One Week Until Qantas’ First Refurbished Airbus A380 Carries Passengers

The long slog between London and Sydney is set to get that little bit easier. Qantas is putting its first refurbished A380 onto the route later this month. With the first A380 delivered to Qantas in 2008 and the last in 2011, the current refurbishment will set the aircraft up to fly for another decade.

The first refurbished Qantas A380 – VH-OQK. Photo: Eric Salard via Flickr.

The refurbishment was first announced by Qantas in August 2017. It has taken two years to get the first plane done. Qantas expects to complete the remaining 11 A380 aircraft by the end of 2020, closing a three and a half year program. If that seems lengthy, Qantas only just finished refurbishing its last A330, closing off a program that went for some six years!

The first flight set to take off at the end of September

As reported in Executive Traveller, the first refurbished Qantas A380 flight is set to take off from London Heathrow on September 30, 2019, operating QF2 to Sydney via Singapore. The aircraft is registered VH-OQK and was sighted leaving the aircraft conversion facility at Dresden last weekend.

The aircraft is set to operate London-Sydney-London as QF2/QF1 respectively for the first ten days of October (albeit not every day) before setting off to LA as QF11 on October 11, 2019. Previously, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was reticent about saying when and where the aircraft would be deployed, saying it would drop in and out of schedules. He wanted to “surprise” passengers.

“We can’t dedicate them to one particular route (so) people will be surprised and delighted when they see the upgraded A380s.”

So what’s the big deal?

As with most airborne improvements, they will be felt most acutely at the pointy end of the plane. On the main deck, in the 341 seat economy cabin, where the majority of passengers will be, improvements are pared back to better cushioning, better IFE, and faster WiFi.

For those who turn left at the aircraft door, 14 lucky first-class passengers can lounge across the ocean in considerable comfort and style. First-class reportedly hasn’t been changed too much, merely ‘refreshed’ with a new cabin look and improved seat amenities. They won’t have sliding privacy doors. When the Qantas 747 is retired from service, reportedly now pushed back to 2021, these A380s will be the last Qantas aircraft offering a first-class product.

The well regarded Qantas First Class product is getting a refresh. Photo: David Lytle via Wikimedia Commons.

The main changes will be seen upstairs in business class, where 70 passengers can say goodbye to the dreaded 2-2-2 A380 business class seating layout and kick back in a far more civilized 1-2-1 layout. Those Skybed II seats that were so very 2008 are being replaced with the lauded Qantas Business Suites.

Business-class will feature the latest Business Suites in a 1-2-1 layout on the refurbished A380s. Photo: Qantas News Room.

Once the last 747s are retired and this A380 refurbishment program is completed, every widebody Qantas aircraft should have a consistent business class product – something that is fairly uncommon across any airline.

Towards the rear of the upper deck on the refurbished A380s will be the 60 seat premium economy cabin. These seats will be the same as those currently installed on the Qantas 787-9 Dreamliners. People like the seats but are less fussed about the lack of legroom on the 787-9s. The refurbished A380s will have the same issue.

The refurbished A380s will see the 787-9 premium economy seats installed. The seats are fine but the lack of legroom is frequently criticized. Photo: Qantas News Room.

What’s next?

Simple Flying approached Qantas to ask when their next refurbished A380 would be rolling out. They haven’t said. The airline has previously said they plan to produce one refurbished A380 a month over the next year

In the meantime, it is a lucky dip as you whether you’ll find yourself on a refurbished A380 or not. The odds should improve as more aircraft refurbishments are completed. Until then, whether Alan Joyce and his airline surprises and delights you will probably depend on which plane you pull out of the lucky dip.

Or you could be super organized and compare upcoming flights to seat maps and plan accordingly. 

Happy flying.