Flight Review: British Airways Business Class

British Airways Boeing 777-200

Flight Route: BA15 Singapore to Sydney | Aircraft: Boeing 777-200 | Class: Business | Seat: 12G | Flight time: 7 hours 45 minutes

Club World Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport

Arriving at Singapore Changi Airport on a typically humid afternoon, I am eager to move through check in and into the lounge. On this occasion, it’s a win. Check in is a breeze – completed within minutes with no wait time – and then I pass through customs in the blink of an eye. The directions to British Airways’ Club World lounge are easily spotted. The lounge itself is long with two distinct food service areas, and the fridge is stocked with a wide variety of libations. It’s not busy and I happily plonk myself down for a final Tiger Beer before my flight.


The British Airways Business Class cabin has a 2-4-2 configuration with passengers sitting head to toe. Aisle passengers (B, D, G and J) face forward; window and centre passengers (A, E, F and K) face the rear.


BA15 is an overnight flight and my bed is seat 12G, on the centre aisle. The seat is comfortable, with an easy-to-use control pad allowing me to set the seat position at the preferred point between upright and flat. The major weakness of the seat is the lack of storage space. Each seat has a draw; however, it is low to the floor and an effort to use unless you are in the upright position.


No matter the airline, Business Class service should always be of a high standard, and this flight meets expectations. The attendant looking after me is polite and unobtrusive, and the cabin crew’s polished English accents give an added feel of sophistication.


On this flight, dinner and breakfast are offered. After a few big days in Singapore, I still manage to relax with a couple of BrewDog Speedbird 100s, a beer specially brewed for British Airways’ 100th anniversary celebrations last year. The dinner menu caters for a variety of tastes. My entree of green pea panna cotta followed by a satisfying potato gnocchi main doesn’t leave me wanting for much more; however, I do find room for the cheeseboard. The selection included Shropshire Blue, Comté, Pont-l’Evêque (similar to Brie), grapes and peach chutney. As far as airline cheeseboards go, this is very much a winner. Breakfast is served about 90 minutes before we land and is enough to sustain me before our arrival at Kingsford Smith Airport.


The in-seat entertainment is easy to use and the screen size is ample, although the variety of shows is limited. That said, for an overnight trip lasting just under eight hours, there is more than enough to watch or listen to before you settle down a few hours’ shut-eye.


The cheese board is a stand-out. The cheeses are well selected and plentiful.


The lack of storage.

Our Rating

5 Stars/5 Stars

The Fine Print

Baggage: Two bags, maximum 32kg per bag.

Loyalty Program: The Executive Club.

WiFi: On selected flights, WiFi is available to purchase.

Amenities: Luxury lifestyle brand The White Company supply a small toiletries pouch with eye-mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs and socks.


The Future of Air Travel: United CleanPlus Initiates Healthier Travel Plan

United CleanPlus Airport Lobby Signage
United CleanPlus Airport Lobby Signage

United Airlines recently introduced United CleanPlus: the company’s new commitment to putting health and safety at the forefront of the customer experience, with the goal of initiating a cleanliness revolution in the airline industry. United CleanPlus brings together the disinfectant brand, Clorox, and American medical experts from Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to inform and guide United’s new standard of cleanliness. This protocol includes cleaning, safety and social distancing and giving customers options when flights are more full. Clorox products will be used at United’s hub airports and medical experts from the Cleveland Clinic will advise on new technologies, training development and quality assurance programming.

By establishing collaborations with these world-renowned leaders in surface disinfection and health, United hopes that customers can travel with more confidence knowing that the airline’s protocols have been informed by trusted experts.

“Safety has always been our top priority, and right now in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, it’s our singular customer focus,” said United CEO, Scott Kirby, in a video message to customers. “We recognise that COVID-19 has brought cleanliness and hygiene standards to the front of customers’ minds when making travel decisions.”

Clorox is working closely with United to enhance the airline’s cleaning program, redefine disinfection procedures and equipping customers with amenities at select locations that help support a healthier and safer environment throughout their travel journey. Clorox products will first roll out at United’s hub airports in Chicago and Denver and will be used in the gate and terminal areas, with additional locations to follow.

