The popular Airbus A380s will return to Qantas international services ahead of schedule with five of the superjumbos due to be back flying to London and Los Angeles from mid-2022.
The return of the giant planes a year ahead of schedule is part of a wider strategy, subject to Australian government decisions and the pace of the nation’s vaccination rollout, to progressively restart flights to countries with high vaccine rates from mid-December.
Potential destinations under the initial restart include Singapore, Japan, the US, the UK and New Zealand.
Flights to Hong Kong are expected to restart in February but services to destinations with lower vaccination rates — including Bali, Jakarta, Manila and Johannesburg — are not anticipated to restart until April 22 at the earliest.
However, Qantas boss Alan Joyce cautioned these dates could be subject to change.
The Australian airline says the four-engine superjumbos work well on key routes such as LA and London when demand is high and it expects high vaccination rates in both markets to underpin this.
“These were key markets for Qantas before COVID and given how well they have recovered, we expect travel demand on these routes to be strong enough for the A380,’’ Joyce said.
“We have the flexibility to bring back the other five A380s by early 2024, depending on how quickly the market recovers.
“The remaining two will be retired because they will be surplus to requirements.
“The A380 is a great aircraft that our passengers love.
“The 10 aircraft we’re bringing back will have all-new interiors and we expect them to be part of our fleet for many years to come – alongside our Dreamliners, Airbus A330s and ultimately the Airbus A350 for Project Sunrise and non-stop flights to New York and London.”
Qantas will also extend the range of its A330-200 aircraft to operate some trans-Pacific routes such as Brisbane-Los Angeles and Brisbane-San Francisco.
It said this involved some technical changes that are now being finalized with Airbus.
Other fleet changes include the delivery during fiscal 2023 of three new Boeing 787-9s that have been in storage with Boeing and the delivery of the first three Airbus A321neo LRs from early in the same financial year.
The 787s will be used to operate additional flights to key markets while the LRs will be used to free up some of the airline’s 787s to be redeployed on other markets.
Joyce told a press conference that Project Sunrise, the airline’s ambitious project to fly non-stop from Australia’s East Coast to destinations such as London and New York, was still looking at options of when it could be done.
But he said the airline needed to see international borders open first.
“We’re still very keen to revisit the business case,” he said. “I believe there will be strong demand for people flying directly into the UK and the East Coast of the United States, as an example, post-COVID.
“What we’ve always said is we will come back to this when we see light on the international borders opening up and we are in continuous dialogue with Airbus.”