It’s the battle of the beds and it’s worth billions. At stake is the control of the lucrative transcontinental routes to and from Perth — and thus major, Australia-wide corporate travel. And the new weapon of choice is the lie-flat bed.
Virgin Australia started the bed war three years ago with its new A330s and now Qantas has struck back, rolling out a revolutionary new business suite — a first for domestic travellers.
But the white ’roo will have scant advantage, because next month Virgin Australia will roll out its latest lie-flat bed to tempt travellers.
The battle is so intense that the loyalty of well-heeled travellers — or those who just want to indulge — could be won over who has the best laptop storage space or softest pillows.
In fact, the new Qantas suite is almost an international first-class product and boasts a range of firsts for comfort, workspace, connectivity and ease of access.
However, according to Qantas head of customer strategy Phil Capps, it may be storage that wins the day over the competition.
“There are four separate storage zones, plenty of room for a laptop bag or small wheelie bag, an area for shoes, another for literature and another built into the privacy screen for tablets, laptops and personal effects like glasses, ” Mr Capps says.
And at 1.8m long and 63cm wide, the fully flat bed will suit almost everyone, he adds.
What will suit everyone is that, in an industry first, passengers can recline the seat 21 degrees as soon as they get on board.
After take-off, full recline can be engaged to the flat-bed setting and for landing the seat can be returned to the 21-degree recline position.
When you are using the seat in this configuration you must engage the three-point seatbelt for maximum safety.
Qantas new Business class lie flat beds. Picture: Ben Crabtree
Thousands of hours of research have gone into developing the Qantas suite.
“There has been lots of research into all competitors and we believe this is the best and we have customised it further, ” Mr Capps says.
The business-class suite has been designed in collaboration with Marc Newson and bristles with gadgetry and clever ideas.
One of the many is a mirror inside the lid to the remote control which means a last-minute touch-up before landing doesn’t require queuing for the loo.
Another is the positioning of the various power outlets and USB ports. In the suite they are located at shoulder height in the console instead of being in front of the seat near floor level where it is almost impossible to see.
You’re left asking the question, why didn’t they do this years ago?
On the entertainment front, the suites feature a large 16-inch screen and the airline has added excellent noise-cancelling headsets.
The upgraded A330s feature Qantas’ new Q Streaming technology, which can beam any of the in-flight system’s video or music content over wi-fi to your smart phone or tablet.
The entertainment selection is similar to the airline’s A380 offering.
Quite simply, it’s the ultimate office/entertainment suite in the sky.
All the airline’s 28 A330s will be reconfigured in a program that will take about 12 months.
The work is being carried out at the airline’s Brisbane maintenance base.
The suites are configured in a 1-2-1 layout — a real contrast to the current 2-2-2.
However, that means fewer seats — only 28, down from 36 in the previous domestic layout — which means loyalty upgrades will be much harder to get.
The seats are divided in the main cabin with 22 suites and then a smaller cabin just ahead of economy of six seats.
Because of the shell fixed-back design, gone will be the days of inconsiderate passengers who recline fully for the entire flight so you can’t work or eat.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told Travel last year that he believed “the product will deliver the best domestic travel experience anywhere in the world”.
He was right.
© The West Australian
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