Airline Stunts: When Qantas And Emirates Flew A380s Over Sydney

Over eight years ago, Qantas and Emirates signed a partnership that continues to this day. At the time, the airlines publicized the alliance by getting a pair of A380s to do some low-level flying over Sydney Harbour.

A pair of Qantas and Emirates A380s did some low-level flying over Sydney Harbour in March 2013. Photo: Getty Images

A380s strut their stuff despite a cloudy backdrop

When the A380s took to the air, Qantas said it believed it was the first time anywhere in the world two commercial airlines had flown A380s in formation. Unfortunately, the two airlines picked the wrong day to do this. Instead of clear blue skies, March 31, 2013, was overcast, providing a fairly average backdrop to the flights.

Regardless of the weather, both airlines have well-oiled publicity machines, and they went into overdrive promoting the flights.

“The sight of two of the world’s great airlines flying two of the world’s largest aircraft so close together over Sydney Harbour is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” gushed one spokesperson.

“There has been a huge amount of planning which has been necessary to make this possible, including seeking approval from safety regulators in both Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

“Pilots from both airlines have conducted dozens of special simulator training sessions since January this year. Emirates pilots came to Australia earlier this month to conduct joint sessions in Qantas’ A380 simulator in Sydney and conducted several more practice runs over the past few days.”

The two A380s overflying Sydney Harbour. Photo: Qantas

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A handful of low-level harbour flights since

The mid-morning flights from Sydney Airport scooted up the coast to Longreef on Sydney’s Northern Beaches before turning out to sea and looping around to overly Watson’s Bay and head up Sydney Harbour. The Qantas A380 was flying at 1,500 feet and the Emirates A380 slightly higher.

The big Airbus planes went as far west as the Gladesville Bridge before doing a 180-degree turn and coming back down the harbour, out over the Heads, and tracking back towards the airport.

While not an everyday event, a handful of low-level flights have occurred over Sydney Harbour. Qantas was back with another A380 in early 2015. Just over a year ago, the airline’s last 747-400 did a low-level swoop down the harbour on its final passenger flight.

The two A380s at Sydney Airport waiting to take off. Photo: Qantas

Earlier this year, Regional Express (Rex) got into the act, getting one of its 737-800s to buzz the harbour and city’s downtown area to promote their new jet flights.

Arguably, it’s far more impressive to be in the air looking down onto the harbour than on the ground looking at a plane go overhead. On scheduled flights, some of the flight paths into Sydney Airport bring planes straight over the harbour, giving passengers seated on one side of the aircraft some pretty impressive views.

Eight years after CEOs Alan Joyce and Tim Clark wheeled out those A380s to plug their new partnership, that partnership is still going strong. The harbour flights also did their job – they generated plenty of buzz.