Qantas sees little demand for premium economy to Asia

Qantas sees little demand for premium economy to Asia

Qantas says its decision not to add a premium economy cabin to its international Airbus A330 fleet is driven by lack of demand from Australian travellers.

Although all 10 of Qantas’ international Airbus A330s will undergo a refit at the airline’s Brisbane maintenance base from November this year to install its all-new Business Suite business class seats along with Recaro economy seats similar to those of the Airbus A380s, the airline has opted not to add a premium economy cabin to the jets.

“We predominately see the demand for our premium economy product on longer sectors, to the US and London for example, not necessarily the short flights up to Asia” says Kylie Morris, Qantas’ Head of Customer Experience.

It’s a move that puts Qantas at odds with its foremost competitors on the Asian routes.

Cathay Pacific offers premium economy on all flights from Australia to Hong Kong, while Singapore Airlines will add premium economy to its Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A380 fleet from the second half of next year.

Read: Singapore Airlines pulls the trigger on premium economy

Although Qantas’ Sydney-Hong Kong flights will predominately be flown by a Boeing 747 with premium economy seating, services from Melbourne and Brisbane will be on an Airbus A330.

Likewise, all flights to and from Singapore will be on the twin-aisle A330 jets.

Qantas’ international Airbus A330s currently have 30 business class seats and 271 in economy.

By comparison, Cathay Pacific’s Australian A330s carry 28 passengers in a compact premium economy cabin sandwiched between 39 business class seats and 175 in standard economy.

However, Cathay Pacific plans to cut the size of its premium economy cabin on the A330 aircraft which fly between Australia and Hong Kong, with seven of the 28 premium economy seats being removed to make way for 16 extra economy seats.

A spokeswoman for Cathay Pacific said "the decision to deploy the reconfigured aircraft to and from Australia is mainly due to high demand for economy class seats on these routes."

“We believe the configuration change will better suit the current demand in the Australian market.”

Read: Cathay Pacific’s premium economy seats reviewed

Morris is unconcerned over her competitors' premium economy play, which typically attracts higher-paying leisure travellers and some business travellers on a budget.

“We're really comfortable with the products we’re putting on our A330s, including our award-winning Recaro economy seat, which is one of the most comfortable economy products in the market” Morris tells Australian Business Traveller.

Those seats will feature an enhanced design with more legroom under the seat, plus footnets and multidirectional headrests similar the A380 economy seats.

Each seat will also have its own 11.1 inch video screen plus a USB port for topping up your smartphone or tablet.

Also read: Look familiar? SAS business class seat is Qantas' new business suite

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

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.
 

43 comments

  • autvlr

    autvlr

    29 Jul, 2014 11:24 am

    CX is also reducing the number of Y+ seats on its A330s from 28 to 21. Maybe also a sign of weak Y+ demand to/from Australia?

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  • Robert Eden

    reno
    Banned

    29 Jul, 2014 11:44 am

    Now Qantas get those A380,s the hell out of HKG and on QF15/16 and or aditional services to the US and  or South Amerrica.What wasted time offering PE product to this port, and yet again  poor mananagent.A330 only Qantas to HKG.

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  • hutch

    hutch

    29 Jul, 2014 12:23 pm

    Isn't that what is happening?

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  • Propofol88

    Propofol88

    29 Jul, 2014 01:19 pm

    Robert, weren't you complaining that QF was pulling First class from QF127/128 sometime ago when they downgraded the plane to a 744?

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  • Robert Eden

    reno
    Banned

    29 Jul, 2014 01:29 pm

    No Sir.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    29 Jul, 2014 11:44 am

    I beg to differ. Premium Economy went out chockers ex-SIN last week.

    I would argue that many Asian and Australian (especially Australian Asian) travellers are willing to cough up a bit more to fly in more comfort. Perhaps a more compact offering of just 21W would suffice, but I really think it has a business case, especially ex-SYD and ex-MEL.

    A possibility is to fit W only to the 333s, not the international 332s?

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  • Robert Eden

    reno
    Banned

    29 Jul, 2014 11:56 am

    May be A330,s only but not the A380 or 744,s to HKG and or SIN.

