A bullish Qantas is recalling five A380s as soon as July 2022. The airline made the announcement on Thursday morning (Sydney time). At the same time, Qantas is eyeing gradually resuming international flights as soon as December.
In a media statement, Qantas confirmed five A380s will return to service ahead of schedule. The A380s would fly between Sydney and Los Angeles from July 2022, and between Sydney and London (via Singapore) from November 2022. According to the statement,
“The A380s work well on these long-haul routes when there’s sufficient demand, and the high vaccination rates in both markets would underpin this.”
Qantas to retire two Airbus A380s
Qantas confirmed two of their 12 Airbus A380s would not return to service. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce calls the two aircraft “surplus to requirements.” However, the airline says the remaining 10 A380s will be back in the air by 2024. The mega jumbos not yet refurbished will be refurbished by then.
The Australian airline had hoped to resume some international flying by December. Qantas is sticking to that timeline. With vaccination rates accelerating in Australia and elsewhere, Alan Joyce is confident the Australian Government will soon start unwinding travel restrictions and border closures.
Qantas says key markets like the UK, North America and parts of Asia such as Singapore have high and increasing levels of vaccination. The airline believes this makes them highly likely to be classed as low-risk countries for vaccinated travelers to visit and return from under reduced quarantine requirements, pending decisions by the Australian Government and entry policies of other countries.
Flights to destinations that still have low vaccine rates and high levels of COVID infections will now be pushed out from December 2021 until April 2022. This includes destinations such as Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City, and Johannesburg.
Qantas Airbus A380s to keep flying
When Australia closed its borders in March 2020, Qantas sent its fleet of Airbus A380s to long-term storage in California. Ten of the 12 planes remain there. However, recently, one A380 has headed to Abu Dhabi, and just last week, another, (VH-OQB), flew to Dresden.
Qantas says the transition rate of the final five A380s back into service will depend on how fast the market recovers.
There has been considerable speculation surrounding the future of the Qantas A380s. This came as multiple airlines confirmed they would not bring the aircraft back into service. But Alan Joyce has consistently said there is a place for the A380 at Qantas.
But to date, Mr Joyce had flagged a 2023 return. Today’s announcement brings the return forward by 12 months and is a clear sign of confidence in the A380’s future from Qantas.
Changes afoot for Qantas international services
Thursday’s statement indicates there may be more changes ahead regarding Qantas’ international flying. Darwin has found favor with the airline as a transit point. Going forward, Qantas is looking at using Darwin as a jumping-off point for non-stop flights to London. This would complement the airline’s suspended Perth – London flights.
Brisbane is likely to host Airbus A330-200 flights on transpacific sectors such as Brisbane – Los Angeles and Brisbane – San Francisco.
Qantas says it will take delivery of its final three Boeing 787-9 aircraft due in the 2023 financial year. Low-cost subsidiary Jetstar will take delivery of its first three Airbus A321neo LR aircraft in about 12 months’ time.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to happen, including training for our people and carefully bringing aircraft back into service,” says Alan Joyce. “Some people might say we’re being too optimistic, but based on the pace of the vaccine rollout, this is within reach and we want to make sure we’re ready.”