Best economy seat on a Qantas 747

by on November 30, 2013

Upcoming economy class trip on a Qantas 747? These aircraft feature on medium- to long-range sectors to LA, Dallas Fort-Worth, Narita, Singapore and Johannesburg, and we can help you when it comes to selecting the best economy seat.

Qantas maintain three different configurations for their 747-400 aircraft, however there are some similarities between them that cause the same seats to generally be in the same places. Here are the three layouts available as of November 2013 (click to see larger):

Config 1:  9 aircraft, 270 economy seats (A380-style interiors)

Qantas 747 economy seat layout (config 1)

Qantas 747 economy seat layout (config 1)

Config 2: 3 aircraft, 255 economy seats

Qantas 747 economy seat layout (config 2: OJL, OJM, OEB)

Qantas 747 economy seat layout (config 2: OJL, OJM, OEB)

Config 3: 3 aircraft, 275 economy seats

Qantas 747 economy seat layout (config 3: OJA, OJC, OJI). Update: As of mid 2015 this layout is no longer available.

Whilst exit row seats always offer substantial legroom, they’re often snapped up well ahead of time and have their own downsides:

  • The are expensive to book unless you are an ultra-high status frequent flyer
  • They tend to become a gymnasium/walking track for people stretching out
  • Not having a leg rest or anything to prop yourself up on, you tend to slide down the seat when you sleep
  • Seats near the doors on all aircraft can get very cold

Otherwise the best seat will depend on whether you are on a day flight, or whether you plan to get some sleep on an overnight flight (particularly the red-eyes from Singapore to Australia).

For day flights

Try and pick a seat in the last few “couple” seats, even if you are travelling alone in which case the window seat is preferable (there is also an entertainment box under the B and J seats, limiting legroom). On config 1, this will place you in 70A or 70K onwards. On configs 2 and 3, you’ll be in 71A or 71K onwards. I have deliberately left out the first row of couple seats for a reason – these seats have a gap between them and the wall of the aircraft because of the taper towards the tail. In the forward seats, this gives you plenty of legroom in front of you to stretch out into, and room to place your hand luggage next to you, rather than in the overhead bin. You are also not too close to the washrooms, yet near the best washrooms on the plane (marked with a B on the seat maps)… they’re nice and roomy. Note that if you like leaning against something these seats are not for you, as you’re quite a distance from the wall so they’re not good candidates for sleeping. They also do not have the net footrests that are strangely popular, though other seats on the aircraft do have them.

For night flights

best economy seat on a Qantas 747

Row 40 mini-cabin on config 2

For night flights, try and get something in the “mini-cabin” towards the front of the cabin. On config 1, this will be row 43, on config 2 it’s row 40 and on config 3 look out for row 38. The D and G seats are my picks because a cut-out in the bulkhead wall gives you plenty of leg room. Seats ABC (and their HJK equivalents) afford a similar level of comfort, though the C and H seats have about half the legroom as the bulkhead wall ends somewhere between your legs and becomes the narrowing aisle from the premium economy cabin. These seats are also great because you’re right at the front of the cabin and will be able to beat the throngs through immigration, particularly when landing at Australian airports. Note that the DEFG seats are bassinet seats on config 1, so may not be available until you check in at the airport, and even then you may be sharing them with frazzled parents and frazzled babies. Earplugs are your friend.

Seats to avoid

The row 46 and 60 bulkhead seats look like great seats, but don’t be fooled – they lack the cut-out that makes the front-of-cabin seats great. This means you actually get less legroom than any other seat, because you can’t even slide your feet under the seat in front of you.

Refurbished aircraft interiors

Aircraft with config 1 have been refurbished with seats that are similar to those offered on the flagship A380 aircraft. There are, however, a few subtle differences:

  • there is no in-seat AC power in economy, just USB power.
  • there is no AV controller unlike on the A380, so the only way to interact with the screen is to touch it. Sometimes, you get someone seated behind you who feels the need to stab rather than touch. Handy hint – the screen is most responsive when you turn your palm towards you and lightly touch the on-screen buttons with your finger nail.
  • some seats have an under-seat entertainment box that may slightly limit legroom.

