Business travellers on Qantas' fifteen-and-a-half hour flight from Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) in Texas will have to make the journey without the benefit of a fully lie-flat bed.
While Qantas plans to upgrade its entire 747 fleet to the same lie-flat Skybed seating as its Airbus A380s a Qantas spokesman told Australian Business Traveller that the retrofits are not scheduled to begin until later this year, confirming that the SYD-DFW QF7 service would launch with the 747's first-generation angled bed still in place.
What's the difference between angled, lie-flat and fully-flat seats? Read our story on The Lie-flat Lie.
Qantas is unable to use an A380 on the service because only the 'extended range' Boeing 747-400ER has the capacity to make the 13,800km journey non-stop, and even the return trip will require a stop-over to refuel in Brisbane due to headwinds over the Pacific Ocean.
The early cancellation of the current QF73/74 flights between Sydney and San Francisco on May 6 raised hopes among some that the same 747-400ER used for SYD-SFO might be in for a quick upgrade to the newer Skybed II business class seats before being rolled out for the launch of the Sydney-to-Dallas service on May 16.
The refit is a far more extensive operation, however, as the aircraft will also get new inflight entertainment systems from tip to tail and gain the A380’s self-service bars.
In the short term, at least high-status Qantas frequent flyers will have a shot at scoring one of the 14 first class seats which remain in the nose of these 747s. Although these seats are still sold as business class they're superior to the Skybeds, converting to a fully lie-flat bed (and having 79 inches of legroom).
None the less, the majority of business travellers will be looking forward to the eventual arrival of the fully-flat Skybeds onto the 747-400ER given that it's incredibly hard to enjoy a sound sleep on an angled bed. And as this 747-400ER lacks first class there's not even the option to trade some frequent flyer points for an upgrade.
With QF7 departing Sydney at 1.25pm and arriving in Dallas at 1.50pm, travellers will need to make sure they get as much sleep as they can during the long flight in order to adjust to the US timezone.
We can't help but feel that Qantas' reputation is going to take a hit with US business travellers who board QF8 in Dallas only to be faced with an angled flat seat for the even longer 19 hour flight to Brisbane – although at least with the plane departing DFW at 10pm to touch down in Brisbane at 5am (before continuing onto Sydney at 6.30am) they'll be a little more in the mood for shut-eye when they board the flight.