Qantas has finally unveiled prototypes of the First and Business cabins on the aircraft
that will fly passengers non-stop from Australia to New York and London from late 2025 along with a detailed virtual reality fly-through render of the aircraft cabins. This comes shortly after news of a new First Class lounge that will open in London Heathrow, showcasing the carrier’s commitment to the premium experience on what will be one of the most talked about flight experiences for many years to come.

Usually the world’s longest flights would fill most fliers with some sense of trepidation, however Qantas’s latest renders mean that passengers are in for a more comfortable ride than they might have thought. While currently Qantas has only announced details of the business and first class cabin designs, premium and economy are being developed as well and will be announced in a few months’ time.

Designed with ultra-long haul travel in mind, the flagship cabins are the first to be developed from the ground up by a mix of aviation specialists, as well as Australian industrial design studio Caon Design – a stalwart of the Qantas design palette. To help perfect the product for this incredibly challenging ultra-long haul proposition, a multidisciplinary team of scientists from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre including sleep scientists were drafted too.

Of the 238 seats onboard, 6 will be First Class suites in a 1 x 1 x 1 configuration. The spacious First suite “has a range of features to make customers feel like they are in a mini boutique hotel
room” complete with an extra-wide fixed bed, separate recliner chair, no less than 6 storage areas including a personal wardrobe, dining table for two and a 32” ultra-high definition TV.

There’s something effortless about the design, a trademark of Caon, who looks to create modern clean simplicity in his work. Simplistic lines, clever use of natural materials and a simplified curved form to elements such as the tray table, wardrobe and chair edges create a robust yet calming interior.

Unlike the A380 First, there’s less of a conviviality approach where suites were more open to other passengers. These are more akin to the game-changer Emirates suites, with private suites across the cabin, albeit not with floor to ceiling walls, however the addition of separate bed and seat areas creates a much larger sense of space.

What does seem missing however, is the addition of small service area elements such a cocktail table, so boarding drinks can be served without the removal of a large dining table from the door area, however, perhaps we’ll see a development of the service style with a tray being delivered and placed on the bed area. If that’s the case, the design language is all about residential, changing the service to match how we operate and live in our own homes.

One design element we like is the adjustable bed backrest, which comes out to give an angled surface for watching TV in bed, and the fact the armrest goes down to create a larger bed area is a lovely design touch. However, interestingly the charging points seem to be placed between the bed and the seat, making for a difficult place to place your items when transitioning from sleep to sitting. There is a wireless charging surface within the First class suite in the bench beside the seat.

In business class, the design language continues, with the most iconic of design touches the sweeping back panel that changes the ‘row of boxes’ design that these seats could have felt like without it. The result is a calming effortless cabin that will no doubt be brought to life with a range of lighting options throughout the flight.

Every Business suite will have direct aisle access for ease of moving around the cabin, and Qantas is incorporating sliding doors into the suite for privacy, if desired. “Other Business features include a two metre flat bed, generous storage (including a large mirror), cushioned
leather ottoman, 18” ultra-high definition touch screen TV, large dining table and feature lighting,” states the press release.

The most interesting element of this is the 2 metre bed, meaning the seats have a larger seat pitch than the Thompson Vantage XL standard product. which will increase the sense of space in each suite. What’s clear is that this seat has evolved from a decade of similar products, increasing what is actually required by passengers: more storage and surface space.

The seat has also managed to fix an age-old problem of where vanity unit door and surface space fight for functionality during a flight. (The many times I’ve had a drink on the side, but needed to open the vanity unit to get out my phone, passport or whatever and not been able to because the glass on the table has been a user experience bug bear of mine for a long time – and had previously accepted it as a fait de complis of LOPA).

The Qantas A350 will offer fast and free high-speed Wi-Fi with partner Viasat following completion of key satellite launches covering the Qantas international network. The aircraft will also feature Bluetooth connectivity allowing all customers to connect their own Bluetooth-enabled headset to the in-flight entertainment system.

It’s hard to tell from the renders, but it looks like the airline has decided to maximise on crew storage, rather than offer a ‘Business Plus’ seat in these cabins, a smart move as well, as the aircraft already has four cabin classes, and such a front-row business class product might cannibalise First Class revenues.

Australian designer David Caon said every possible opportunity has been seized upon to promote wellbeing and comfort in the First and Business suites. “We began designing this aircraft cabin five years ago, working with Airbus and Qantas to maximise space, as well as creating a tailored lighting program that will influence mood and sleep patterns. All the design and service elements will work together to significantly improve inflight comfort, convenience and health and wellbeing and help minimise the old nemesis of jetlag.”

The A350 will also feature a Wellbeing Zone for all passengers, which will be unveiled alongside the Premium Economy and Economy cabins in the coming months.

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Posted by:Jonny Clark

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