What to expect from Qantas’ newly-upgraded Airbus A380s

What to expect from Qantas’ newly-upgraded Airbus A380s

A decade after the Qantas Airbus A380 took to the skies, the airline’s 12-strong superjumbo fleet will soon head into the hanger for a mid-life makeover.

The first red-tailed A380 will get its revamp in March 2019, with the tip-to-tail upgrade being overseen by Airbus.

It’s expected to take until the end of 2020 for all twelve A380s to be refurbished. Here’s what you’ll see in Qantas’ spruced-up superjumbos. 

Qantas’ new Airbus A380 first class suites

Don’t expect any major changes to the 14 first class suites on the lower deck, although that’s not a bad thing by any stretch: there's basically nothing wrong with Marc Newson's bespoke design, which Australian Business Traveller rates among the best of the ‘open’ first class suites without sliding privacy doors.

With the aid of designer David Caon, Qantas will embark on a modest refresh of the cabin and its materials, including more comfortable contoured cushioning in each suite. A larger HD video screen will replace the current 17 inch panels.

The end result will leave the A380 first class suites looking the same yet different – at once totally familiar but undeniably fresher.

Qantas’ new Airbus A380 business class seats

The best news in Qantas' superjumbo revamp is that the original Skybed II seats will be replaced by the highly-regarded Business Suite of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

That seat, in turn, is a tweak of Airbus A330 Business Suite with a movable divider between the middle seats so that travellers can choose between privacy and sociability.

It's a substantial improvement for business travellers, with the Business Suites boasting everything that the Skybed II designs lack: direct aisle access for every passenger thanks to a 1-2-1 layout; a bump-free flat bed; ample inflight storage and workspace, plus a 16-inch HD video screen that's much brighter and sharper than the Skybed II's 12.1-inch panel.

The reconfiguration will also see a slight increase in the number of business class seats, from 64 in the current A380s to 70 in the refurb'd birds.

Qantas’ new Airbus A380 lounges

The narrow and little-used lounge at the front of the upper deck will be replaced by two new business class lounges, located either side of the 'grand staircase' which leads down to first class.

David Caon has reimagined the current lounge as a social cafe-inspired design with two tables fitted with soft LED lighting surrounded by comfortable padded benches.

“Today everybody’s sitting along the bench and facing one direction, and that's not necessarily the best layout and the best arrangement for people to be in" Caon tells Australian Business Traveller.

"Our lounge should be something where people are able to sit and face each other and discuss and talk... the kind of space that if there are two people that are travelling together but not necessarily sitting together, they can go (to the lounge) and spend time together."

On the left side of the stairway, where a small cabin crew office is currently tucked away, a second nook will include a self-serve minibar for drinks and snacks plus what appears to be a large video screen for watching inflight movies.

Qantas is also said to be working on ways to damp the lounge’s sound profile so as not to disturb passengers in the front rows of the business class cabin.

Also read: Six reasons I'll use the new Qantas A380 inflight business lounges 

Qantas’ new Airbus A380 premium economy seats

The A380 overhaul will also extend to premium economy, using the same seats as the Boeing 787.

These will be installed in a 2-3-2 layout in a dedicated cabin behind business class, where a reconfiguration of the upper deck will allow room for 25 more premium economy seats, bringing the tally to 60.

The seats themselves are quite the leap for business travellers on a budget with a comfortable cradle design, some handy storage space, USB and shared AC power sockets, a decent-sized personal video screen and even a natty tablet holder if you belong to the BYO video set.

However, we hope that Qantas allows more distance between each row of seats than on the Dreamliner, where these otherwise excellent seats are squashed too close together. 

Qantas' all-premium Airbus A380 upper deck

Part of the A380 refresh will see the upper deck become an all-premium affair of business class and premium economy – ironically, this is the same as when the Qantas A380 made its debut in 2008 – with the current quiet and cosy economy 'mini-cabin' at the rear of the upper deck taken over by the expanded premium economy cabin.

Qantas’ refreshed Airbus A380 economy seats

There's less change for economy class travellers, who won't even see new seats such as those of the Boeing 787. Instead, they'll need to make do with new seat cushions and what Qantas broadly terms "improved inflight entertainment".

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.


  • Smith


    8 Nov, 2018 07:54 am

    Thanks David - any chance you could confirm, QF want to introduce an enclosed F seat, ala EK- but CASA won’t let them. A rumour I’ve heard, but can’t find a source. Given CASAs previously restrictive ETOPS requirements not a surprise if true!