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  • 11sjw

    11sjw

    29 Jul, 2014 12:24 pm

    Damn, that means I can't fly PE PER-HKG and return on QF.  Oh wait..... :-)

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  • moa999

    moa999

    29 Jul, 2014 12:33 pm

    Can't fly PE on that route.

     

    .

    .

    .

    or Y, or J

    :-(

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  • madge

    madge

    29 Jul, 2014 01:45 pm

    I would say QF was worried they would'nt be able to fill the Y+ cabin on domestic flights too. 

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  • hutch

    hutch

    29 Jul, 2014 03:23 pm

    True, but you could put Y+ on the A330-300's and then keep the A330-200's without Y+ for primarily domestic purposes.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    29 Jul, 2014 06:10 pm

    Or you could segregate off a group of 332s exclusively for triangle services, then put W/PE/PY/Y+/J- on the 332s that are getting fully-flat J (as well as the 333s, obviously). When the aircraft are used domestically, e.g. on transcon redeyes, use the premium economy cabin to seat CL, P1 and WP.

    If it's only three rows, it should be perfectly doable.

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  • David Flynn

    David

    29 Jul, 2014 06:43 pm

    This idea is only for the international A330s, which are getting a tip-to-tail refit (new business and economy seats), not the domestic A330s.

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  • hutch

    hutch

    29 Jul, 2014 07:49 pm

    True, I forgot about that. Even more reason why a W section could be on the A330-300's... particulary useful for HNL and perhaps NRT in the longer run.

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  • madge

    madge

    30 Jul, 2014 04:47 pm

    Once the A330s are refitted there will be no more "international" or "domestic" A330s. That is one of the purposes of the refit - to help with scheduling & utilisation of the A330 fleet.

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  • dawesi

    dawesi

    8 Aug, 2014 10:42 am

    em... it's a lie... ask them to release their stats... it's not a problem other than the money they are losing by not selling business seats.

    They NEED premium economy to go away, so they are TRYING to start a trend. Unfortunately the management at Qantas think people are stupid.

    It's baked in the DNA of Qantas managment, for decades.

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  • radiC00l

    radiC00l

    29 Jul, 2014 05:58 pm

    Convenient response

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  • bsbtraveller

    bsbtraveller

    29 Jul, 2014 06:03 pm

    I find it surprising that QF doesn't have PE on flights to Asia.  I'm over 6ft and won't do economy for more than a transcontinental, but can't justify J to Asia (self employed) so am flying CX PE ex MEL Iin 2 months and have done BA PE twice ex SYD with a 3rd one at XMAS for a leisure flight.  So that's 5 PE fareS out of MEL QF has lost this year alone.

    I have also flown JQ business (which is really just a PE product with worse food & IFE) twice this year as well and am taking them to HNL in Nov, so whilst that is technically going into the QF coffers, that's a whack of cash QF mainline is missing out on from me.

    So  yes, there IS a market for PE to Asia. QF just doesn't care, which I suspect, is why they are tanking.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    29 Jul, 2014 06:21 pm

    I agree with you. Whenever it's available to SIN, e.g. during peak seasons when one of the SYD flights is a 744, the cabin is popular.

    Only the other night I was on QF6. From the first row of Economy, I had a great view of Premium Economy. It went out packed.

    If the offering is just three rows of 2-3-2 right behind the second door, it should be easily filled, especially to SIN and HKG. SIN in particular is a good opportunity as it will mean QF offering something that SQ does not have, namely mainline J-.

    It's a real shame Qantas has been squandering this opportunity again and again. The Skybed II is more than good enough (in my experience), and isn't the problem - the problem is everything else, and that's where SQ and CX are stomping them. They had the time and money to bring the A380 product to the 744ERs and some 744s - why not the A330s, on bread-and-butter Asian routes no less?

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    29 Jul, 2014 06:26 pm

    A lot of the problems at Qantas come down to QF management not knowing how to listen to people. They come up with their own ideas and block out anything that doesn't fit with that idea.

