Qantas: Goodbye to the A380?
For an A380 fanboy such as me, this is disappointing news.
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Qantas does not expect to start flying internationally again until 2021, by all reports. OK, pedants, it does still operate international cargo flights, flights to New Zealand, and it has been providing repatriation flights, although I think they have now ended.
Flying recovery – slow and unpredictable
Recovery in the travel industry is expected to be slow, and unpredictable.
The best guesses include the idea of ‘green corridors’ between safe countries. So Australia and New Zealand are possible. Australia and the Pacific islands is also on the cards. Australia and select destinations in Asia like Singapore, or Thailand are arguable too. Europe, less so, despite the wishes of Greece – which is not a current Qantas destination.
But the big money-making destinations of London and the East and West coasts of the USA, given current COVID-19 infection rates in those places, are definitely not on the cards, without quarantine still being a condition of entry or return to Australia.
So Qantas is probably correct in thinking it will be a long time before it needs the capacity of its A380’s.
A380’s banished to the desert boneyard for deep storage
In that case, the airline might get a better result from sending the planes to deep storage in the Californian desert, and bring some, or all of them back on stream when travel recovers, hopefully by mid 2021.
The SMH is reporting that Qantas is looking at storing up to 6 there, either in the Mojave desert, or at Victorville.
Its current A380’s are stored all around the place. Some in Sydney and Melbourne, some in Los Angeles, and in Dresden Germany at the Airbus maintenance hub – presumably as a result of maintenance or the refitting of interiors which Qantas commenced in 2019.
My fear is that Qantas might move to retire, say half of their stable of 12 super-jumbos. That would be the 6 that are yet to be refurbished. That’s a lot to write off, because the market for secondhand A380’s is basically non-existent, except for parts as Singapore Airlines discovered when they retired 2 of their A380’s last year.
They could retire the whole fleet, eating the costs of the 6 refurbishments already completed. If that happens we could see some pretty interesting internal fit-outs with other airline badges!
If they do retire the whole fleet early, that will limit Qantas’s ability to adapt to a fast recovery. If the recovery is quick, then they just won’t have the capacity with their Boeing 787’s. Qantas has already delayed the orders for the ‘Sunrise Project’ aircraft, the A350. That is also the plane touted as the replacement for the A380 in the Qantas fleet, now that Airbus has suspended the superjumbo’s production line.
Although it looks like this suspension of international flights may well extend for 9 months until the end of 2020, if the 9/11 experience is anything to go by, the recovery may well be quicker than pundits are currently predicting. If that is the case Qantas may need its A380’s sooner rather than later.
If the opposite occurs, and a return to regular international flying is further delayed, and the recovery is slower, then maybe Qantas should get on and order those A350’s so they are on board in a few years time when travel does truly return to normal.