Qantas business class seat gets a first class upgrade

Qantas business class seat gets a first class upgrade

Qantas' latest business class seat is getting an upmarket sibling designed for first class flyers.

It's the Vantage First, designed by Ireland's Thompson Aero Seating and marketed as a first class version of the Vantage XL business class seat which Qantas adopted for its Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 Business Suite (below).

The Vantage First is built on the same platform as the Vantage XL – which gives it the same passenger-friendly 1-2-1 layout, lie-flat bad and recline for taxi, take-off and landing.

The dimensions are also in the same ballpark – with seat width up to 61cm (24 inches) and a bed that's 2m (79 inches) from top to toes – although the video screen is supersized to a massive 32 inches (81cm).

But there's "more personal space for relaxation, fine dining or sleeping", more space for stowing your personal kit and a greater focus on privacy, with a movable screen between the middle seats plus an option for suite doors.

Thompson also considers the Vantage First as a "super business product" which for airlines rolling out its Vantage business class and "looking for additional revenue /upsell opportunities."

Those could come from just one row of Vantage First nestled immediately in front of business class, with Vantage First's "integrated cabin divider" providing "no loss of cabin space or the need for additional monuments between cabins."

It's an intriguing notion: a way to offer something better than business class without fitting a dedicated and markedly different first class cabin.

Thompson has already signed one unnamed customer for the vantage First, which it says "will launch in late 2017."

Qantas has previously said that its Boeing 787 fleet will be a three-class airplane with business class, premium economy and economy, and boasting what Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has described as "a very luxurious configuration" to match the very long-range routes which the Dreamliner will fly.

Read more: Qantas CEO promises "very luxurious" Boeing 787 configuration

Also read:

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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

  • gdumas

    gdumas

    6 Jul, 2016 10:01 am

    "will launch in late 2017" 

    Well, we all know what is coming in late Novembre :D

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  • DB

    aussieboyaussie

    6 Jul, 2016 10:26 am

    No, what's coming in Nov?

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  • Mal

    Mal

    6 Jul, 2016 02:59 pm

    The first Qantas Boeing 787 :)

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  • Mal

    Mal

    6 Jul, 2016 10:04 am

    I will lay odds that Qantas is the 'unnamed launch customer' for this seat (same timeframe for delivery of first QF 787) and it will be the cherished Row 1 of the new Boeing 787s.

    Qantas will sell it at a premium as 'Qantas Dreamliner First' over 'Qantas Dreamliner Business' but also use it for upgrading Chairman's Lounge and Platinum One flyers in business class.

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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    6 Jul, 2016 12:39 pm

    tottall agree

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  • riley

    riley

    6 Jul, 2016 11:18 am

    If I'm reading correctly, it's a Qantas hybrid product for the dreamliner? Not s true first but something extra at the pointy end... Begs a few questions around soft service differentiation and pricing brackets.

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  • David Flynn

    David

    6 Jul, 2016 01:10 pm

    Not for the Qantas 787, but your description of this as a 'hybrid' product is a good one: as Thompson say, 'super business class'. It would indeed be interesting to see how an airline might combine the Vantage First (at one row) with Vantage business class in terms of pricing and differentiation.

    Increasingly, as business class evolves into what used to be the domain of first class – wide seats, lie-flat beds, direct aisle access, loads of personal space, large video screens etc – the first vs business equation is becoming more about the 'soft product/service' (with notable exceptions in the modern 'suites' category of Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad etc).

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  • riley

    riley

    6 Jul, 2016 03:05 pm

    I agree with your second point David, that business is morphing into what was first class only a few years ago. I think we're already seeing many airlines offer a high end business prodcut and either a suite as first or no first at all. Even with the likes of EK and SQ, not first on every route.

    What confuses me is where a marginally better, small cabin of a first product sits in amongst the high end business product. I can understand if Qantas, for example, only had the above suite in place of business in the new dreamliner. But it would surprise me if they had the above as the "first" and a very closely appointed business product then went on to sell them separately. 

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  • scibo10

    scibo10

    7 Jul, 2016 05:26 pm

    You get the feeling that airlines are going to be introducing a new class.  Just like Premium Economy sits between Economy and Business, welcome Premium Business, the class between Business and First.

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  • jubbing

    jubbing

    6 Jul, 2016 12:12 pm

    Honestly, I'd have rather they looked at improving (or refreshing) their A380 First Class seats and installing them here, rather than looking at a Premium Business Solution. 

    While it does look nice, I really like the A380 First seats, but they're in need of a refresh to bring it up to par with the newest First Class seats. 

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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    6 Jul, 2016 12:51 pm

    could a 1-1-1 version of the First be used as the A380 First Class replacement?

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    7 Jul, 2016 09:02 pm

    "could a 1-1-1 version of the First be used as the A380 First...?"

    Main deck or upper deck?

