How Much Does It Cost Qantas To Fly A Boeing B787 To London?

Qantas has brought forward to November 1st its plan to resume QF1 from Sydney to London, helped by New South Wales reopening its international borders to those fully vaccinated on that day. It’ll operate via Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, temporarily replacing Perth. The cost of operating a Sydney-Darwin-Heathrow round trip? About AUD$604,000, according to data experts RDC Aviation. But that is less expensive than transiting Singapore.

Qantas via Darwin to London
Qantas will use the B787-9 from Sydney via Darwin to London from November 1st. Photo: Qantas

Qantas to London

Australia’s flag carrier had expected to reintroduce its ‘Kangeroo Route’ from Sydney to London Heathrow in December, but it was moved forward to mid-November and will now recommence on November 1st. It’ll be joined by Melbourne to Heathrow from December 18th, just in time for Christmas.

New South Wales will reopen to fully vaccinated travelers, on November 1st, none of whom will have to quarantine on arrival. In reality, the border will only really be open to Australian citizens, permanent residents, and immediate families, but it’s a start. Victoria hasn’t yet confirmed when it’ll reopen but expect it to be shortly; the relaunch of Melbourne-London will be pushed forward or back based on this.

Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner VH-ZNH (2)
The B787 was on a scheduled basis to London from March 2018. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

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All London flights will operate via Darwin

Darwin has played an essential role in repatriating Australians stuck overseas, including from London and Buenos Aires, mainly because of its quarantine facilities. However, until now, Darwin hasn’t had a prolonged non-stop operation to London Heathrow.

This will change in November and December when Sydney and Melbourne both route via Darwin to the UK capital, with the schedule as follows (all times are local). Sydney will initially be four-weekly but will rise to seven-weekly, while Melbourne will be seven-weekly from the start.

  • Resuming Nov. 1st: QF1, Sydney-Darwin-London: 18:30-21:25, 22:55-06:50+1
  • Resuming Nov. 2nd: QF2, London-Darwin-Sydney: 09:50-11:45+1; 13:15-19:05
  • Resuming Dec. 18th: QF9, Melbourne-Darwin-London: 19:40-22:20, 23:50-07:45+1
  • Resuming Dec. 19th: QF10, London-Darwin-Melbourne: 11:20-13:15+1, 14:45-20:25

Both routes will utilize 236-seat B787-9s, which have 42 seats in business, 28 in premium economy, and 166 in economy. Qantas now has 11 B787s.

Qantas to London
From the end of March 2022, Qantas expects to again operate Melbourne-Perth-London and Sydney-Singapore-London. Image: GCMap.

Darwin to London is bookable, but…

Significantly, Darwin-Heathrow-Darwin is bookable in its own right, but only on QF9/QF10. This theoretically means it is more than simply a fuel stop. In reality, it is merely a fuel stop of 90 minutes. Indeed, the Northern Territory will remain closed to international travelers until sometime in 2022.

Booking data shows that, in 2019, only about 10,000 round-trip point-to-point passengers flew between Darwin and London, a minuscule amount for an ultra-long-haul market. In comparison, Perth-London had over 250,000. But it isn’t about Darwin’s numbers.

Although dates may change, from March 27th, the first day of the northern hemisphere’s aviation summer season (winter season in the southern hemisphere), it is expected that all of Qantas’ Melbourne-London flights will once more operate via Perth. At the same time, Sydney will again route via Singapore.

Darwin to London
Darwin is bookable, despite the Northern Territory not (yet) accepting international passengers. Image: via Google Flights.

$604k to run Sydney-Darwin-London return

According to RDC Aviation’s Apex Route Performance module, one Qantas round trip between Sydney and London via Darwin will have an operating cost of approximately AUD$604,000. This is based on a block time of 1,270 minutes, assumes full airport and passenger charges, and is based on fuel at USD 2.14 per US gallon.

