How Some Qantas A380 Pilots Became Bus Drivers

Filed Under: Qantas

Here’s a story that’s sad, heartwarming, and inspiring…

Many Qantas pilots are furloughed indefinitely

The travel industry, and particularly airlines, have been hit very hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Arguably this has been felt even more in Australia than elsewhere — with borders closed indefinitely, Qantas has essentially terminated long haul flights.

The airline has put most of its long haul aircraft in storage in California:

  • All A380s have been stored, with no plans to fly them in the next few years
  • Most 787s have been stored; while these are likely to be reactivated before A380s, it’ll be at least a year before any more of these planes are flying again

As a result, Qantas has also furloughed a majority of its pilots, so it’s anyone’s guess if & when they’ll be recalled.

13 Qantas pilots have become bus drivers

With so many Qantas pilots not currently having work, at least 13 Qantas pilots have transitioned from Airbuses to… well, regular buses. Australian news program “The Project” has a fascinating interview with two Qantas pilots, talking about their journeys.

Combined the two pilots have spent 62 years flying jets:

  • One was a Qantas A380 captain who delivered the first ever A380 12 years ago, which was a highlight of his career
  • One was a Qantas A380 first officer who flew the last A380 flight back from London; he talks about how he felt emotional, knowing it might be the last time he flies the plane
  • Both of the pilots flew a Qantas A380 into the Mojave Desert several months ago for long term storage, noting how surreal and emotional it was

I can’t help but get emotional when I hear the A380 captain talk about his experience flying the plane to the Mojave:

“I think going to the Mojave was probably one of the most difficult things, you know, taking that first aircraft that I delivered to the desert. And it’ll probably stay there, won’t come back, we all cried. You know, there’s 10 A380s parked in Victorville, parked in the dirt, the tumbling tumbleweeds being blown by the wind. Then you pan away from our 10 aircraft, and there’s 700 or 800 airplanes.”

And that brings us to the present day — both of the pilots are now bus drivers. They talk about how they wanted a purpose and were otherwise at home, and this was an opportunity that was presented to them.

How does flying an Airbus compare to driving a bus? The pilots talk about how flying a plane takes concentration for short periods of time, and then they sometimes get breaks and can even watch a movie, while driving a bus takes concentration for long periods of time. One of the pilots even says that he hopes that when he formally retires from Qantas he can go back to driving buses.

Word spread between pilots about the opportunity, and that’s how they’ve gotten so many airline pilots onto buses now.

You can watch the full segment here:

Bottom line

Obviously so many airline employees are finding themselves in a similar predicament, either having been laid off, furloughed, or put on unpaid leave. It’s inspiring to see how these Qantas pilots have made the best of the situation, transitioning from Airbuses to buses.

I could feel their emotion as they talked about this transition, and it’s clear they both really love planes and their jobs. But despite that, their positive attitudes and willingness to adjust to challenges that life has thrown their way is really inspiring.

Here’s to hoping these guys are back at the controls of A380s soon!

Did you love this story as much as I did?

(Tip of the hat to Roy)

  1. Sad but full credit to them for getting a job in the middle of the pandemic. I also know of some that stack supermarket shelves and others who work in aged care.
    Singapore airlines staff have also been working in different areas.

  2. The video was quite touching, one of the pilots did the first A380 for Qantas, and he had to fly an A380 to its graveyard Victorville, must have been hard.
    One should forward that video to the entitled “bus-drivers” at LH, who get 90% of their last salary, but are unwilling to make concessions.
    As one of the pilots interviewed pointed out, a bus driver has a lot of responsibility too, needs to be focused the entire workday, not just during takeoff and landing. And he is paid much less.

  3. I’m glad they’re being resourceful and willing to work even with a paycut (somehow I think that pilot was joking when he said he only got a small paycut). I admire their humility and work-ethic.
    I really hope they will be able to fly an A380 again.

  4. I was super lucky to have a well paying profession 4 years before being hired by PanAmerican Airlines to be a flight attendant. I quit after 10 years due to PanAm’s economic instability. It always amazed me how rude some F.A.’s could be when they were lucky enough to be chosen out of thousands of applicants to have the opportunities this job offers. It’s not a job that needs highly technical training, anyone lucky enough to be chosen can be trained for it. The perks and salary are addicting. Now that they have lost these jobs do they find out what it’s like to live in the real world.

  5. When COVID is behind us, I think everyone, passengers and staff alike, will come to appreciate travel a lot more.

  6. What’s the big deal? I washed dishes and later learned stitching after spending thousands of dollars to get my cpl without job.
    So you aren’t any …..

  7. I feel very sad for these highly trained gentleman, as I am the nephew of a very favourite uncle who saw war service `flying heavies during WW2 in North Africa and then out of UK for the rest of the war as part of the Pathfinders Squadron.
    At the end of his service he was demonbed in London and was subsequently scouted by Qantas as a member of the foreseeable future passenger aircraft the company had envisioned,
    To cut a long story short, during his time with Qantas he flew Connies both the first and also the Super, followed by the 707 and then the mighty 747 {all variants} with delivery flights included as well as overseas postings.
    He was an absolute Gentleman and I still miss him.

  8. Love it!!!!

    But you never know we might all be travelling globally very soon… this new Pfizer vaccine looks promising.

  9. Heather McCann,

    I once had a bus driver who worked on the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom while in St. Louis.

  10. Aussies on display reminding us what we once were like in America. Resilient, united, and less entitled. I loved it this. Thanks, Ben.

  11. Having been a platinum for years with Qantas I cried watching this story.
    Now some of our internal borders are open I will be taking my first flight soon in 7 months.

    Thank you for sharing Ben. Love it.

  12. Qantas worked with Woolworths (A major Supermarket chain in Australia) to organise for their staff (Pilots and Cabin Crew, as well as ground staff) to easily get jobs doing stocking shelves, etc. From what I heard it was just a google form and they were in on a temporary basis. Some pilots were actually earning more (With the Government’s JobKeeper amount of AU$1500/fortnight plus a Woolworths shift) than pre-pandemic.

  13. @Fouzi: Perhaps you should re-read the article. And then very carefully step down from that high horse you’re on.

  14. This Pandemic has brought man to his knees and our world has taken an about-turn within just an year. It’s very sad to digest the fact that the high flying airmen are grounded as well as the beautiful flying birds. This is not only the airline industry suffering, but every other fields. Wonder when will we have a life as before?

  15. I have a friend who trained military pilots. When he retired, still quite young in the military, I asked him if was going to become an airline pilot. NO way he said – I would be BORED, BORED, BORED – they’re only bus drivers!

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