Qantas Forced To Add A Fuel Stop To World’s Third-Longest Flight

Australian flag carrier Qantas is facing the prospect of adding a fuel stop to the world’s third-longest flight. The airline is taking steps to avoid flying over Iraq or Iran, following this morning’s crash of a Ukrainian Boeing 737. The extra distance required to divert means the airline will need to add a refueling stop in Asia to the outbound service, or offload a massive 90 passengers to reduce weight.

Qantas Dreamliner
Qantas may have to stop and refuel on the way to London. Photo: Qantas

Avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace

The world’s third-longest flight is looking to lose its appeal as Qantas is forced to add a refueling stop to its Perth to London service. The Australian carrier has taken the decision to reroute QF9 and QF10 away from Iranian airspace following the crash of a Ukrainian Boeing 737 in the early hours of this morning.

QF9 and 10 usually traverse a large portion of Iranian and Iraqi airspace on their mammoth 14,500km flight. However, following the FAA’s decision to ban US airlines’ flying in Iranian and Iraqi airspace after this morning’s crash, Qantas has announced it will avoid flying over both these nations until further notice.

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QF10 flight path
QF9 and QF10 usually pass over Iran and/or Iraq. Photo: Flight Radar 24

Instead, as of today, the flights will reroute over Afghan airspace, following a similar path to flights leaving Australia’s west coast that typically refuel in Singapore en route. The detour is expected to add some 40 to 50 minutes of flight time to the trip.

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Can Qantas make the trip?

The added distance and time involved in the diversion has some serious repercussions for Qantas’ nonstop service. Although 50 minutes of flying time might not sound like a lot, the 787-9 Dreamliner was already flying towards the edge of its operational range with the direct Perth to London service.

As such, there will need to be adjustments made if Qantas wants to keep the service fully occupied. A spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald that QF9 may need to be operated with a fuel stop in Singapore or somewhere similar in order to continue flying with a full load. The other option, they said, would be to offload around 90 passengers from the flight in order to reduce weight.

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Qantas Dreamliner in flight
Qantas operates the London to Perth route with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Qantas

Losing 90 passengers would not be good news for QF9 or for Qantas. Not only would it leave a bunch of travelers disgruntled and requiring compensation from the airline, it would also make the trip less profitable, something that Qantas would clearly be keen to avoid.

The more logical solution would be to add a fuel stop on the way to London, something which a Qantas spokesperson backed up when talking to Executive Traveler today. According to the publication, the airline is “looking at temporarily routing QF9 through Asia until we’re able to return to our normal flight path through the Middle East.

“This would mean a fuel stop in a city like Singapore or Hong Kong but it would enable us to still carry a full load of passengers on these heavily-booked flights, and minimize disruption that way. We’ll reach out to passengers directly if there’s any change to their booking.”

QF10, the return London to Perth service, will continue to operate as normal, said the airline. This is on account of favorable tailwinds when traveling in the other direction.

What does this mean for the world’s third-longest flight?

QF9 and 10 could see a negative impact from a forced stopover, in particular for those originating in Melbourne. Passengers typically connect from MEL to Perth, a three and a half hour trip, and then fly onwards for over 17 hours to reach London. Putting another stop in would make this a two-stop itinerary, adding significant time to the trip.

Melbourne fliers would likely find it more convenient to take one of the direct MEL to SIN services and then pick up either QF9 or QF1 in Singapore, rather than make the trip to Perth first.

A Qanatas 787 Dreamliner
The service is likely to lose passengers or money as a result. Photo: Qantas

Perth fliers, on the other hand, are unlikely to drop off the flights, as this is the only direct service to London. However, putting a refueling stop on the route takes away what made this flight unique and gave it such high load factors despite being more expensive than the alternatives.

With a fuel stop on route, QF9 would be up against competing services from the likes of Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways and Qatar/British Airways codeshares, which often work out a lot cheaper. This could force Qantas to cut its prices in order to maintain load factors, depending on how long the diversion stays in place.

What do you think? Should Qantas just sell 90 fewer seats on QF9 and keep it direct? Or add in a fuel stop and go head to head with cheaper services from other airlines? Let us know in the comments.

