1 Week To Go: What To Expect From Qantas’ Airbus A380 Return

Qantas is only one week away from resuming scheduled A380 flights on the Sydney – Los Angeles city pair. After a nearly two-year absence, the A380 will initially fly three return services a week on the transpacific sector.

Qantas is resuming scheduled A380 flights on January 11. Photo: Qantas

Initially, three return A380 flights a week to Los Angeles

Of the 12 A380s Qantas has, the airline plans to return 10 to service by early 2024. Six are due back flying by the end of this year. So far, only one A380 has made its way back to Sydney – that’s VH-OQB Hudson Fysh.

First pushing back in Sydney on Tuesday, January 11, the A380 QF11 flights will depart at 21:40 every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. After 13 hours and 50 minutes in the air, the jumbo will land in Los Angeles at 16:30 on the same day.

Heading back to Sydney, QF12 will depart Los Angeles at 20:15 every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for the long-haul home. The A380 will touch down in Sydney at 06:20 two days later.

When Qantas made the surprise announcement last week it would bring its A380 flights forward to January, the airline said it was a temporary measure and designed to help resolve a quarantine-related crewing issue. Qantas had planned to resume A380 flights to Los Angeles at the start of the 2022 northern summer flying season.

VH-OQB (pictured) will operate the initial A380 services to Los Angeles. Photo: Qantas

At the time of writing, online searches of the Qantas website show the A380 slated to operate at least two return flights a week to Los Angeles through to the start of the 2022 northern summer flying season. Qantas has timetabled the A380 flights to operate in conjunction with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flights throughout February and March.

However, airline timetables are fluid things in this day and age. Like most airlines, Qantas has made an art form of timetable changes, often at very short notice.

Usually, the decision to board an A380 flight or a Boeing 787 flight is a no-brainer. Most people will choose the bigger plane – especially for such a long flight. That’s especially the case for main cabin passengers.

VH-OQB can fly 371 economy class passengers compared to the 166 economy class passengers a Qantas Dreamliner carries. But the A380s sheer size provides most passengers with a greater sense of space – and that’s important on the 7,500 mile (12,070 kilometer) haul up to Los Angeles.

Most Qantas A380s have spent the travel downturn in storage in Victorville. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

A first class gamble for premium cabin A380 passengers

But premium cabin passengers might prefer to stick with the Dreamliner flights – at least for the time being. VH-OQB is not one of Qantas’ freshly refurbished A380s. Instead of featuring the highly competitive 1-2-1 Business Suites, VH-OQB features previous generation Skybeds in a 2-2-2 layout.

However, some top-tier Qantas passengers may get a get-out-of-jail-free card. As Executive Traveller notes, Qantas isn’t selling the first class seats on these first A380 flights. Instead, the airline will slot their best frequent flyers holding business class tickets into the first class cabin – a nice upgrade for some but unlucky for others.

Qantas hasn’t made clear which A380s will head home this year. Logic would suggest they’ll deploy the six refurbished planes first, update the remainder of the fleet and then bring those planes into service by 2024. But bringing VH-OQB back into service first suggests Qantas might not follow this route.

Qantas also plans to resume its flagship A380 flights to London Heathrow via Singapore in mid-June. However, as the constant changing of dates with A380 Los Angeles flights indicates, that date is subject to change.

After a long absence and in the face of persistent speculation the Qantas A380 fleet would never fly again, Qantas fans and A380 aficionados are widely welcoming the resumption of A380 flights next week.

The A380 flights are also a sign of faith in the aircraft type, which has fared worst than other aircraft types throughout the travel downturn. In a nutshell, next week’s resuming A380 Qantas flight is a piece of good news in a beleaguered industry.