“Connecting the world more safely, when possible, is an important part of our recovery as a society,” stated Benno Dorer, Chair and CEO of The Clorox Company.

Experts at Cleveland Clinic provided guidance on the airline’s policies and procedures to ensure they meet or exceed industry standards. Such measures include sneeze guards, mandatory face coverings for crew and customers and installing touchless kiosks in select locations for baggage check-in. As they learn more about how to fight COVID-19, Cleveland Clinic experts will help United use those discoveries to quickly implement new ways to keep customers safe.

“As the public begins to adjust to a world that’s been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety is of the utmost importance,” said Tomislav Mihaljevic, M.D., Cleveland Clinic CEO and President. “We are proud to be part of this programme and to share the knowledge we’ve gained as we’ve worked to contain and understand COVID-19 over the past several months. It’s important for everyone to take precautions as we enter this new phase of COVID-19 response, and Cleveland Clinic is pleased to play a role in helping people travel safely.”

The United CleanPlus commitment to customers is already happening throughout the travel journey across the United network in a number of ways. To date, United has implemented more than a dozen new policies and procedures aligned with United CleanPlus that include the following:

In Airport Lobbies:

  • Temporarily shutting down self-service kiosks
  • Rolling out touchless kiosks in select locations that allow travellers to print bag tags using their own device to scan a QR code
  • Ticket counter signage, including a 6 ft. rule to encourage minimal contact
  • Deployment of sneeze guards at key high-interaction points

Gateside Measures:

  • Fewer travellers boarding at once to reduced crowding at gate and jet bridge
  • Self-scanning of boarding passes at gate readers
  • United employees have access to disinfecting products to best clean high-touch areas, such as armrests and handrails

In United Clubs:

  • Protective sneeze guards have been installed at credentialing desks and customer service positions
  • United Club team members are required to use personal protective equipment and increase the frequency of high-touch surface cleaning
  • Removal of bar area seating
  • Prepackaged food and beverages will only be available at the bar area

Onboard Aircraft:

  • An “all in one” economy snack bag that replaces the economy beverage and complimentary snack choice service on domestic flights scheduled 2 hours and 20 minutes or more. This bag includes a wrapped sanitiser wipe, an 8.5 oz. bottled water, a Stroopwafel and a package of pretzels
  • Mask or face covering requirement for all employees and customers aboard a United flight
  • Each United customer will be given an individually wrapped package of hand sanitiser wipes
  • Limiting advanced seat selections where possible
  • Allowing customers to take alternative flights when a flight is expected to operate over 70% capacity
  • From June, every United cabin will undergo enhanced sanitisation, such as electrostatic spraying, before boarding

Behind the Scenes:

  • United employees undergo temperature screenings upon arrival at work
  • Some United employees are producing hand sanitiser to be used throughout the airline.

These new measures created for United CleanPlus are being rolled out across United aircraft and hubs. The guidelines will likely evolve in accordance with new findings made by health experts. COVID-19 is changing the way we travel from short-term restrictions to long-term shifts in health standards.


Responding to COVID-19, United Airlines debuts United CleanPlus: a series of health protocols aimed at revolutionising health standards in airline travel

Private Jet Travel Rockets In Response to Coronavirus Crisis

Aman Private Jet Interior
Aman Private Jet Interior

Passengers are willing to pay well above standard rates (around USD $5,000 for an hour on a six to eight-passenger light jet) to evacuate areas and get around travel bans during  the COVID-19 crisis

The private aviation industry might just be one of the few in the world to actually benefit from the madness of COVID-19. According to various media outlets including Business Insider, VICE and Slate, private aircraft businesses are booming, with demand from the super wealthy rocketing as a result of the commercial airline restrictions, border closures and Coronavirus fears now in place around the world.

Justin Crabbe, CEO of private jet charter company Jettly – which has headquarters in New York and Toronto and access to over 23000 private jets around the world – told Business Insider’s Melissa Wiley earlier this month that he has tripled the company’s flight support staff in response to surging demand. Thousands of requests came through “within hours” from elite travellers willing to pay thousands of dollars to arrange last-minute travel and emergency evacuations from countries affected by COVID-19, he told Wiley. “In short, we are booming…I’ve never seen so much activity in our evacuation flight department.”

