The best seats in Premium Economy on Qantas' Boeing 747-400

By John Walton, September 12 2011
The best seats in Premium Economy on Qantas' Boeing 747-400

Qantas plans to either retire its Boeing 747-400 aircraft or upgrade them to the Airbus A380 standard of seats and services -- starting with the first plane as soon as next month.

But until the entire fleet is refitted, here's how to pick the best seats in premium economy on the Red Roo's 747s.

The plane

You'll find Qantas' Boeing 747 fleet on the airline's longest routes, including flights to Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires. Asian flights to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok and Singapore also see 747s.  

While Qantas' 747s have five different configurations, there are only three different premium economy seat maps.

When premium economy is installed, you'll see between 32 and 40 premium economy seats on the lower deck between Business and Economy.

The cabin

With three separate premium economy layouts across the 747 fleet, it can get a bit confusing, but here are the four layouts, from most common to least common.

You'll be able to pick them out by the row numbers and layout of seats you're shown when booking.

747-400: rows 36-37

The most frequently seen 747-400 configuration has four rows of premium economy from rows 34-37, in a 2-4-2 layout. Qantas has thirteen of its fleet in this layout.

Here, you'll want to pick seats 34J or 34K if you can for extra bulkhead legroom.

Avoid 34A and 34B, which are right behind the lavatories, and skip 34D, 34E, 34F and 34G since these are baby bassinet crib positions.

In other rows, try not to pick middle seats D and E in the centre section, where you'll have to climb over someone and don't get a window to lean against and look out of as compensation.

747-400ER: two mini-cabins, rows 34-35 and 36-39

The extended-range 747-400ER planes, which serve Dallas-Fort Worth and other ultra-long-haul routes, have two separate mini-cabins of premium economy: rows 34-35 and rows 36-39. (This is also installed on one of the regular 747-400 planes, for a total of seven planes with this layout.)

Unfortunately, the mini cabins are separated from each other by four lavatories, and only split off from Economy by a thin wall, so noise will be an issue in the whole cabin.

Pick emergency exit seats 36A, 36B, 36J and 36K for masses of extra legroom, although you may get people loitering to use the loo. (Bring a jumper or scarf if you get cold, too, because there can be a bit of a breeze from the door.)

Tall passengers may also like 34D, 34E, 34F and 34G for extra legroom, but be aware they're right in front of the lavatories and are the only baby bassinet crib positions in premium economy. 36D and 36G also have a bit of extra legroom into the aisle in a pinch, but you're likely to be run over by trolleys or passengers.

Bulkhead seats 34A, 35B, 34J and 34K are also a good option with a bit of extra legroom.

Avoid rows 38 and 39, which are right in front of Economy.

747-400: rows 29-36

Four of Qantas' 747-400s have an eight-row premium economy cabin from rows 29-36. Four rows (31-34) only have A and B seats on the left hand side (on the right is the galley kitchen).

On these planes, 29A, 29B, 29 J and 29K are a good choice for tall people, since they're bulkhead seats behind business class.

31A and 31B are a great choice too, with nobody reclining back into you.

Further back, 35J and 35K are a good pick, although potentially noisy since they're right behind the galley exit.

There's also a bit of extra legroom for seats 35D and 35G, although it's of the "you can put a leg round the side of the wall, but might be run over" variety.

The pairs of seats in rows 32, 33 and 34 have a bit of a private cabin feel, but can be a bit highly trafficked since it's the only usable aisle when the galley kitchen is in use by the crew.

Avoid seats 30D, 30E, 30F and 30G, which are right in front of the lavatories, and row 36, which is in front of bassinet crib positions in Economy.

Only window seats in rows 29 and 30 are in front of the wing, so if you want to look out and see the world (rather than the wing) those are the ones to pick.

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.

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