What's new on board Qantas' refurbished Boeing 747 planes?

By John Walton, October 28 2011
What's new on board Qantas' refurbished Boeing 747 planes?

Following Qantas' decision to delay the delivery of its next batch of Airbus A380 superjumbos, the Red Roo has finished refurbishing the first of the Boeing 747-400ER planes that it will keep.

The first of the refitted planes headed on the Brisbane-Los Angeles route last week. Here's what you'll find on board.

The plane

These are the newest 747s in Qantas' fleet, and are, on average, around ten years old -- so due for a refresh.

The refurb is mostly good news for the business traveller, since the older angled lie-flat first generation Skybed seats have been replaced by the second generation fully flat version.

Not sure why fully flat beds are better than the older angled lie-flat version? We explain it all in our article on the lie-flat lie.

There are some downsides too -- especially for top tier Qantas Frequent Flyer members, who no longer get the first class seats for business class prices, and we predict longer queues for fewer loos per passenger on the long-haul routes these planes fly.

Business class

Surprisingly, you'll find fewer business class seats on this new layout: down from 66 to 58 seats.

However, those seats do now come in the nose of the plane: fourteen second-generation fully-flat business class Skybeds have replaced the 14 first class seats in the nose.

The more spacious 14 first class seats (which all had direct aisle access) used to be handed out for free to top-status Qantas Frequent Flyer members, who appreciated the benefit of a more comfortable and private seat, though with regular business class service. Here's what the nose section looks like now:

A top pick towards the front of the plane are seats 5B and 5J, which are aisle seats without a window seat next to them. Those -- and the aisle pair 3E and 3F -- are the only business class seats on the plane that have aisle access without a window or middle seat passenger next to you.

Also gone are the first class lavatories and galley behind the nose section, meaning that although it'll be a slightly longer walk from the nose to the three loos behind row 8, you'll have less noise and disruption in the nose.

Downstairs behind the nose is the unpopular 2-3-2 layout: avoid those middle E seats if you can, since you'll have to clamber over the aisle passenger to get out, without the benefit of a window seat in compensation.

Here's what that section now looks like:

On which lavatorial note, you'll probably want to make sure you head for the loo early to freshen up before arrival: with just three lavatories downstairs between 40 business class passengers, expect queues.

Upstairs on the upper deck, you'll find six fewer business class seats: down to 1.8 from 24. A lavatory has also been pulled out of the upper deck. Upstairs now looks like this:

Premium Economy

The new configuration has 36 premium economy seats, down from 40. The configuration is still the same: a 2-4-2 layout, which is standard for the 747, but has an extra seat across compared with the 2-3-2 layout on the A380.

Premium economy has moved slightly further forward in the plane, and is now entirely over the wing. That means a less bumpy flight, but less of a view from the window seats.

Gone, unfortunately, are the favoured row 36 exit row seats with their unlimited legroom, replaced only by bulkhead seats.

There are, however, two seat pairs on the left hand side, in rows 34 and 35. While the bassinet crib position (and a lavatory) are found immediately in front, they'll be a good option for getting off the plane first and for not having aisle passengers next to you.


If you're at the back of the bus, you'll find an extra 83 fellow passengers in economy, for a total of 270.

Economy now starts roughly where Premium Economy used to, halfway back on the wing.

There's a useful little two-row economy cabin at rows 43 and 44, which will cut down on some of the noise of the larger cabins. (However, the bassinet crib positions are at row 43, so if you're sensitive to noise you might want to aim for row 46 and back instead.)

The central galley kitchen area has shrunk significantly, meaning that the back cabin from rows 58-75 will now feel even larger. The old exit row seats at row 58 have been lost to a side galley too.

On the plus side, you'll find an extra row of the twin-pair seats as the plane's fuselage narrows at the very back.

Those seat pairs are a top pick in economy because there's a bunch of extra storage at the side for the window seats in row 69, which is very useful for stashing your carry-on bag during the flight without compromising on legroom.

Since there's no middle seat, you'll also only have to clamber over the aisle passenger to get out.

We'll be bringing you more on the Qantas 747 refit as news comes in. For the very latest, follow us on Twitter: @AusBT.

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 363

"Upstairs on the upper deck, you'll find six fewer business class seats: down to 1.8 from 24"??? Wow! That's a huge drop! Now only 1.8 passengers can sit there. Don't know what the other .2 of the second passenger is going to do...


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

Great article - saw this over on a.net but good to see a proper breakdown of what's changing... My understanding was that QF had always intended to keep 9 744's even before the A380 deferals? I thought they announced the refurb all the way back in 2009?

Also - Premium Economy is 2-3-2 on the A380 ;) 2-4-2 is what other airlines have in Y upstairs!

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 666

Thanks am. I suspect I heard the same rumours you did about Qantas' 747 plans and the much-rumoured refurb, but my impression is that they coalesced pretty quickly at the A380 decision time and have since sped up.

(Thanks for the catch on the A380 -- after two days in transit including SQ, I think the A380s are blurring together in my mind!)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 474

There's actually only one toilet now on the Upper Deck for passenger use. There used to be two (one forward, one rear). The rear toilet has disappeared to make suffiient room for the last row of Skybeds.

In your diagram, the toilet that appears to the far left is actually the toilet for the flight deck, i.e., it is behind the cockpit door, so passengers can't access it.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 666

Thanks John, that's useful to know. It seems odd that Qantas includes a crew-only resource on their aircraft maps!


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 580

If you ask nicely and the other bathrooms are being used then the second forward bathroom can be used for pax. There is two cockpit doors in the existing planes - the one you see which can sit flush in the entrance to the flight crew rest area and remain open through the flight (and is installed by QF - not actually a feature of the plane as delivered from Boeing) and the proper cockpit door...

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