“This time of year we typically see 2,000 to 3,000 flights requested each day, but we have doubled that for almost every news release of a major outbreak in the past weeks getting people out of the affected areas,” Crabbe said.

Crabbe added that Jettly customers, both individual and corporate, are willing to pay well above standard rates (which sit at around USD $5,000 for an hour on a six to eight-passenger light jet)  to evacuate areas within 24-48 hours instead of waiting a few days. “We have seen dozens of bookings that are two to three times the regular rate for the flight due to the increased demand and the shortage of available aircraft and crews in the area,” Crabbe said. “Many aircrafts are having to fly in to pick up customers and evacuate them. All of that additional flight time comes with additional cost.”

The 24-hour Coronavirus news cycle has fuelled the demand, Crabbe said, with media reports of travel bans, city quarantines, evacuations, and new cases “driv[ing] the public to become extremely fearful and prefer to stay away from commercial airport terminals and commercial aircraft cabins due to the increased levels of exposure,” he said.

Even now, with various countries’ travel bans in place, private jets can bypass these bans thanks to loopholes: private jet passengers aren’t subject to commercial security and health screenings because they fly out of smaller terminals, he told Wiley.

London-based Private Fly is another private jet company seeing a spike in business. CEO Adam Twiddel told Wiley that his company had seen an increase in requests for short-notice charters, ranging from the transport of medical teams to new clients wishing to avoid virus exposure that a commercial flight might bring.

“Recent inquiries have included transport of a decontamination team within Asia, and flights from Hong Kong for a family travelling to Bali. They normally fly by commercial airline but on this occasion, are concerned about exposure on the flight,” Twidell told Business Insider.

On 11th March CNN Travel reported that Swiss private jet broker Luna Jets had also seen an “impressive increase” in bookings and enquiries from passengers in recent weeks, correlating with heightened concerns surrounding COVID-19. “In February, about 15% of overall requests were related to coronavirus,” Alain Leboursier, director of sales told CNN. “That’s now doubled to 30%.”

For Southern Jet, a private jet charter company in the United States, requests and demands had increased tenfold from late February. “The demand is basically coming to us. We might get five, 10 requests a day. And the request lines are just crazy right now. We’re booking out to where we don’t have any airplanes available,” owner Jerod Davis told Slate.

“We’re seeing people that never flew private before flying private.”

Daniel Hirschhorn, from USA-based Luxury Aircraft Solutions, which brokers travel between private airlines and flyers, echoed Davis’ comments in an article published by VICE on 16th March: “In the past 24 hours [demand] has really spiked. A lot of people that don’t normally fly private but have the means to do it, and would generally hop on a commercial flight, are very apprehensive to do that. So we’re getting flooded with requests,” he said.

However Hirschhorn also said that cancellations had also spiked for the company: “For people that booked non-essential trips with family, or took elective work trips, pretty much everything we had on the books has cancelled,” Hirschhorn said. “We’re negotiating on their behalf to get as much money back as possible. So we have both ends of this. It’s good for business and it’s bad for business.”

Crabbe agreed: “Even now, while we’re seeing short-term additional demand, other clients are changing or cancelling their travel plans,” he told Business Insider.

What it’s Like Inside Air Canada’s New Vancouver Signature Suite

Air Canada Signature Suite Vancouver
Air Canada Signature Suite Vancouver

Air Canada’s Signature Suite concept arrives at Vancouver International Airport, offering a full-service restaurant with an à la carte menu by acclaimed Vancouver Chef David Hawksworth

Not everyone wants to sit down to their dinner at 1am, on a 15-hour flight across the Pacific – this I can attest to, having just made said flight from Vancouver to Sydney. In an ideal world, you would be able to enjoy an à la carte restaurant meal and a glass of wine at a time that suited you, prior to your flight’s departure, rather than eating according to the airline’s schedule. That’s the thinking behind Air Canada’s Signature Suites, located in Toronto International Airport, and now, at Vancouver International Airport.

