Qantas’ first refurbished Airbus A380 took off over two hours late on Monday evening for its inaugural flight from London Heathrow to Singapore Changi. It may not have been the perfect start but the passengers on Qantas flight QF2 would have been in for a much-improved passenger experience.
The eight and a half-year-old plane (registration: VH-OQK) had arrived into London earlier yesterday evening from Dresden in Germany where all four cabins and the onboard lounge on the double-deck A380 had undergone a complete overhaul over the course of eight weeks. Qantas promises a “new level of comfort” on the refitted planes, with all 12 of the airline’s A380’s expected to have received the makeover by the end of 2020.
One of the biggest differences on the refurbished aircraft comes from structural changes the airline has opted to make on the Upper Deck. Several partitions, as well as a crew workstation, have been removed to make “smarter use” of the space available and a mini Economy cabin has now been removed.
The premium seating only Upper Deck now features Qantas’ latest iteration of its Business Class seat – the so-called Qantas Business Suite, along with 60 Premium Economy seats – a significant expansion on the 35 seats the cabin used to have. The new product, which first debuted on Qantas’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner, is 10 per cent wider than the original and is configured in a 2-3-2 layout.
At the front of the aircraft, Qantas has expanded the size of the onboard lounge for 10 First and Business Class passengers.
Downstairs 14 First Class Suites still occupy the front section of the aircraft, while the remainder of the Main Deck is filled with Economy Class seating (reduced by 30 seats). This part of the aircraft has received the least attention but a new colour palette, along with refreshed seat cushions and an improved in-flight entertainment system have been installed.
“This upgrade is a major investment in putting the next generation of seats on the aircraft as well as more creature comforts to maintain its status as one of the best ways to fly,” explained Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce.
“We’re seeing increased demand for Premium Economy and Business Class on the long haul routes that the A380 operates, including from people using their Qantas points to upgrade. When more travellers experience these new seats, we expect that demand will keep rising,” Joyce continued.
Overall, the six additional Business Class suites and 25 additional Premium Economy seats push the total seat count up by one. Premium seating has increased by 27 per cent.
Qantas hopes to have two more A380’s completely refurbished by the end of this year. At the moment, the airline expects to utilise the aircraft across its A380 route network.
While some airlines are already making retirement plans for their Airbus A380’s, Qantas hasn’t given any indication of when the model might eventually leave its fleet. Airlines are falling out of love with the fuel-inefficient A380 as more efficient models like the Boeing Dreamliner and Airbus A350 take off in popularity.
The fact that Qantas is carrying out a multi-million dollar upgrade to its A380 fleet would suggest the plane will remain a core part of the airline’s strategy for some time still to come.