It’s been a busy 12 months in the Qantas Domestic playbook with the introduction of new A330 Business Suites, priority boarding for Gold-grade frequent flyers and new economy dinner boxes with extended meal times to please hungry high flyers.
The momentum continued with last month's opening of the long-awaited Perth Business Lounge, which is also where Australian Business Traveller sat down with Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David to see what the year ahead has in store.
New Qantas Business Lounge, Perth
Rounding out the Qantas east-west experience for transcontinental business travellers – and indeed, Perth-based flyers wherever their journeys take them – the new Business Lounge mixes things up with an all-new Italian Pizza Bar, a sports area, quiet nooks and dedicated working zones.
“There was a recognition that we’ve got many different customers in here,” Andrew David shares with Australian Business Traveller, adding that the lounge’s design was “about giving people time to do whatever they want to do.
“If you want to enjoy the footy with a pizza and a beer, you can. Equally, if you want some quiet time to work, you can also do that.”
AusBT review: Qantas domestic Business Lounge, Perth
Terminals 3 and 4 in Perth will also move entirely under the Qantas Group banner come November, with the Business Lounge situated in Terminal 4, following improvements to the terminals’ exterior roads, the design and space of the check-in hall and wait times at security screening.
Brisbane Business Lounge
Next on Qantas’ agenda is a refurbishment for Brisbane’s existing domestic Business Lounge as part of an extensive program for the Queensland capital.
Alongside a refresh for the neighbouring Qantas Club lounge for Gold frequent flyers, David says the new Business Lounge will adopt a “state influence, the (state) colours and a bit of a Queensland feel,” much as the Perth lounge used the colours of the Western Australian landscape.
And going far beyond the colours, David knows it’s important to get the design right when given the opportunity.
“What I’ve always found frustrating about the lounges is you go inside, there are pods of four (seats) and there’s a single person sitting in each (group) – so you can’t find anywhere to sit,” he observes.
That problem was largely addressed in Perth’s new lounge with plenty of individual seats lining the walls…
… along with defined communal tables in certain areas which make travellers feel less intrusive on the space of others.
Rollout of Airbus A330 Business Suites
First gracing Australia’s skies in December 2014, Qantas’ reconfiguration of its Airbus A330 fleet with its new business class Business Suites is nearing the halfway point, with 12 of its 28 jets now sporting what we’ve previously awarded as the world’s best domestic business class seats.
AusBT review: Qantas Airbus A330-200 Business Suite
Speaking of the airline’s progress, David remarks that “we’ll have 16 (A330s) done by the end of the year, and we’ll have all 28 done by the end of next year – and 18 of those will be flying domestic.”
Used primarily on Qantas’ longer domestic flights between the east coast and Perth, the Red Roo now has enough reconfigured birds to offer the Business Suite on every overnight service from Perth to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
“We’re up against our competitor who’s got six (A330s), so you’re three times more lucky with us!” quipped Andrew David.
Boeing 737 refresh, Q Streaming entertainment
When airlines talk “more seats”, travellers often think “less legroom” – yet David is quick to affirm that Qantas’ Boeing 737 reconfiguration plans, which involve adding an additional six seats to the economy cabin, won’t affect legroom.
“What we’re doing is putting in a slimmer galley at the back of the plane which allows us to add the extra row of seats: we’re taking absolutely nothing away from the consumer in terms of seat pitch. It’s a smart way of increasing capacity.”
Comparing Qantas’ reconfigured Boeing 737s to that of arch rival Virgin Australia, David highlights that “the back 10 rows will have 30-inch pitch, our competitor has 29-inch pitch. We will, once the plane is reconfigured, have 174 seats on the aircraft, our competitor will have 176 seats.”
Beyond the capacity tweak, the Boeing 737s also gain a refreshed interior with leather business class seats…
… cloth economy seats with adjustable leather headrests…
… and small, cabin-mounted dividers to separate business class and economy in lieu of the traditional curtains, but which leave legroom and personal space untouched for passengers in row 4.
Rounding out the refurbs, 38 Boeing 737s which don’t currently have seatback inflight entertainment are being fitted with Q Streaming technology, where Qantas beams movies, TV shows and music to travellers’ own devices like iPads and smartphones.
“Increasingly, that’s what people like to do these days,” David concludes, with the first fully-refitted Boeing 737 now gracing Australia’s skies and the rest due for completion over the coming year.
Yet if you’re in the minority of travellers without a tablet or smartphone, you’ll fortunately still have something to watch on the traditional overhead screens.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Perth as a guest of Qantas.
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