While the seats in configs 2 and 3 are still comfortable, they lack the brilliant entertainment options and large touchscreen of the newer config.

What configuration will I get?

Qantas are slowly retiring their 747 aircraft, and will eventually settle on having only the 9 that have config 1 in about 2016-17. As of November 2013, the 6 config 2 and 3 aircraft are generally used on Johannesburg and Narita runs, while the newer configurations are mostly found on Los Angeles and Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) runs, though of course this can change depending on operational requirements. Singapore tends to get a mix of types, so log in regularly to view your booking on the Qantas website, just in case it changes as your departure date nears.

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  • November 22, 2015 at 5:26 PM

    THANK YOU!!!! I just used this article to find the perfect seats for me without paying the $180+ extra for each “extra leg room” seat.


  • Fergus Mao
    February 11, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    thank you so much for your article. I just changed my booking from 46G to 71A now after read your article.
    I always care about leg room as I am a little bit picky in it. Hopefully 71A will give me some good leg room.
    I normally use SeatGuru for my booking reference for years. But this time I found your options are better than them.

    Much appreciate!


  • sino
    May 24, 2016 at 4:23 PM

    Please tell me that seat number 68 E is comfortable. I will be travelling on B747-400 to Sydney in 6 days time


    • May 24, 2016 at 9:02 PM

      This seat is in the rear cabin, it’s an inside seat, so if you need to leave your seat, you’ll have to ask your neighbour in the aisle seat to move. Other than that, it’s a standard seat with legroom not blocked by any entertainment unit or otherwise. Enjoy your flight.


  • Max
    July 18, 2016 at 8:01 PM

    Thank you very much! This was a very helpful article!
    I have selected row 69 (the first row when the seating becomes 2-4-2 in economy)
    This is a 14 hour flight from Vancouver to Sydney and sleep will be pretty important. The reason I selected them is because I am travelling with one other companion and this seat will make that easy.

    As this is a long flight, should I reconsider any other seats on this aircraft?



    • Brian
      July 19, 2016 at 12:33 PM

      Row 69 is a great place to be, but I would personally go a row back to 70. It feels a bit more spacious for the window-side passenger due to the missing seat in row 69. But I’m confident that either way you’ll be very comfortable.


  • Angdownunder
    September 10, 2016 at 4:42 PM

    Flying Sydney – San Francisco – is Row 53 good?


    • Brian
      September 10, 2016 at 11:26 PM

      It’s a standard row on all configurations with no particular advantage in terms of legroom or personal space, however it is also a good distance from the front bulkhead (i.e. bassinets and babies) but not too close to galleys or toilets to be bothered by noise and traffic. Not too bad if none of the best seats mentioned above are available.


  • Joe
    September 17, 2016 at 11:21 AM

    Just about to pick up row 73 as it is the only 2 seater option available. Can’t for the life of me remember if the leg room is ok though against the window? I know the fuselage curves back there, does it impact on that window seats leg/foot room in a bad way?



    • Brian
      September 18, 2016 at 1:02 PM

      The curvature is unlikely to be an issue, though you will be near a door which means it could get cold. At this position the side space is pretty much the same as a standard window seat. A benefit of these seats that’s only appreciated by frequent flyers is that you can recline at any time without feeling guilty that you’re encroaching on someone’s space. Great for getting to sleep as soon as possible after takeoff, and leaving your seat reclined for nearly the whole flight.


  • Jack
    October 7, 2016 at 9:41 PM

    Thank you for the article Brian. I’m travelling BNE-LAX in Feb 2017 and as there is 3 of us I don’t know if I should book 68 A, B & C or 71 D, E, F? Rows 72-75 are unavailable so possibly already booked. What would you recommend? Thank you.