    New lounge looks good, not a fan of the green couches though!!
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  • Tom Wilson


    8 Nov, 2018 08:16 am

    New business seats great. The rest of it is a "Claytons".
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  • Christopher Campbell


    8 Nov, 2018 08:46 am

    They better give the PE more pitch and (in time) refit the 787 PEs too.
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  • rocketship


    8 Nov, 2018 08:46 am

    For those of us not always travelling in the fancy seats, it's a real shame to lose the economy mini-cabin upstairs. Nice and quiet up there, and speedier food and drinks service. Hope QR keep theirs.
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  • Emmanuel PEREIRA


    9 Nov, 2018 10:09 pm

    Agreed, very annoying.
    Row 32 is definitely great when travelling to DFW, LAX or SIN...

    United offers PE to its platinum in 787 from MEL to LAX, I might stop QF7 and 93 then (Dallas from Syd and LAX from Mel)
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  • Ilse Schwarz


    15 Nov, 2018 12:04 pm

    I totally agree. That cosy, although bumpy, little upstairs economy works wonderfully well when not in the fancy seats
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  • Darren


    8 Nov, 2018 08:55 am

    In terms of trying to damper the noise from the mini Business Class Lounge area at the front, Qatar Airways do this on their A380 with a heavy/thick curtain which is quite amazing at blocking noise from their bar area.
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  • Joe


    8 Nov, 2018 04:50 pm

    Qatar actually have a double curtain set up with the lavs in between the cabin side curtain and the bar side curtain-so a space of about approx 70cm between both. It's actually Emirates which has the lead heavy noise stopping single curtain between rear J class cabin and bar area. Unfortunately the EK crew are very selfish and always pin this open for their convenience. I have seen some cabin managers shut it and make sure its stays shut however.
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  • Joe


    8 Nov, 2018 05:00 pm

    Sorry meant to add the best curtain system I think is a curtain which is essentially one piece with both ends pinned to the wall panel or there is a slight recess in the wall which the ends pin into making it failsafe for light penetration(and noise) and the middle split but attached at the top an inch or two with magnets sewn into the split edges which require a teeny bit of force to open but immediately 'lock's' back up the centre split once someone has walked through. I often find it extremely selfish when cabin crew and other pax simply pay token gesture, if any for that matter, to 'shutting' curtains properly to avoid light and noise disturbing the 1st row or last row-if bar is behind, pax.
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  • Jason Hamilton


    8 Nov, 2018 09:40 am

    Heartily agree with the need for increased pitch in PE seating.
    J-class ‘lounge’ concept, I still think looks like a 50’s dowdy duke-box cafe - just too drab.
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  • Qf41


    8 Nov, 2018 10:37 am

    Ill be interested to see what the loo ratio is. The current ratio is terrible. Id be happy to see two extra loos at the front if it meant smaller lounge areas
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  • simon drakeley


    8 Nov, 2018 10:48 am

    me too - when they lost the 4 midcabin loos and went to 2 at front and the 2 shared at back they lost me
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  • reeves35


    8 Nov, 2018 01:10 pm

    I would guess that the loo at the rear of the top deck becomes the only seat available for W class whilst the loos currently between J & W and shared between both become J only. My experience is very few W class pax currently use the rear toilet and it is only used by those in the soon-to-be-deleted small Y cabin.

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  • Upgrademeplease


    8 Nov, 2018 11:40 am

    How long does it take to refit an A380? Also the 64 into 70 business seats from 2-2-2 to 1-2-1; does this consume the same amount of area or does it creep into where PE started?
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  • reeves35


    8 Nov, 2018 01:07 pm

    The Business Class area will probably be much the same size. The new seats link in together with the footspace, currently in the open on the existing seat when the seat is upright, tunneled under the table of the seat in front on the Vantage XL.
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  • patrickk


    8 Nov, 2018 02:46 pm

    Upgrademeplease it seems it will take a little under two months to do each one if all 12 are to be done by the end of 2020 and they have full use of the fleet over the busy summer months for the extra HK and elsewhere flights.
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  • Eli


    8 Nov, 2018 06:19 pm

    The QF A380's will likely do their C or D checks during this time that can take weeks. I also suspect the one frame that suffered tremendous damage over SIN probably requires extra love. (probably, but who knows, perhaps not).
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  • Anna80


