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The Days of This Qantas Business Class Seat are Numbered

Where: Australia
May 28, 2014 at 2:22 PM | by | ()

What you see above is the original Qantas “Skybed,” the angled flat seats which are still found on the airline’s Airbus A330s and which we experienced on a recent flight from Bangkok to Sydney. They wont be around for much longer though, as an improved business class seat—fully flat, and all seats with aisle access—is being rolled out from the end of this year.

While we had a pretty good flight on this overnight sector, and spent most of it stretched out in our window seat trying to get some sleep, we’ll be looking forward to the refurb for a number of reasons. We’ll give you a quick rundown of what things are like today, and what you can expect going forward:

Qantas has 30 Airbus A330s in service today, operating cross-country domestic routes (e.g. Sydney to Perth) and international routes to Asia (e.g. Singapore or Bangkok to Sydney). While just a few years ago we flew Bangkok to Sydney on a four-class Boeing 747 (with First, Business, Premium Economy, and Economy), which at the time still connected to London as well, the service is now just between Asia and Australia and has been downgraded to this two-class (Business, Economy) Airbus A330.

Business class had five rows of six seats across, configured 2-2-2. While overall the cabin was in relative decent shape, the age of the seat was showing. When we tried to recline or adjust its position the buttons wouldn’t always respond, movement would come in irregular bursts, and the noises emitted by the electrical system were slightly concerning.

There also wasn’t a great amount of storage space, with a small compartment between the two seats for shoes (visible underneath the water bottle holder in the shot above), and a small compartment in the armrest, which only had space if the headphones were taken out. We also flew on the Qantas A380 during the same trip (more on that to come), which showed us what a step up the “Skybed Mark II” featured on the double-decker really is.

Flight QF24 left Bangkok at 6.25pm, landing at Sydney-Kingsford Smith at 06.45am the next morning. Given the 9h20 flight time, dinner was served relatively quickly to allow for maximum sleep. Each seat is fitted with a nicely padded mattress, pillow, and duvet. Pajamas were handed out, as well as First Class amenity kits from Payot (we assume leftover stock that is being cleared). While we prefer a fully-flat seat, we didn’t experience too much of the ‘sliding down’ effect that comes with angled-flat seats. Regardless, getting up from a window seat without disturbing your seatmate is not that easy, which is where the new seat comes in and kicks Skybed’s ass.

Above is what the new seat looks like, and the cabin will be set up in a configuration of 1-2-1 across. The armrest you see above will alternate being on the left or right, with each seat reclining to full-flat in the shell of the armrest in front of it. This means aisle access for all seats, a major improvement from today. Storage will be much improved compared to the A330 Skybed, and design-wise the charcoal and eggplant color scheme looks to the younger A380. IFE will also get a boost with larger screens, better performance, and more content.

As a solo traveler, we’d pick the above seat on the ‘A’ side of the plane (window-side of the left aisle when facing towards the cockpit) and the reverse on the ‘K’ side of the plane (window-side of the right aisle): it means the armrest is between you and the aisle, creating maximum buffer and privacy.

The good news isn’t limited to the front of the plane either; Economy will also get new seats. Roll-out of the new seats starts at the end of the year, so if you are booking yourself onto an A330 service after that time, keep an eye out for a fresh seat map.

[Photos: JasonD, Rendering: Qantas]

Archived Comments:

Bye Bye Seats

We've made 2 trips to the Barrier Reef in those seats over the years. Much better than being in coach but I hope to be able to try the new ones sometime in the future.