    • Brian
      October 12, 2016 at 5:12 PM

      71DEF are no different from any other row, except the closer you are to the rear the more you’ll feel the bumps (some people sleep better with that). 68ABC probably have the slight edge here. If you’re like me and feel guilty reclining into the people behind you, 68A will alleviate this burden, assuming you’re on the newer configuration where row 69 goes down to pairs. 68A will also provide something to lean on while you sleep. Have a great flight!


    November 19, 2016 at 2:36 AM

    Hi Brian thanks for the article. I am flying Sydney to Santiago on Boeing 747 400 with two others friends.
    These are the seats available at this point for 3 people, 53ABC, 54ABC, 56ABC, 66ABC, 68ABC, 59HJK, 67HJK.
    Could you please tell me which ones you recommend best for sleeping and confort. I will appreciated your advices.
    Thank u so much!!


    • Brian
      November 28, 2016 at 4:08 PM

      Hi Camilo, thanks for your question. I’d be inclined to go with rows 66-68 rather than 53-56 and 59. Rows 66-68 are in the centre of the cabin and away from the galley, which can sometimes be a bit noisy. Also look out for the bassinet locations – if there are infants on board you may be right next to them, particularly in row 59. There isn’t all that much of a difference between ABC and HJK window seats in my experience. Based on the seats you’ve mentioned, I’d probably be picking 68ABC. Have a great flight!


  • Steve
    November 28, 2016 at 6:51 PM

    Great article, thanks.

    I have my wife, daughter and I in 43A-C for MEL-HKG next year. My daughter will demand A for the window so my wife and I will select between B and C. I am 6’3″ and she is about 5’6″. Noting your comment about the cut in to the bulkhead, am I best to take the middle or the aisle?


    • Brian
      December 2, 2016 at 4:36 PM

      Hi Steve, well done getting row 43! You’ll be about as comfortable as you can get in the main cabin. I have checked the file photos we have, and unfortunately cannot find a good one of the cutout. From memory, the C seat actually has you lined up with the edge of the bulkhead so that you can actually stick your feet out under the curtain (into premium economy). This will give you the ability to stretch out when the cutout isn’t adequate, but you’ll need to be careful of crew and trolleys bursting through the curtain. In any case, the aisle is probably the way to go for you.


  • Alison
    November 29, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    Hi Brian, we are traveling from MEL – LAX on dec 5 with qantas on 747-400 (husband, me & two 17yo. If we sit together (center row) is one better than the other – current availability is row 64, 65 or rows 67-71.
    Alternatively we split up for side seats ABC or HJK (no twos left though)
    Any thoughts/hints greatly appreciated
    Regards Alison


    • Brian
      December 2, 2016 at 4:10 PM

      Hi Alison, I can’t tell which configuration you are on from your description, but if you are on the one where row 63 is a bulkhead row you may want to go a bit further back as there’s a good chance there will be babies in bassinets in row 63. Other than that, there’s probably not much of a difference. Sticking close to the centre of the cabin will keep you away from foot traffic and galley noise. My personal choice would also be to keep everyone together rather than split over two rows as it’s easier clambering over (or being clambered over by) someone you know. Airplane cabins are intimate enough as it is 🙂 Have a wonderful trip.


  • Adrian
    December 15, 2016 at 10:13 PM

    Hi Brian,

    I’m Curious with the comments on row 60 on Config 1. We are flying BNE -LAX – JFK and Row 60 appears to be the only not normal row available aside from exit row seats. I’ve flown Jetstar’s 787 Economy Bulkhead (10) and found that was a pleasant experience. I think the guarantee of no one reclining in front of you would also be a plus. So would you say that that Row 60 on Config 1 would still be a worse choice than a standard economy seat?


    • Brian
      December 22, 2016 at 7:05 PM

      Hi Adrian, I think this very much comes down to personal preference. Taller folks might still go for the standard economy seat, as the ability to extend your legs might override any annoyance that might come from having the seat in front recline into you. This is certainly my preference on longer flights and I’m 5’11. If you value having personal space over the need to stretch out then the row 60 bulkhead would probably be the way to go. I don’t have measurements for the Jetstar 787 so I’m afraid I can’t make a reliable comparison.