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Michael Bellamy

I would drop the 90 pax , as who want to do Melbourne – Perth – Tec Stop – London , when you can do Perth or Melbourne – via another stop then – London at a much cheaper fare

David C

Did QF use this option last night ? . As it would appear that the current flight is routing non stop to LHR by overflying India , Pakistan and Afghanistan . Incidentally even this rerouting adds no time to the timetabled endurance , it’s to be 17:42 mins .

Richard

A380 could do the range just need to fill the seats.

Cass

Then Qantas should probably think A359ULR

pats

If a fuel stop is added to the flight, how would pax handle the customs/immigration for the in-between country ?

What if you need a visa for that unexpected stop ???

djc

They would not change the itinerary to land in a country that required clearing immigration for a refueling stop.

William

You don’t need a visa if you don’t want to clear immigration and stay within the immigration zone. Airports like Dubai, Doha and Singapore even have hotels inside. Australians usually don’t need a pre approved visa eg Dubai though if you are say a South African you would. That may change as Australian passorts are handed out for chips and nefarious people are given passports.

Frank

Thanks, Donald Trump

William

Donald Trump is actually a moderate on this. Don’t focus on him because the problem comes from elsewhere. The Hawks are on both sides in both the US congress and senate. Look deeper and never believe the media without checking.

U

That’s the reason why qantas should have taken the A350-900ULR or gotten airbus to develop a a350-1000ULR if they went to go with the a350K

Brody Cyr

Damn. I wish they’d use the classic blue stripe livery because the new one looks pretty ugly. I’d definitely love to see more historic airlines rise from the dead such as TWA and Northwest and this is definitely a step in the right direction.

David G

I’m lost! What has a blue stripe got to do with a Qantas flight to London?

David G

Qantas charge a considerable premium (many hundreds of $$) for this flight on the basis it is non-stop. Adding a refuelling stop is not going to sit well with those who booked some time ago and could have got a much cheaper flight with any of the Asia/Middle East carriers.

ROBERT TOD

I wouldn’t fly over Afghanistan, or Pakistan either (too much risk throughout that region) – would be better to have a fuel stop in Bahrain (just like BA used to do on flights from HK to London with older 747’s before being able to fly non-stop. Then from Bahrain to fly over Saudi, Jordan and Israel and taking southern Europe route to London. If passenger numbers drop then change plane type to something smaller like A321LR or A321XLR.

Aman

Uh oh…big issue. Qantas May probably get away with it for a while but this could seriously impact its business plans if this continues. The other option is for Qantas to step up the accelerator on the A350-1000s and get them sooner particularly if the disruption continues.

David

If the half way refuelling is a firm decision then is there any merit in only half filling the tanks, or at least only fuelling to complete the first leg? Is fuel cheaper at that intermediate stop?

Ronnie

What about they temporarily take out 40 seats, spread the remaining out and carry less passengers there and make it more comfortable for everyone when full. THAT would be a nice option, since load factors are so good they could adjust pricing slightly to still make it pay. Anyway its a premium service so a stopover is a no-no to keep up their reputation on this run, even temporarily.

Ken

QF9 still flying direct from Perth to LHR. Yesterday it flown Oman-UAE-Gulf Water-Kuwait-Iraq-Turkey.

https://flightaware.com/live/flight/QFA9/history/20200107/1130Z/YPPH/EGLL

Today following India-Pakistan-Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan-Black Sea-Ukraine.

https://flightaware.com/live/flight/QFA9/history/20200108/1130Z/YPPH/EGLL

Ronnie

apparently Qantas think overflying Iraq or then Kazakhstan-Ukraine is ok then?

Gerry S

@DavidG: I think he is talking about the Eastern Airlines rebirth. Got the wrong page.

Tony

the answer: lease 350s; they fly farther with more passengers.

Janet Geay

Having just flown the Dreamliner from Perth to London, the whole point of flying was for direct route so I say off load 90 passengers and qantas suck up the cost for your own reputation, frequent flyer

William

I suspect the A350-900 could have done this flight without the fuel stop. Even the A330-800 which despite its higher fuel consumption seems to have a greater range than B787-9. Ive always thought that Addis Abbaba in Ethiopia looks like a good mid way for Australian and NZ airlines. Its a bit hot and high though.

Jeff

Not quite sure why anyone would review a Jetstar flight?
What is next?
Reviews of Greyhound bus trips?