Why Qantas didn't fit 2-4-2 economy seating to the Boeing 787-9

By DeepAvThroat | Jun 25, 2017, 07:36 PM
There has been a lot of criticism of Qantas over choosing 3-3-3 instead of 2-4-2 for its Boeing 787-9s. It may interest some here to know that Qantas did "run the numbers" on a 2-4-2 Y cabin during the LOPA configuration stage. Here's what happened.
* At 2-4-2 the economy cabin had 136 seats, this was 18 standard rows of 8 across plus 4 seats in row 44 at 2-2.
* This was 18 seats less than the 3-3-3 config, of a 10.8 percent drop in Y capacity.
* As pricing for PER-LON was already expected to carry a premium this would have required an approx 11 percent increase in Y fares to deliver the same yield as the nine-abreast config.
* Because the same 787-9s as fly PER-LHR were going to fly MEL-LAX, and PER-CDG  will fly BNE-tba, this would also require the same fare increase on the USA routes which are highly competitive especially with VA now flying SYD BNE & MEL to LAX. The very price-sensitive economy market would be at risk if Qantas Y fares to the USA were to jump by 11 percent.
So that's the "behind the scenes" story for you!
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By Dundas | Jun 25, 2017, 08:23 PM
Great to know the "behind the scenes" aspects! My solution is simple -- I won't visit Qantas front of house in the cheap seats, and I don't fly on airlines with 3-3-3 on their 787s (tried it once). Which means I don't fly many 787s at all, but am looking forward to travelling on JAL to Japan -- 2-4-2 with 34" pitch. 
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By StudiodeKadent | Jun 25, 2017, 10:32 PM
So... Qantas did it because they could get more profit out of doing it?

Surprise. Businesses try to maximize profits.

That said, I doubt a 2-4-2 787-9 is more expensive, cost-wise, than a 3-3-3 777-300ER. Qantas could've easily gone up against Virgin Australia and competed on price so long as VA didn't go 10-abreast on the 777-300ER. I guess that possibility factored into their calculus, but basically they went 3-3-3 because they knew the planes would be running on monopoly routes to Europe and they could make more profit with 3-3-3 than 2-4-2. Qantas doesn't need to provide a superior product on routes where they are providing the ONLY product. They only need to be able to convince people to stop over in Perth instead of Singapore/Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Doha/etc. 

Also, Melbourne-LA is not merely contested by VA, but also by United (which runs 3-3-3 Dreamliners on the route).  I presume VA is operating on the assumption that Qantas and United will get lower-yielding Economy pax, and VA's product on the MEL-LAX route will get higher-yielding Economy pax as well as Delta feed. 

To be fair I'd have loved 2-4-2 also. But Qantas just did what almost any business would do. JAL is a special case - I think they have an absurd amount of corporate contracts from Japanese businesses so don't really need the Economy pax, and can just skim the top of the Economy market. In addition, Emirates' 10-abreast 777s showed that passengers will sacrifice space for a lower fare even on very-long-haul routes as long as they have bread/circuses/strong drinks. 

If it helps, EnCore seating is developing an economy seat product specifically for the 787 which makes the 787 seats about 17.5" to 17.8" wide in a 3-3-3 configuration. Maybe Qantas will take a look at it in the future. 
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By Bob Burgess | Jun 26, 2017, 08:38 AM
Really interesting insight, thank you! I suppose Qantas could have kept a 2-4-2 Y config if they were will to split the 787 fleet into "ultra long-haul" and "long-haul", so the ULH would have 2-4-2 and the LH would have 3-3-3, but then the ULH aircraft would be stuck on ULH routes and so there would be a lot less flexibility in the fleet, and so high costs.
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By aniljak | Jun 26, 2017, 11:43 AM
Would love to see how much has this decision to go 3-3-3 cost Qantas in lost economy bookings? May mean more seats on the aircraft but you need to have people  wanting to fill them!  All the feedback is very negative when it comes to economy  passengers comfort. 2-4-2 seating and hubbing in Singapore  is what economy passengers want. Unfortunately Qantas only sems to care about the premium passengers.
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By ajstubbs | Jun 26, 2017, 01:22 PM
Would love to see how much has this decision to go 3-3-3 cost Qantas in lost economy bookings? May mean more seats on the aircraft but you need to have people  wanting to fill them!  All the feedback is very negative when it comes to economy  passengers comfort. 2-4-2 seating and hubbing in Singapore  is what economy passengers want. Unfortunately Qantas only sems to care about the premium passengers.
Bottom line is most people don't even know what sort of plane they're flying on. Here and other AV communities, these things are dissected and J travellers care a bit more but that's it. For most people it's cost and convenience with no regard for seating layout. Even if you told them it's 3-3-3 on a 787 the average person wouldn't know what that means for quality. So, if they price it right, they'll lose nothing. 
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By tm_smile | Jun 26, 2017, 01:30 PM
hubbing in Singapore  is what economy passengers want. Unfortunately Qantas only sems to care about the premium passengers.

