Onboard the Qantas A380 vs the Emirates A380

A380, Qantas

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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17 comments on “Onboard the Qantas A380 vs the Emirates A380

  1. CF,
    I went to gala and was there until god knows. If you dont remember, i am that pesky eleven year old. i was the olny kid there.

  2. Thanks for the post, CF. One question: how does the A380 coach product compare to that of the A340? Obviously, you’d have to estimate a bit, since I’m not talking specifically about one airline, but I’m just wondering if the A380 experience is generally identical to the A340 one for the coach passenger in terms of legroom and amenities (I’ve spent more hours on A340s this week than I care to count, so I’ve got ’em on the brain).

  3. Zach – That is a very tough comparison. The upper deck of the aircraft is probably pretty similar to an A340 just with more curvature in the walls. The bottom deck is wider, and the walls flare out so it’s not easy to lay your head down to rest. As for legroom, etc, well that completely depends on the individual airline layout.

  4. Steven – Well, it all depends upon what you mean by “economical.” If you care solely about price, then yes, it’s going to be better to avoid this plane. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for more comfort, then you’ll have to make the decision as to whether it’s worth the price or not. These are some extremely LOOOOONNNNNGG flights, so I would think that price would only be one part of the equation.

  5. Cranky,

    Flying in business class on Qantas the skybeds, are 21.5″ wide with a 60″pitch regardless of the 744 or A380. Yes, the skybeds on the 744 are angled, however I approach travel logistics from the point of view of having business flyers arrive fully refreshed and able to go to work, while also balancing cost reduction.

    Does the A380 really warrant the significant cost difference?

    Clearly between flying a United 744 vs Qantas 744 in business the Qantas 744 wins (unless the client is *A miles hog and the costs are in their favour), but for QF vs QF how much of a difference is there?

    Flyers who flew QF in business before the A380 reported being very comfortable and able to arrive rested, relaxed and ready to tackle business after stepping off the plane.

    Again,I know I am sucking all the fun out of this, but this is simply how I approach this when it comes to making suggestions to clients. As I am not a travel agent, my clients are free to completely ignore me and book the flights on the A380 to be able to say they have flown the A380 (as has happened with some SIN flights)

    Steven Frischling
    The Travel Strategist
    Web: http://www.thetravelstrategist.com
    Blog: http://www.flyingwithfish.com

  6. Steven – That’s a completely personal decision. I know some people who think an angled lie-flat is good enough while others can’t sleep in them no matter how hard they try. I have a picture of a friend (taken by another friend) who finally fell asleep and then fell halfway down the angled lie-flat. He didn’t wake up relaxed or refreshed. So, it really depends upon the person. And some people will prefer the flat product being offered on the A380.

  7. Cranky,

    I do wholeheartedly agree that some people dislike angled lay-flat seats. Personally, at 6ft 3in, I have actually found them to be just fine.

    I believe my brother found the Air France business class seats to be irritating, while I seek out Air France when available for Euro and Asia-via-Euro routes. We are roughly the same height, but our experiences with angled seats is quite different.

    I usually find my comfort spot then tighten up my seat-belt a bit, dig my feet in and slumber off. It works for me.

    So, I will fully agree that to some, depending on budget,in s shrinking economy, there may be an advantage.


  8. Cranky,

    From your picture of the QF F product it reminds me of CX’s new F class, any thoughts? Also, from first look QF’s new J looks a bit disappointing…the privacy thing (aka having a seatmate) is really a kicker, and the lack of shoulder room is something I’ve come to take from granted flying a bit on Air Canada and Cathay (herringbone) and SQ (just huge and amazing). BA doesn’t have the shoulder room, but it does have more privacy with the screen-up thing and the opaque divider. It looks like I’ll still be flying back from SYD-SIN on SQ and then to LAX from there on their all-J service, which is a great flight (done the EWR-SIN, assuming it’s the same).

  9. Are A380 fares more expensive? Qantas says “Mr Gurney said that while the Qantas’ A380 would provide customers with an all-new inflight experience, lead in fares will initially be the same as those currently offered on comparable Qantas Boeing 747 services, however the airline’s state-of-the-art new First Suite will be priced at a premium.”

  10. QRC – I actually haven’t experienced CX’s First Class, so I can’t really say. Maybe others can chime in. The new business class looks somewhat disappointing because it’s just like the angled lie-flat, but when it goes flat it’s quite nice. I do agree that if you’re alone, it’s annoying to have to have a seatmate, but if you’re traveling with someone else, it’s good.

    James – They’ve said they’d like to get a premium with the product they’ve put on the A380. Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon even said as much at the press conference yesterday. They may not start that way, but I would imagine that will change as they can gauge demand.

  11. Cranky,

    Maybe they’ll give you a free ride sometime…your knowledge, attitude and approach to the website is really well done in my opinion.

    Anyhow, the new CX F is unparalleled except for SQ R and EK. In terms of “regular” F class I don’t think you can beat CX’s product, take a quick look at their website. I can consistently conk out for 8-9 hours on CX’s new F. They do many of the small things right, like adding a bed cushion and having a much fluffier duvet and pillow than others. Always have caviar and Krug on long-hauls. The only thing they stink at is they cut a flight attendant – they used to have 3 for F class when there were 12 seats in the 747, and now there are only 2 for 9 seats in the new config with the new seat. While the ratio sounds similar (1/4, now 1/4.5), that’s really bunk because one flight attendant always has to spend a lot of time in the galley preparing dishes (so the ratio was really 2/12, and now it’s 1/9), and this slows service markedly. Anyhow this is off topic, you should go check out their website. The QF angled footrest looks similar to CX.


  13. Well each product would suit different people, it all depends on circumstances like distance and duration of flight and how much you would pay for it. But I would go for Emirates. Great staff, very polite and kind, spectacular food, comfortable seating and a really, really good entertainment system. Looking forward to flying with them again.

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