Qantas has revealed a detailed spec of its forthcoming A380 aircraft, which will include wifi internet access, a private upper-deck lounge for business class passengers, and the introduction of a new premium economy cabin.

The Australian carrier will fit 450 passengers on board its fleet of 20 superjumbos, delivery of which is due to start in August 2008. This compares favourably with the 480-passenger layout announced by Singapore Airlines on the same aircraft, 538 by Air France, and between 490 and 644 by Emirates (see online news June 14). The four-class Qantas offering will be configured with 14 in first class, 72 in business, 32 in premium economy, and 332 in economy.

Private suites in first class are situated on the main deck, and are the result of five years of research, with seats transforming into a 21.5 inch-wide armchair, and a fully flat bed measuring six-foot eleven inches in length and 29 inches in width. The suites will also feature a 17-inch in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen, “an array of personal stowage options” and a touch screen control unit. There will also be a guest seat and large dining table (22 x 27 inches) designed for two people, electronically controlled dual layer window shades, mood lighting, and designer amenities and crockery by Payot Paris and Alessi and Visy.

In business class the carrier has evolved its Skybed fully flat offering, creating a larger bed (six-foot eight inches in length and 23.5 in width), enhanced cushioning, a larger in-arm IFE screen (12.1 inches), and additional storage options, along with an electronically deployed privacy dividerand amenities by Ultraceuticals. The cabin will be located on the upper deck, with seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, and passengers will be able to relax in a dedicated lounge area, complete with leather sofa, self-service refreshment bar, and a large screen with laptop connections for presentations.

Seats in the new premium economy cabin (which will also be rolled out from early next year on the carrier’s 747-400 aircraft), will feature “a sliding base that moves with the seats back to create a more comfortable, ergonomically correct position to aid sleep and eliminate pressure points”. Manufactured by Recaro (responsible for seats in top-end car brands such as Aston Martin, Audi and Porsche), the seats will feature a 42-inch pitch, 19.5-inch width, and nine-inch recline, and include a “foot net” to stop sliding during sleep, increased knee and shin room between seats, and a 10.6-inch IFE screen. Configuration will be 2-3-2 in the premium economy cabin (located behind business on the upper deck) and passengers will have access to a self-service bar area.

Even economy gets an overhaul, with a “single beam seat design offering increased shin and knee clearance”, and a carbon fibre back shell with 10.6-inch IFE screen. Seat pitch is 31 inches, with six inches of recline and up to 18.5 inches of width. The economy cabin is located on the main deck, with seats in a 3-4-3 configuration.

The IFE features audiovisual on demand (AVOD), with over 100 movies, 500 audio CDs, 30 games, and a selection of audio books and radio channels. There are Lonely Planet destination and arrival guides available from the IFE in all classes, as well as online duty free shopping, moving maps and text news. And big news for business travellers – there will be wifi internet access throughout all cabins (although the provider and cost has yet to be confirmed), as well as USB and RJ45 ports (for wired internet access), and PC power sockets.

Qantas is the first carrier to announce such detailed specifications of its A380 cabins, and it coincides with the airline’s redesign (or to be honest, slight tweaking) of its famous kangaroo logo. It has also announced new business class lounges at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane for next year (click here for a roundup of recent executive lounge openings).

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