Airlines are giving first and business class seats a major upgrade

With news earlier this year that aircraft manufacturer Airbus will cease manufacturing its A380 superjumbo jet, a number of commercial airlines have taken to updating their existing fleets to squeeze a little more out of the aircraft's lifespan, or make upgrades to other aircraft in their fleet to eventually transition the load.

This has resulted in considerable makeovers to premium cabins in a bid to improve each airline's salvo in the war for your business class travel dollars.

Across the board, the upgrades to First and Business cabins offer improved privacy and flexibility, more space and fewer interruptions from fellow passengers; along with redesigned amenities and other tasty treats.

Australian passengers can now enjoy upgraded premium cabins from Singapore Airlines and Qantas, with upgraded cabins expected on Cathay Pacific flights in the next 12 to 24 months.

Luxury of the in-flight lounge

Announced in 2017, Singapore Airlines recently took delivery of five new A380 aircraft; retiring five existing A380s at the same time. The new aircraft feature 78 Business class seats and six First class suites, with the former split across both aircraft decks.

Flyers in First can choose between lounging in either their flat bed or the Poltrona Frau leather seat beside it as they plough through season two of Fleabag on the suite's new 32-inch HD TV screen. If you know your neighbour, you can also 'push the beds together' to create a double-sized suite worthy of Kanye West.

Business Class travellers can also enjoy a 'double bed' when seated in the two middle seats of the new 82-seat, 1-2-1 configuration. The new flat-bed seats feature a large, moveable privacy wall between the middle seats, ample storage space under the ottoman (there are only overhead bins on the sides) and smart new bed linen.

The new A380s will service routes to Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Sydney and Zurich, with new services to Tokyo Narita and Paris to be introduced in 2020. The airline will refurbish its remaining A380s throughout 2020.

A revamped Aussie icon

Refits for the flying kangaroo's A380 fleet give First and Business class travellers more space and fewer hurdles (no more leaping from your window seat over someone on the isle), bringing the superjumbo's pointy end experience in line with the airline's 787 Dreamliner fleet.


Travellers will find 60 Business Class Suites that replace the previous Skybed design; with greater seclusion to be found in the 'cacoon' design despite it boasting an 80-inch long, 24-inch wide reclining bed.

First class passengers get 14 new contoured seats, with bedwear designed by Melbourne-bred designer Martin Grant. Refreshed amenity kits from LaGaia Unedited feature products infused with the airline's signature scent of lemon myrtle and geranium. It's the little touches, right?

The on-board lounge has also been redesigned and now seats up to 10 First and Business passengers. You can enjoy all this on current Qantas A380 routes between Hong Kong, Dallas/Fort Worth, London Heathrow, Singapore and Los Angeles.

With Qantas recently announcing the phase out of all A380 aircraft over the next decade, these refitted aircraft will likely be the last of this line to receive such attention. If you have a penchant for sipping Duval-Leroy Brut champagne in the on-board lounge while regaling fellow travellers with tales of your summers in Rangoon, you'd best enjoy the Qantas A380 while you can.

The cornerstone of Asia

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific is poised to introduce new premium cabins in two of its workhorse fleets; the Airbus A321neo and Boeing 777-9 – the successor to the Dreamliner - rolling out updated Business and First cabins in the next 12 to 24 months.

Yet to be unveiled, the new aircraft will operate across short and long-haul legs, covering 56 destinations for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon. The new aircraft present an opportunity for the airline to work from scratch with manufacturers, seat designers and entertainment technology providers to design interiors that maximise space, comfort and services.

The airline has also recently completed rollout of a new Business class menu concept, now available to long-haul passengers. Guests can choose from an a la carte menu with up to three appetisers and up to six main course options, plus the option of smaller 'supper' plates.

Food for thought

The redesigned menu is focussed on offering lighter and healthier meal options and gives premium cabin travellers greater flexibility to eat at more appropriate times in their schedule. Whether you're waking up or closing your laptop; simply pick up a menu and order your heart's desire.

This redesign includes a new 'hotel room service' breakfast, where passengers tick meal options on a menu card and indicate a service time, which allows crew to serve meals closer to arrival and give travellers more time counting sheep.

First Class passengers have access to even greater options, covering a veritable stratosphere of fusion meal choices, and, of course, Devonshire tea of an afternoon.