Unless you’re a Platinum One or Chairman’s Lounge member, you’ll probably notice that a few rows of seats at the front of every Qantas flight are greyed out. This happens in just about every cabin class – even in Business. In Economy, more than a third of the seat map can be unavailable for selection initially.

Qantas Economy for standard passenger
Without status, the first 12 rows of an Airbus A330 in Economy are blocked or require payment.

Now, it doesn’t usually mean those seats are occupied (though sometimes they are). Instead, those seats are reserved for Qantas’ elite frequent flyers – those with Silver, Gold, Platinum status or higher. The better your status, the more seats you are able to see when booking.

Take a look at the difference a Qantas Platinum frequent flyer can see on the seat map for the same flight, compared to a standard passenger booking above.

Qantas Economy for Platinum member
With Qantas Platinum, only the first two rows are blocked.

But what if we told you there is an easy and reliable way to gain access to the front of the plane? As long as other people haven’t already booked the seats first, it’s simple. Just wait until 80 hours before the flight.

What is the Qantas ‘T-80 rule’?

It’s not an official rule as such, but Qantas Frequent Flyers have affectionately named it the ‘T-80 rule’ – in reference to how seats become available 80 hours prior to departure. Here’s how it works:

  1. Check your flight seat map starting from 80 hours before the scheduled departure
Qantas T-80 seats Example 1
Example of the T-80 rule in effect, from the perspective of a passenger with no status.

That’s it! Although it’s not guaranteed, in the vast majority of cases, any unoccupied blocked seats in the cabin will become available for everyone. This includes the coveted ‘Row 4’ on Qantas Boeing 737s – this front row of Economy offers excellent legroom as the seats are directly behind Business Class.

If available, simple re-select your new seats and confirm your choices. Note that Qantas does reserve the right to re-seat passengers depending on operational demands, but at least you gave it your best shot.

Qantas Boeing 737 Row 4 Seat
Row 4 is our top pick for Qantas Boeing 737 Economy Class. You can snag it with the T-80 rule.

How do I work out what time the T-80 seats open up?

To work out when those seats become released, simply subtract 80 hours from your departure time. In practice, you should minus three whole days (72 hrs), plus take away another 8 hours.

So if your flight departure is 12:35 pm on a Saturday:

  • Minus three days to reach 12:35 pm on Wednesday.
  • Minus another eight hours to reach 4:35 am on Wednesday.

Back in 2021, when I was initially writing up this article, I had an upcoming flight that departed at 12:35 pm on a Saturday. In the name of research, I roused myself at 4:35 am the previous Wednesday to confirm the T-80 rule was still being applied. Good news: it was.

Qantas T-80 seats Example 2
Notice how the seat map changes at 4:35 am, which is the ‘T-80’ time for this particular flight.
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Why should I choose seats at T-80?

There are many reasons why you might want to use the T-80 rule to snag some better seats at the front of the plane.

  • Often, the very first row of Economy and Premium Economy has extra legroom but doesn’t cost more to book. Instead, it’s blocked for elite frequent flyers.
  • In light of COVID-19, you might want to disembark earlier to get through airport arrivals processes faster.
  • Anecdotally, some standard Economy seats in the front half of the plane sometimes have a little bit more legroom than the back half of the plane.
  • You get faster service at the front of the plane and reduce the risk of missing out on your preferred meal.

What about extra-legroom seats?

Fancy stretching out those legs on the flight, but perhaps you’re not quite willing to pay? Unfortunately, paid extra-legroom seats don’t become free at T-80.

If you want to try your luck, the green extra-legroom seats instead become free to select from 24 hours before flight departure.

Qantas T24 Exit Seating
When you complete online check-in, extra legroom seats become free to select.

You will need to go through Qantas’ online check-in for the best chance. You can also ask at the airport, but usually, the seats are taken by then. Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge members can choose extra legroom seats for free at any time.

Qantas A380 extra legroom seat
Extra-legroom seats are in high demand. Be sure to check-in online early if you want one for free.

Summing up

Airlines have quirks and Qantas is no exception. The ‘T-80 rule’ is good to keep in the back of your mind if you want a better shot at nabbing seats usually reserved for elite frequent flyers. It’s not a guaranteed or published rule by any means, but we’ve found it applies on most of the Qantas flights we’ve been on.

Wondering about Virgin Australia? The remaining seats get unblocked 48 hours before departure (when online check-in opens), but the Economy X extra-legroom seats remain chargeable.

How to reserve the best seats on Qantas flights with the ‘T-80’ rule was last modified: December 9th, 2022 by Brandon Loo