Qantas cost from Darwin to Heathrow
This specific image provides a breakdown of Qantas’ estimated costs and other details only for the Darwin to Heathrow leg, with a return trip of about AUD$472,614. This snapshot was taken from its Apex Route Performance module on October 19th, 2021. Image: RDC Aviation.

Cheaper via Darwin than Singapore

As you’d expect, operating the 10,577 nautical miles from Sydney via Darwin is inevitably very expensive. However, RDC, the aviation data people, shows that it is cheaper than operating via Singapore. This would be approximately $634,000, or about 5% higher.

Of course, it’s essential to realize that all of this concerns the operating cost in relation to breaking even. It doesn’t look at profitability. While Singapore might be more expensive, it’ll also – in normal times – produce much higher passenger volume and it has strong premium and overall demand. As Iain Smith, Director at RDC Aviation, told the author:

“The difference in operating costs is virtually all down to the extra costs with the additional flying time, especially fuel. It’s quite interesting to note that the overall travel time, costs, and breakeven requirement will be much lower for flights transiting from Sydney through Darwin to London compared to the transit via Singapore.”

RDC Aviation Australia
RDC Aviation is a data company for airlines, airports, and other organizations. This snapshot was taken from its Apex Route Performance module on October 19th, 2021. Image: RDC Aviation.

Qantas to Europe

Between 2004 and 2019, Qantas offered 33.9 million seats for sale to/from Europe, based on schedules information supplied to OAG. The peak year was 2011 when it was just 67,394 seats from hitting the three million mark.

While Qantas stopped serving non-UK European countries in 2013, France saw its metal until 2004 and Germany until 2013. Both used B747-400s. Frankfurt was linked to Sydney via Singapore. The loss of Frankfurt was the result of the Qantas-Emirates partnership, which was formed in 2013 and is extended to 2028.

The rationale of the partnership was straightforward: Qantas would avoid loss-making (or at least marginal) non-core routes to Europe, while benefiting from Emirates’ extensive European coverage. Emirates would benefit from greater access to Australia. Indeed, when Qantas began Dubai in April 2013, the pair had 98 weekly outbound flights, 17% more than the week before.

Qantas to Europe
For obvious reasons, London has always been Qantas’ primary market to Europe. Since 2004, it has served Heathrow through Dubai (until 2018), Hong Kong (2012), Bangkok (2012), Singapore (until 2014, then again from 2018), and Perth (from 2018). Source of data: OAG.

Australia to Europe: a summary

Across all airlines, around 5.4 million round-trip passengers traveled between Australia and Europe in 2019, according to booking data. Over 14,500 people flew to/from Europe every day.

More than 2.6 million passengers (48%) were to/from the UK, with Germany a distant second with approximately 600,000. Next were Italy, France, Ireland, Spain, Netherlands, Greece, Switzerland, and Denmark. Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, and Qantas carried around eight in ten Europe passengers.

Emirates A380
Emirates carried more Australia to Europe passengers than any other airline. Photo: Dubai Airports.

Top-10 markets from Australia to the UK

If all airlines are examined, the most significant UK origins and destinations in 2019 were as follows. Even number ten, Manchester to Brisbane, had over 50,000 round-trip passengers. On average, about 140 people flew between Manchester and the Queensland capital each day.

  1. Heathrow to Sydney
  2. Heathrow to Melbourne
  3. Heathrow to Brisbane
  4. Heathrow to Perth
  5. Manchester to Sydney
  6. Gatwick to Sydney
  7. Heathrow to Adelaide
  8. Manchester to Perth
  9. Manchester to Melbourne
  10. Manchester to Brisbane

Even regional UK airports had good traffic to Australia. For example, Newcastle saw over 35,000 passengers, excluding those ‘leaked’ to Scotland or Manchester to fly. The vast bulk of Newcastle passengers flew with Emirates, which has now returned to the Northeast airport.

Are you planning a trip from Europe to Australia or vice-versa? Let us know in the comments.

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