Amazing: Qantas Makes Huge Revenues On A380 Flight From Dallas To Sydney

With everyone talking about Project Sunrise, research flights, Dreamliners, and pickle forks, some standout performers in the Qantas stable sneak under the radar. One of those standout performers is QF7/8, the A380 Sydney – Dallas – Sydney service. In the year ending 30 June 2019, this six-day a week service made Qantas a lazy USD$428 million in revenue.

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Qantas made USD$428 million flying to Dallas last year. Photo: Qantas Newsroom.

In the same period, total revenue for Qantas international operations was USD$5.132 billion. Qantas flies to 27 destinations in 14 countries. Some cities, such as Auckland or Singapore, have multiple city pairings operated by Qantas. But this one route, a 17-hour nonstop slog in an aircraft many decry as uneconomic to operate, brought in over 8% of total revenue for Qantas’ international operations last year. That’s not bad for a route that raised some eyebrows when initiated back in 2011.

Crunching the numbers

A report in the Dallas Morning Herald helpfully points out that the USD$428 million breaks down to USD$628,000 per flight. Qantas operates a six-day a week service between Sydney and Dallas using a 485 seat A380. Unsurprisingly, this service is going daily in 2020. Over the same time period Qantas made that revenue figure, they carried 232,570 passengers on the route with a seat utilization rate of 81.7%. The average revenue per passenger was USD$1,598.

Of course, that last figure seems a bargain to what some passengers pay on the route. Looking at QF7 in one month out on the Qantas website, fares start at USD$660 and go north to USD$8,030 if you’d care to sit in the best seats. Qantas is busy refurbishing its fleet of A380s and the refurbished planes are premium seat heavy and will tilt average revenue per passenger upwards. Fares start at USD$4,850 if you would prefer one of Qantas’ Business Suites.

What makes this route work?

So why does this route work so well for Qantas? While there are peaks and troughs, transpacific flights have generally performed well for Qantas and other competing airlines. Passenger loads have historically been good, although overcapacity has lead to discounting, impacting upon the airlines’ bottom lines.

Right now, the demand for flights between Australia and the USA seems almost insatiable. Load factors are excellent and airlines are rolling out new flights. United Airlines has just kicked off its Melbourne – San Francisco flights. Qantas is starting to fly between Brisbane and San Francisco and Brisbane and Chicago next year. Air New Zealand is going to start New York flights in 2020. And even American is getting in on the act with new flights to Christchurch. There are some rich pickings for the airlines right now.

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The Dallas service is going daily in 2020. Photo: Qantas News Room.

But when the flights to Dallas started seven years ago, Qantas was riding out the tailwinds of the GFC. A freshly minted open skies agreement between Australian and the USA was seeing a lot of capacity coming onto the market. Qantas was then losing money on its Sydney – San Francisco route and according to Qantas CEO at the time, Alan Joyce (ubiquitous, even back then), switching to Dallas made sense.

Qantas dumped San Francisco for Dallas

So Qantas dropped San Francisco (since resumed) and sent its 747-400s into Dallas Fort Worth. Qantas has long enjoyed a tight working relationship with its Oneworld partner, American Airlines. Dallas had the advantage of offering significantly more connections and faster transfers between Qantas and American Airlines flights than at say, LAX.

At the time, Qantas reckoned it was two hours faster to get to New York via Dallas than via LAX. Things have changed since then but the extensive codeshare agreement between the two airlines means that plenty of passengers still get funneled between the airlines at Dallas, financially benefiting both airlines. This codeshare arrangement has grown over the years.

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The AA/QF partnership works both ways. Both ferrying each other’s customers around their respective domestic networks. Photo: Qantas News Room.

While the bulk of Qantas passengers transferring onto AA flights at DFW are heading to the US east coast, American’s flights down into Central and South America from Dallas also draw passengers onto QF7/8.

Some intangible factors also at play

There are other less tangible factors at play here as well. Lots of passengers, especially those in the economy cabin (and let’s face it, that’s most passengers) prefer the larger and roomier A380 over the 787-9s Qantas now deploys to its other North American destinations.

Premium passengers, particularly business class passengers, might normally prefer the 787-9s and travel via Los Angeles. But now the A380s are being refurbished and the A380 business class product upgraded, the 787-9 Los Angeles services will lose some edge there.

Los Angeles is also an issue for many US-bound passengers. While US immigration is US immigration wherever you land, LAX has a particularly notorious reputation. There’s a lot of people who would prefer to be processed elsewhere, doesn’t matter where, in order to avoid Los Angeles.

There are quite a few reasons why the Dallas route works for Qantas. Some are within Qantas’ control and some are external to it. Some are just luck – right place, right time kind of thing.
But with its European destinations down to one and its US destinations up to five, it’s clear where Qantas sees its future.

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Phil

Hope American or Qantas starts MEL-DFW flights sometime soon!

Dennis

Great article! But I must point out that Qantas has two European flights – Sydney to London via Singapore and Perth to London 🙂

Mica

Read again. The article mentions European DESTINATIONS – of which there is ONE – LONDON!

Henning

I would say this proves that the A380 can be successful economically when they can achieve a descent high load factor and take advantage of the long range the aircraft is capable of flying.
It’s by far the best aircraft to fly long haul in the economy cabin.

Tricia

B777 and B787 Economy Cabin offers a much better experience.

Vince

Hmm? Depends on how individual airlines configures their cabin. I’m very certain the economy class on Emirates A380 is more comfortable than their B777-300ER but it is the other way around for Singapore Airlines.

Phil

Yeah only in Business the 777 is good but not in economy where most airlines have a 10 abreast economy! The Dreamliner though is amazing! Especially in JAL economy!

