Fleet Snapshot: The Qantas 787-9 Dreamliners

Fifteen months into the travel downturn and airlines worldwide still have significant portions of their fleets grounded. Qantas is no exception. But the Australian airline does have nearly all of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in the air. Let’s take a look at what the Qantas Dreamliners are up to and where they are flying.

Nearly all of the Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners are back flying. Photo: Qantas

Qantas Dreamliners back in the air

VH-ZNA Great Southern Land operated QF94 out of Los Angeles (LAX) on Friday, landing in Melbourne (MEL)  early on Saturday evening. The Dreamliner has been doing one or two return international flights a week lately. Before the Los Angeles run, VH-ZNA operated a flight to Hong Kong (HKT) on July 1 and a return flight to Melbourne two days later. In June, the aircraft made several flights between Sydney (SYD) and Tokyo (NRT). Before that, the plane was operating on the transcontinental run between Sydney and Perth (PER).

VH-ZNB Waltzing Matilda has spent July jetting between Sydney and Perth. On Sunday, the aircraft is operating QF634 across to Perth and QF646 back to Sydney. Qantas recently deployed the Dreamliners onto the Sydney – Perth – Sydney route. Before that, the airline used a mix of Boeing 737-800 and A330s on the sector. The Dreamliners are a popular option for passengers, offering a more spacious cabin on a flight that can take up to five hours – headwinds permitting.

VH-ZNC Quokka has had a quieter July. Earlier this month, the plane flew a Brisbane (BNE) – Los Angeles – Brisbane over a leisurely four days. More recently, VH-ZNC operated a Brisbane – Perth – Brisbane service. Qantas has slipped the Boeing 787-9 into the mix on this route. According to the current Qantas timetables, QF941 across to Perth is operated by the Dreamliner daily. The daily Dreamliner back to Brisbane is QF940.

Perth Airport is now hosting a number of domestic 787-9 Dreamliner flights. Photo: Qantas

Freight and repatriation flights keep Qantas Dreamliners busy

VH-ZND Emily Kame Kngwarreye landed in Melbourne in the early hours of Sunday morning after operating QF30 down from Hong Kong. Since early June, casting an eye over the aircraft’s flight history, VH-ZND has flown about every second day (on average). Hong Kong is a favorite airport, but Los Angeles also crops up as an occasional destination.

Given Qantas isn’t operating any regular international passenger flights beyond the trans-Tasman corridor, what’s going on in Hong Kong? Freight. All these flights to places like Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Los Angeles fly to shift freight.

VH-ZNE Skippy is also busy flying mostly freight flights. On Sunday morning, the plane ferried between Sydney and Melbourne as QF94 after arriving in Sydney on Friday evening from Los Angeles. VH-ZNE catches the eye because it sees a bit of business operating repatriation flights.

Since the beginning of June, the aircraft has operated two repatriation flights between New Delhi (DEL) and Darwin (DRW), the most recent landing in Darwin on June 30. Alongside these repatriation flights, there are some repositioning flights on domestic legs you’d don’t normally see Dreamliners flying on.

On June 3, VH-ZNE flew Perth – Darwin. On June 4, back from a lightning dash to New Delhi, the plane operated Darwin – Adelaide (ADL) before flying Adelaide – Brisbane the following day.

Qantas’ distinctive 787-9 VH-ZND Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Photo: Qantas

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

VH-ZNG Jillaroo in Frankfurt this weekend

VH-ZNF Boomerang flew Brisbane to Los Angeles on July 6, and the plane has remained there since. After operating a repatriation flight from New Delhi in early June, VH-ZNF has mostly jetted between Brisbane and Perth. However, on June 28, the aircraft flew between Brisbane and Vieux Fort (UVF).

Vieux Fort is in St Lucia and well off the normal Qantas flight path. It turns out Qantas was flying the Australian men’s cricket team for their upcoming series against the West Indies. On June 30, VH-ZNF positioned back to the familiar surrounds of Los Angeles before continuing onto Brisbane on July 2. VH-ZNF subsequently flew a return service to Perth before heading back to LAX on July 6.

VH-ZNG Jillaroo is spending the weekend in Frankfurt (FRA), preparing for a repatriation flight back to Darwin. After operating a repatriation flight to Darwin from New Delhi about a week ago, the Dreamliner flew down to Sydney on July 6. The plane didn’t stay there long, heading back to Darwin on July 7 as QF6101.

After two days on the ground in Darwin, VH-ZNG departed for Frankfurt on Friday as QF115, landing in Germany early on Saturday morning. Why are so many repatriation flights operating in and out of Darwin? Australia’s Federal Government has a large quarantine camp near the airport.

VH-ZNH Great Barrier Reef has not flown since June 26, last operating between Honolulu (HNL) and Sydney. Until then, the plane had kept fairly busy, flying out of Sydney across most of the month to Perth and Tokyo. Various aircraft tracking websites say VH-ZNH is now parked.

VH-ZNJ Longreach departing from London Heathrow. Photo: Tom Boon/Simple Flying

Nearly all Qantas Dreamliners flying

VH-ZNI Kookaburra landed in Darwin on Sunday morning, having operated QF112, a repatriation flight down from New Delhi. After flying up from Darwin on Saturday, the return service flew through the night. For the earlier part of July, VH-ZNI has mostly stuck to flying between Brisbane and Perth. After a deep clean, the aircraft is likely to head back to its Brisbane base in the next day or two.

VH-ZNJ Longreach has spent most of June and July scooting back and forth across the Pacific to Los Angeles. This particular plane is one of the more distinctive in Qantas’ fleet. It features a big red “100” on the forward fuselage, marking the airline’s centenary. On Saturday, VH-ZNJ left Brisbane and headed over to Los Angeles as QF15. It is the plane’s first flight to LAX this month, but it managed five return flights there in June.

The final 787-9 Dreamliner in Qantas’ fleet is VH-ZNK Gangurru. On Sunday, the plane is flying between Los Angeles and Sydney. After operating QF30 between Hong Kong and Melbourne on Friday, the aircraft turned around within a few hours and took off for Los Angeles. It is a sudden burst of activity for VH-ZNK, which, like most of the Dreamliner fleet, has been keeping flying but doing so at a relatively leisurely pace.

A Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner landing at SFO. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

Good to see the Qantas Dreamliners in the air

It is notable that after a flurry of flights in late April and May, the Qantas’ 787-9s are no longer flying the trans-Tasman corridor. The travel bubble has been a stop-start affair, with passenger demand generally less than expected.

It’s great to see the majority of Qantas’ Dreamliners flying. Importantly, it keeps flight crews in the air and on the Qantas payroll. However, most people will be even more pleased to see the planes flying normal passengers again, rather than sticking to freight and repatriation flights. But good luck guessing when that will be.