    8 Nov, 2018 11:42 am

    I have flown on the Boeing 787 in premium economy and agree that Qantas needs to give this extra legroom in the A380s. It is better than the original A380 premium economy seat in every respect but if I don't have enough room for my legs, and I am not a tall woman, then I would rather go back to the original premium economy seat.
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  • Christopher Campbell


    8 Nov, 2018 11:48 am

    An extra 2-3 inches is what’s so needed
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  • QFP1


    8 Nov, 2018 12:02 pm

    Great news for business class passengers, much better seats plus two better lounges as well. Very happy with this news!
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  • vitorsyd


    8 Nov, 2018 12:23 pm

    Great article, Chris. I will also miss the secluded economy rows in the upper-cabin, even though I was only there once on a DFW-SYD flight.

    In the first paragraph you might want to fix ta small typo, so the word hanger reads hangar.
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  • reeves35


    8 Nov, 2018 01:15 pm

    I'll be interested in how the upstairs lounge area works out. I purposely went up there on a recent flight and really can't see how it is wide enough to fit a table with 2X2 seating and have a decent walkway. It really isn't very wide and can't be made any wider due to the staircase.

    Those sitting closest to the wall will, as well as being a bit squished, have to tilt their heads to allow for the curvature of the wall at that point of the plane.
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  • Jason Hamilton


    8 Nov, 2018 01:44 pm

    Re: the photo of the chap in the W-class seat - looks pretty uncomfortable with his knees against the seat in front. Pitch was never going to be enough and yet Joyce was doing his Ryanair type beat up of the product before it was rolled out.
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  • Matt Stevenson


    8 Nov, 2018 02:48 pm

    They want to get them all refurbed I'm sure before dumping the 747's.
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  • Tony D


    8 Nov, 2018 03:56 pm

    It seems there is no need to upgrade from Business to First on QF's A380s anymore - the Business Suite is a comfortable space that as good as it gets. That said, unless accessing First Lounge is important. However, it makes no difference if you are only flying out of Singapore. Then again, Qantas will open a new first class lounge at Singapore by the end of 2019. All in all, I think Qantas values loyalty. It's a rare gesture in the current aviation climate.
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  • aggie57


    8 Nov, 2018 04:11 pm

    I’m 6’4” and had the opportunity to sit in the premium seat at the 787 launch event in LA. It’s a great seat, but I simply don’t fit. The pitch is too tight.
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  • Jack Ilx

    Jack Ilx

    8 Nov, 2018 04:12 pm

    I do wish they decided to go further with the upgrade of F but clearly their F product must be working just fine for them. Business upgrade is appreciated, likewise with premium economy. The economy product on QF is already good and comparable to other full service carriers.
    The lounges, do people actually use these on flights, from my experience they are always empty?
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  • Alex Moris

    Alex Moris

    8 Nov, 2018 06:25 pm

    I don't think that QF international economy class is comparable to other "full"service airlines. On QF the seat pitch is less, no separate bar service (certain liqueurs are reserved for premium cabins), no meal trays but rather a poorly presented meal with the juggling bread on top and plastic utensils, no hot towels, no kids entertainment packs and no WIFI in any cabin. Yet QF is more expensive then Qatar, Emirates and Singapore. Sorry but QF does not meet the standards or Qatar or Singapore.
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  • AJW


    9 Nov, 2018 04:44 pm

    I don’t mind the way the do and present meals in economy.

    As for being cheaper it really depends. I am currently in Europe on holiday with the family (wife and two small kids) and it cost me $4800 return on Qantas ex CBR. On SQ and QR who incidentally fly out of Canberra thy both wanted over $6000 for the same dates.

    Getting back to the A380 upgrades having flown on a Qantas A380 in Y a few months back and the 787 last week it is a shame the A380 isn’t getting the 787 style seat. Shoulder width aside it was far far superior.
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  • Joe


    8 Nov, 2018 04:33 pm

    David are there any indications that, besides seat cushions and TV monitor size, seat covers, walls, panelling may be part of the change? New more sophisticated colour palate?
    What about the lack lustre 'first' lavs...will they be getting a full face lift...they are way below the standard of Emirates, Qatar etc Business class lavs!
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  • dm12


    8 Nov, 2018 04:48 pm

    I wish they would alternate the inner seats in business, so one row the seats are together and the next apart (like Thai A350), rather than the staggered all apart arrangement. It would make some seats (every second row) more suitable for couples.

