Qantas Flies A380 Nonstop From Australia To London

Filed Under: Qantas

This is more a cool aviation geek story than anything that’s actually significant (which I kinda feel is what we all need at this point).

Qantas ending all international flying

As we recently learned, Qantas will be suspending all international flying in a few days, before the end of March. This comes as Australia has added strict measures on people entering the country, making it tough for the airline to continue international operations.

Challenges with Qantas’ Sydney To Singapore to London flight

One of Qantas’ flagship routes is their flight from Sydney to Singapore to London, which is scheduled to operate westbound through March 26, and eastbound through March 27.

The Sydney to London route can’t be operated nonstop, so Singapore is chosen as the stopover point. The airline has fifth freedom rights on the flight, meaning passengers can choose to fly just a segment of that as well (including from Singapore to London).

Well, the airline has just run into a major hurdle — Singapore is no longer allowing transit passengers. That means the airline can no longer fly from Sydney to Singapore to London with transit passengers, which kind of eliminates the point of using Singapore as a stopover.

Singapore Changi is no longer allowing transit passengers

Qantas now operating London flights via Darwin

Qantas has gotten creative, as noted by Executive Traveller — for the last few days the flight is offered, QF1 and QF2 will operate via Darwin rather than Singapore. Suffice to say that’s the first time Darwin has seen scheduled A380 service, let alone an A380 nonstop to Europe.

For that matter, I think this may be the first ever nonstop A380 passenger flight from Australia to London?

With this, the Sydney to Darwin flight covers a distance of 1,957 miles, and the Darwin to London flight covers a distance of 8,620 miles. That long haul flight is just ~40 miles longer than Qantas’ normal longest A380 route, between Sydney and Dallas.

Why the Darwin stopover?

  • Since Darwin is in northern Australia, it’s the closest major Australian airport to London
  • This is pretty much as direct as you can fly from Sydney to London — a nonstop Sydney to London flight would cover 10,573 miles, while this routing is just four miles longer
  • By keeping this a domestic flight, the airline won’t deal with the ever-changing immigration and transit policies of other countries

Qantas is flying the A380 nonstop from Darwin to London

The airline is purely using Darwin for refueling, so you can’t book the A380 between Sydney and Darwin, or between Darwin and London.

The flight is operated with the following schedule:

QF1 Sydney to Darwin departing 5:00PM arriving 9:15PM
QF1 Darwin to London departing 11:00PM arriving 6:15AM (+1 day)

QF2 London to Darwin departing 10:05PM arriving 11:45M (+1 day)
QF2 Darwin to Sydney departing 1:15AM arriving 7:00AM

Qantas A380 first class

Bottom line

For the next couple of days Qantas will operate their QF1 & QF2 service via Darwin rather than Singapore. After that Qantas will be cutting all international routes.

As I said above, this ultimately isn’t that significant, though as an aviation geek it sure is cool to see an A380 flying nonstop from Australia to London.

  1. @ JethroB — Check the link you posted. 😉 The plane is currently descending through 8,000 feet while on approach to Darwin. Odd altitude if the plane is going to Singapore, no?

  2. Aaaaand touchdown in Darwin. Awesome tidbit. Wish Qantas flew this route when we go back to normal. Much easier to fly LON-SYD (and vice versa) with a simple refueling stop in DRW than wasting time in SIN having to deplane as a transit passenger.

  3. The Northern Territory ( capital is Darwin) is closed to everyone, Australian citizens from other states included, as part of the lockdown…so they couldn’t offer a domestic SYD-DRW even if they wanted to. The lockdown is designed to protect the particularly vulnerable indigenous communities.

  4. Ben, check out LY’s rescue flights. They had LY87 and LY88 flying nonstop TLV-PER-TLV. And of course there were the nonstops to LIM and back.

  5. Some very interesting rescue flights out there. With so many Australians based in the UK I imagine these flights are quite full. Creative of El Al running the nonstops to PER as well. They were just gearing up for their nonstop flights to MEL too. Very strange times at the moment.

  6. Seems like an awfully long ground time in Darwin if they aren’t letting passengers off the plane.

  7. Does anyone know what the story was with Korean Air 274? Looks like a widebody that made multiple stops in major South American airports, then LAX, then returned to Seoul. Very bizarre routing, was it picking citizens up along the way I suppose?

  8. Thanks for that. Have to go to Heathrow, to take some pictures before A380 is retired from this route. Never got any pictures as it’s arriving in the early morning and leaving in the evening. One day it had stop in Dresden (don’t know the reason) and came during lunch time but I just got back to the office from lunchtime plane spotting. What a miss…

  9. Wait, I thought there was already a Perth to London non stop flight. Did I just make that up in my mind?

  10. QF needs 1 hour and 45 min to refuel an A388?! If they don’t want to arrive LHR before 615a can’t they just depart SYD later? Its not like SYD is slot constrained at the moment.