Other than SQ and BA, who else even hubs through SIN anymore? 

Premium pax is where the money is made, though its not like they're struggling in Y anyway. What most Y pax want are cheap fares and decent in flight product. Gone are the days when airports like SIN were the exception rather than the rule. Many transit airports between here and the EU have closed the experience gap. Pax booking on the direct QF flight are more concerned with schedule, transit times and on board experience, and there are certainly many people willing to pay the premium to fly QF.

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By oxy | Jun 26, 2017, 03:19 PM
I must be getting old and cynical because those calculations you shared seem way too simple to be anything close to behind the scenes information. 
All the info there is just a ticket price and a seat count. Qantas would have had to crunch the numbers in way more depth to have accurate figures. How about weight and fuel saved for example? 
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Packetman21

By Packetman21 | Jun 27, 2017, 01:03 PM
Why does Qantas always get the hammer?! All the other airlines apart from JAL have put in 3-3-3 in their 787s, and before you say, "Qantas is doing entra long haul flights", well so is United, Etihad and I guarantee that SQ with the 787-10 will be doing 3-3-3. Everyone seems to be hypercritical with Qantas. They are very good compared to the US carriers and European carriers. It is a industry wide complaint. 


Another reason why this is happening is because Boeing said to airlines and the public that 2-4-2 will be the default config. Had they said 3-3-3 was default, none of these complainers would be not complaining.

Last edited by Packetman21 at Jun 27, 2017, 01.06 PM.
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By MRYJDrake | Jun 27, 2017, 01:24 PM
Why does Qantas always get the hammer?! 
Last edited by Packetman21 at Jun 27, 2017, 01.06 PM.

Because they're the national legacy carrier, and are a key staple for most of the people on this site... 
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By Himeno | Jun 27, 2017, 04:52 PM
There has been a lot of criticism of Qantas over choosing 3-3-3 instead of 2-4-2 for its Boeing 787-9s. It may interest some here to know that Qantas did "run the numbers" on a 2-4-2 Y cabin during the LOPA configuration stage. Here's what happened.
* At 2-4-2 the economy cabin had 136 seats, this was 18 standard rows of 8 across plus 4 seats in row 44 at 2-2.
* This was 18 seats less than the 3-3-3 config, of a 10.8 percent drop in Y capacity.
* As pricing for PER-LON was already expected to carry a premium this would have required an approx 11 percent increase in Y fares to deliver the same yield as the nine-abreast config.
* Because the same 787-9s as fly PER-LHR were going to fly MEL-LAX, and PER-CDG  will fly BNE-tba, this would also require the same fare increase on the USA routes which are highly competitive especially with VA now flying SYD BNE & MEL to LAX. The very price-sensitive economy market would be at risk if Qantas Y fares to the USA were to jump by 11 percent.
So that's the "behind the scenes" story for you!
How do you know this? Where did you get this information? Why should we believe you?
This is the internet where anyone can post anything and make up whatever they want. Lacking any evidence, why should what person A posts be anymore belevable then what person B posts.
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By Himeno | Jun 27, 2017, 04:56 PM
Why does Qantas always get the hammer?! All the other airlines apart from JAL have put in 3-3-3 in their 787s, and before you say, "Qantas is doing entra long haul flights", well so is United, Etihad and I guarantee that SQ with the 787-10 will be doing 3-3-3. Everyone seems to be hypercritical with Qantas. They are very good compared to the US carriers and European carriers. It is a industry wide complaint. 


Another reason why this is happening is because Boeing said to airlines and the public that 2-4-2 will be the default config. Had they said 3-3-3 was default, none of these complainers would be not complaining.

Last edited by Packetman21 at Jun 27, 2017, 01.06 PM.
The other 787 9 across airlines do get complained about in relation to this. You will find that on Australian sites such as AusBT or AFF, Qantas will get "hammered" more then other airlines because it is an Australian airline being discussed on Australian sites by Australian travelers.
If this were an American site, AA and UA would be getting "hammered" more then QF.
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By freshthoughts | Jun 27, 2017, 11:32 PM

Why does Qantas always get the hammer?! All the other airlines apart from JAL have put in 3-3-3 in their 787s, and before you say, "Qantas is doing entra long haul flights", well so is United, Etihad and I guarantee that SQ with the 787-10 will be doing 3-3-3. Everyone seems to be hypercritical with Qantas. They are very good compared to the US carriers and European carriers. It is a industry wide complaint. 


