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Qantas to upgrade A330 business class with new lie-flat seats

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas, Airbus A330

Qantas will upgrade its entire 30-strong fleet of Airbus A330s with a new lie-flat business class seat from the end of 2014, as the airline steps up its game in the battle for domestic and international business class.

The airline has chosen an all-new seat design rather than stick with the Marc Newson Skybeds found in its Airbus A380s and upgraded Boeing 747s.

"They're very exciting, there's plenty of legroom and we're very confident that they will get an amazing reaction" Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce told Australian Business Traveller, joking that "I certainly swim in the seats given my size!"

"They'll be the best domestic product anywhere in the world, and it leapfrogs anything our competitor's doing" Joyce continued.

"This builds on the best customer service ratings we've had both domestically and internationally. That's why the corporate market is staying with us – this continuing investment in quality is key."

However, Joyce wouldn't be drawn on specifics of the seat, such as the manufacturer. "We're going to later on give you all of the information about these seats."

The fleet-wide refit will encompass 10 Airbus A330-300s and 20 A330-200s, with Joyce advising that Qantas is "looking at doing the upgrade while the aircraft are in for maintenance... we'll do it as soon as possible but the critical path is delivery of the seats" from the as-yet-unnamed manufacturer.

The refit will also include a new inflight entertainment system plus a refreshed economy cabin.

"The refurbished aircraft will give Qantas International a truly world-class product in global aviation's most dynamic and competitive market" said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce, who promised the new lie-flat beds would be "the best domestic onboard product anywhere in the world."

"Our transcontinental flights will be operated by aircraft featuring lie-flat beds in business class and the latest inflight entertainment technology."

The Red Roo came under fire late last year for its choice to install simple recliner business class seats in its domestic A330s, which also saw an unused centre seat covered by a simple plastic shroud to serve as an inflight workspace.

Qantas will also order five new Boeing 737-800s for domestic flights, and extend its current lease on two more 737s, while older Boeing 737-400s will be phased out by year's end, and the Boeing 767s by mid-2015.

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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.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 21/2/13 by tronixstuff

Competition is a wonderful thing :)

1 on 21/2/13 by TheRealBabushka

Indeed...unless you're a "Hardworking Australian Family", in which case you need constant protection against the onslaught of capitalism :p

2 on 21/2/13 by David

So very true - this is just another change that's come about since Virgin Australia got all moxy. The timeframe is a concern, though - we can safely say this is 18 months until the first A330 upgrade.

2 on 21/2/13 by madge

If all the A332's are to go domestic, how will QF serve all its Asian destiantions with 10 A333's? Is that enough or will the routes shrink further?

1 on 21/2/13 by Al

Where does this article say that all the A330-200s will be going into domestic service?

1 on 21/2/13 by madge

If you read the QF half year results it states that the A332's will do east-coast to Perth flying and A333's will do international.

2 on 21/2/13 by DrTGanguly

Actually if you look at what we know about the 'new' Asia schedule the A330-300 fleet complements it well!1x PER-SIN, 1x MEL-SIN, 1x MEL-HKG, 1xSYD-SIN, 1xSYD-BKK, 1x SYD-CDK/MNL (unless they go to daily on these routes), 1x SYD-PVG, 1x BNE-HKG

There is still room for two extra routes here, my bets are either daily on the flights to SYD-CDK/MNL, SYD-HNL (only 3x per week), BNE-SIN may go to A330 opperation and they revert SYD-NRT to the 'new' A330 as they retire the older 747s.  My best bet is on SYD-NRT being eirther an A330 or 787 route (when they arrive!) As they really need the 9 reconfigured 747s for flights to the Americas/South Africa and SYD/BNE - SIN.Either way 10 aircraft can cover the current schedule, but with a splattering of 787s there are even more opportunities! 

3 on 21/2/13 by Charles

Qantas  FF should thank mr Borghetti for raising the bar, only because of competition are we going to see an improved product. However Virgin really need to upgrade the business in the older A330's so the product is consistent. It's a let down getting the old seat after the experience of the new A330's. 

How great competition is!

1 on 21/2/13 by airtraveladdict

So true. If Virgin didn't introduce those flat seats for the east-west coast service, qantas would never have done so.

So competition is great!

Imagine lie-flat business class on domestic 4-5 hours flights, thats better than the angle beds on some international airlines, and the stuff that Eurobusiness aka economy seat with a block in the middle, dream off.

Eurobusiness is the biggest rip off of them all, i cant believe the Europeans put up with it. Even our 1-2 hour hops are still in 38" pitch seats.

Makes me wonder whether Qantas will introduce seats in future for the entire fleet, that have direct aislie access, cuz the skybed II is alright, but you need to be sally pearson to jump over the passenger next to you to use the loo. 


1 on 21/2/13 by airtraveladdict

correction! lie flat and angle are the same lol. but still, not bad for 4-5 hour flight.

2 on 21/2/13 by TheRealBabushka

Europeans put up with it because Ryanair has precipitated a race to the bottom. This in addition to the national image issues related to the disbanding of one's national airline creates excessive supply and prevents an optimal level, which is one of the conditions required for improved service offerings.