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    29 Jul, 2014 06:24 pm

    If Qantas knew how to listen to its customers, they wouldn't need to make up crap like "little demand".

    Of course there is "little demand", it's not available.

    I will book premium economy on mid-long haul flights. I will NOT book economy. If that means I don't book Qantas, so be it, it's their loss.

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  • JamesR

    JamesR

    8 Aug, 2014 10:08 am

    I would agree, being a qantas fan for many years I have just given up. I now fly Cathay to Asia or Sing as they are a cut above the rest.

    Qantas pricing is just at odds with many airlines any I don't know if current management has a clue as they are bean counters now.

    Provide crap service and watch people walk, don't get me wrong I would love to see Qantas get back on its feet but they are not endearing their customers. I fly to shanghai  a lot and not prepared to pay qantas pricing for a code share.

    So no qantas PE then others will enjoy my patronage it's quite simple.

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  • leegale

    leegale

    29 Jul, 2014 06:48 pm

    This seems extremely strange. I would have thought the demend on Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo flights would be pretty strong.

    I can imagine Perth + Bangkok flights might be less so but for fleet flexibility, you'd want to standardise - right?

    I think Qantas is doing 2 things here: missing a trend in corporate flyers and taking their frequent flyers for granted.

    I can take PE but need approvals/reason to go Biz. I do about 60% of my travel to India, Singapore, China & Korea. Will I take Qantas for the points? Hell no. I'll go the most comfortable way I can!  So that means mostly Cathay as they have day flights to/from Australia and good connections to China, Korea & India - or BA to Singapore.

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  • bsbtraveller

    bsbtraveller

    29 Jul, 2014 06:58 pm

    Yes, I love the day flight up and down on CX.

    In PE, that's quite pleasant. I rarely recline in J during the day so there's no difference from comfort but QF has that night flight back which I detest.  

    I'd fly a lot more on QF if they had that option and PE would be full.

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    29 Jul, 2014 07:42 pm

    Correction:

    Little demand for Premium Economy to Asia at the rediculous prices that Qantas wants to charge.

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  • Robert Eden

    reno
    Banned

    29 Jul, 2014 11:23 pm

    Yes someone gets it, may be demand for PE in A330,s only and at realistic prices.Hec you can fly close to business if not j for the fares they ask of us.And the announcement some 12 mounts ago which will start in november shows just ho much a non issue the aircraft upgrades are and their contempt for valued customer.

    Truly great work and remember the name ...Kylie Morris head of customer care at Qantas and her statements.Another A J puppit in the worst management of most any carrier.

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  • Bizflyer

    Bizflyer

    29 Jul, 2014 10:13 pm

    Cx get my travel anyway in j for a much better product and not a huge price difference just need the Sydney-Hong Kong time to meet at a decent time with Hong Kong- Manchester flight 

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  • DB

    aussieboyaussie

    30 Jul, 2014 11:49 am

    Perhaps the "little demand" issue is due to Qantas excessive prices for PE, and a substandard product. I just got back from the US on AirNZ using their PE space seats on the 773. Having used both AirNZ and Qantas PE products in the last 12 months to the US I have to say that AirNZ completely blows Qantas out of the water for price (value), comfort and service. The space seats on AirNZ are awesome and I was very impressed. The food was significantly better than Qantas and the AirNZ crew were amazing. I paid $2,600 return BNE to LAX for PE on AirNZ (sale fare 7 months ago). The same fare for Qantas on sale is around $3,400. You get inconsistent staff, terrible food and a fairly basic seat. It's a no brainer for me, it will be AirNZ PE again for me. This move by Qantas is wrong. Boost your PE product. Be original, inspiring and unique. Currently you're boring and expensive. (Worth mentioning that I am a Qantas supporter, if you read my prior posts you'll see this). 

     

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  • watson374

    watson374

    30 Jul, 2014 10:01 pm

    The NZ spaceseat was so successful they're using it again on the 787-9.

    Oh, wait...

