Time flies, and it’s been 10 years since Qantas got its first A380s. While the cabins and seats have been nipped and tucked along the way, they’ve never been fully refurbished. Now, the first comprehensive makeover of the Qantas A380s are underway.
Qantas has 12 A380s and the first refurbished one is due to touch down on a runway near you in September this year, according to Australian Business Traveler. Qantas flies its A380s on the popular trans Pacific routes across to Los Angeles and Dallas, up to Hong Kong, and to London via Singapore. Periodically they appear at other airports on a charter or seasonal run. Sometimes they’re even scheduled for special flights, such as the A380 to Tokyo in October where every seat on the plane is available for points.
But regular travellers on the Qantas A380 will tell you that the cabins do need a refresh. As cabin design continually evolves and airlines tweek and upgrade their product in an ultra competitive environment, no airline wants to get left behind.
“This upgrade is a major investment in putting the next generation of seats on the (A380) aircraft as well as more creature comforts to maintain its status as one of the best ways to fly,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce in a company statement.
Here’s what to expect from the refurbished Qantas A380s.
The C check
A C check is a three week overhaul of an aircraft that usually happens every 18-24 months. The A380s will undergo this procedure as part of the refurbishment. It’s not as sexy as new lie flat beds in business class but far more critical.
Qantas does maintenance of some of its aircraft in Australia, for instance, the A330 heavy maintenance base is in Brisbane. But heavy maintenance on the Qantas A380s, such as the C checks, are done by Lufthansa Technik in Manila.
The well regarded Qantas A380 first class suites are being slightly tweaked. The cabin colours will get a refresh to be more aligned with the look in the latest Qantas lounges. The cushions will be improved in each suite and the IFE screens replaced. The suites will not have sliding doors.
Upstairs in business class the changes are more dramatic. The lack of direct aisle access for every business class passenger on the A380 might have been okay 10 years ago, but was becoming a competitive disadvantage more recently. Not anymore. Every business class passenger will now enjoy direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 layout. The superb business suites you see on the Qantas 787s that fly the nonstop route between Heathrow and Perth are being installed.
At the rear of the top deck is the substantial 60 seat premium economy cabin. The layout will be 2-3-2 and the seats the same as passengers see today on Qantas 787 aircraft. These seats are 10% wider than the current A380 premium economy seats.
Downstairs on the main deck, in the economy cabin, is where most people will find themselves parked for that 14 hour haul across to LA. There will be new cushioning, improved IFE, and faster WiFi. Simple Flying reviewed the Qantas international economy product last year.
The A380 inflight lounge
The Qantas A380 has always had an inflight lounge and bar at the back of the business cabin, but it has never tapped into the zeitgeist in the way, say, the Emirates inflight A380 lounge has. Frankly, it has been a little bit underwhelming.
But Qantas is trying to do something about that in the refurbishment. Those cafeteria style bench seats and tables are going to be replaced with something a bit more sociable and, well, loungey. The well regarded Aussie designer, David Caon, is tasked with this job.
There will also be a second little lounge nook, where the crew cabin office is right now. This second lounge will seat three or four people and be ideal for small work groups travelling together.
Qantas has been planning this refurbishment for a couple of years. 10 years of constant use does create some wear and tear. Most regular Qantas A380 passengers would recognise that an update is needed.
The refurbishment will fit the cabin out with a compelling business class and a large premium economy cabin. Qantas A380’s don’t do short haul and many passengers are prepared to spend substantial cash or points to make their long haul flight as comfortable as possible. Therefore the large business and premium economy cabins make sense.
The refurbishment will be complete by mid 2020, ready to take the Qantas A380s into the next decade.