“It’s meant to be a facility for ultra-premium customers to be able to dine on the ground,” says Andrew Yiu, Vice President, Product at Air Canada at the launch of the Signature Suite in Vancouver on Saturday 14th March. “We have a lot of late night departures… and when you have a great product on board, a good lie-flat seat, customers want to get on and they want to go to sleep right away, but they don’t want to miss out on the meal. So you look at a traditional lounge product: yes you have food, but they’re not as elaborate, and as upscale as what we have on board the aircraft.”

This is where the Signature Suite fine dining offering comes in.

The Signature Suite is accessible by eligible Signature Class customers and features a complimentary, full-service restaurant offering an à la carte menu created by acclaimed Vancouver chef David Hawksworth, whose lauded establishment, Hawksworth Restaurant, is located in the historic and iconic Rosewood Hotel Georgia. The menu will change four times a year with the seasons, in keeping with chef Hawksworth’s culinary style.

In addition to the full menu, the Signature Suite offers a selection of upscale buffet options for those who don’t have time for a full dinner, a quiet sitting area, a private dining room and concierge service. From the full-service bar, guests can take their pick of top-shelf wines, various cocktails and even Moët & Chandon champagne (including the rosé variety, which is hard to come by in Canada).

But there’s a catch: just because you’re travelling Business Class, doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in for the Signature Suite. “When it comes to eligibility, we’re actually pretty strict,” explains Yiu. Those travelling on upgraded and point-redemption tickets will have to settle for the Maple Leaf Lounge for the pre-flight comforts, keeping the Signature Suite as an exclusive, VIP offering for customers that have purchased a Business Class international ticket to Asia, Europe or Australia.

Located in Air Canada’s international departure area at YVR above the International Maple Leaf Lounge and with direct views of the tarmac, the 408 square-metre space can accommodate seating for up to 105 premium customers. Designed by Heekyung Duquette and Eric Majer, arrival at the Suite sets the tone for what waits at the top of the staircase, with customers greeted by concierges stationed at bronze podiums, ready to store guests’ luggage.

Art by Canadian artists that nods to the Pacific Coast landscape adorns the space, a cloudscape chandelier by acclaimed Toronto design firm Moss & Lam cascades down the stairwell and the bar is made from Telupana Blue stone, quarried on Vancouver Island. Molton Brown is the skincare brand of choice in the bathrooms – a worthy one, in my humble opinion.

First introduced in 2017 in Toronto International Airport, the Signature Suite was, as Yiu says, conceived as a way to provide a more convenient premium dining option for its high flyers, but also as a way to cut through in the ultra-competitive premium airline experience that already includes top-notch in-flight entertainment, lie-flat seats and priority boarding. “Every carrier has that,” Yiu says, “so how do you make yourself stand out?” The airline has indeed succeeded in standing out, it would seem, having picked up Skytrax’s Best Business Class Lounge Dining Award last year for the Toronto Signature Suite, not to mention Best Airline in North America for the third straight year.

In the last three years, Air Canada has also introduced a series of new destinations to its route network including Zurich, Paris, Brisbane and Melbourne. “As we saw the growth, this [Signature Suite] concept made more and more sense,” Yiu says.

Air Canada’s Signature Suite is open now at Vancouver International Airport. Take a virtual tour here.



Voting is Open for the 2020 Gold List

Luxury travel photo

Luxury Travel Magazine is pleased to announce voting is now open for the 16th annual Gold List awards

The Gold List awards celebrates the best in luxury travel in Australia and around the globe, as voted by our readers. With voting now open, this is your opportunity to have your say and nominate the best five-stars resorts and hotels, luxury rail journeys, ocean cruises and high-end tour operators.


How to Vote

  • Start your voting process by clicking on the link below and remember to include the location of the property you nominate for your vote to count (eg. ‘Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour’, not just ‘Sofitel’).
  • Please note that to be eligible to go in the draw to win one of three prizes below, you must fill out at least one category in the questionnaire, as well as Question 30, then continue to enter your name and email for the Prize Draw.
  • Voting closes 5pm, Friday 3rd April 2020. Winners will be announced Thursday 28th May 2019online and in the winter issue of Luxury Travel Magazine.