Theoretically airlines like Alitalia, Sabena, Austrian and even Swiss should not still exist. But there do.

1 on 6/4/13 by Arcanum

Technically, Sabena doesn't exist.  It went under years ago.  The replacement, Brussels, is really Lufthansa in sheep's clothing, just like Austrian and Swiss.

I imagine the multi-airline system works because Brussels has a lot of EU government traffic and flights to former African colonies, while Swiss has a lot of premium business and UN passengers.  I have no clue why Austrian still exists except that Vienna's airport is preferable Frankfurt or Munich.

As for Italy, I've always been surprised they can't sustain a national carrier with 60 million people (vs. 23 million in Australia).  Italy isn't exactly off the beaten path when it comes to tourism either.  I suspect Alitalia's problems are more about how the airline is run than about the viability of the home market.

3 on 22/2/13 by Rufus

Travelled on Czech Airlines last week and was amazed to see they have a proper business class with wide pitch and massive recliners.  Miles ahead of LH or BA!

4 on 21/2/13 by Darren

I hope it's a design similiar to Cathay's Business product. 

But yes, the upgrade is a long way off and one has to wonder why you would make an annoucement like that so far ahead of time.  I think it is to stir the competition (local) and to try and get them to deal further cards.

5 on 21/2/13 by Tezza

ABout Time !!!

6 on 21/2/13 by AnsettAustralia

awsome, this is great news for travellers with better choices

7 on 21/2/13 by mb68

Does this mean that QF will try and spread their domestic crew to also operate Asian destinations ? Sounds a little odd to have a flat bed product for a domestic flight . Generally  1 - 3.5  hours .The only time it would be used is on the"Red Eyes" out of SYD, MEL, BRS from Perth, and those flight from experience are ful  of FF upgrades up in J. 

8 on 21/2/13 by mb68

Is lie flat the same as fully flat in this case?

1 on 21/2/13 by airtraveladdict

im always confuse with these terms, i think lie flat is angled flat also, whereas fully flat, means 180 degrees flat.

1 on 21/2/13 by mb68

Thanks ATA, I think a better word needs to come up for the angled lie flat,  as so many carriers "forget" to mention the word "angled" as in this case, unless we have it all wrong and its a "fully flat"

1 on 21/2/13 by John

That's one of the reasons we refer often to our article that puts truth to the lie-flat lie — the distinction is really important in business class!

1 on 21/2/13 by mb68

Thanks John and its a great article too. However I feel airlines that arent completely honest are misleading PAX everywhere. (including me twice now)  The word "Flat " shouldnt be used for these seats , even in the dictionary "Flat" means horizonatal.

Keep up the great work!

1 on 21/2/13 by David

That's the tricky bit - 'flat' can mean fully horizontal but also a 180 degree line, and as such, a 180 degree straight line perched at an angle is still technically 'flat'. The degree of slope is different to the degree of, err, flatness!

It's quite confusing and we all wish there was a stricter adherence by airlines to terms like "angled lie-flat" and "fully-flat"!

1 on 22/2/13 by am

Qantas refers to the seats in the A380s and 747s as 'lie flat' seats when they are actually fully flat, so I don't think we can be definitely sure either way. I'd put my money on fully flat though, especially with that quip about 'leapfrogging' the competition domestically.

Fingers crossed for some direct aisle access this time around...

9 on 21/2/13 by AusFlyer

Might be too little too late. By the time they get lie flat seats on International A330's, people will have moved onto the competition eg. Singapore Airlines. I will be booking trips to Singapore this year and it is not at all tempting to book on the QF A330 if I can get a great Business seat on SQ. Having to wait until basically 2015 to get a decent seat might see me move more permanently to SQ.

1 on 21/2/13 by DrTGanguly

I pressume you are refering to the the seat SQ install on the 777s and A380s, because I have been in the 'regional' seat as seen on the ADL-SIN service and I find it less roomy than the Skybed....

10 on 21/2/13 by Terry

The announcement sounds like they are going to put the same seats in both domestic and international config aircraft (10 x -300,20 x -200).

Does this mean that the international config will end up up with a domestic orientated seat design ??

You would like to think that the proposed prodcut is at least as good as skybed , but I have a feeling these clowns will go the other way !

1 on 22/2/13 by am

It sounds to me like the domestic planes will be getting an international style product, actually.

They're not going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new seats for the international fleet unless they are significantly better than the seats they have today. No need to be so pessimistic about such good news.

11 on 22/2/13 by ezihose

Thank god!!! Its about time!!! Really they should never ever have done the seating the way it was. What a nightmare turning the corner on the midnight horror to be greeted with anything other than a layflat for 5 hours 

12 on 23/2/13 by Andyzx

Does this mean we will also see a PE on the international routes?  or at least a econ plus with extra leg room.  Whilst its nice to have flat J seats the current Y config on A330's is not fantastic

1 on 23/2/13 by David

The only thing it means so far is exactly what Qanats has stated, that we'll see better business class on the A330s, but I'd agree that a small 'economy plus' section would be nice for the cross-country trek as well as flights up to Asia.


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