David cartwright

An economy seat with JAL in the 787 may be “ amazing “ , however it’s the only airline that has the 2-4-2 economy cabin , all others without exception have the 3-3-3 configuration which in my opinion is far from amazing .

Peter

Interesting point as regards the 787: if you configure this plane with 8-abreast seating, the plane’s seat mile costs deteriorate to the level of a legacy 767. Only by propping in 9-abreast can the seat mile costs be brought to a competitive level.

Nate Dogg

What planet do you live on?? Are you trying to tell me that the 777 and 787 economy seat is superior to the economy seat in most A380’s?? If so I can only assume you are a Boeing fangirl with her fingers in her ears and head in the sand.

Riley

Shut up nate

Riley

Exactly now ur quiet

Greg

I’m quick to bemoan the sometimes sloppy articles around here, but this was excellent stuff with thoughtful, detailed commentary on an interesting angle of the business. I definitely learned things from the story.

Please keep putting out these sorts of articles!!!

Peter

I’m not surprised at all! The A380 is a gold mine if it can be filled to a good extent…Tim Clarke (Emirates) has been telling us that for years. Willie Walsh (IAG) also calls it a money spinner on the routes on which it’s operating for BA. It’s actually a pity that Airbus haven’t looked at some way of extending its range (with extra fuel tanks), so that it also becomes a contender for Project Sunrise. It already flies the fourth longest route in the world (Dubai-Aukland, 17h 10m), and it offers economy passengers premium comfort: not just a wider… Read more »

Ovtraveller

Peter, I totally agree with your assessment. All, if not most passengers from Y upward love the A380 and extra fuel tanks even at the cost of lower pax numbers ( hopefully in Y) could potentially see a renewed interest by airline companies in this superb form of mass transport….could someone cc this to Toulouse?

Peter

Indeed. Apart from cutting down on Y passengers, they could also just forego (non-baggage) cargo, to the extent that they intend to carry any. The distance difference between the A380 flight Dubai-Auckland and the (world’s longest) A350ULR flight Singapore-Newark is just 710 miles / 1h 20m. The A350 ULR flight is already done with a reduced passenger load and an empty forward cargo hold…so, if Singapore can do it, then Qantas can do it. On very long segments (7000+ miles), a passenger-heavy A380 (525 seats) can achieve a per-passenger fuel burn of 3.27 l/100km, whereas a 787-9 (291 passengers) comes… Read more »

Henning

The average fuel burn is said to be 12-14 tons an hour, so to fly 1,5 hours longer you around 20 tons extra fuel. That’s equal to 180-200 pax. I’m not an expert but I think the share volume and weight of the A380 will be a problem, a lot of death space and volume for that number of pax

Peter

Yes, I know that it’s not a “done deal”, but I’d still like to see the math. Emirates A380s can carry 8 tons of cargo in addition to a full passenger load, so there’s some degree of flexibility if you’re prepared to surrender cargo altogether.

Henning

Yes, that’s fit well with the official capacity of the A380, range of 14 800 km with around 525 pax and no cargo, the Dubai -Auckland route is 600 km shorter, so 8 tons of additional cargo seems fit those numbers good.

Ovtraveller

With offspring in Memphis, we have tried the Melbourne to DFW and further on the A380 in PE as well as the DFW to San Francisco to Melbourne in Y as well as the PE on the B787. Must admit my preference is the A 380 albeit that the bulkhead seat 30A and 30B are the pick of the crop on the B787 when staff provide a footstool ( strangely no one else has commented on this Q innovation). Let’s face it all USA immigration and security posts are the pits with endless queues and unhelpful officialdom, but on our… Read more »

Howard Miller

Individual footstools in the bulkhead row of PE are not QF’s innovation as Virgin Atlantic has had footstools for some time.

Not sure if those awesome footstools were introduced by Virgin Atlantic, or if another airline should be credited.

But, certainly agree that those individual footstools make for a super comfy flight in PE for the three (3) long haul flights my partner & I took last year, LHR-JNB-LHR & LHR-JFK.

As Tony the Tiger shouts about that sugary breakfast cereal, “THEY’RE (the footstools) GRRRRREAT!”

Nicholas Cummins

This is a great article Andrew!

marci9987

The flying public are tired of small cramped planes. The airlines are too greedy and don’t care about comfort. Recently I flew from LAX to Germany and onto other destinations. I specifically flew on Lufthansa for ONE reason, the A-380 and the 747-8 they fly on this route.

Azman Shah

If airlines can make a huge profit on long houl flights why not maintain this queen of the skies which is safe and efficient. Will you compromise on safety of 500 people with twin engine aircraft which have problems with their system before launching?

Caroline

“Lots of passengers, especially those in the economy cabin (and let’s face it, that’s most passengers) prefer the larger and roomier A380 over the 787-9s ”
You bet they do.
Personally I would gladly fly Qantas but would never fly with Unted or Amercan Airlines because of the food they serve and the lack of Tv screens ,enetertainment on their flights.

Kenneth Holland

QF7 flies almost right over my apartment every day here at DFW.

Norm

For Long Distance Flights(Have flown AA B787 to Sydney from LA, and returned via Dallas on Qantas A380, WOW, what a plane and Qantas service was exceptional, the servicing personnel Outstanding(Classy, Educated, Entertaining) during the whole flight. Chapeau to Qantas and its A380 Success Story.

Frank Stephenson

The profitable flight from and to Sydney doesn’t go to Dallas. It goes to Dallas/Fort Worth (KDFW) and is actually closer to the more desirable city of Fort Worth.