Could The Qantas Airbus A380 Return Much Sooner Than Expected?

Despite Qantas saying its fleet of A380s will not return to service before 2023, there is a belief that the timeline may get brought forward. Qantas grounded its fleet of A380s last year. Since then, the airline has stuck firm with its 2023 restart date. But as the airline industry shows signs of life, some industry insiders believe we may see the Qantas A380 carrying passengers before then.

Qantas A380s parked at Victorville, California. Photo: Vincenzo Pace / Simple Flying

Is 2023 a worst-case scenario for the Qantas A380?

On Tuesday, The Australian newspaper reported that Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) president Murray Butt thought the 2023 date was a “worst-case scenario.”

“… there’s a lot of pent-up demand for international travel. Once borders do reopen, it will be interesting to see how quickly that moves,” Captain Butt told the newspaper.

Qantas has 10 A380s in storage at Southern California Logistics Airport, Victorville. They are being well looked after and kept in tip-top condition. One of the reasons Qantas choose Victorville was because of its proximity to its A380 maintenance hub at Los Angeles International Airport. It’s an easy drive out for LA-based Qantas engineering and maintenance staff. Indeed, we are told two are at LAX itself, meaning they could be brought back fairly rapidly.

Despite this, there’s been plenty of speculation Qantas will not bring back the A380. The Air France A380 fleet’s retirement and the probable retirements of the Lufthansa and Etihad A380 fleets have helped feed this speculation.

But Qantas’ CEO has repeatedly said the A380 has a future at the airline. Citing slot restrictions at big airports and scheduling windows, CEO Alan Joyce recently doubled down on the future of the A380s at Qantas.

“We do think, if you look at the Qantas network, there are going to be opportunities to deploy those aircraft,” said Joyce. “An A380, if it’s fully or nearly written down, will absolutely work.”

The A380 will return to service with Qantas says CEO Alan Joyce. Photo: Vincenzo Pace / Simple Flying

Other airlines confirm their commitment to their A380s

Qantas isn’t alone in reaffirming its commitment to the A380. Other airlines operating comparably sized fleets of A380s have also recently signaled their commitment to the aircraft type. Singapore Airlines, which has 19 A380s, is continuing to refurbish its superjumbo cabins. This week, the British Airways CEO, Sean Doyle, said the A380 would be returning to service there.

Qantas typically sent its A380s to airports like Heathrow, Los Angeles, and Dallas. The service between Sydney and Dallas is an example of where the A380 works well. That flight proved a rich source of revenue for Qantas. The Qantas A380 was also a regular on routes to Asian destinations like Singapore and Hong Kong.

But it’s unlikely Sydney, once a busy hub for A380 services from multiple airlines, will see the number of A380 services it once did. That’s an outcome sure to be repeated at former A380 hub airports around the globe.

A Qantas A380 in storage at Victorville. Photo: Vincenzo Pace / Simple Flying

Commitment to A380 an encouraging sign

Despite this, it is encouraging that several airlines are now publicly confirming the future of their A380 fleets rather than retiring them. It indicates the mega jumbo will be around for a while yet.

Signs of life across the broader airline industry may be fueling this. While airlines everywhere are flagging a poor first half of 2021, there is a growing optimism things may start to improve in the second half of the year. That optimism is driven by vaccination rollouts, the development of health passports, and an evolving maturity when dealing with border restrictions and quarantine. And that is contributing to a willingness among many to start thinking about traveling again.

As Captain Butt notes, if the momentum continues, the Qantas A380s may be back in the air sooner than predicted.

What do you think? Do you think the Qantas A380s will be back flying before 2023? Post a comment and let us know.