How Long Will It Take To Refurbish Qantas’ Entire A380 Fleet?

With the first refurbished Qantas A380 being bedded down and due to head back to Heathrow today as QF1 following a media event in Sydney yesterday, thoughts are turning to when the next refurbished A380 will roll out of the workshops. The initial reactions to the first refurbished A380 are broadly positive, but when will the project be completed? How long will it take to refurbish Qantas’ entire fleet of twelve A380s?

The A380 fleet is set to be refurbished by the end of 2020. Photo: Prayitno via Flickr.

In short, about another year. Qantas has told Simple Flying that they expect to refurbish the remaining 11 aircraft by the end of 2020. The airline notes that it expects to have a further two of the remaining 11 unrefurbished aircraft done and flying by the end of 2019. Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, is calling the process a “mid life upgrade,” saying;

“The A380 is a crucial part of our long-haul fleet and this upgrade program will see customers enjoy everything the aircraft has to offer for years to come.”

Qantas noted that it takes about eight weeks to refurbish each A380. The work is primarily done at an Airbus facility in Dresden.

What’s the next A380 to get refurbished?

Sharp-eyed flyers reckon they had the next refurbished A380 nailed. Scuttlebutt several days ago was that it would be VH-OQL, named Phyllis Arnott. The aircraft was delivered to Qantas in December 2011. It was the last A380 Qantas received. It operated QF1 from Sydney to Heathrow, departing Sunday, September 30, 2019, and arriving into Heathrow the next day.

Source: FlightAware.

On Tuesday, October 2, 2019, it flew from Heathrow to Dresden as QF6005. Factoring in the eight week refurbishment time frame, might we see the refurbished A380 VH-OQL, in the air around November 30, 2019? Maybe operating QF2 out of Heathrow that evening? There’ll be more than a few passengers booked on QF2 around that date keeping an eye on the seat plan.

But what about VH-OQI? It went to Abu Dhabi three week ago and there has been no flight activity since. There are two maintenance facilities being used for refurbishments, including one in Abu Dhabi. With about five weeks to go, VH-OQI should be the next refurbished A380 set to fly around the end of October.

And beyond the end of 2019?

And beyond that, trying to figure out the refurbishment schedule and which plane is going where is speculation and not particularly useful. We can account for three of the twelve A380s. Qantas is keeping mum. There will be 9 aircraft remaining.

It is also reasonable to factor in a lull over Christmas and the New Year. Whether Dresden winds down over January or not, most of Australia does. The Qantas boss will probably be on his honeymoon or kicking back at his beach house. Good luck to him. My guess is the fourth A380 won’t be sighted until early February at least. 

Might we see the second refurbished A380 pushing back from Heathrow around the end of November? Photo: John Taggart via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s also worth noting that time of the year is one of the busiest times for international flights in and out of Australia. The summer school holidays are in full swing and the A380s generally fill right up. Qantas might like to keep them flying over the busy periods. More bums on seats equal more dollars in Qantas’ pockets.

The tempo should pick up in 2020

By the southern autumn, we might expect to see the refurbished A380s coming into service fairly regularly. Maybe one a month would take us through most of 2020 and allow the airline to draw a line under it towards the end of the year.

As  Alan Joyce noted;

“By the end of this upgrade, we’ll have next-generation seating across our entire long-haul fleet of A380s, A330s and 787s.”

Which is a worthy goal. 

As noted, we can be pretty certain VH-OQI will be the next refurbished A380 followed by VH-OQL. Beyond that, it gets trickier. A degree of common sense and seasonality makes approximating the delivery schedule roughly feasible, but trying to establish the sequence of aircraft being refurbished is a fool’s errand.

But if you have any insights, insider’s tips or knowledge, we’d love to know.