Qantas To Send Airbus A380s To California’s Mojave Desert

As part of its sweeping three year COVID recovery plan announced today, Qantas has confirmed that the A380 will not fly for the airline until at least 2023. The giant jumbos will be heading to California for the meantime, to be stored in the vast facilities located within the Mojave desert.

Qantas A380 taking off
The A380 won’t fly again for Qantas until 2023. Photo: Qantas

No Qantas A380 until 2023

Airlines around the world have been mothballing the superjumbo Airbus a380 in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The aircraft is considered by many to be simply too big for the current level of demand. Some, like Air France, will not bring the type back into service ever again, others will simply keep it on ice for a few years.

Qantas has joined in with the latter strategy, saying in a statement last night that the giant jumbo is likely to stay grounded for at least three years. Announced this morning as part of its COVID recovery plan, the airline will store its A380s in the Mojave desert until at least 2023.

100 aircraft will be grounded. Photo: Qantas News Room.

The Aussie flag carrier has put plans in place to keep around 100 aircraft grounded for at least 12 months, as it attempts to cut costs to survive COVID. With international flights from Australia not expected to take off for some months, most of its long-haul fleet have been put into storage, and its Boeing 747s will be retired immediate.

Speaking in the press release, CEO Alan Joyce said,

“We have to position ourselves for several years where revenue will be much lower. And that means becoming a smaller airline in the short term. Most airlines will have to restructure in order to survive, which also means they’ll come through this leaner and more competitive. For all these reasons, we have to take action now.”

The recovery plan includes a three year strategy to guide the airline out of the crisis. It also revealed job losses of around 6,000 workers, and the standing down of a further 15,000 to mitigate the long period of reduced international flying.

Heading to California

The Mojave desert is the ideal location for storing unused aircraft, thanks to its hot, dry climate and expansive area. Its remote location away from large cities and major airports has seen it utilized for airplane storage since the 1970s. In the past few months, however, it has become much fuller than usual.

While some aircraft are sent to the desert for scrapping or simply to be stored long term, many of the current residents are there on a more temporary basis. US airlines, faced with the need to park large portions of their fleets, have been sending aircraft out to the storage facilities until travel demand picks up again.

Aircraft boneyard
The Mojave storage areas have become a lot busier in recent months. Photo: Getty Images

Alan Joyce said that the desert was the best place for the A380s for now. Speaking at a press conference following the rescue plan announcement, as reported in Executive Traveler, he said,

“The aircraft are being put into the Mojave Desert, where the environment protects the aircraft (because) we have the intention at the right time to restart them, but that is a considerable amount of time away.”

All 12 of Qantas’ A380s will be hibernated for at least three years. Six of those have just had new cabins and lounges fitted. As such, we can expect those six to return to service first, although it looks like we’ll have a long wait before we get the opportunity to try out the new cabins again.

There is a possibility that some won’t come back at all. But for the six refitted aircraft, we can bank on those making a comeback once travel demand begins to pick up.