The Captain's Choice Tour of South America charters a Qantas 747 jumbo jet for the journey.

Qantas will retire some of its ageing 747 jumbo jets. Photo: Andrew De La Rue

International travellers will be hardest hit passengers by cuts to the Qantas network announced today.

While the airline kept to its word that the Kangaroo Route between Australia and London would survive the cull, Singapore once again gets the blunt end of the stick.

Flights from Sydney and Brisbane to the Asian hub will be downgraded from Boeing 747 jumbo jets to Airbus A330 aircraft by September this year.

Ageing and fuel-guzzling they may be, but these jumbos were recently refitted with the same premium economy seats, lie-flat beds in business class and widescreen inflight video displays as Qantas' flagship Airbus A380.

In their place will be smaller Airbus A330s, which are ironically newer than the wrinkled jumbos yet offer a lower grade of service.

There's no premium economy seating, robbing travellers of a budget-friendly option for extra legroom and comfort on the eight-hour trip.

Things don't get better at the pointy end of the plane, where business travellers will find older seats which can only recline to an angle rather than stretch out to a fully flat bed.

Qantas has pledged to replace the A330's 'sloping sleepers' with its impressive new lie-flat Business Suite.

But with the first of these not due until the end of this year, and the fleet-wide upgrade not complete until mid-2016, Singapore-bound travellers will face a seat lottery through 2015 and beyond rather than being assured of a good night's sleep.

Qantas will also shutter its final international route from Perth this year, axing the daily service between Perth and Singapore and directing its would-be passengers to partner Emirates or its low-cost offshoots Jetstar and Jetstar Asia.

Competitors Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific will take up the slack with their direct full-service flights to Singapore and Hong Kong, while Virgin Australia stakeholder Etihad Airways will begin daily flights between Perth and its Abu Dhabi hub from July 15.

Frequent flyers will probably breathe a sigh of relief that the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme is staying in Qantas' hands, with the airline holding off on putting as much as 49 per cent of the lucrative scheme onto the market.

But with that stake valued at between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion it can't be counted out as a future fund-raiser for Qantas should the airline run into more headwinds down the track.

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller,  Australia's leading independent website for business travellers and frequent flyers.