Another reason why this is happening is because Boeing said to airlines and the public that 2-4-2 will be the default config. Had they said 3-3-3 was default, none of these complainers would be not complaining.

Last edited by Packetman21 at Jun 27, 2017, 01.06 PM.


Actually, all indications by SQ and the chatter on SQtalk have it looking like singapore will go with 8 across to differentiate them selves from scoot and also because they are a truly premium carrier and as they have done with their 777 at 9 across they will do with their 787's, keeping their premium pax happy is more important to them than squeezing.


Also look at flyer talk every airline that has done 9 across on a 787 is criticised, qantas is focused on here because its an Australian site, common sense goes a long way.


Lastly, has boeing said 9 across would be the default there still would have been complaints, a seat less than 17.5 inches is stupidly uncomfortable around the shoulders for a long haul, let alone an ULL

Last edited by David at Jun 28, 2017, 06.14 AM.
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By kimshep | Jun 28, 2017, 11:31 AM
1. Why does Qantas always get the hammer?!
2. All the other airlines apart from JAL have put in 3-3-3 in their 787s, and before you say, "Qantas is doing entra long haul flights", well so is United, Etihad and I guarantee that SQ with the 787-10 will be doing 3-3-3. 3.Everyone seems to be hypercritical with Qantas.
4. They are very good compared to the US carriers and European carriers.
5. It is a industry wide complaint. 


6. Another reason why this is happening is because Boeing said to airlines and the public that 2-4-2 will be the default config.

7. Had they said 3-3-3 was default, none of these complainers would be not complaining.

Last edited by Packetman21 at Jun 27, 2017, 01.06 PM.

I have numbered each of your points, for reply clarity. My answers below correspond to each point.

1. Two reasons: they are the 'national' carrier and secondly, when you promote your business as being a longhaul or ultra longhaul carrier, you create 'expectations'.

2. Poor argument. Each / most of the other carriers have an inferior safety rating, compared to QF. Would you have QF blindly follow the rest of the industry? Personally, I wouldn't. My own feelings are that QF could have done something really, really innovative here (a la JAL) and something that would have enhanced their image as a longhaul / ultra longhaul carrier - at a marginally increased Y price. After all, it is a 'monopoly' route that no-one else is competing on. Like the price = fly in comfort. Don't like the price = suffer an additional transit stop and enjoy the extra flying time.

3. By our very nature, we seem to fly more often (and longer) than most other populations. The ability to recognise and criticize is a point to the maturity and experience of Australian travellers.

4. Don't forget to include the British (British Airways)! Agreed, but then who wouldn't be?

5. If it is an industry-wide complaint, then you have blown your own argument.

6. Boeing's suggested configuration is only a guideline. Carriers are responsible for fitting out their aircraft as they see fit. You might recall that Airbus' suggested configuration for the A380-800 is 525 - QF fitted theirs with 484 seats - acknowledging the need for greater space.

7. Err .. yes, they would.

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By John Phelan | Jun 28, 2017, 03:38 PM
Would love to see how much has this decision to go 3-3-3 cost Qantas in lost economy bookings? May mean more seats on the aircraft but you need to have people  wanting to fill them!  All the feedback is very negative when it comes to economy  passengers comfort. 2-4-2 seating and hubbing in Singapore  is what economy passengers want. Unfortunately Qantas only sems to care about the premium passengers.

Rubbish. Most economy pax only care about price. Very frequent travellers do care about the config, but that's probably less than 5% of Y pax. And the SIN thing is even less of an issue.

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David Flynn

By OOLflyer | Jun 28, 2017, 04:23 PM
I'm sorry, but this is not how we model these things.

For a start, 2-4-2 is 136 Economy seats while 3-3-3 is 154 seats.

So unless Economy loads reach or exceed 137 seats - 89% - the extra 18 seats add extra weight and therefore fuel burn for no return.

But let's assume that the first 136 Economy seats are sold at high-ish yield levels. The extra 18 need to sell at at least as high a fare level to offset the extra fuel burn. Yet according to this claim, they are likely to be sold at lower yielding fares.

This model can work for short-haul LCC services. But in reality, we are talking about ultra-long haul at at least 100 kg per passenger to carry (weight, baggage, catering).

The argument for 154 x 3-3-3 seating over 136 x 2-4-2 seating only wins when more than about 145 seats can be sold - and that's a 94% load.
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