Qantas has completed a reconfiguration of its flagship Airbus A380 fleet, with all twelve aircraft now sporting an increased number of economy and premium economy seats.
The rejigged superjumbos can carry 484 passengers, an increase of 34 from the previous headcount of 450.
The overall tally sees 371 economy berths compared to the old 332 (an rise of 39 seats), with three more premium economy seats on top of the former 32.
The business class cabin has been reduced in size from 72 to 64 seats, with several of the self-service bars and snack areas axed to free up revenue-earning space for more seats as Qantas continues to face tough competition on international routes.
Most of the additional 39 economy seats are located in a new economy section at the rear of the upper deck, where premium economy cabin was previously found.
This will likely be the cabin of choice for travellers on a budget – especially if you can grab a window seat, as those come with a deep bin under the window for keeping your laptop, tablet, toiletries and other inflight kit within reach.
Premium economy has been nudged forward into the rear of the old business class cabin.
Qantas has orders in place for eight more A380s, with two due for 2016-2017 and six more starting from 2018-2019, but the airline has yet to advise if these will share the same configuration as the current superjumbos.
Longer queues for the loo
But putting more bums on more seats could mean a longer line for the toilets, especially during peak times such as after meals, before bed-time and prior to landing.
We've done the maths: there used to be four bathrooms for 72 business class passengers, along with two reserved for 32 premium economy passengers.
But the new layout sees premium economy sharing the same two toilets as the bulk of business class, as those loos have been relocated from the front of the larger business class cabin to the rear boundary between business and premium economy.
The revised headcount and loo count means the same four bathrooms must be shared between 99 passengers.
There's also one fewer loo in the downstairs economy section, resulting in seven toilets for 341 economy passengers instead of eight toilets for 332.
Scoping out the best seats in the revamped Qantas A380s
This quick sketch illustrates the major changes upstairs, superimposed on the old A380 seating chart so you can see what's different.
Here's the official seatmap for the reconfigured Airbus A380, as supplied by Qantas to Australian Business Traveller – click on the image for a larger view or download the Qantas seatmap [1MB PDF].
Many favourite seats of frequent flyers have gone missing in the new configuration, including the business class seats in exit row 24; and in premium economy, row 38 (a middle block of three seats) plus 38J and 38K, which were top picks for their copious legroom beyond the standard 38 inch pitch.
So what are the new best seats to snare, and the ones to avoid if you can?
The best business class seats on the Qantas A380
Here's the new business class seatmap for the Qantas Airbus A380 with our recommendations.
Row 11: in a three-row mini-cabin at the very front of the upper deck, and away from the traffic heading for the lavatories and galley kitchens behind row 13, these seats are a good bet – although they're close to the self-service bar and the business class lounge area, so move further back if absolutely undisturbed sleep is a priority.
Rows 12 & 13: these seats remain a good choice for reduced engine noise, with many AusBT readers making a beeline for row 12 when reserving their seats.
15A 15B 15J 15K: these are useful seats if privacy's important to you: with no centre pairs, they feel a bit more separate than in the main cabin. Beware that the galley kitchens are right in front of you, though.
Rows 18-19: right in the middle of the main cabin, these seats are likely to be among the quietest on the plane -- a bonus for getting a good night's sleep.
E & F seats: if you're an aisle fan, pick these centre pairs to avoid having a window passenger climbing over you.
A & K seats: need frequent access to your carry-on? There's a special side bin next to every window seat.
The worst business class seats on the Qantas A380
20A 20K: while every other window seat in business class has a storage compartment next to it, these seats don't, so avoid them if keeping your things close to you is important.
The best premium economy seats on the Qantas A380
Here's a seatmap of the compact premium economy cabin for your ready reference.
24A 24B 24J 24K: for legroom, these are the best seats in the cabin, since they're right behind the emergency exits. Bear in mind that this area is often used by other passengers as an 'inflight stretching zone', and if you're sensitive to the cold you'll want to wrap up warmly in case there's a draught.
24D 24E 24F: the legroom in these seats is curtailed slightly by the bulkhead wall in front, which also contains the only bassinet crib position in premium economy in front of 24E. We'd still pick it for the ease of getting in and out, though -- even in the middle E seat.
A and K seats: on the upper deck of the A380, there are window bins for each window passenger. That gives you a bit of extra elbow room, space to store your carry-ons, and somewhere to stash your laptop or tablet if you're watching something during a meal.
D and F seats: if you're an aisle fan, you're best off with one of the middle trio of seats: the middle seats will be the last to fill up, so you might luck out with an empty seat next to you. Even if there is a middle passenger, you should only be bothered half as often if they need to get out, since they could turn left or right to head to the aisle.
The worst premium economy seats on the Qantas A380
Row 28: right in front of economy, these are likely to be relatively noisy. Fortunately, there's no set of bassinet cribs behind you, but avoid the row if you can.
E seats: who wants a middle seat when six out of seven seats are either a window or an aisle?
Australian Business Traveller delivers 'news you can use' to business travellers and frequent flyers: follow @AusBT on Twitter.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.