The pandemic kept kept much of Qantas grounded. Their Airbus A380 wasn’t supposed to return until June 2023 “at the earliest.” But the Australian government allowing its citizens to again leave the country, and residents to return, led to a re-start of the airline’s international route network and a planned return of the world’s largest passenger jet on the Los Angeles – Sydney route in July 2022. And then moved the re-introduction date up to March.
Now, because of increased coronavirus precautions rather than re-opening, the airline will again move up the A380 jumbo jet’s return to just two weeks from now on January 11.
With 70 of the airlines Boeing 787 pilots based on Brisbane and subject to quarantine on return from international flights by the Queensland state government, Qantas has to cut the number of flights it operates. They’re reducing Sydney – Los Angeles to four times a week (three Airbus A380s and one Boeing 787) rather than daily 787s in January. They’re also reducing frequencies on Melbourne – London and Melbourne – Los Angeles. Using the A380 allows the airline to offsetting the reduction in number of flights with more seats.
The Airbus A380 holds 484 – 485 passengers, while the airline’s Boeing 787-9 offers just 236 seats – less than half the number. With the carrier having brought an A380 out of storage in November for crew training, they say they have the flexibility with qualified crew and available aircraft to operate internationally before mid-January. Qantas will even offer first class seats as upgrades to paid business class passengers that had booked 787 service.
All of the returning A380s will have been upgraded with the latest business class and premium economy seats – using the same designs as the Dreamliners – along with two ‘premium lounges’ on the upper deck and a refresh of the first class suites.
A380 service and reduced frequencies are expected to last through late January, when the pilot shortage abates. The Queensland state government has set a target of 90% full vaccination for lifting of restrictions.
The A380 is scheduled to service Sydney – Singapore starting June 19, with six total aircraft returning to service by the end of 2022. Four planes are slated to return “by early 2024” and two of the airline’s twelve will be retired.