Fancy getting a first class seat for the price of a business class ticket – and not just any first class seat, but one aboard that ‘Queen of the Skies’, the majestic Qantas Boeing 747?
Of course you do! So here’s the skinny on a favourite little ‘travel hack’ of savvy travellers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers.
First up: not all of Qantas’ Boeing 747 jets still have a first class cabin. Most have been upgraded to feature the latest Skybed II business class seats, even in the nose of the jumbo where first class used to be.
But two of its older Boeing 747s continue to fly with their original first class seats, and they’re a blast from the past.
The photos in this article were snapped on one of those ‘classic’ jumbos, which Qantas first flew in 1998 – so what you’re seeing is the way first class used to be almost 20 years ago.
Compare that to the first class suites of the Qantas Airbus A380, which arrived barely ten years later:
You’ll most often find the Boeing 747s with first class seats flying from Sydney to Tokyo and Johannesburg, but from time to time they pop up en route to Santiago, Hong Kong and even Los Angeles.
However, Qantas doesn’t sell first class tickets on these aircraft – only on its flagship Airbus A380s – so the jumbos’ first class seats are assigned to business class passengers.
You’ll still get the same meals, wine and service as everyone in business class, so why the fuss about being in ‘first class’?
1. These old first class seats convert into fully-flat beds, while the first generation of business class Skybeds you’ll find on the same aircraft are angled flat beds or ‘sloping sleepers’ – so you’ll get a much better night’s sleep being at the pointy end of the plane
2. And you’re quite literally at that pointy end: notice how the cabin tapers in at the front, capped by a coat closet? That’s the very front the jumbo jet, and you have to admit that’s pretty cool!
So how do you go about snaring one of these seats?
This is one of those times it really pays off to select your seat well ahead of your flight.
If you’re jetting off in business class on a Qantas Boeing 747, load up your reservation through the ‘manage my booking’ area of the Qantas website, and proceed to select your seats.
Pay particular attention to row 1 – if the only seats shown in that first row are 1A and 1K, then you’re flying on one of the older Boeing 747s sporting these prized perches.
(If the first row shows paired seats side-by-side, such as 1A next to 1B and 1J next to 1K, you’re booked on one of the reconfigured jumbos.)
Selecting your first class seat
There are 14 first class seats up front, divided into four rows.
The first three rows tend to be held for top-tier Qantas Frequent Flyers –Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge members – until close to departure time, while the four seats in row 4 are open to any business class passenger.
We tend to prefer 1A and 1K for privacy on those overnight flights where sleep is the priority…
… and 4A and 4K when planning to work.
That’s because both 4A and 4K have a large console between the seat and the window, providing a great place to plonk your laptop or tablet during meal times, or a satchel or books and paperwork to keep everything at hand.
The reason for such indulgence in inflight real estate? Pop the hatch on the side table and you’ll find a large, long bassinet!
(Some passengers even stow small iPad sized-bags in this space for take-off and landing.)
So if you’re planning a business class flight to on routes flown by Qantas’ Boeing 747s, make a point of checking your seating options online: two minutes spent here could make the difference between a sloping Skybed business class seat and a fully flat ‘first class suite’ for 13 hours in the air!