fewer people in a row, no middle seats and a quieter cabin. While there's less airflow noise further back, avoid row 18: it's got the stairs, galley kitchen, lavatory and closet behind it.

Row 23: there's a little more legroom to nip out of the window seat in this bulkhead row at the front of the main deck cabin. Plus, the entertainment screens are in the armrest. But bear in mind that 23A, 23B, 23J and 23K are bassinet seats, so you may be moved to make room for a baby.

Row 29: if you're on the one 747-400 with rows 29 and 30, this is only really a good choice if you're tall (there's extra legroom) or especially irritated with climbing over people or being climbed over (more space in front of the seat). Otherwise, the proximity to four bassinet cribs (two in business and two in premium economy, separated only by a curtain) is a big downside.

The worst seats on the plane

Row 30: as mentioned above, there's one plane with two extra rows of business class. Best to avoid this section because there are two bassinet cribs at row 29 -- and two more immediately behind in the first row of Premium Economy.

Row 26: at the back of the larger main deck cabin, these are right in front of the galley and bar area, although there's a bit of space between that should deaden the noise a little.

E seats in any row: skip middle seats in the main deck cabin, or you'll need to climb over the aisle passenger to get out.


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.

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 61

Having recently travelled in both rows 17 and 18 on the upper deck, I disagree that row 18 is noisey and needs to be avoided. It is perfectly quiet and I'd sit there anytime.

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