Qantas To Add Capacity, Lease Aircraft

May 19, 2023

Qantas is to boost its international network with extra flights, more aircraft and new routes as it restores capacity to meet strong travel demand but the pilots aren’t happy.

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From late October 2023, Qantas will add around one million seats to its international network over 12 months compared to its current schedule.

Qantas said that the additional capacity will be made possible through a combination of more Qantas aircraft returning to service, new aircraft joining the fleet and an arrangement with oneworld partner Finnair to operate two Airbus A330 aircraft on two Qantas routes.

The network changes will see the Group’s international capacity grow to around 100 per cent of pre-COVID levels by March 2024, up from 44 per cent 12 months ago and 84 per cent today. Most of the flying announced today will be powered by the 2,400 pilots and cabin crew Qantas has recruited into the Group since borders reopened and a further 300 people will be needed by the end of the year.

Qantas said that over the past six months, it has brought five international aircraft back into its fleet – some from long-term storage and some that were on standby as operational spares while the industry stabilised. A new Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrived in May and another two will be delivered next month. The latest Qantas A380 stored in the desert was reactivated in January and an additional A380 will return to service at the end of the year following maintenance and modifications to the cabin.

“The rebound in demand for international travel since borders reopened has been incredibly strong and this boost to our network will add hundreds of thousands of seats in time for the busy Australian summer holiday period,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

“Qantas has been the most on-time major domestic airline for the past eight months in a row and that improved performance means we can release some of the aircraft we’ve had in reserve. That reflects more parts of the aviation supply chain returning to normal and it’s a huge credit to the hard work of our people across the Group.

“While airlines globally are working to restore capacity to meet demand, there is still a mismatch between supply and demand for international flying. But with more of our aircraft back in the air, new 787s joining our fleet and our contract with Finnair, we’ve got more seats for our customers and more opportunities for Qantas crew as we increase our own flying.”

However, the news of the Finnair lease has angered the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) which says it is bitterly disappointed and frustrated by Qantas’ decision to wet-lease two Finnair aircraft.

AIPA said that the Finnair aircraft will take Qantas passengers from Sydney to Singapore and Sydney to Bangkok using Finnair crew and pilots for two and a half years.

AIPA President, Captain Tony Lucas, said the appalling decision to outsource Australian jobs is a significant failure of management. 

“Qantas’ decision to wet-lease two Finnair aircraft is shocking, bitterly disappointing and could have been avoided with more effective management decisions,” he said.

“It beggars belief that Qantas is outsourcing the Spirit of Australia while simultaneously converting two of our own A330 passenger aircraft into freighters.

“The decision to wet lease illustrates the failures of the fleet planning processes of the last five years and certainly recent decisions made during the pandemic recovery.

“Not only is it disappointing for our hardworking and dedicated pilots but it is also disappointing for loyal Qantas passengers,” Capt. Lucas said.