    If main deck, 1-1-1 is very inefficient use of cabin width on a 380....it's even wider than the main cargo deck of an Antonov124 or 3 HUMVEES parked side by side.

    If upper deck, 1-1-1 does not match the best F available today in 1-1 layout fm EY so why bother?

    Either way, why 2 aisles are needed for direct aisle access fm a  single center seat? 

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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    6 Jul, 2016 12:36 pm

    is there a link to the thompson aero website for this new product?

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  • David Flynn

    David

    6 Jul, 2016 12:44 pm

    It's not currently listed on the Thompson Aero website.

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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    6 Jul, 2016 12:46 pm

    okay, can i find it elsewhere?

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  • Mal

    Mal

    6 Jul, 2016 01:00 pm

    There's this new website called 'Google' you could try...

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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    6 Jul, 2016 01:05 pm

    of course ive done that

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  • Mal

    Mal

    6 Jul, 2016 03:01 pm

    Well there's your answer, there's no other information out there apart from articles like this one and maybe this is 'the first' anyway.

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  • rgsydney

    rgsydney

    6 Jul, 2016 12:45 pm

    Looking at the pictures it appears this product only works for 1 row when it's in front of the existing Vantage XL product and couldn't be used for a whole cabin - is that right? If so it's a pretty limited offering!!

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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    6 Jul, 2016 12:48 pm

    i think qantas will use it for the whole buisness cabin on the 787 and A380 and a 1-1-1 version for the A380 First class replacement. 

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  • rgsydney

    rgsydney

    6 Jul, 2016 01:05 pm

    But it doesn't look like you could use it for the whole cabin efficiently because each suite doesn't 'dovetail' into the one in front like the standard Vantage XL (which is what helps make it an efficient design). This is why it might work for row 1, but would take up much more room if you used it for the rest of the cabin. The lack of the 'dovetailing' is also what gives you all that extra open space and means the ottoman is usable as a buddy seat and not stuck in a little cubby hole!

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  • RealKid

    RealKid

    6 Jul, 2016 01:35 pm

    I think rgsydney is right.  From the look of things, the image above shows a standard Vantage XL seat nesting into the console for the new Vantage First seat, whereas the First seat does not 'nest' into any console itself. 

    I think it would make sense for Qantas to install this on the 787s, as they have mooted these planes as replacements for the 747 on some of their asian routes (where First is not currently offered and is not likely in high demand), in addition to servicing new routes like MEL - DFW, SYD - ORD, and PER - LHR which are markets which likely have higher demand in F.

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  • Mal

    Mal

    6 Jul, 2016 02:59 pm

    No, the design doesn't allow for this, it needs to 'dovetail' into Row 2 of business class. And there's really nothing wrong with the current Vantage XL 'Business Suite' design or at least nothing which could not be addressed by some design 'tweaks'.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    7 Jul, 2016 10:07 pm

    "No, the design dosen't allow for this."

    Agree.  By itself and aisde fm material choice/colors, this new design is nothing remarkable...we've seen similar F suite designs already in service for yrs.

    The truly revolutionary aspect of this design is the space efficient integration between a F suite and a J flatbed in which I hv never seen before.  It has its limit(i.e. U can do it only for 1 row per bulkhead) and neither J nor F pax in those seats will feel any real diff but the cabin space efficiency solution is just ingenious for the operator.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    7 Jul, 2016 09:33 pm

    "..it appears this product only works for 1 row when it's in front of the existing Vantage XL product..."

    That's exactly the core concept(Or the whole point) of this design:  To take advantage of the typical extra space in the 1st row immediately aft of the bulkhead within any J cabin.

    Before this design emerged, the extra space behind the bulkhead in J is almost always used partially as the footwell for the flat bed seat in row 1 AND partially as a general cabin storage cabinet+top shelf(i.e. non-Rev$ earning space).  With this design, that space gains F Rev$ potential.

    "If so it's a pretty limited offering!!"

    But likely appropriate for the real, fare-paying mkt size of longhaul F these days worldwide if deducting most/all F demand fm FFP redemptions.  Most importantly, what will be attracive to the airlines is that with this design, that same space in row 1 can earn F fare instead of J fare.....a pretty good return-on-investment by just tweaking the utilization of a tiny little bit of cabin real estate.

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  • David Flynn

    David

    6 Jul, 2016 12:54 pm

    A reminder to everyone: AusBT allows comments under articles so that the contents of the article itself can be discussed. In this case that's the Vantage First seat and, as some have already noted, it's suitability (or not) as a prodict for airlines including Qantas and its Boeing 787 Dreamliner. That's all and good. We encourage comments which focus on the subject of the article and add value to the conversation.

    But as per our published AusBT comment policy this is not the place to complain about or take issue with "how an article has been written or presented" and such comment clutter will be edited or deleted as we see fit and at our discretion, in the interest of keeping things on topic and on track.

