Qantas Operates Unusual 18 Hour Airbus A380 Flight

The third refurbished Qantas A380 returned to regular service last week. The refurbishment was carried out in Dresden, Germany. The norm has been for a refurbished A380 to hop across to Heathrow and run a regular passenger service to Sydney, Australia. But last week, this A380 made a highly unusual 18 hour nonstop flight from Dresden to Sydney.

Qantas’ third refurbished A380 returned to service last week. Photo: Getty Images.

A big flight went quietly under the radar

Surprisingly, there was no publicity concerning the return to service of VH-OQH. But it was reported in Aeroin.Net who noted the 16,928-kilometre flight crossed 16 countries and three continents. The 18½ hour flight departed from Dresden Klotzsche Airport at 01:35 on Thursday, 19 December 2019 and flew straight through to Sydney, arriving at 06:02 on Friday, 20 December 2019.

The plane did not sit on the tarmac in Sydney for long. It operated QF17 between Sydney and Los Angeles later that day.

VH-OQH, the third refurbished Qantas A380. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons.

Not an entirely smooth return to service

However, it wasn’t an entirely smooth return to service for VH-OQH. The return service to Sydney out of LAX was delayed by several hours on Friday night for “mechanical reasons.” The plane finally departed in the early hours of Saturday, 21 December 2019.

An hour or so into the flight, Simple Flying has been told that there was a “funny smell” in the cabin and the captain announced the aircraft was turning back to Los Angeles to deal with the issue. It was not an emergency and Qantas has a large engineering base at LAX. The plane landed safely at 03:53 on Saturday, 21 December.

A Qantas spokesperson told Simple Flying that the plane returned to Los Angeles as a precaution due to an engineering issue.

After a delay in LAX of nearly 24 hours, VH-OQH departed late in the evening of Saturday, 21 December 2019 and touched down in Sydney on Monday morning, 23 December 2019.

Qantas makes progress of their A380 refurbishments

Simple Flying has written at length at about Qantas’ refurbishment program for their A380s. They operate a fleet of twelve A380s and the refurbishment sees the latest Qantas’ seats installed across the four cabin classes and is designed to see the A380s through to the end of their working lives at Qantas.

And it’s good to be able to report on actual progress rather than just something due to happen in the future – as is often the way in aviation. As per the announced timeline, three of the 12 A380s are now refurbished and operating regular passenger services. The three aircraft are VH-OQH Reginald Ansett, VH-OQG Charles Ulm, and VH-OQK John Duigan.

Another one of the refurbished Qantas A380s – VH-OQK. Photo: Tomas Del Coro via Flickr

Qantas keeps its A380s working hard with services to London, Los Angeles, Dallas, Singapore and Hong Kong.  Having arrived in from Los Angeles this morning, VH-OQH is scheduled to head back across the Pacific in a few hours operating QF11. VH-OQG is at Dallas Fort Worth preparing to operate QF8 back to Sydney. VH-OQK is in Sydney, having flown down from Hong Kong overnight. It is flying back to Hong Kong today.

Biggest wins are for the premium class passengers

The biggest impact of the Qantas A380 refurbishment program will be felt by passengers traveling in the premium seats. Both business class and premium economy are being enlarged and feature the latest Qantas seats as seen on the Qantas Boeing 787-9 and A330 aircraft.

There will be some small improvements in the economy cabin but the biggest impact of the refurbishment will be seen in the premium seats upstairs. Photo: Qantas News Room.

First class is getting a slight zhuzhing – bigger personal flatscreens, better contouring and cushioning and an improved ‘color palette.’

There is also some tinkering down in the 341 seat economy cabin, where the IFE has been upgraded and the seat ergonomics improved. But as is the way with most aircraft makeovers, the impact is felt most in the more expensive seats.

Qantas expects to have all twelve A380s fully refurbished and winging their way around the world by the end of 2020.