Onboard the Qantas A380 vs the Emirates A380

As I mentioned in my last post, the Qantas A380 came through LAX yesterday on its first scheduled flightA380 Turns In to Position between Australia and the US. Regular readers know that I spent time on the Emirates A380 in August, so now it’s time for a battle royale. Let’s compare the Emirates and Qantas products.

First, a little background. While I took the flight with Emirates in August, I ended up not flying with Qantas this time. Instead, I opted for the static display where I spent about an hour checking out the product on the ground. My friend Paul was down for this flight as well, so we both had a chance to kick the tires on both flights. If you really care about the flight itself, I’ve got someone who took it working on a guest post. You can also go check out Today in the Sky where Ben Mutzabaugh has posted some of his pictures. I spoke to Ben for awhile after the flight, and it sounds like the low fly-by of San Francisco was really excellent. Hopefully I’ll have more for you on that soon. But let’s get back to the plane itself.

Economy Class
I figured I’d start in coach since that’s where most of us will end up if we fly this plane. Qantas has coach on the last 3/4 of the lower deck while Emirates has the entire lower deck filled. The seat pitch is one inch less than it is on Emirates, and you can feel it. It was already tight, but Economy Class Foot Netwhen the person in front of me reclined, it really got worse. I didn’t explore the inflight entertainment much, but it appeared to be just as good as Emirates for my purposes.

The big differentiator for Qantas (besides the insignificant fact that each of the three coach cabins had different color fabric) was the “foot net.” I’ve never seen one of these before, but it was effectively an attempt to install a footrest in coach without having it take up any space. The picture at right is a bit tough to decipher, but it’s the best I could do. This net has a hard front to it that sits against the bottom of the seat in front. When you kick it with your foot, it opens up a net that you can put your feet in to rest. With shoes on, it wasn’t very comfortable because it seemed too small. But with shoes off, I can imagine it actually being a nice way to elevate your feet a little and get some relief.

Other than that, the only other thing of note in coach was that there are four snack bars stationed throughout the airplane where they’ll have pre-packaged goodies for people to pick up whenever they’d like. The only (very big) concern for me in coach was legroom, but otherwise, it seemed like a strong product.

Premium Economy
I’ll keep this one short because Emirates doesn’t have a Premium Economy for comparison. On this plane, Qantas puts this at the very back of the upper deck in a small, intimate cabin. The seats in the emergency exit row have some incredible legroom, so definitely grab those if you can. In general, it seemed to be a decent premium economy seat, but I had problems making the legrests fit comfortably. It was too short for me, and I am not a tall person. Still, considering the tight pitch in economy, it would probably be worth upgrading for a few hundred dollars more.

Business Class
Business Class takes up the rest of the upper deck. My understanding is that it’s the same seat that Qantas uses as an angled lie-flat seat on its other Paul Lays Flataircraft, but on the A380 it goes fully flat, as you can see at left. The seat was comfortable, and it felt very private folding back into the shell. In fact, the cabin had a very different feel than on Emirates.

Emirates had very large monuments surrounding the seats – minibars and walls all over. On Qantas it was all about the seat with the individual shells. It seemed more open than on Emirates, yet for some reason it seemed a bit more private as well. It’s hard to explain, I suppose. But if you’re traveling alone, the Emirates setup is certainly superior because you can sit alone. On Qantas, you’ll have a seatmate no matter what. There were certainly merits to both.

First Class
Qantas puts First Class downstairs in the front, unlike Emirates which puts it upstairs. The Qantas suite is really nothing like the Emirates one at all. Emirates has built their seat around the idea of being completely private and separate from the rest of the world. Qantas hasn’t followed this model, and has left it somewhat open instead.

I wrote about the seat when I saw it at NBTA over the summer, but I knew I couldn’t really View from the First Class Seatdecide how it would work until I saw it on a plane. I can now say that if you sit on the sides, it still seems quite good. But if you’re in one of the seats down the middle, it doesn’t really afford enough privacy.

The reason it works on the side is because the seat is oriented to angle toward the window. So you’re kept away from other people unless you really want to see them (you can invite them over to have dinner with you). You don’t have that privacy in the middle, and it’s awkward. Laying down, the bed was very long and comfortable. I really liked the massage function, but the thing that really grabbed me (as dorky as it is) was the automatic window shade. You have two shades – one is opaque and the other allows some light to come through. You can control these from your massive remote control that seems too complicated to function properly for long in the heavy use conditions of the airline world (There are backups in case it breaks.)

The Rest
Qantas decided to put a lounge where Emirates puts one of its showers. The lounge is long and there’s a couch that stretches straight down one side with a TV on the other. Yes, it’s nice, but it’s hard to have any sort of group conversation because of the narrowness of the space. The Emirates lounge, of course, was fantastically large and had plenty of room to congregate. That being said, I have visions of additional seats where they put that lounge on Emirates whereas Qantas is actually making an efficient use of space.

Overall, both airlines offer impressive products onboard the A380, but they have different strengths. Ultimately, the only place these two products are likely to compete is on the Kangaroo Route from London to Sydney. In that case, it would be a very tough decision.

See the rest of my Qantas A380 pictures including a video in Business Class.

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