QANTAS: Cuts routes and frequencies, because – no aircraft.
Some will see this as the chickens coming home to roost after two, now disastrous decisions. One to only bring back into their fleet, 10 of the 12 super jumbo A380s they had, and the second mistake is to have cancelled their order for additional Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Content of this Post:
Parts and staff shortages
Many airlines are in a wealth of pain at the moment. Demand is still through the roof after the pandemic groundings. However, there are still major issues with the availability of spare parts and slots for maintenance because of a lack of qualified staff, availability of hangers, and late delivery or substantial delays in aircraft availability. Think of the so far ill-fated Boeing 777X debacle – now over five years late. Boeing’s nightmare with the different models of 737 MAX aircraft and consequent production restrictions. Then, on the Airbus side, there are the maintenance issues with Pratt and Whitney GTF engines for the Airbus A320neos, caused by a rare condition in powder metal used in manufacturing.
These are all issues that affect airlines across the board, but at the same time Qantas is trying to expand frequencies and introduce new routes. Think Perth to Paris and Sydney to New York via Auckland. All of this is conspiring to force Qantas to limit its expansion plans.
Why not just delay some of the proposed new routes?
Good question. I’m not sure I have an answer to that. Organising a new route is immensely complex from gaining landing spots to setting up catering, staffing and engineering facilities at a new destination. I don’t pretend to have my head around all of that.
But, surely if they delayed, say, the Paris route, that would free up some aircraft? Again, I don’t pretend to have my head across all the complexity of airline operations.
What Qantas is doing
Instead of cancelling a route or two, Qantas has taken a different course.
Qantas was due to have 10 of these in the air by now. It junked two if its original 12. But only 8 are in the air at the moment, and one of those did not make the refurbishment queue in time before it went back into operation. Qantas hopes to get one additional superjumbo in the air by the end of 2024 – so that will make 9, according to ET.
This lack of aircraft will affect three Qantas routes, and their passengers, who will be offered alternatives, or a refund or credit.
New York – not so much
Back in June 2023, Qantas launched its Sydney to New York via Auckland, New Zealand. Air NZ had pipped them at the post with this route, albeit with an inferior Aisle facing herringbone product in Business Class. So it looks like Qantas was determined to keep up. Stealing a march on its NZ competitor before Air NZ upgraded its Business Class to a more contemporary reverse herringbone setup.
Qantas was to move from from four services per week to daily. But, it has had to deploy Dreamliner 787s to other routes that were meant to use the Airbus A380s, but now can’t. So, it will stay at four per week, with a move to six services in October. If you are booked on this route later this year – check your emails and Qantas App. You may have been rescheduled or cancelled. It’s always to get ahead of the game in these circumstances. The Qantas re-booking algorithm is not entirely fit for purpose in my opinion.
Los Angeles, not so many A380s and First Class
The superjumbo will now only fly this route two days per week out of Melbourne. Boeing 787s will fly the other five days per week. If you booked into First Class, you may suffer a downgrade since the Dreamliners have no First Class cabin. Your choice will be to move to an A380 flight on a different day or get a refund of the fare difference if you accept Business Class.
Using the 787s instead of the A380 will also give Qantas some capacity restrictions overall – whatever class you are travelling in. The 787 with a capacity of 236 seats has roughly half the capacity of the double-decker A380, which has between 484 seats (485 in the old configuration)
Jo’burg no longer A380
This route to South Africa was to use an A380 with First Class on the 14-hour trip. No longer. Boeing 787s will stay on the Sydney to Johannesburg route six days a week until late in September when the A380 service is currently scheduled to resume. Previously, Qantas had advised that the A380 would be on this route between four and six times a week – adapting to seasonal demand.
Sydney Tokyo – now Airbus A330
From 8 February, Airbus A330s will be flying this route and Tuesdays and Thursdays. That will go to daily from 31 March. Its thought that the leasing of Finnair A330s for use on the Sydney to Bangkok route will allow this redeployment of the A330s
That means on the older model A330s, there is no Premium Economy. These Airbus aircraft are just not as quiet or comfortable as the newer more innovative Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Remember, Qantas is going to retire these older A330s from 2027 – just a few years away.
Where are those 787s still flying?
Well besides replacing some of the A380s flying to the USA, they will be deployed on relatively new and seasonal routes. From June, Qantas will resume its seasonal service to Rome from Perth. Qantas is also forging ahead with its plans to launch the Sydney to Paris route (via Perth) from July 2024. All those routes will use 787 Dreamliners, the only aircraft in the Qantas fleet that can successfully fly those distances.
Qantas will also replace an A330 currently flying the Sydney to Honolulu route with a Boeing 787
As I said previously, I would have thought cancelling the new route to Paris might have sorted the problem, but apparently not.
Qantas has chosen to retain its new routes, and compromise on capacity and frequency. This very well maybe the smarter option. It makes it seem like the airline is maintaining its routes. The compromised capacity and frequency is harder for customers to see, unless they are directly affected with current bookings.
Let’s just hope that these issues with supply chains, staffing and resourcing start to dissipate soon, or at least in the next 12 months. Only then will we see Qantas and other airlines return to ‘normal’ operations. That increase in capacity should lead to more competition and hence downward pressure on airfares.
That should do all our hip pockets good.