This Flight From Melbourne Could see you Ringing in the New Year in Antarctica

Antartica Flights
Antartica Flights

The unique New Year’s Eve Antarctica Flight from Melbourne still has limited seats available from $1,199 per person

Those looking for a memorable way to welcome the new decade this New Year’s Eve should look no further than Antarctica Flights. Departing from Melbourne mid-afternoon, the return chartered Qantas flight positions guests over the icy continent right in time to ring in the New Year. Passengers will bear witness to glaciers, icebergs and lunar landscapes as the sound of a four-piece jazz band plays live in the cabin. 

And with up to 19 weather dependent routes with up to four hours viewing time over the ice, no two flights are the same. Paired with Qantas’ full international flight service, commentary from the cockpit and Antarctica experts hosting the flight, the plane descends to as low as 10,000 ft and swoops in figure-8 patterns to maximise viewing opportunities of research bases, mountainous peaks and colossal icebergs below.

Better yet, no passport or luggage are required. You can even go in your board shorts, if that’s your thing.

Limited seats also available on the 16 February 2020 flight from Melbourne.


Aman Takes to the Skies With Private Jet Debut

Aman Private Jet Exterior
Aman Private Jet Exterior

The new private jet is available for charter to elevate existing multi-destination Aman journeys, to create bespoke itineraries incorporating several Aman destinations around the world or for use between non-Aman destinations

Aman Resorts is the latest hotel group to take to the skies, with the recent launch of the Aman Private Jet – an airborne extension of the Aman resort philosophy.

One of the world’s most luxurious and spacious personal aircrafts, Aman’s new Bombardier Global 5000 seats a maximum of 12 passengers and promises one of the smoothest rides in the private skies, reaching top speeds of 923 kilometres per hour. Available for charter to elevate existing multi-destination Aman journeys, to create bespoke itineraries incorporating several Aman destinations around the world or for use between non-Aman destinations, journeys can be tailored to the needs of its guests.

As you would expect of a private jet charter, each booking is fully customisable and every itinerary flexible, with an Aman Jet Concierge on-hand to plan every detail of the guests’ travels. Guests can choose their in-flight meals ahead of their journey and have access to their luggage throughout their flight as well as constant, high-speed WiFi connectivity. Other unique Aman touches include a tea ceremony and amenities from the brand’s all-natural range of Aman Skincare products.

To celebrate the launch of the jet, Aman has curated four new journeys incorporating multiple Aman properties, that explore some of the world’s most beguiling destinations.

Bali & Beyond offers passengers the chance to build a bespoke Indonesian itinerary encompassing up to five Aman destinations. These include Aman’s trio of Balinese retreats – Amandari, Amankila and the Aman Villas at Nusa Dua – as well as Amanjiwo overlooking Borobudur in Central Java’s spiritual heartland. Unique tented camp Amanwana, on the island of Moyo in the Flores Sea, is also included, offering an unparalleled opportunity to experience the cultural, spiritual and natural diversity of the world’s largest archipelago.

From the rural peace of Hangzhou’s West Lake and the thousand-year old history of Lijiang to the 21st century dynamism of Shanghai, The Secrets of China journey combines stays at Amanfayun, Amandayan and Amanyangyun to create a personalised private jet tour of the country’s hidden wonders – both ancient and modern.

Indochina Past & Present takes in the ancient culture and scenery of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam with Amantaka, Amansara and Amanoi worthy places to rest your head in between flying.

From the Himalayas to the Sea combines a Bhutanese spiritual escape with a Phuket beach break, incorporating a minimum seven-night journey through Amankora’s five lodges and a three night stay at Amanpuri in a consecutive journey. Guests can enjoy traditional Bhutanese blessings and culture, followed by secluded beach views.

As well as all flights, private transfers and accommodation at Aman properties, each of these journeys includes private tours of key cultural sites plus a host of exclusive privileges at each resort. These range from personalised spa treatments and traditional blessing ceremonies, to unique culinary and cultural experiences.