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  • johnnypc67

    johnnypc67

    30 Jul, 2014 08:07 pm

    Could it be that JQ offers "Business Class" from Melbourne to Singapore, Hawaii, Japan and Bangkok on A330's, soon to be 787's. It is almost the same but.........no Hong Kong

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  • johnnypc67

    johnnypc67

    30 Jul, 2014 08:19 pm

    Oh and I too am QANTAS fan. Flew PE to Hong Kong  from Melbourne (for leisure) before they canned the 747 and it was awesome and full. Flew Jetsar business class to Bangkok, it was fine other than the 4 hour delay out and the 3 hour delay back. That was 2 years ago though, the food was crap but they have lifted their game apparently so we are giving them another go to bali in a few weeks

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  • ezihose

    ezihose

    1 Aug, 2014 10:00 am

    Most of us are on Singapore or Cathay as we gave up on Qantas getting its act together and then to see them sell off the 747's was like WHAT?

    Perth Singapore on a 747? Bliss! Perth Singapore on a domestic A330 or worse a 1980's 767 was the last straw!

    The A330's should have been winners but the seating ended up worse than the stone age 767's! How could that be?

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  • dawesi

    dawesi

    8 Aug, 2014 10:39 am

    Please, some history... Qantas are perpetual liars when it comes to motive.

    It's part of the employment requirements for being in mangement there - showing you can tell a convincing lie. They prove this over and over and over.

    They want to make more money, simple. They make up an excuse you can't refute because you don't have the facts, and they know it.

    Another reason that I never fly Qantas unless I have to.

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  • Fonga

    Fonga

    8 Aug, 2014 12:37 pm

    What a massive whinge fest this turned into. The people who detest QF the most all apparently fly Cathay now and love it. Great. So why do you have so much to say about an airline you no longer use? Move on. You compare it with airlines that are consistently ranked the best in the world, not with other airlines from Europe or the States, but with the low cost, service orientated, union free Asian outfits.

    Qantas is introducing what looks like an awesome product for business customers, upgraded its economy seats, but has made the decision not to offer PE on Asian legs. I'm guessig that unlike the experts here, Qantas management might have a bit more access to the metrics of the business. They run at a massive loss and have to turn that around. Maybe they would fill a PE cabin consistently. Maybe they don't want to cannibalise a new product in business. I'm happy they are getting the settings right with the right aircraft at better schedules. Doesn't Singapore now have more flights at better times than the old days when it was just a stopover for the Kangaroo route? The Asian market is now targetted as a proper destination in its own right. Seems to me we forget the big changes that have recently occured and for the better.

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  • Longreach

    Longreach

    8 Aug, 2014 02:49 pm

    So, Qantas' SYD-HKG flights will predominately be flown by a 747 - which retains premium ecomony seats.

    Well, that's all right then, isn't it? The only people they really want to please these days are looked after, and everyone else can go elsewhere.

    "Morris is unconcerned" says it all really.

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  • Dave Thomas

    deethom

    8 Aug, 2014 03:30 pm

    I have been using JAL Premium Economy for flights to Japan, and find it a well designed unit for travel to Asia Ports, they even throw in an invite to their Club where available. Also have the pleasure of using CX P.E. when flying to Honkers. Singapores P.E. should also be an excellent product when introduced next year, if their standard in J is anything to go by.

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  • amitchell

    amitchell

    8 Aug, 2014 05:12 pm

    I booked 2 Premium Economy seats into Hong Kong this week on Cathay Pacific specifically because Qantas didnt have this offer. Just another example of Qantas reducing its overall offer. the flight I am going on is now full in PE(other staff tried to book but sold out). Cant say if this is normal but on a one flight one person survey, I would say there is still demand for this level of service.