    If you want to take issue with that, email david(at)ausbt.com.au and have your say.

    In the meantime, those comments not about the subject of the article have been deleted, as other such comments may also be.

    This isn't about 'censorship', it's about ensuring that anybody reading this article and comments can enjoy reading what's relevant to the issue.

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    6 Jul, 2016 02:12 pm

    Its a very clever way of saving on monument space, absolutely... very space-efficient.

    But Vantage XL is a very, very good Business Class product already. Is "Vantage XL without a footwell and with more storage space and more privacy" really good enough to compete in the realm of longhaul international First Class?

    It seems more like "a way to make the first row of Business Class extra special for your premium frequent flyers" rather than a whole new class. In addition, the bed's length and width would probably be shorter than the current QF First suite. Does Qantas want to risk diluting the prestige of QF First?

    Its a clever concept but it seems more of a Diet-First heterogeneous-Business-Class thing than a truly First Class product.

    On the other hand, the timeline does match up to the debut of QF's 787-9, and the only other airlines using Vantage XL (SAS and RwandAir) don't seem very enthusiastic about First Class. And Qantas will be flying the 787-9s on very long routes. I guess you could say a row of this provides (without any loss of space) a way to monetize monument space and also acknowledge premium customers.

    But really... I think this hard product is simply too marginal an improvement over Business to be the new First.

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  • RealKid

    RealKid

    6 Jul, 2016 03:00 pm

    Totally agree with what you're saying, and I doubt it would ever replace First on say, the a380s.

    I think they could conceivably sell this as first on the 787s if the bed is a little longer (which should be able to be accomplished), sliding doors, larger AV system, and all of the soft product enhancements (food, bedding, wine etc.).

    It seems like it would be a good fit to sell as F on the long haul Europe and NA destinations the 787 will fly to, and upgrade Plats to on flights to Asia (sans any of the soft product upgrades).

    Do you think that would dillute the F offering too much if the hard product was available to Plats for free on shorter routes? 

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    6 Jul, 2016 03:30 pm

    I just don't see this as necessary for Qantas at all. The real First Class experience should start with ground service, at least with an incredible lounge, and QF already have two First lounges and building more would be extremely expensive. Building a First lounge at PER? There won't be enough First traffic to justify it.

    And making First Class inconsistent over the different airframes really can dilute the value of the brand significantly. I'd rather QF kept with consistency as much as possible.

    Alternatively, this may be a "medium-haul" first for Asia, but I'd think that would be more likely to be used on 787-10s (if Qantas gets them) rather than 787-9s, and the first 787-9s are unlikely to be put on routes to Asia in the first place.

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  • RealKid

    RealKid

    6 Jul, 2016 04:49 pm

    Good point.

    What's the current consensus on where these first 787s are going to go?  I had assumed (perhaps wrongly) that they were 747 replacements and maybe opening up new routes MEL - DFW, SYD - ORD, and PER - LHR.  Apart from the PER - LHR one, the 747s primarily depart from Sydney and Melbourne, so the lounges would be available.

    Also, I think it would make sense to have F on MEL - DFW (as the SYD leg has F), as well as SYD - ORD (as their longest, 'flagship' flight).

    As for the 747 replacements, I would guess there is potentially a market for F on half the routes the 747 operates (BNE - LAX, MEL and SYD - HKG), but potentially not on SYD - JNB.  Not sure about SCL.

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    6 Jul, 2016 05:02 pm

    The first 787s are meant to be 747 replacements, yes (with upgauges in frequency to compensate for the smaller jet). However, CASA will need to ease up on the ETOPS before the SYD - SCL and SYD - JNB routes will be shifted towards 787 operations. Whilst a lot of other routes have been proposed as possible, I REALLY don't think MEL - DFW is feasible with 787-9 (even at a light load), and PER - LHR really doesn't save any time over a DXB stopover and only benefits PER residents (maybe CBR residents too). SYD - ORD is also 777-8 territory more than 787-9 territory.

    I agree MEL - DFW should have F... but to me that seems to indicate QF should buy some 777-8s and put them on the route.

    I think the first routes we'll see on the 787 will be BNE - LAX - JFK, possibly BNE - DFW or BNE - DXB, and SYD - YVR (QF have said that with Dreamliners they can go to a year-round service, possibly daily, on that route). SYD - JNB/SCL will be added as soon as CASA stops being bitchy about ETOPS.

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  • RealKid

    RealKid

    6 Jul, 2016 05:24 pm

    So what do you reckon the F demand would be like on the routes you've predicted?  I would think BNE - LAX, BNE - DFW, and BNE - DXB could all sustain 4 F seats per day, although I think I remember QF just axed the F lounge in BNE so maybe that's not in the cards.