The Non-Stop New York to Sydney Flight Could be Closer Than you Think

Qantas crew arriving in Sydney
Qantas crew arriving in Sydney

 The proposed New York to Sydney non-stop flight will take around 19-and-a-half hours, shaving almost three hours off the current New York-LA-Sydney route

Flying to direct to The Big Apple could be closer than you think, with the world’s first New York to Sydney non-stop commercial flight having taken place last week. The Qantas flight, which took 19 hours and 16 minutes, is one of three ultra long-haul research flights the Australian airline announced in August would take place this year as part of Project Sunrise – a goal to operate regular, non-stop commercial flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York. The direct flight will shave nearly three hours off the existing New York to Sydney via Los Angeles flight.

“Flying non-stop from the East Coast of Australia to London and New York is truly the final frontier in aviation, so we’re determined to do all the groundwork to get this right,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce in August on announcing the research flights.

A total of 49 passengers and crew were on the New York to Sydney flight, with a series of experiments assessing inflight passenger and crew health and wellbeing taking place throughout the journey. Tests ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness, through to exercise classes for passengers. Cabin lighting and in-flight meals were also adjusted in ways that are expected to help reduce jetlag, according to the medical researchers and scientists who have partnered with Qantas. While night flights usually start with dinner before it’s ‘lights out’, for the New York to Qantas flight the passengers were served lunch and the cabin lights were kept on for the first six hours, to match the time of day at the destination.

The findings from the research flight will be used help shape the cabin design, inflight service and crew roster patterns for Qantas’ ultra long haul flights in the future.

The direct flight marks a significant milestone for commercial aviation, wihch wasn’t lost on aviation staff in both New York and Sydney, according to Qantas Captain Sean Golding, who led the four pilots operating the service. “We had a lot of interest from air traffic controllers as we crossed through different airspace because of the uniqueness of this flight. We also had a special sign off and welcome home from the control towers in New York and Sydney, which you don’t get every day.

“Overall, we’re really happy with how the flight went and it’s great have some of the data we need to help assess turning this into a regular service,” Golding added.

Two more research flights are planned as part of the Project Sunrise evaluations – London to Sydney in November and another New York to Sydney in December, with emissions from all research flights to be fully offset. When the airline conducts its research flight from London to Sydney, it will be only the second time a commercial airline has done so.

A decision on Project Sunrise is expected by the end of the year.

Fast Facts

  • QF 7879 non-stop flight from New York to Sydney will take around 19-and-a-half hours subject to wind and weather conditions on the day. This compares to a travel time of 22 hours and 20 minutes on the current New York to Sydney via Los Angeles flight.
  • Distance between New York and Sydney is 16,200 kilometres.
  • The flight will be operated by a brand new Boeing 787-9, registration VH ZNI, named “Kookaburra”
  • Months of flight planning have gone in to determining the optimum flight path, including running daily plans to establish wind and weather patterns
  • Four pilots will be on rotation throughout the flight. Two additional pilots will be in the cabin, having flown the aircraft to New York.
  • Nearly half of the aircraft weight on take-off is fuel. The other is aircraft, passengers and bags.
  • Flight will travel at 85% the speed of sound which is around 930 kilometres an hour.
  • Cruising altitude will start at 36,000 feet for the first few hours and then as the aircraft weight reduces with fuel burn, the cruising altitude will increase to 40,000 feet.
  • Pantry galley weight will be 1,500kg’s (food, trolleys etc.)
  • Findings on crew wellbeing will be shared with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority to help inform regulatory requirements associated with ultra-long-haul flights over 20 hours.

Affordable Private Jet Platform Lands in Australia


InstaJetz works with an approved network of premium aircraft operators and allows customers to compare available empty leg flights and choose the most cost-effective solutions for their trip

Private jet travel may no longer be out of reach for most of us, with the launch of InstaJetz, a new private jet and helicopter booking platform. On a mission to make luxury jet-setting more affordable and accessible for Australians, the Australian travel company offers flights to any city across the country, all of which can be instantly arranged through the InstaJetz platform. The service takes advantage of empty leg flights – the return portion of a one-way private charter flight, where the aircraft needs to reposition itself for its next customer, or to return to its home base – and operators are often happy to offer lower prices to fill the otherwise empty aircraft (and recoup costs).