  • Craig
    December 30, 2016 at 11:33 AM

    Hi Brian.

    Flying SFO-SYD in a Config 1 plane with my wife and currently have 71J and K booked. I noticed that since we allocated those seats, 70A/B have become available (they were not at the time we originally booked.) Do you know if there is a material difference in the extra room on the side of the window seat between these two rows? I am mainly interested in using it for a bit of extra legroom and am wondering whether I’d even notice a difference in the available space between the two rows?

    Also, I have read conflicting reports on this – can you confirm if both window and aisle seat in the twosomes have entertainment boxes underneath them, or is it only the aisle?



    • Brian
      January 15, 2017 at 4:34 PM

      Hi Craig, there is a noticeable difference the further forward you go, so 70A would have more room than 71A. Also, I can recall from flying in 70A/B that the entertainment box is under B (aisle) seat. Whilst I have flown in J/K seats my recollection isn’t 100%, however I believe it is also under the aisle seat. It’d be great if you could let us know if you have the opportunity to confirm.


  • Michelle
    January 12, 2017 at 5:58 PM

    Hi there. Thanks for the article. Four of us are travelling from Sydney to Vancouver. The agent has told me the best row is 46 (middle section). Your artical is the opposite. Where would you recommend? Thanks


    • Brian
      January 15, 2017 at 4:38 PM

      Hi Michelle, it’s always a subjective assessment – for me, row 46 is not a great choice given the fixed and slightly narrower armrests (housing the tables and entertainment units) and lack of a cutout for legroom. However if you value not having someone recline into you, or if you’re not too fussed about being near infants, this may be the pick for you.


  • Alison
    January 15, 2017 at 9:19 AM

    Hi Brian, I looked at Seat Guru and saw that row 46 had legroom so have paid the $180 for my husband for 46k and taken 46J for myself for whcih there was only a $15 charge. This may appear to have been a mistake?! My thinking was that, in the past, when I flew Malaysian airlines to London, I took an exit seat an then used a pop up box as a foot stool and took my own blanket which was very comfortable and meant I could sleep. However it seems from your comments that there is limited space in these seats? Please advise me whether I have done the right thing – there may be time to switch to another exit seat although we will not be sitting together. Thanks, Alison


    • Brian
      January 15, 2017 at 4:46 PM

      Hi Alison, was the lesser charge for the K seat? If so, it’s probably because it lacks a window and also has the door’s emergency slide box limiting the available legroom. If you’re travelling together you’d have the advantage of “scooching over” to your partner’s side to share some legroom – they’ll have plenty to share.


  • Jan
    January 18, 2017 at 6:14 AM

    We’re traveling from Sydney to Brisbane on March 8. This is an AA flight operated by Qantas, thus we won’t be able to pick seats until close to time of travel. Can you give us some good options when all the really good options might not be available? The last time we tood this flight on January 4, 2016, We were in the 50’s rows in the 3 seats on the left side of the plane as you enter. There was absolutely NO room. It was the most uncomfortable 14 hours I have ever spent. I was in the middle seat and the person in front of me reclined her seat to the maximum almost immediately. It was so bad the FA had to ask her to sit up so I would have enough room to put the tray table down and eat my meal. Help!


    • Brian
      January 18, 2017 at 6:57 PM

      Hi Jan, I’m guessing you meant Brisbane to LA? The middle seat is almost always a world of woe. I’m always happy to pay a seat selection fee just to avoid the risk of getting one. There’s also not much you can do about someone in front of you reclining, except to book a seat at an exit row or bulkhead. As a recent commenter pointed out, the exit row A/K seats can sometimes be considerably cheaper than other exit row seats due to the presence of the emergency slide box and the lack of a window. Hope your upcoming flight is a happier experience than your last one!


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