  11. @Richmond
    Wow you guys in the UK really haven’t changed your daily routines yet, huh? There’s a pandemic going on.
    I flew through LHR on March 8th. In the UK, there are now more deaths due to COVID than the number of sick people back on March 8th.

  12. @JamesP
    No, the UK is now on lockdown, with instructions to stay at home except for a couple of minor exceptions.

    We have a fairly stupid government who only introduced lockdown yesterday. My office switched to 100% home working about a fortnight ago.

  13. Thanks for posting a story for us aviation geeks in these scary times. Even a “lively debate” on the specifics of these flights is better than reading one more doom-and-gloom story. I pray for all of the aviation and hospitality employees who are out of a job, or sick, right now. Keep fighting, we WILL get through this!

  14. It would be amazing if this continue once things start up again, but whilst Darwin is an international airport I do not think it would be capable of coping. Maybe an option for the future. Would be an amazing opportunity for people to spend time there – Kakadu is not so far away and is amazing!

  15. @Richmond … the Dresden flight is because Qantas are doing the A380 internal refurbishments/upgrades there.

  16. As an AvGeek, I opened this article thinking, this seems so much more interesting right now, thank you, I needed that!! “This is more a cool aviation geek story than anything that’s actually significant (which I kinda feel is what we all need at this point).” my thoughts exactly!

  17. @Luis: Yes, there’s a MEL-PER-LHR flight, but it’s operated by a 787, not an A380. There are no A380 flights linking Australia and Europe, and I don’t think Darwin’s ever had an A380 flight before because of its small population.

  18. Hello Ben, you mean that QF will cancell all scheduled nternational flights except the Syd – Lhr one?

  19. Just a bit of an additional detail to those who are interested. The flights are full, or at least fully blocked out (not sure if they are enforcing social distnacing on the plane and having a seat between people?). Additionally, BA is still running flight 15/16 return from LHR to SYD via SIN. They have worked out a deal with the Singapore authorities to be able to do a gas n go, where the passengers will stay on the plane. These are scheduled through next week, although it is unsure whe these will end.

  20. @Luigi: The Australian government has banned Australians from travelling overseas, so Qantas would not be able to sustain demand on any other international routes.

  21. Every so often, there is an article pointing out that it would make a great deal of sense for Australia to build a proper international hub at Darwin. Geographically, it would make a lot more sense for Asian routes from Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and Brisbane to go via Darwin than to have to transit via Sydney. Not to mention people in Darwin, who often have to fly back to Adelaide, Brisbane or Sydney before flying anywhere overseas. It is symptomatic of how Australia faces away from the rest of Asia that we have always ignored Darwin as a potential transport hub.

    I guess it will never happen, as long range aircraft are reducing the need for the hub and spoke model now. But it is still an interesting idea.

  22. It’s a shame these flights are so expensive. Having a family member stuck in the Uk and 2 flights already cancelled it’s not affordable at at over $ 2000 one way.

  23. Going plane spotting doesn’t include contact with other people. I drive to destination, take photos and come back. It’s no different from walk which is allowed under lockdown.

    QF1 arrives around midday today, so I’m driving to Heathrow to get some shots. Good activity to kill some time and spend day out in “fresh” air without talking to anyone, so no breaking rules.

    I went for Gatwick spotting on Monday and it was lovely solo trip without any interaction with strangers.

  24. I wonder if Qantas will keep using Darwin once all of this is over. Its less out of the way than Perth is at the moment.

    Actually I’m not surprised if the flights are full. Aren’t there 50,000 UK citizens in Australia at the moment, many of whom are wanting to get home? I was out there on holiday but came back (via Dubai) for about €700 all-in just as this started to kick off.

    We were supposed to come back via BA16 (through Singapore) originally… now how we would get to Sydney for that flight I have no idea with the local lockdowns, but in any case, with the Singapore stopover being just a fuel-up and PAX still on the plane, thats a pretty miserable almost 24 hours without being able to get off at all.

  25. I was on QF1 on the 26th via Darwin, it was not all plain sailing.
    To get the weight down the were dozens of unsold seats( despite stranded Brits)
    And oh dear we left most of this baggage in Sydney to save weight. God knows when we will see them again.
    So don’t get carried away sitting on the tarmac in Darwin for close to two hrs was pretty boring not to mention noisy and lots of desperate Brits didn’t get home.

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