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.
The move would close the gap between Qantas and Virgin Australia, with the later offering angled beds in its A330 business class, as both airlines race towards turning their lucrative but competitive east-west route into all-A330 services.
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Qantas plans to have weekday Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth flights exclusively run on A330s from May 2013. Virgin Australia already went A330-only between Melbourne and Perth in September this year, and promises a similar service for Sydney-Perth will follow next year.
According to Crikey aviation journalist Ben Sandilands, "Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says he will recommend to the board fixes to the A330 domestic business class seat... Not only that, the current ‘sloper’ seats in business class in those A330s that fly longer haul routes for Qantas will also be replaced with flat bed seats."
"Joyce was emphatic that the existence of multiple and outdated configurations in the A330 fleet needed to be replace by ‘leading’ new products for domestic and international" Sandilands continues, claiming the CEO "said the A330 international fleet would be fitted with full length fully flat parallel to the floor seats."
If Joyce makes good on this it will come as welcome news to business travellers and frequent flyers who regularly make the transcontinental trek – especially if it standardises the A330 fleet around a single business class seat.
Qantas currently has nine A330s in its domestic fleet, with three different layouts and a fourth for the international A330s which sometimes fly on local routes, and will inherit more A330s from Jetstar as the low-cost carrier begins flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the later half of 2013.
The quickest fix will be for Qantas to fit its A330s with the second-generation Marc Newson Skybed II seats used on the Airbus A380 and updated Boeing 747s.
It's worth noting that an A330's cabin is roughly the same width as the upper deck of an A380, which sport the Skybed II seats in a 2-2-2 layout, meaning an end to the A330's middle seat.