Qantas has been a unique airline to watch during the pandemic, given the extent to which borders have been closed in Australia. While many international airlines (including US airlines) have continued operating to Australia with cargo and limited passengers, Qantas has more or less grounded its long haul fleet and cut its long haul network. What’s the latest on that?
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Qantas delays international network reboot to October 2021
In early January Qantas opened reservations for almost its entire long haul international network for flights as of July 1, 2021. That seemed incredibly optimistic, given Australia’s strict border requirements, but the company suggests that this represented its expectation of when international travel would recover.
Unsurprisingly there has now been an update on this front, as noted by Executive Traveller — Qantas has now pushed back a majority of its international network reboot to October 31, 2021. This is based on the government’s belief that all Australians could be vaccinated by October.
Some short haul international flights — like those between Australia and New Zealand — still show as resuming around the middle of the year, though that can also change.
Qantas now wants to resume most international flights in October
Qantas’ fleet plan when flights resume
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but here’s Qantas’ plan as of now for when long haul international flights do resume:
- Qantas has another three Boeing 787-9s on order that are ready to be delivered, but the airline won’t take delivery of them for now, given complete lack of need for them; the 11 currently in the fleet are sufficient, plus Qantas’ fleet of A330s
- The three extra 787s are needed for flights to New York, Santiago, and Osaka, so those flights won’t resume even when the rest of Qantas’ international schedule does
- A380s probably won’t be reactivated until 2024 based on when Qantas thinks demand will recover, but if it recovers earlier, the planes can be reactivated in three to six months
- This also means that for at least the next couple of years Qantas won’t offer first class, as 787s will operate previous A380 routes, like Dallas and Los Angeles to Sydney, Sydney to London via Singapore, etc.
Qantas’ A380s likely won’t fly for a few years
Qantas’ current plan is to resume most long haul international flights as of the end of October 2021. This is based on the country hoping to vaccinate everyone by then, and it represents a four month delay over Qantas’ previous timeline of restarting flights at the beginning of July.
Even when the airline does resume flights, the outlook is grim. The airline has 11 Boeing 787s and 12 Airbus A380s, yet only intends to use the former aircraft for the next couple of years, along with A330s.
Personally I think Qantas is being a bit pessimistic here, and I think we’ll see the A380s reactivated a bit earlier than expected. Qantas’ biggest markets are the US and UK, and those are both countries where widespread vaccination should also be available in the coming months, and I think travel between these countries will come back in full force once borders fully reopen.
What do you make of Qantas’ latest plan for resuming long haul flights?