Passengers waiting to board QF002 on Monday night in London were hit by a two hour departure delay. The Qantas flight from London to Sydney via Singapore ended up departing shortly after 23:20, almost two-and-a half hours later than the schedule 21:05 departure. An inconvenience, yes! But, all onboard had the opportunity to be the first to enjoy the Australian flag carrier’s multimillion-dollar upgrade to its Airbus A380 fleet.
The flight was the first scheduled service with the upgraded cabin, the aircraft having only arrived at London Heathrow four hours earlier following redelivery after the reconfiguration work in Dresden, Germany. The upgrades, which will be introduced across all 12 A380s, includes new seating across expanded business class and premium economy cabins a refresh of the aircraft’s first class and Economy class seating and a redesign of the aircraft’s premium onboard lounge.
The reconfiguration may see the passenger count on the Qantas A380 only change by one to 485 seats, but smarter use of space has enabled it to increase its premium offering and boost potential yields per seat, an important requirement on such ultra-long-haul routes. With an all premium class upper deck (now occupied by business class and premium economy, premium seating has been boosted by more than a quarter (27%), balanced by the removal of 30 economy seats. It has also provided the space for the expanded onboard lounge with seating for up to ten business and first class passengers.
Key elements of the upgrade include the introduction of the Qantas business suite, replacing the previous Skybeds, in a 1:2:1 configuration that now gives aisle access to every passenger; the installation of the airline’s new premium economy seat (first debuted on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet) and increasing the number of seats from 35 to 60.
There is also an update to the 14 first class suites with new contoured cushioning, seat finishes and a larger, higher resolution entertainment screen, while a revised colour palette as been adopted throughout the Economy cabin as well as improved inflight entertainment.
The first reconfigured aircraft, registration VH-OQK, arrived in Sydney on the morning of 02-Oct-2019. A second aircraft, registration VH-OQC, switched places in London and will now be next for reconfiguration, a process that will take around eight weeks. A third aircraft is also due to completed before the end of the year with all 12 completed by the end of 2020.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the mid-life upgrade of the A380 would ensure its status as one of the most popular aircraft with customers. “The A380 is a crucial part of our long-haul fleet and this upgrade program will see customers enjoy everything the aircraft has to offer for years to come…It also provides an increase in business and premium economy seating to help match the demand we’re seeing on our long-haul routes,” he said.
The capacity of the Qantas A380s after the upgrade will be: 14 first suites (unchanged), 70 business suites (up by six), 60 premium economy (up by 25) and 341 economy seats (down by 30) for a total of 485 passengers (up by one).
The interior changes have been complemented in the first class cabin with several service improvements. A redesigned Martin Grant sleeper suit in dark charcoal with a Henley neckline and burgundy trim will be introduced from Nov-2019, joining new amenity kits including socks made from bamboo cotton and new skin care products from Australian brand LaGaia Unedited (from late Nov-2019 these will also be available in Qantas’ Sydney and Melbourne First Lounge spa facilities).
Qantas chef Neil Perry and his Rockpool team have created a menu of snacks and light meals to be enjoyed by First and Business Class customers in the redesigned upper deck lounge. Passengers will be able to chose from dishes including dry laska goreng with fishcakes and seared prawns to mushroom arancini in a tomato ragu as part of custom-designed menus for each route. The lounge also features a new self service bar, while customers will also be able to order signature cocktails including an Australian Negroni with mountain pepper and river mint as well as the Qantas signature gin and tonic with pink grapefruit.