The newly refurbished fleet of Qantas A380s were expected to fly until the end of this decade, when the airline intended to have fully-fledged Project Sunrise operations up and running. Now, it is unclear how many of the airline’s 12 superjumbos will return to service, the airline’s CEO said today, as Qantas recalibrates the size and composition of its long-haul fleet for a post-lockdown world.
Keeping options open
After initially scrambling to come to terms with the magnitude of the situation and the grounding of almost entire fleets, airlines are beginning to regroup and make plans for post-crisis recovery scenarios.
These often mean retiring aircraft earlier than expected. While Qantas always intended to let its Boeing 747s go at the end of the year, the carrier is now keeping its options open for its Airbus A380s too.
The Australian flag-carrier has 12 of the superjumbo jets. Difficult to fill on any given day, coronavirus travel bans and near-zero demand has meant Qantas has grounded all of them. Six of the aircraft have so far been refurbished, but interior work on the remaining half has stopped for now.
“There is a potential to bring all 12 (A380s) back (into service), but there is a potential to bring less than 12 back,” Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO, told Executive Traveller today. “That will depend on what the recovery scenario looks like (…)we don’t know when the big markets like the US and the UK, which use the A380s, will open, and when. We are keeping our options open.”
Refurbishments for millions of dollars
Qantas has so far refitted six of its 12 A380s. The first one returned to the airline in October last year. Business class Skybeds are replaced with Business Suites, and the planes have been given new premium economy seats. On top of that, they have had two new inflight lounges added on the upper deck.
The entire A380 fleet was due to be refurbished by the end of 2020 – and to keep flying until the end of the decade. However, as these upgrades cost millions of dollars, it makes sense to halt any work on the interior of the remaining superjumbos if their future with the airline is uncertain.
Decisions depend on market
Mr. Joyce further said that the company has not made any decisions yet and that the outcome of the fleet review would depend on when international markets open.
Qantas’ A380s usually operate routes to the United States, Singapore, and London. Now, they will all remain grounded at least until the end of July, which is the earliest that Qantas expects to see its international flights restored.
Qantas would not be the first to let the superjumbo go early, as the world of commercial aviation adapts to a future that looks very different to how it did a few months ago. Lufthansa has retired six A380s initially intended to go in 2022, and Air France is most likely accelerating the exit of the model from its fleet.
Will you miss the giant jumbo jet? Did you have a chance to fly on Qantas’ refurbished version? Let us know in the comments.