    I also think they should do better than just a lounge for the upper deck. QF operate some of the longest A380 flights so having a point of difference to get out of your seat would be excellent. The Emirates bar for example is great, but even a snack bar or something would be useful.
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  • gw


    8 Nov, 2018 09:10 pm

    "A decade after the Qantas Airbus A380 took to the skies, the airline’s 12-strong superjumbo fleet will soon head into the hanger for a mid-life makeover."

    Hangar, not hanger.
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  • gtaylor20


    9 Nov, 2018 06:49 am

    Any ideas what might be the first routes to see the refurbished A380?
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  • Milton Gan


    9 Nov, 2018 03:13 pm

    Interested in this too. Flying J to LA in April, would love to have the new business cabin!
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  • Adam T


    9 Nov, 2018 02:00 pm

    Fantastic!! Can’t wait for new QF A380s. Saying that I flew up to Singapore on A380 with Skybed and cabin service, meals, etc where outstanding. QF at its best.
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  • BevanMcBevan


    9 Nov, 2018 03:24 pm

    First Class Whinge (I know, uppercut needed), and...

    The First Class seating is really worn and I hate to say it grubby on my recent trips. On two occasions the video screens were really pixilated. The overall seat itself is still not a bad design, but nowhere near up to date or maintained as well as it should be...sorry to say. And, for the coin, that's dissapointing.

    I'll be on the EY First product Sunday and must say, I still prefer this one over QF &EK (haven't tired SQ as of yet). Cheers.
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  • brs132


    9 Nov, 2018 07:40 pm

    No menton of upgrades to the seats in in economy, I fly regularly Sydney to Dallas and the economy seating is last century.

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  • Jason Bird


    9 Nov, 2018 07:56 pm

    I still think Qantas are missing a trick not moving First Class upstairs, as it makes for a much more economical use of the main deck real-estate to have this space PE or Economy. 🤔

    It’s what the smart money at Singapore Airlines did.

    I think the difference is that SQ (like Emirates) see a future for their A380’s and I have a feeling Qantas can’t wait to get rid of theirs!!
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  • AJW


    9 Nov, 2018 07:58 pm

    If qantas wanted to get rid of theirs so quickly they wouldn’t be investing money in upgrading them!
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  • Jason Bird


    10 Nov, 2018 05:58 am

    They are doing the bare minimum. Current Skybed II is awful and can’t go on.
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  • Fonga


    12 Nov, 2018 03:53 pm

    They're not awful. I've had many great and comfortable flights in them and met many interesting people thanks to their more open nature. I'll miss them as I'm not a great fan of the current fad for enclosed suites.
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  • traveller99


    9 Nov, 2018 09:06 pm

    Any potential to retrofit WiFi on the A380?

    One thing I really hate about long haul flights is getting home or to my hotel at the other end and having to catch up on 10+ hours of emails. It's much more relaxing to be able to check them every couple of hours like I have on long haul recently on QR and CX. In fact my airline choices are now largely dominated by who has WiFi. Let's be realistic about the soft part: food is pretty average in business class on any flight so that's not really a deciding factor. The seat definitely is so great that the awful Skybed is going away.
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  • Jason Bird


    10 Nov, 2018 05:59 am

    There definitely is the possibility, however, Qantas is doubtful to take up this opportunity to do so.
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  • AJW


    10 Nov, 2018 06:55 am

    Think it will come. The issue they have faced is getting the right service outside of Australia. Hence why there is a wifi solution for domestic but not overseas.

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  • V Champion


    9 Nov, 2018 10:47 pm

    So economy, the vast majority of qantas’ passengers, treated with contempt as usual. Look elsewhere.
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  • Gary Topping


    10 Nov, 2018 07:55 am

    The lounge area looks so inviting and comfortable...NOT .
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  • Daniel Richardson


    10 Nov, 2018 03:34 pm

    but the question on everyone’s lips - “like the QF dreamliner, will they be installing all-you-can-eat, RSL style bain-marie’s for J class guests?” 🙊
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  • Muztel


    10 Nov, 2018 06:45 pm

    Sadly I rekcon that Qantas won't be able to resist the temptation to squeeeseee all the PE seats as close as they can,and ruin the current 380 & 747 experience for PE, after all its all about the $$$$$$$$$$ :(
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  • Andrew


    11 Nov, 2018 10:13 am

    If we're picking up on typos, it's juke-box, not duke-box Mr. JKH
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19 Nov, 2018 10:23 am


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