UPDATE | Stung by criticism over the business class seats in its latest Airbus A330s, Qantas is reportedly looking to upgrade the big bird to more spacious seats, including fully lie-flat beds on international versions of the plane. Read more...
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As of May 2013 all weekday Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth flights will run Airbus A330s – the biggest bird in Qantas' domestic fleet, with a new A330-200 arriving factory-fresh today from Airbus HQ in Toulouse, France.
This one (shown in the photo above) is splashed with the logo of the oneworld airline alliance, perhaps to underscore that despite the forthcoming Qantas-Emirates alliance and the ditching of the Qantas-BA joint venture, Qantas remains part of the oneworld family.
The new A330-200, named Kangaroo Island, is configured with 36 seats in business class and 268 in economy and will begin flying at the end of this week.
At first glance the business class cabin sports a 2-3-2 seating layout, with the dreaded middle seat... but that's not quite the case.
As with several previous Qantas A330s, the middle seat has been converted into what the airline calls an 'inflight workspace' for use by passengers on either side.
This was done simply by using a plastic shroud to cover the seat (and yes, this could easily be removed to reinstate the middle seat if desired).
Of course, being off to your side means the space is more for temporary stowage of kit to get it out of the way yet keep it close at hand, rather than a directly useable space.
These A330s have a 37 inch seat pitch, which we measured as delivering 18 inches of space from the leading edge of the seat cushion to the most rearward point of the seat in front.
The seats themselves are listed as 21.5 inches wide, although we measured the cushion itself at 19.3 inches.
... while there's on-demand inflight entertainment in all seats from tip to tail.
Being fitted into the seat in front of you rather than a pop-up screen from the armrest means you can use the inflight system during the take-off and landing stages, when an armrest screen would need to be stored: handy if you want to catch the final 20 minutes of a movie before reaching your destination.
The recline will do for a light snooze on the transcontinental trek, but don't think about catching a redeye in these – unless you don't plan to catch any sleep en route.
If you think these seats bear a striking resemblance to Qantas' international premium economy product, you're not wrong.
Above and below: Qantas premium economy seats on the Airbus A380
These tread the blurred line between regional business class and premium economy, which is a not-uncommon scenario – for example, Cathay Pacific's premium economy seats are a slightly-modified regional business class design.
Qantas' Airbus A330 rollout
Qantas currently runs a mix of A330s and Boeing 767s on its cross-country route, with the 767s undergoing a refresh ahead of their eventual retirement.
Qantas will see a boost in the size of its A330 fleet in the second half of next year when it inherits the A330s currently operated by Jetstar, as its low-cost sibling moves over to the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Each former Jetstar A330 will be sent back for a refit to Qantas spec, a process which the airline says will take four to six weeks, before joining the Red Roo's fleet.
Virgin Australia has already shifted all Melbourne-Perth flights to the A330, and also plans to transition the Sydney-Perth route to an all-A330 schedule in 2013.
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