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Take out a seat, say critics of new Qantas initiative

June 27, 2017 Headline News 3 Comments Email Email

Qantas is collaborating with a leading Australian academic institution to help develop a “new approach to long-haul travel” ahead of the first Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights this year.

The airline says it plans to “reshape the travel experience” by working with the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre in what it calls a world first air travel health and wellbeing partnership.

The centre brings together researchers across a variety of fields from nutrition to physical activity, sleep and complex systems modelling.

Critics, however, point out that Qantas has already decided to configure the economy cabins on its new B787-9 Dreamliners nine seats across (3x3x3 configuration) instead of a more comfortable eight across (2x4x2 configuration). Qantas is following the industry standard. Most airlines configure their B787s as Qantas will – nine seats across in 3x3x3. Airlines doing that include Air New Zealand, Thai International, LATAM Chile, KLM, Royal Jordanian, Etihad, British Airways, Air France, Qatar Airways, Air Canada, American Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.

One exception is Japan Airlines, where you can enjoy a more comfortable eight seats across (2x4x2) in economy on a B787.

Aviation reporter Ben Sandilands, writing in his Plane Talking blog on, suggests Qantas should have waited for the findings of the academic research it is collaborating on, before deciding how many seats to fit on the plane, rather than doing it the other way around.

Sandilands writes: “This isn’t a criticism of the 787 family, but an observation about how everything Boeing promised, back in the previous decade, about how nice the Dreamliners would be, has been overruled by most buyers of the type in favour of packing passengers into them so hard that Amnesty International might be tempted to intervene.”

Qantas takes a holistic view. It says the Charles Perkins Centre brings together researchers across a variety of fields from nutrition to physical activity, sleep and complex systems modelling.

Research projects include strategies to counteract jetlag, on-board exercise and movement, menu design and service timing, pre and post-flight preparation, transit lounge wellness concepts and cabin environment including lighting and temperature.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says the partnership has the potential to transform the journey for passengers, particularly on the long haul routes that the Dreamliner is scheduled to operate.

“While the Dreamliner aircraft itself is already a step change for passengers with its larger windows, increased cabin humidity and lower cabin altitude, the findings that will come from Charles Perkins Centre researchers will allow Qantas to design and develop a range of new innovations and strategies to complement the Dreamliner experience.

“By taking a holistic view of our customers, our partnership will examine everything from reducing the impact of jetlag through to health, nutrition and sleep through the entire journey experience,” Joyce said.

“We’re all looking at how we can prepare passengers ahead of their long haul flight, and of course on board and when they arrive at their destinations; we want our customers to feel their best at the end of their flight with us.”

Qantas and the Charles Perkins Centre are looking at opportunities to involve some Qantas frequent flyers in trials that involve wearable technology in the measurement of existing biorhythms during travel, “enabling future products to be developed and designed with the insight of robust data”.

A Qantas statement quoted Professor Steve Simpson, academic director of the Charles Perkins Centre, saying the partnership is the first time there has been an integrated multidisciplinary collaboration between an airline and a university around in-flight health and well-being beyond medical emergency.

“There is the potential for extraordinary health, science and engineering discoveries and innovations to come out of this research partnership, which will also provide the evidence-base needed for Qantas to implement strategies to further improve how people feel after a long haul flight,” he said.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Peter says:

    You need to be aware that Ben Sandilands of Crikey is a ‘Qantas hater’ from way back and has very distorted views on many things aviation.

    He was a major critic of Alan Joyce and was proven wrong in almost everything he wrote. He listens to pilots and engineers too much who know a lot about airplanes, but very little about airlines. There is a gulf between these two subjects.

  2. AgentGerko says:

    Won’t be long before QF makes passengers sign a waiver upon boarding that voids them from any liability should DVT occur. Or perhaps pushups and yoga in the aisles will become mandatory. Longer flights and smaller seats – what a combination. Not everyone is as small as you, Mr Joyce.

  3. Peter says:

    Hey AgentGerko.

    Why do you leave out all the other airlines with 787s and same configuration as Qantas?

    Why do you just pick on Qantas and Alan Joyce? You are such a cynic.

    If you are a travel agent, then it is typical of the behaviour of such an ill-informed, biased and uneducated group.

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