Qantas has commenced work reconfiguring its fleet of 67 Australian registered Boeing 737-800s with a row of extra seats, slimline lavatories and smaller galleys at the airline’s Brisbane maintenance hangar.
The move to add six more seats, which was first announced in July 2014, will increase the seat count of the Qantas 737 from 168 currently – 12 business and 156 economy – to 174 seats. By way of comparison, Virgin Australia’s 737-800s have eight business class and 168 economy class seats for a total 176.
The aircraft were also expected to be refreshed with new seat covers and interiors to improve the in-flight experience of passengers.
Also, 38 of the 67 aircraft that currently do not have seat-back inflight entertainment will have wireless technology installed to give passengers the option of streaming content onto their own personal devices via the airline’s Q-Streaming application.
The use of smaller lavatories and a reorganised rear galley meant there would be no change to the 30in seat pitch in economy on the 737.
Adding six more seats per aircraft represented a little over three per cent increase in capacity, or the equivalent of an extra 2.3 737s in the fleet.
A Qantas spokesperson told Australian Aviation the eight New Zealand-registered 737s operated by subsidiary Jetconnect were not part of the reconfiguration program, with the cabin layout remaining at 12 business and 156 economy seats. The ZK-registered fleet, which is flown on trans-Tasman services, had the latest Boeing Sky Interior cabins and seat-back inflight entertainment, the spokesperson said on Friday.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce launched the reconfiguration of the 737 fleet at the company’s maintenance base in Brisbane on Friday alongside Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad.
“The 737 is the backbone of our domestic fleet and this refresh is part of our strategy to deliver the best experience for our customers, whether they’re in the air or on the ground,” Joyce said in a statement.
Half the 737 fleet would be reconfigured in Brisbane, with the remainder to have the extra seats installed in Sydney, Qantas said on Friday.
The company said in July 2014 the 737 reconfiguration would take about 12 months to complete.
Meanwhile, Qantas said 10 of its 28 Airbus A330 widebodies have been reconfigured with new business class and economy class seats.
A further six more A330s, which fly from Perth to Australia’s east coast capitals as well as internationally to Asia and Honolulu, would be in service with the seats, designed by Belfast-based Thomson Aero Seating, by the end of 2015.
And the airline also announced new Qantas lounges at Brisbane Airport.
Qantas said the current separate first class and business class lounges at the international terminal would be combined into a single facility along similar lines to its lounges in Singapore and Hong Kong.
At the domestic terminal, Qantas planned to boost capacity by 30 per cent with a redesigned Qantas club, business lounge and chairman’s lounge as part of a “multimillion dollar refurbishment of the airline’s terminal and lounges”.
Construction work was due to begin before the end of 2015 and be completed by early 2017.
“Queensland is where it all began for Qantas and we are very proud to maintain such a strong presence and commitment after almost 95 years of operations,” Joyce said.
“Brisbane is a crucial hub providing connections between our major domestic routes and services into regional areas as well as international flights to Los Angeles, Singapore, Hong Kong and as of a few weeks ago, daily flights to Tokyo.”