In a rare bit of airline optimism, Dubai-based Emirates has flagged the resumption of regular Airbus A380 flights to their key Australian destinations of Sydney and Melbourne later this year. Once ubiquitous at both airports, the Emirates A380 is now an unusual sight in Australia. That is set to change in December.
Emirates A380s disappear from Australian skies
Emirates has maintained flights to Australia since the start of the travel downturn. But the airline has downsized its schedules, aircraft types, and network in Australia. Except for occasional visits, the once familiar Emirates A380s have disappeared from Australian skies.
It’s a big downgrade from 2019. Then, larger airports like Sydney and Melbourne would see several Emirates flights each day. A380s operated many of those flights. These days Emirates sends one of its Boeing 777s down to Sydney (SYD) four times a week, Melbourne (MEL) three times a week, Brisbane (BNE) twice a week, and Perth (PER) twice a week. Emirates flights to Adelaide (ADL) remain suspended.
But it looks like the Emirates A380 will be returning to Australian skies later this year. Speaking at an Australian Tourism Exchange Conference session featured on CAPA Live on Wednesday, Barry Brown, Australasian Emirates Divisional Vice President said the airline plans to bring the iconic Emirates A380s back to Australia.
“We’re preparing for green shoots,” says Mr Brown. “With all the A380s sitting out there in the desert, we want to bring those back. I’ve put them in the system for December and January into Sydney and Melbourne.”
A380 return to Australia is not a risk-free proposition for Emirates
However, the Emirates executive notes Brisbane and Perth will have to forego their A380 Emirates services for a while longer. There is no word on when ADL flights will resume. Barry Brown also says bringing the A380 back to Sydney and Melbourne is not a risk-free proposition for Emirates.
“We want that capacity to come back,” he says. “But we have to retrain our pilots. That takes four or five months to get the pilots up to speed again, get their hours, get their currency going with their certification.
“So we’re going to be bringing those pilots in, we’re going to be paying them. And if we have to cancel those slots, that’s another financial slug we’ve got. We’ve been flying throughout this pandemic on reduced services, but it is very hard to make the accountants happy.”
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Emirates executive believes there is a strong pent up demand for travel
Barry Brown says the anecdotal feedback he gets suggests a strong pent up demand for travel and a strong desire to see the Emirates A380 back in the skies.
“When I go to a business forum, when I’m at community events, people say hurry up and get your A380 back in the air so I can get flying again.
“We believe there is a big pent up demand. Once we see the vaccine rollout, people can start traveling again, networking, and meeting face to face.”
Strong pent up demand or not, flying to and from Australia will continue to be a tough business for airlines for some time yet. Having botched the vaccination rollout, the Australian Government is in no hurry to open its borders. The projected Australian border re-opening date is now mid-2022. While Emirates might be keen to bring its A380s back to Australia, the airline will definitely have its work cut out for it in the startup phase.