Travelers at Malta’s International Airport were treated to an unusual sight yesterday, Sunday, October 6, 2019, when a chartered Qantas 747-438ER touched down. The plane has been chartered by the tour company, Constellation Journeys, for a world tour and departed from Sydney a week ago.
Where is the Qantas 747 going?
The tour runs for 20 days. Having left Sydney, passengers have been to Seoul and Jerusalem. They are spending two nights in Malta. Then they are off to Barcelona, Cartagena, Cusco, and Easter Island before swinging back into Sydney. It sounds pretty nice huh? The cost? It started at approximately USD$15,000 per person if you were happy to sit down the back of the plane. It goes all the way up to approximately USD$50,000 if you want to sit in business class and enjoy “the highest standard of accommodation” and first-class service.
Aeronews reported the plane touching down in Malta. It notes the aircraft is VH-OEE, also known as Nullarbor. Qantas has had the plane since 2002 and it is a regular on the Sydney-Haneda (Tokyo) route, one of the few remaining Qantas 747 routes.
On Monday, September 30, 2019, the charter departed Sydney for the daytime flight to Seoul’s Incheon Airport. It is a 10 hour flight up to Seoul. The aircraft spent three nights on the ground in Seoul before heading across to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport for three nights. Ben Gurion doesn’t see a lot of Qantas aircraft. Yesterday, the charter made the short two and a half-hour hop across to Malta International.
The charter is due to touch down in Sydney on Saturday, October 19, 2019.
Constellation splits the 747 into five fare types
VH-OEE seats 364 passengers including 270 passengers in economy class, 36 passengers in premium economy, and 58 passengers in business class. There is no first class on this aircraft. It sounds simple enough but Constellation have five fare categories.
The charter is fully inclusive – hotels, meals, drinks, transfers, sightseeing, travel insurance, luggage transfers, a doctor, tipping. It sounds simple enough but Constellation have five fare categories primarily determined by where you sit on the plane.
The entry-level Superior Class at the aforementioned USD$15,000 per person includes economy seating. If you are prepared to part with a few more thousand dollars, you can fly Superior Plus with a guaranteed window or aisle seat and a shadow seat beside you. Constellation notes your inflight dining and bar service will be “enhanced.”
Constellation’s Premier Class (at USD$24,671 per passenger) includes a premium economy seat on the Qantas 747, business class meals and bar service, and upgrades at “some hotels.”
If you were prepared to get serious and traumatise your Mastercard, a mere USD$40,000 would have secured you a seat in Business Class with all its attendant perks, “exceptional hotels”, and car transfers to and from Sydney Airport.
The last tier is Business Prestige which offers you first-class inflight service in a business class seat. This is the USD$50,000 per passenger fare. The very substantial fare difference between Business Prestige and Business Class does seem like a lot to pay for better inflight food and a superior class of smoother shampoo. I like good drinks and all but ….
Last generation seating
Additionally, the Qantas 747’s style have the old-style Mark II Skybeds rather than the more contemporary Business Suites. They are lie flat beds but the configuration in business class in 2-3-2 downstairs and 2-2 upstairs. Fifty thousand dollars and not even direct aisle access… The drinks had better be amazing. But as these flights are all daytime flights, the somewhat untidy configuration may not be such an issue.
Qantas has a fleet of seven747-400s remaining. They are deployed on routes such as Sydney-Santiago, Sydney-Johannesburg, and Sydney-Tokyo. As they near the end of their life at Qantas, the 747s don’t get worked too hard. Qantas frequently uses them as substitute aircraft when other aircraft are temporarily withdrawn from service for “operational reasons”. It also has an idle 747 sitting on the tarmac at Haneda all day every day waiting for its evening return flight.
Further, Qantas has enough excess 747 capacity to frequently charter them out. In addition to this charter, numerous charters are run down to Antarctica every summer.
As their days are numbered, it is good to see the Qantas 747s getting out and about to places they wouldn’t normally go to. Kind of like a long swan song.
The Constellation Journey’s charter still has 12 days to run. Today, Monday, it’s going to be 23 degrees and sunny in Malta. The 300 odd passengers are all off to visit the Grand Master’s Palace and Tarxien Temples. Doesn’t sound like too tough a way to spend a Monday.