InstaJetz works with an approved network of premium aircraft operators and allows customers to compare available empty leg flights and choose the most cost-effective solutions for their trip. Within a few clicks, customers can request when and where they want to fly, receive their quote, confirm and take off. Just to add to the exclusive experience, the InstaJetz team is available 24/7 to assist with anything passengers might need.


What to Expect From Qantas’ Upgraded A380s

Qantas A380 First
Qantas A380 First

The reconfigured A380 features a dedicated Premium Economy cabin with more seats, new Business Class seats and a redesigned, luxurious upper deck lounge

The first of Qantas’ upgraded A380s has completed its inaugural flight, delivering a new level of comfort for customers travelling on the national carrier’s largest aircraft.

The multimillion-dollar upgrade of 12 aircrafts includes new seating across expanded Business and Premium Economy cabins and a refresh of the aircraft’s First and Economy seating. The on-board lounge has also been redesigned. The upgrade comes at the same time as Singapore Air’s roll-out of their upgraded A380 aircrafts, which began last year.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the mid-life upgrade of the A380 would ensure its status as one of the most popular aircrafts with customers. “The A380 is a crucial part of our long-haul fleet and this upgrade program will see customers enjoy everything the aircraft has to offer for years to come,” he said, adding the upgrade would benefit customers in every cabin. “Australians are used to flying long haul and we know it’s important to make the journey comfortable.”

“By the end of this upgrade, we’ll have next-generation seating across our entire long-haul fleet of A380s, A330s and 787s,” said Joyce.

Designed by David Caon, the refitted Qantas cabins see a smarter use of space, with an all-premium-class upper deck (comprising Business and Premium Economy). “Working with Airbus, we’ve been able to use the cabin space more efficiently and improve the economics of the aircraft while also providing a better experience in every part of the aircraft,” Joyce said.

Qantas’ new A380 also features a larger, dedicated Premium Economy cabin including a self-service bar, with 25 additional Premium Economy seats installed, in response to increased demand for premium seating on long-haul routes. The Premium Economy capacity now reaches 60, shaving 30 seats off the Economy cabin.

The Qantas Business Suite, dubbed “mini First” by the airline’s frequent flyers, replaces the previous Skybeds, in a 1:2:1 configuration that now gives aisle access and greater privacy to every Business Class passenger. The total number of Business Suites has also increased by six to 70.

The expanded on-board upper deck lounge, now with seating for up to 10 Business and First passengers, showcases deep green leather couches and wood panelled walls. Passengers can order from a custom-designed menu of snacks and light meals created by Qantas chef Neil Perry and his Rockpool team – such as dry laska goreng with fishcakes and seared prawns and mushroom arancini in a tomato ragu – to be enjoyed in the upper deck lounge. The lounge also features a new self service bar where passengers can order signature cocktails including an Australian Negroni with mountain pepper and river mint as well as the Qantas signature gin and tonic with pink grapefruit.

As for ‘big’ First, the 14 First Class Suites have been upgraded and now offer contoured cushioning, seat finishes and a larger, higher resolution entertainment screen. First guests can also expect a redesigned Martin Grant ‘sleeper suit’, introduced from November, along with new amenity kits including socks made from bamboo cotton and skincare from Australian brand, LaGaia Unedited. The range incorporates a Qantas-signature Australian native scent of lemon myrtle and geranium in a refreshing facial mist, accompanied by a moisturiser and lip balm. From late November, LaGaia Unedited will also move into Qantas’ Sydney and Melbourne First Lounge spa facilities.

The Economy cabin, while not receiving contoured seats or pyjama sets, has a new colour palette and improved inflight entertainment.

With each aircraft taking approximately eight weeks to upgrade, two further A380 aircrafts are expected to undergo refurbishment before the end of 2019, with the remaining nine to be completed by the end of 2020.