Qantas has announced $400 million plans to reconfigure nine Boeing 747-400s in a three class configuration that removes first and instead features the fully-flat Skybed sleeper seat, and to drop first class suites from its last batch of eight Airbus A380s to be delivered from 2012.
“While some travel markets are recovering from the economic crisis, our assessment of longer term travel trends, which pre-dates the economic crisis, shows that international premium travel demand is changing,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a February 18 statement, noting that the reconfigured aircraft “will also add the equivalent capacity of more than three B747-400s, ensuring we can support future growth while reducing the need to purchase additional aircraft.”
The changes will see the airline’s first batch of 12 A380s (six of which have been delivered so far) retain a four class configuration including first class suites, but be refitted with extra premium and standard economy class seats at the expense of business class seat numbers. In addition, the airline’s 13th to 20th A380s will now be delivered in a three class configuration without first class.
Qantas says the definitive A380 seat counts will be confirmed once it finalises discussions with Airbus and suppliers, but the 12 four class aircraft will seat around 490 passengers, three class A380s around 550. The current four class configuration seats 450, the lowest seat count of any airline A380 configuration announced thus far. Qantas’s 13th A380, the first to be delivered in a three class arrangement, will be A380 MSN115, which is currently likely to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The 12 first class equipped A380s will in time be the only aircraft equipped with first class in the Qantas fleet, and will be used to operate flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London via Singapore, and Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles.
Meanwhile nine 747-400s (including the airline’s six 747-400ERs) will have first class removed and be refitted with Qantas A380 standard seats and inflight entertainment product, comprising 58 fully-flat Skybed business class sleeper seats, 36 premium economy seats and 265 economy seats. This will increase the seat count by 52 over current four class 747-400s to 359 seats. They will also be fitted with the Panasonic eX2 on-demand inflight entertainment system in all classes, as on Qantas A380s. The remainder of the current 26 strong Qantas 747-400 fleet will be retired as the last A380s enter service.
The upgrades and reconfigurations will begin in late 2011 with completion scheduled for by the end of 2013.