Asia services will see the new Thompson Vantage XL seat next year as refitted aircraft return to the 28-strong fleet from Qantas’s Brisbane MRO facility. The refit process begins this November and is expected to take approximately a month per aircraft.
Longtime Qantas creative designer Marc Newson has had heavy involvement with the seat. “The design was based on a real understanding of what Qantas customers needed on longer domestic flights and overnight international flights from Asia, with practicality, comfort, privacy and style in mind to create a relaxing environment to work, dine or sleep.”
International A330 aircraft will also see a seat and entertainment upgrade throughout, with new seating from Recaro similar to the product on Qantas’s A380s, and Panasonic’s Android-based eX3 inflight entertainment system. The airline’s Q Streaming wireless entertainment service will also be available.
Domestic A330s will have the eX3 product in the new business suites, while economy passengers will have to make do with just a “refreshed” seat and either earlier generation on-demand seatback entertainment or Qantas-provided tablets.
The Qantas Business Suite is the first installation of Northern Ireland-based Thompson’s Vantage XL product, which has also appeared on US airline JetBlue’s transcontinental Mint product, but in a 1-1, 2-2 combination of individual suites and pairs of seats on board Airbus A321 narrowbodies.
It will certainly be the best product on domestic flights, and will put Qantas back in the game on Asian flights, where other airlines’ fully flat beds with direct aisle access eclipsed Qantas’s angled lie-flat first-generation Skybeds, also designed by Marc Newson.
Qantas is also keen to highlight that it plans to achieve certification for the seat to be in recline mode from gate to gate. However, this recline is limited to a 21 degree angle for domestic flights and a 25 degree angle for international flights. While getting more sleep on transcons and brief Asian redeyes is a laudable aim, and the ability to go straight from slightly reclined to fully flat after takeoff will save time, 5-7in of recline gate-to-gate is less of a development than Qantas would like passengers to believe.
(Qantas’s assertion that it is the only carrier to have achieved gate-to-gate recline certification is a little over-egged, however – Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite, also licensed to Air New Zealand, can recline from gate to gate, although the seat flips over for bed mode.)
As Australian Aviation’s Cabin Pressure column will discuss in detail in the upcoming November issue, Qantas’s staggered layout using the Vantage XL product is inherently inferior to Virgin Australia’s announced B/E Aerospace Super Diamond reverse herringbone seat.
While both seats are fully flat beds with direct aisle access — the gold standard in business class — Virgin Australia’s advantage comes from the fact that its product is consistent from one seat to the next, while 50 per cent of the seats in Qantas’s staggered layout are right next to the aisle, and are thus less private with a greater likelihood of disturbance from crew or fellow passengers walking past.
Business class passengers with the ability to book ahead in enough time to select the better Qantas Business Suite seats will be able to pick the window or centre seats separated from the aisle by a side table (which serves as an enclosed shell for the feet of the passenger behind when in bed mode).
But with half the seats in the cabin located right next to the aisle, business travellers will need to choose wisely.
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