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  • Flying Fish

    AWA2602

    8 Aug, 2014 11:24 pm

    CX’s decision is probably driven more by their own oversupply as a result of running three dailies ex SYD and MEL with Y+.  However this aside it’s still really disappointing and a missed opportunity for QF.  Logically demand will be low if there is nothing on offer...how can you buy something that's not for sale? Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and China Eastern are the only options for Y+ from Australia into Asia and are likely getting the business QF is missing out on.  Having experienced CX's Y+ a few times SYD-HKG (then continuing in Y onto mainland China) it certainly is a feasible alternative to J for these shorter hops - CX139 HKG-SYD is a great option being a daytime flight you can get some work done (though best to choose a bulkhead seat so you don’t get a reclining seatback cramping your work space) and don’t miss the comfort of a lie-flat seat as you do on the overnight flights.  The reasonable fare increase from Y to Y+ doesn't freak out the company bean counters in the same way the jump from Y to J on QF does, so this makes CX the only choice for my regular trips to China despite QF having a daily SYD-PVG service.  I think QF should have bit the bullet and run a trial of 21 Y+ seats on their A330-300 services to SIN, HKG, PVG, BKK - there are premium leisure travellers and budget-conscious corporate road warriors who would lap them up.

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  • Flying Fish

    AWA2602

    8 Aug, 2014 11:24 pm

    CX’s decision is probably driven more by their own oversupply as a result of running three dailies ex SYD and MEL with Y+.  However this aside it’s still really disappointing and a missed opportunity for QF.  Logically demand will be low if there is nothing on offer...how can you buy something that's not for sale? Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and China Eastern are the only options for Y+ from Australia into Asia and are likely getting the business QF is missing out on.  Having experienced CX's Y+ a few times SYD-HKG (then continuing in Y onto mainland China) it certainly is a feasible alternative to J for these shorter hops - CX139 HKG-SYD is a great option being a daytime flight you can get some work done (though best to choose a bulkhead seat so you don’t get a reclining seatback cramping your work space) and don’t miss the comfort of a lie-flat seat as you do on the overnight flights.  The reasonable fare increase from Y to Y+ doesn't freak out the company bean counters in the same way the jump from Y to J on QF does, so this makes CX the only choice for my regular trips to China despite QF having a daily SYD-PVG service.  I think QF should have bit the bullet and run a trial of 21 Y+ seats on their A330-300 services to SIN, HKG, PVG, BKK - there are premium leisure travellers and budget-conscious corporate road warriors who would lap them up.

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  • Flying Fish

    AWA2602

    8 Aug, 2014 11:25 pm

    CX’s decision is probably driven more by their own oversupply as a result of running three dailies ex SYD and MEL with Y+.  However this aside it’s still really disappointing and a missed opportunity for QF.  Logically demand will be low if there is nothing on offer...how can you buy something that's not for sale? Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and China Eastern are the only options for Y+ from Australia into Asia and are likely getting the business QF is missing out on.  Having experienced CX's Y+ a few times SYD-HKG (then continuing in Y onto mainland China) it certainly is a feasible alternative to J for these shorter hops - CX139 HKG-SYD is a great option being a daytime flight you can get some work done (though best to choose a bulkhead seat so you don’t get a reclining seatback cramping your work space) and don’t miss the comfort of a lie-flat seat as you do on the overnight flights.  The reasonable fare increase from Y to Y+ doesn't freak out the company bean counters in the same way the jump from Y to J on QF does, so this makes CX the only choice for my regular trips to China despite QF having a daily SYD-PVG service.  I think QF should have bit the bullet and run a trial of 21 Y+ seats on their A330-300 services to SIN, HKG, PVG, BKK - there are premium leisure travellers and budget-conscious corporate road warriors who would lap them up.

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  • dm12

    dm12

    21 Feb, 2018 12:26 pm

    Hey AusBT - is this article still relevant. Are QF still losing $$ to Cathay, ANZ, JAL, SQ, because PE is missing from their A333's. With changing back to SIN as their hub isn't it time for this to be reconsidered?

    I'm still doing most long haul flights with Cathay as PE is available!

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    21 Feb, 2018 12:34 pm

    This article was published in 2014, so it can be considered correct as per the publication date. As with most media websites, we don't keep historical news stories updated 'live' with new information over the years.
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  • dm12

    dm12

    21 Feb, 2018 02:24 pm

    OK thanks. Wonder if they are considering this in the changing market. I certainly wish they would!

    Cheers for responding :-)

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18 Jun, 2019 09:10 am

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