Qantas will roll out its new business class suites with fully-flat beds on its in A330 aircraft on all of its flights from Australia to Singapore before placing it on other Asian destinations.
The product will be launched on flight QF35 from Melbourne to Singapore on Saturday before returning on QF82 from Singapore to Sydney on Saturday evening.
Qantas head of creative development and customer experience Kylie Morris said the airline wanted to get "penetration" on one destination so that customers knew they would get a consistent product.
The new business class suites are a major upgrade from the first-generation Skybed installed more than a decade ago on its fleet of A330s that fly to Australia to destinations including Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Manila, Jakarta and Honolulu. That seat featured an inclined bed and did not offer direct aisle access to every passenger. The new business class seats are in a much more private 1-2-1 configuration.
Rival Singapore Airlines, which offers more flights to Singapore than Qantas, offers products with fully-flat beds and aisle access for all passengers on many of its flights between Australia and Singapore. Cathay Pacific does so on all of its flights between Australia and Hong Kong.
"Customer expectation around the product lifecycle has shortened so much," Ms Morris said. "Now the standard expectation is a fully-flat bed. We haven't just done a fully-flat bed. We have focused on a really private business suite. We have then also focused on the rest of the environment and the service and food offering to deliver you a comfortable experience."
Qantas is particularly focused on providing a good sleep experience to corporate customers returning to Australia on night flights from Asia and then needing to head into the office the next morning.
Qantas is offering the opportunity for business class customers to eat dinner in the lounge, rather than on the aircraft, so that it can be prepared with a mattress and reclined 25 degrees - bigger than the full recline in premium economy - on take-off. It is also offering a new pillow more than 20 per cent larger than its old ones and a new duvet to match the new A330 seats.
"For international it is all about comfort and about sleep," Ms Morris said. "You just want to be comfortable and feel at home straight away."
The airline conducted sleep trials of up to 12 hours on the new seat in the United Kingdom. The trial featured male and female passengers who ranged in age from 20 to 75 and in weight from 48 kilos to 105 kilos to help ensure the product would serve all customers well. After the trial, Qantas lightened the colour of the seats from charcoal to champagne and added more cushioning along the sides.
Qantas is rolling out similar seats across its domestic A330s that fly between the east coast and Perth. The first of those reconfigured aircraft entered the network in December.
Rival Virgin Australia, which does not fly to Asia at present, will unveil a new business class product that also features fully-flat beds and direct aisle access for all passengers on its A330 fleet in March.
Qantas' entire domestic and international A330 fleet will be reconfigured by the end of 2016, with five to be completed by the end of this March. At present, it has no plans to roll out the new seats on its fleet of long-haul A380s and 747s which feature a second-generation fully-flat bed but do not offer direct aisle access for all business class passengers.
The journalist is travelling on QF82 to test the new seats as a guest of Qantas.