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First Upgraded Qantas A380 Begins Flying

Australian airline Qantas put its first upgraded Airbus A380 into commercial service on Monday evening. The Aircraft registered VH-OQK took off from London Heathrow as flight QF2 bound for Sydney via Singapore at 23:23 local time.

The Upgraded A380

Qantas has redesigned its A380 with a higher percentage of premium seats than before. The aircraft contains 30 fewer economy seats, whilst increasing premium capacity by 27%. The upper deck is now in an all-premium configuration (Business and Premium Economy), thanks to a smarter use of space compared with the previous version. The upgraded aircraft will consist of 14 First Suites, 70 Business Suites (up by 6), 60 Premium Economy seats (up by 25), and 341 Economy seats (down by 30). Qantas plans to upgrade another 2 A380s this year, and all 12 will be upgraded by the end of 2020.

Qantas' Business Suite on the Airbus A380.
The Qantas Business Suite will replace the previous Skybeds. The cabin is laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration, so now every seat has direct aisle access.
Qantas' new economy cabin on the upgraded Airbus A380.
The Economy cabin has a new color palette and improved inflight entertainment (IFE).
First Class Suites have been updated.
The 14 First Suites have been updated with new contoured cushioning, seat finishes and a larger, higher resolution entertainment screen.
A larger onboard lounge has been fitted on Qantas' upgraded A380.
Up to 10 Business or First passengers can now be seated in the larger onboard lounge.
The premium economy cabin now has 60 seats rather 35.
The new Premium Economy seat, first seen on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, has been fitted, with 60 seats as opposed to the previous 35.
Images: Qantas

Qantas is Going Against the Grain

Many airlines currently operating the A380 have decided that the superjumbo is too expensive to update. British Airways CEO Alex Cruz has suggested that it would cost the carrier US$30-50 million to upgrade a single A380. That price, plus the introduction of newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft has meant that many of the world’s A380s will be retired from service over the next 5-10 years. Air France will retire its fleet by 2022. Lufthansa is almost halving its fleet. And Emirates, the world’s largest operator of the type, has begun retiring some of its A380s for parts. All of this makes Qantas’ decision to upgrade its A380s seem rather odd.

Why Qantas Chose to Upgrade its Superjumbos

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce had this to say:

“The A380 is a crucial part of our long-haul fleet and this upgrade program will see customers enjoy everything the aircraft has to offer for years to come. It also provides an increase in Business and Premium Economy seating to help match the demand we’re seeing on our long-haul routes. Working with Airbus, we’ve been able to use the cabin space more efficiently and improve the economics of the aircraft while also providing a better experience in every part of the aircraft. By the end of this upgrade, we’ll have next-generation seating across our entire long-haul fleet of A380s, A330s and 787s.”

Featured Image Source: Eric Salard on Flickr.

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