    So is your conclusion then that QF isn't actually going to take delivery of this product, or that it will and it just won't be marketed as F but rather as a special perk for Plats?  That would be interesting, but I'm not sure whether a "premium" business class would be correctly positioned in the market given that QF's business class fares are already usually the most expensive on any given route.

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    6 Jul, 2016 06:39 pm

    First demand? I think it would be great on all the routes I predicted if the cabin only needed 4 passengers per day. But the issue really is consistency; if first class out of Brisbane meant a narrower seat and no ultra-awesome lounge, then unless they charged substantially less for it (which they won't because that would suck demand from SYD/MEL), it wouldn't be attractive.

    So yeah... at best, it would be a perk for their top-tier frequent flyers. And even then, would it be worth it?

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  • eminere

    eminere

    8 Jul, 2016 10:26 am

    "But Vantage XL is a very, very good Business Class product already."

    lucky from OMAAT would disagree with you there. ;)

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    8 Jul, 2016 04:47 pm

    Erm, Lucky hasn't flown in any Vantage XL seats.

    Unless he's reviewed SAS recently.

    Lucky's flown in Vantage but not Vantage XL, from what I know. Remember that so far the only airlines with Vantage XL are SAS, Qantas and RwandAir.

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  • eminere

    eminere

    8 Jul, 2016 10:41 pm

    Erm, he HAS just flown on SAS and that's what I'm referring to.

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    9 Jul, 2016 08:12 pm

    Ahhh, yes, I just saw the "10 photos" post.

    He said he prefers Reverse Herringbone and the window seats of a BE Apex configuration over Vantage XL. That doesn't necessarily imply that Vantage XL isn't "very, very good." I'm sure Lucky would take Vantage XL over sloping-sleepers, BE Parallel Diamond, standard Vantage, or non-direct-aisle-access flatbed seats.

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  • VA Beats QF

    VA Beats QF

    6 Jul, 2016 03:53 pm

    It could be like Virgins old Row 5 where it wasn't a different class or fare, they just reserved it for Platnium and Gold members.

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  • Mark McCullough

    pointyendmark

    6 Jul, 2016 08:32 pm

    Maybe 'unnamed launch customer' is Qatar Airways? Their CEO has said they're launching a 'super business class' in November.

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  • GoldenClub

    GoldenClub

    6 Jul, 2016 08:56 pm

    It's cute but not true first class. Mind you, the trend does seem to be toward down-sizing first class - new Singapore first flass looks like pitch is rather limited compared to its A380s suites. 

    I like the 'super business' tag - as long as the price matches, but knowing QF they will try to charge first class prices for a product that is not!

    Unfortunately, new hardware won't make up for inconsistent and lacklustre service in the premium cabin. On my April trip from Helsinki to Sydney the quality couldn't have been more pronounced between the Finnair J class crew and the disorganised and unimpressive QF crew who were a real let down. Seems to be a consistent trend - about 50% of the time QF crew are superb and the other half of the time they are appalling! 

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  • Jimmy Wang

    JimWang_SYD

    7 Jul, 2016 09:14 pm

    Surprised nobody noticed but a new raft of Singapore A380s are due in 2017 and they're supposed to "unveil all new first class suites  and business class seats for its Airbus A380s"

    http://www.ausbt.com.au/singapore-airline-new-a380-first-class-suites-business-class-in-2017

    And since SQ is all about luxury, could the Thompson Vantage First be put on SQ Biz? Judging by http://www.ausbt.com.au/concept-designs-for-new-singapore-airlines-first-business-class, these two look very similar

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    8 Jul, 2016 12:56 pm

    "Surprised noboby noticed..."

    I hv "noticed" it ever since SQ firmed order for that batch of 5 frames in Oct12.  In fact, the related official press release is still there today under the media section on SQ website.

    On the other hand, I'm totally NOT "surprised nobody" (including myself until now) mentioned it here because such comments may be considered off-topic by the AusBT comment section administrator(e.g. David)....this website seems to be very very strict about what can or cannot be commented under specific topics/news relative to other websites.

    "..SQ is all about luxury.."

    Really?  Is that why it decided to launch Scoot and then pour even more $ into Tiger in recent yrs?

    "..could the Thompson Vantage First be put on SQ Biz?"

    It could but I can see 2 issues immediately:

    1) Thompson Vantage First(TVF) is @ current F suite design std(size, specs, etc.).  Even if SQ is willing to use F design std in J mkt segment(i.e. willing to accept significant loss in J cabin density & seat count), why wait specifically for TVF debut to implement?  Such F designs already exist and SQ could hv implemented it all along to leverage seat production scale.

    2) If SQ uses F suite design std for J, what can it use for F?  Match EY's F Apartment/Residence?

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  • Chris

    flychrisfly

    9 Jul, 2016 12:22 pm

    I'd pay more to fly in one of these over a business class seat

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