We’ve talked a lot about the Qantas A380s here at Simple Flying. The airline is busy parking them for a couple of years. The A380s are going into long term storage in California, with the first having arrived earlier this week. But why the United States? Why not somewhere closer to home?
Several factors could determine where an airline sends its planes for storage. These include cost, convenience, and availability.
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Entry-level parking cost may be cheap, but extras pack a punch
The entry-level cost of parking a plane on a piece of dedicated long term parking tarmac isn’t necessarily expensive. For example, the daily parking fee at Roswell International Air Center starts at about $15 a day, depending on plane size.
But, like buying a ticket on a low-cost carrier, it’s the extras that pack a punch. Unless you want your A380 to start falling apart, you’ll need to pay for maintenance and upkeep. Costs will be determined by location, demand, and what the airline needs to be done to the plane while in storage.
Parking your A380 at a busy, space-constrained airport like Los Angeles can cost $1,000 a day before you factor in maintenance and upkeep. The specialized long term storage and maintenance facilities at sites like Victorville offer a happy medium between genuine boneyards like spacious Roswell and busy commercial airports. Regardless, Qantas will be writing a handsome check to put its A380s into storage.
The United States is friendly territory for Qantas
The United States is familiar territory for Qantas. The airline has been flying in for decades. The Californian aircraft boneyards might be 12,000 plus kilometers from Australia, but the A380s can do the flight in a single hop.
This makes the United States a relatively convenient spot to store the A380s. And there are additional factors that bolster the case. Qantas has a large A380 maintenance facility and base at Los Angeles International Airport. The United States has a stable government and a reliable and enforceable rule of law. No-one is going to swoop in and confiscate the planes. You might think that’s a far fetched scenario, but legal and legislative reliability matters when you are storing valuable assets in faraway places.
There are closer airports where you could store the A380s for less. But Qantas is probably prepared to pay a premium for the peace of mind.
Aircraft parking space is at a premium
A further factor is availability. Long term storage is in hot demand right now. Further complicating matters is the size of the A380 – they take up a lot of space. People ask, why doesn’t Qantas send its A380s to the long term storage facility in Alice Springs? But that facility has limited space, and other airlines got in first.Other airlines beat Qantas in the race to secure parking space at Alice Springs. Photo: Getty Images
Avalon is another Australian airport that springs to mind as a possibility. There’s space there. But that airport isn’t set up to maintain and service A380s. Qantas used to have a 747 maintenance facility there but quit that some years ago. From a cost perspective, US sites like Victorville are probably cheaper than setting up again in Avalon.
Qantas is hard-nosed when it comes to spending money. Their decision to send their A380s to the United States would have been a considered one. Ultimately, where the A380s go would be driven by a combination of factors, some having more weight than others.
The outcome is the Qantas A380s won’t be calling Australia home for a while yet.