Why Qantas won't be flying first class anymore

As business class continues to evolve, airlines are rethinking the role of first class.

Wide seats which convert into fully flat beds, large video screens, copious 'personal space' around the seat and direct access to the aisle for every passenger: these traits used to be the exclusive domain of the first class cabin.

Now they're the norm for any decent business class. So where does that leave first class?

Some airline are dropping first class from their current or future fleets. Others are giving their current first class products a new lease of life thanks to a 'nip and tuck' refresh. A few airlines are bucking the trend and going all out to push the boundaries of first class even further into the realm of luxury.

Qantas has decided against installing first class on its forthcoming Boeing 787-9 which will join the red-tailed fleet in late October.

Despite the Dreamliner's non-stop 17-hour journey between Perth and London – with direct flights to other European destinations tipped to follow – the Boeing will top out at business class, although that seat will be an evolution of the current world-class 'Business Suite' of the Qantas Airbus A330s.

Uncertain futures

It's not yet known if Qantas will repeat this play on the next-gen jets due in 2022 for non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to New York and London. Some would suggest that the extended 18-20 hour nature of these ultra long-haul flights all but demand first class.

For now, Qantas is settling for a refresh of the first class suites on its Airbus A380s.

Slated to take place from June 2019 as part of a multi-million dollar makeover for the superjumbos which will also see the flagship fleet fitted with the same business class and premium economy seats as the Boeing 787.

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It's a safe and budget-friendly decision. There's essentially nothing wrong with the current first class suites, which boast a bespoke Marc Newson design.

As a result, Qantas will limit its efforts to fitting a larger high-def personal video screen and more comfortable "contoured cushioning".

The new class

On the other hand, Singapore Airlines and Emirates have opted to go all-out on the new generation of their respective first class suites.

Each airline's current suites are a decade old – they both began flying the A380 in 2007-2008 – and created the category of private cribs with sliding doors.

Early November will see both airlines pull back the curtains on their latest chi-chi cabins for the jet set.

Singapore Airlines' new first class suites will be larger than their modern counterparts, but there'll be fewer of them.

Expect to see between six and eight berths, down from 12 today, although there's speculation that the airline could also offer an oversized 1A 'apartment' suite.

First class renovations

The Singaporean flag-carrier has also has chosen to relocate first class to the upper deck, instead of the nose of the superjumbo's main deck. This will be followed by new business class seats, while the main deck will be the domain of premium economy and economy – creating a true 'Upstairs, Downstairs' ethos.

Likewise, Emirates is expected to trim the number of first class suites on its long-range Boeing 777-300ER fleet from eight down to six, and adopt a 1-1-1 layout for the luxe cribs compared to today's 1-2-1 configuration.

Those suites are expected to be larger than what Emirates flies today and take their design cues from the airline's new A380 bar, which swaps that dark palette of brown faux 'burled walnut' and brass trim for a light contemporary colour scheme of ivory and champagne, with subtle metal and woodgrain accents.

The rest of the recipe remains under lock at key, with Emirates president Sir Tim Clark teasing that the suites will draw inspiration from "a private bedroom on a luxury yacht" and "take our onboard experience to the next level."

If the ambitions of Singapore Airlines and Emirates are anything to go by, first class will continue to have pride of place at the pointy end for some time to come.

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of . His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of 51698009 readers.

Check out the gallery above to see how airlines are creating a more luxury experience for first class travellers.

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