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Joyce says Virgin forced to “scramble” in bid to keep up with Qantas

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 21, 2014

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce launching the new business class seat.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce launching the new business class seat.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says his airline’s upgrade of business class seats across its Airbus A330 fleet has forced rival Virgin Australia to “scramble” to keep up.

Although Virgin was first to unveil its new business suite at a presentation in Singapore in September, the John Borghetti-led carrier’s first flight with its B/E Aerospace seat will not be until March 2015.

By contrast, Qantas’s new business suite, designed by Thompson Aero Seating in collaboration with Marc Newson and shown off to the world at Sydney Airport on Tuesday, will be in the air by the end of December.

Joyce says five Qantas A330s will feature the new business class seat, which offers all passengers direct aisle access and the ability to be in a reclined position during takeoff and landing (pending Civil Aviation Safety Authority approval), by the time Virgin gets its first aircraft in the sky.

“The great thing about what Qantas has done, we are leading the way with these new suites,” Joyce told reporters at Sydney Airport on Tuesday.


“We had a choice of any suite that we had out there. We could have picked the seat that our competitor chose. It was actually third on our list.”

All of Qantas’s 28 Airbus A330 aircraft – the airline has 10 of the larger -300 model that mainly operate internationally and 18 of the smaller -200 version that feature most prominently between Perth and Australia’s east coast capitals – will be reconfigured with new business and economy seats by the end of 2016.

The seat reconfiguration work will be undertaken at Qantas’s heavy maintenance facility at Brisbane. Service entry is scheduled for a domestic service before the end of 2014, while the first international flight with the new product is due in January 2015.

Meanwhile, Virgin planned to complete the fit out of its six Airbus A330-200s by the end of August 2015. The fitout will include Virgin’s newest A330, which arrived factory fresh from Toulouse, France in September sporting the airline’s existing business class seats.

Joyce said it was Qantas’s upgrade of its A330 business class offering that prompted Virgin to respond.

“It forced our competitor, who has recently taken a new aircraft with new seats on it, to rip those seats off and put new seats in,” Joyce said.

“That’s great that that’s happened. It means less money for other products, less money for lounges, so I am quite happy that Qantas is defining the way and making our competitor scramble to catch up and making our competitor make decisions like that.”

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, businesswoman Lindy Klim and chef Neil Perry at the airline's business class seat launch.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, businesswoman Lindy Klim and chef Neil Perry at the airline’s business class seat launch.


The new Qantas business class seats are fully flat with aisle access for all passengers.
The new Qantas business class seats are fully flat with aisle access for all passengers.

Joyce said the business class cabin will be reduced to 28 seats following the reconfiguration.

Currently, the A330-300 has 30 business class seats, while the A330-200 has 36 seats at the pointy end of the cabin.

“We’ve done some detailed modelling on this and we believe we will be able to meet all of the needs of the commercial business class customers and the upgrades that exist today,” Joyce said.

“There may be some impact at certain times on staff travel but all of our commercial customers will be able to get their places on these aircraft.

“We have no problem with filling up business class seats on the peak services across to Perth. I don’t see that changing.”

Joyce said the flagship Airbus A380 will not be fitted with the new Thompson Vantage XL, given the double-decker superjumbo’s Skybed MKII was “highly competitive on the markets that it is operating on,” primarily the United States, Dubai and London.

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Comments (11)

  • Captain


    One way to put it!!

  • Glen


    I don’t see this as a game changer for Qantas too little too late as normal with Joyce. He says that they no trouble filling business class already so how will this seat change create extra cash for Qantas?

  • Rumsey


    faking a “seat war” with Virgin over what amounts to reducing the number of available business class seats is simply a distractor from the fact that Qantas has been going backwards for years under AJ. What has Neil Perry got to do with seat manufacture? Couldn’t they find Newson for the photo? And again, why the JS 330s going to Qantas instead of new 787s for Q?

  • Andrew


    Conversely, most of Virgin’s A330s are new or quite recent builds, whereas QF’s are almost all a decade or more old -300s or Jetstar -200 retreads… I call it a draw until Virgin’s seat hit the market…

  • Peter


    Good to see both airlines looking to enhance their customers experience. Both offers look good to me.

    Competetion is good for everyone.

    Why does Alan Joyce have to be so nasty? For me John Borghetti’s more positive comments about Virigin and it’s people make me want to support Virigin.

    Can’t Alan Joyce promote the good things about QANTAS and it’s people without taking a swipe against Virigin.

    Does he really think that having to replace the business class seats on 1 aircraft will have a huge impact on Virgins multibillion dollar business?

  • Mark


    If Virgin Australia is “scrambling” to catch up to Qantas, then they are doing a good job. VA is certainly my first choice based on aircraft and service from Perth to the eastern states. That includes the more comfortable 2×2 Embraer to Adelaide that beats the crammed 737 hands down.

    Also, what are Qantas then doing while Air NZ leaves them far behind, using superior 787, A320 and soon A321 aircraft that could be used too if they weren’t wasted on Jetstar?

  • Graeme Hooper


    QANTAS needs to consider premium economy seating on international services with withdrawal of 747’s as well as 767’s.

  • David


    Still the few things wrong with this, A330’s, Alan Joyce, no 787’s or 777’s

  • franz chong


    Alan Joyce has to go.I tell you the one time coming home from Singapore to Melbourne on a crappy really old 747 with Qantas was enough to convince me to switch to Singapore Airlines every time I go to Singapore.It was all well and good they put the newest planes at the time out of Adelaide but coming home into the Eastern States was always luck of the drawer prior to them putting the A380’s on the Kangaroo Route.

  • Russell M


    A “scramble” to introduce what many commentators are saying is a better quality offering by VA in terms of the business class seats.?

    I loved the comment above about Neil Perry. Have to say Neil….if you were responsible for the luke warm soggy chicken pie I was offered a few weeks ago for “lunch”, complete with its plastic wrapping and a lump of very pink (not thigh-pink, but pink-pink) meat approx 6cm across in my soggy little pie……then sorry Neil, but I won’t be coming to see you at RockPool


  • Adam


    Excellent work Alan, stick it to borghetti….I bet he will be spitting chips and I for one definately like the new QF product over the VA product, this will definately make travelling domestically in australia the best domestic product in the world compared to other countries and what they offer and the smart ones of us out there know that this evolution will only stand to profit QF and all it stands for in this country, my dollars, loyalty, points and choice will stay with you QF-thanks for being adaptive and changing in an ever changing aviation world!! 😀 People all over the world are in awe of Qantas when they travel, compared with what their own home airlines give them…and I am proud to say Qantas represents the best of air travel, here in australia and abroad!

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