What will the economy look like on Qantas 20-hour flights

Editor’s Note – monthly ticket is a CNN Travel series that highlights some of the most fascinating topics in the world of travel. In June, we’ll take to the skies to take a look at the latest developments in airplane interiors, including the people working to change the way we fly.

(CNN) — The longest flight in the world: nonstop, 20 hours, as you lean back in your wide armchair and decide if you want to relax with the best champagne, enjoy a chef-prepared meal with a travel companion seated in front of you, or order the crew make your bed sumptuously soft with clean sheets.

That’s what’s on offer for the six first-class passengers aboard Qantas’ Project Sunrise direct flights to Sydney from London and New York from three years old, and they can expect to pay the better part of five figures for it. .

What about the 140 economy class passengers who will be in the back of the 12 Airbus A350-1000s that the airline has ordered to work on the service?

Qantas isn’t saying. “We don’t have any updates at the moment, but we look forward to keeping you updated and will share more when we do,” a spokesperson said.

We do know, however, that Qantas is already planning a Wellness Zone, which appears to be an area around one of the kitchen’s kitchens where you can stretch, maybe do some yoga poses, and possibly stay for a while.

And, of course, Qantas will work hard to have a great selection of movies and TV shows for you to enjoy on big new screens for in-flight entertainment, as well as food and beverage designed especially for your well-being on longer flights.

But it is likely to be.

Ian Petchenik, host of the aviation podcast AvTalk, told CNN that “while much attention has been paid to Qantas first class for Project Sunrise, I think the real differentiator for passengers in the back of the aircraft will be the smooth products.

“You can only upgrade economy seats from nine to two, so finding ways to make a 20-hour flight on one of those seats palatable will come down to what else Qantas can offer these passengers.”

I’m an aviation journalist with more than a decade of depth with all kinds of people across airlines, plane manufacturers, designers and seat manufacturers to find out how every inch of the plane is used. And since Qantas isn’t talking, here are my professional deductions on what’s likely to be offered on board.

First of all, there’s not much likelihood of anything truly revolutionary. The three years to 2025 isn’t a long time in aviation, especially when it comes to seats. Unless Qantas is planning some sort of big bunk reveal – which would require a huge amount of safety certification work – it seems pretty certain that economy class passengers will only be in regular seats.

knees and shins

The A350 is one of the most comfortable economy class options.


Going back to first principles, comfort levels in economy class seats are primarily based on the style, slope and width of the seat.

In terms of seating style, you can expect Qantas to pick up the best economy class seats on the market from top design and engineering companies like Recaro or Collins Aerospace.

These are called full seats, with comfortable engineered seat foams covered in special fabrics, a substantial amount of recline, a substantial headrest, under-seat footrest and, in the case of Qantas, a small net for the feet.

Over the past few years, designers and engineers have worked hard on the backs and bases of airplane seats to make enough room for the person sitting in the back — particularly for the knees and shins.

They figured out how to make the chair’s padded bottom, known as the seat, pivot when reclined, changing the pressure points on the occupant’s body as he leans back.

Qantas’ Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, launched in 2016, used a custom version of the CL3710 seat from German manufacturer Recaro.

The CL3710 dates back to 2013, and Recaro has been making updates every year, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they were working on a special version for Qantas.

There might even be a new seat – from Recaro or someone else’s – with even more comfort. This could be ready for Qantas to start flying in late 2025.

Extra leg room

In 2019, Qantas conducted experimental research flights testing the London-Sydney stretch. CNN’s Richard Quest reports from the flight deck of one such long-haul flight.

The second comfort factor is pitch, which measures the point on a seat to the point on the same seat immediately in front of it, so it’s not total legroom because it includes an inch or two of backrest structure.

Qantas has promised that its economy class seats on board will offer 33 inches (84 centimeters) of tilt.

That’s an inch more than the 2016 Dreamliner seats, and by 2025, I expect seat engineering has reduced the seat frame by as much as an inch to provide more knee room.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Qantas also offered extra legroom sections, which can extend to 35 or 36 inches, along the lines of United’s Economy Plus or Delta’s Comfort Plus – not premium economy, but seats only. normal economy with more legroom.

And the width?

There’s great or terrible news ahead for passengers, depending on how many seats Qantas places in each row of the A350.

The large twin-aisle aircraft can accommodate nine seats per row, which has been the standard offered by full-service airlines such as Qantas, Delta and Singapore Airlines, or 10 seats per row, which has been widely onboard for ultra-low cost. . and leisure carriers such as France’s Air Caraïbes and French Bee.

In width, the A350 is one of the most comfortable economy class options in the air, with nine inches wide and seats over 18 inches wide. At 10 wide, it’s one of the least comfortable, with seats that barely scrape 17 inches and super-narrow aisles too.

You can imagine – and the cut published by Qantas certainly shows – that a full-service airline like Australia’s flag carrier would naturally opt for the nine-dimensional configuration.

But Airbus has been working out a silent plan to create an inch or two of extra space by shrinking the cabin’s side walls. This has prompted some full-service airlines, including Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, to plan to install 10 seats on some future A350s.

No scales vs. scales

exercise more

An experimental flight from London to Sydney in 2019 saw passengers taking fitness classes.

James D Morgan/Qantas

Qantas says it plans to install 140 economy class seats on its A350. That would be 14 rows of 10, but that number doesn’t divide neatly into nine, even if you try to add a few extra seats to the sides or in the middle.

It would still be surprising to see Qantas do this, especially for these super long flights. But the airline has installed seats almost as narrow in its Dreamliner seats that they fly nonstop London-Perth for about the same amount of time, so watch this space for details.

At the end of the day, every inch counts when it comes to economy class comfort. Many passengers – myself included – shudder at the idea of ​​a 20+ hour flight, even in business class.

I did something nearly as long in business class, on Singapore Airlines nonstop from Newark to Singapore about 10 years ago, but it wasn’t much fun, even with the ability to go from movie to sleep and back.

Whenever we end up talking about it, people always bring up the other option, a halfway ride from New York to Sydney in Los Angeles or San Francisco, or any of the dozens of top-tier airports in Asia between Sydney and London. .

But people have always shuddered at spending more time in a seat: first at the idea of ​​a one-hop Kangaroo Route flight, then at the idea of ​​a flight lasting 12, 14 or 16 hours.

Before the pandemic, there were dozens of flights longer than that, with regular economy class seats in the back, and people seemed willing to sit on them.

The question is how much difference that extra three or four hours on the London-Perth Qantas 787 Dreamliner flight will make for passengers – and, crucially, their perceptions.

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