What Happened To Qantas’ Airbus A300 Fleet?

Widebody twin-engine aircraft are a dime a dozen these days. But not so long ago they were a relative rarity. The Airbus A300 was the first wide-body twin-engine aircraft ever manufactured commercially. The aircraft first flew in 1972 and production finally ceased in 2007. All up, the venture by Airbus was a commercial success, with 561 of the aircraft sold. Qantas came to fly four of them throughout much of the 1990s, having inherited them from Australian Airlines. By the 2000s they were gone. What happened to Qantas’ Airbus A300s?

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Qantas only had the A300s for about five years. Photo: Qantas.

First, the background

Back in the mists of time (say, the 1980s) when governments still liked to own things rather than privatize them, the aviation market in Australia was very different from today. Qantas was a government-owned carrier that only flew international routes. The domestic market was carved up in a cozy duopoly between the privately owned and much missed Ansett and the government-owned Trans Australia Airlines (TAA).

In 1986, TAA was rebadged as Australian Airlines. This version of Australian Airlines should not be confused with a later version of Australian Airlines which flew to Asia out of Cairns between 2002 and 2006.

In 1992, in preparation for privatizing Qantas the following year, the Australian Government merged Australian Airlines and Qantas. It was via this merger that Qantas came to possess the A300s.

Australian Airlines A300s

Australian Airlines had five A300B4 aircraft in the latter half of the 1980s. This writer is old enough to remember taking a few flights on them under Australian Airlines colors in the late 1980s and early 1990s, complete with preflight pitstops in the Flight Deck Lounges. Of these five A300s, one went to TOA Domestic in 1987, the remainder went across to Qantas following the merger in 1992.

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VH-TAE in TAA colors at Brisbane in 1984. Photo: Wal Nelowkin via Wikimedia Commons.

The four remaining A300 aircraft in question were VH-TAA, VH-TAC, VH-TAD and VH-TAE. Qantas mostly used them on east coast domestic routes with occasional forays west to Adelaide and Perth.

At the time they were competing against Ansett’s wide-bodied 767. The Qantas A300s were considered a better aircraft but many people put up with the aging 767s because they preferred Ansett’s soft product.

The Qantas A300s were gradually painted the distinctive Qantas colors. The last revenue service for a Qantas A300 operated on August 1998, a domestic flight from Sydney to Melbourne.

What happened to the Qantas A300s?

For Qantas at the time, these four A300s were oddities in its largely Boeing fleet. Just a few years after inheriting them, Qantas began phasing them out. Planespotters tells their life story and where they ended up

VH-TAA entered service with Trans Australian Airlines in June 1981. In the latter 1980s, the plane spent five years leased to Condor and Air Niugini (where it was registered as P2-ANG) before coming back into the fold in 1989. Ten years later, in September 1998, it was sold to Pace Airlines and converted to a freighter. Today it flies freight for Midex Airlines out of the UAE.

VH-TAC was delivered to TAA in October 1981. It was transferred to Qantas in 1993 and stayed with the airline until November 1998 when it too went to Pace Airlines as a freighter. Many airlines have leased the aircraft since. It still flies. Its current registration is 4L-ABA and it flies for Georgian based AMS Airlines.

VH-TAD came to TAA in June 1982. It stayed within the TAA/Australian Airlines/Qantas firmament until December 1998 went it went to Pace Airlines as a freighter. Since 2008, the aircraft has flown with Midex as A6-MDB.

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The A300 still flies for freight airliners such as Midex. Photo: Steven Byles via Wikimedia Commons.

The final A300, VH-TAE, was delivered to TAA in December 1983. Exactly 15 years later, in December 1998, it too went to Pace Airlines as fly as a freighter. Following a similar career path as the other two A300s, this plane has ended up at Midex Airlines where it is currently registered as A6-MDC. 

To be honest, the Qantas A300s are best remembered for their lives at TAA and Australian Airlines. The then up to the minute aircraft represented a serious competitive challenge to Ansett and made a change from the Boeing heavy fleets of local airlines at the time.

And now, coming up to nearly forty years old, you can still find these planes flying in other parts of the world – which says a lot about the quality of the aircraft.

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