Big birds are back as Qantas plays its A330 advantage

As domestic demand rebuilds, the twin-aisle jets will put more seats in the sky.

By David Flynn, March 19 2021
Big birds are back as Qantas plays its A330 advantage

Qantas is rolling out the big guns to cater for an increase in domestic flying, with the twin-aisle Airbus A330s returning to some of the country's busiest routes.

This will include the new getaway hotspot of Cairns, where an Airbus A330-300 – the same type of jet previously flown to busy Asian cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok – will be rostered onto Sydney-Cairns and Melbourne-Cairns flights for the Easter holidays.

With 297 seats, the Qantas A330-300s boast 70% greater capacity over the single-aisle Boeing 737 – including more than twice as many business class seats, which means more premium pews for not only paying passengers but those using Qantas Points to book their far north Queensland escape.

This is now the best way to fly east-west (or north-south, for that matter).
This is now the best way to fly east-west (or north-south, for that matter).

The slightly smaller 271-seat Airbus A330-200s also make appearances on the east coast inter-capital corridors of Sydney-Melbourne and Melbourne-Brisbane, alongside transcontinental routes from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Perth and back.

Savvy travellers know to watch for the A330 on Qantas' timetable, especially if they're in business class, where the jet's international-grade Business Suite offers a high degree of personal space and a wide, comfortable seat which converts all the way to a lie-flat bed, or can be set halfway at a seriously relaxing recline.

This also lets Qantas press its advantage over Virgin Australia – especially on the east-west routes – following Virgin's decision to axe its own Airbus A330s and become a Boeing 737-only airline.

There's plenty of room to work (or binge some downloaded TV shows) in Qantas' A330 business class.
There's plenty of room to work (or binge some downloaded TV shows) in Qantas' A330 business class.

As previously reported, Qantas' low-cost ar Jetstar is also considering bringing its international Boeing 787s onto domestic routes.

“We could look at getting some Boeing 787s flying domestically earlier” than when international borders reopen, Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans noted at last week's CAPA Live summit, “particularly if domestic borders stay open.”

“If we do see (domestic) borders remaining open through the middle of the year, it’d be great to have a couple of 787s up domestically … especially if we need some more domestic lift around the peak periods.”

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David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 125

The A330s are even worth choosing for SYD-MEL if the flight times work with your schedule. Flight might only be 90 minutes but still so much better than the Boeing 737's business class and even the 10-15 minutes time you spend in your A330 seat before take-off is nicer.

The only downside is that the A330-300s flying to/from Cairns wouldn't have WiFi because they were from the international fleet, and I'm not even sure if all of the A330-200s doing other cap city routes listed here have WiFi?

LaR
LaR

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jul 2019

Total posts 2

Perth to Bris on March 18 had WiFi working all the way

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 211

Some 'bigger birds' could also be on the way, the government's new post-Job Keeper package for Qantas International announced yesterday will include "support to bring its international fleet back into domestic service, with the exception of its Airbus A380 superjumbos" according to reports. The idea is that international pilots, crews, engineers etc will 'refresh' their skills and the planes will be ready to begin flying as soon as the international borders open up, which means we should also see the Boeing 787-9s on domestic routes in the lead-up to international flights coming back on.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 220

Not sure why this is news? As the market recovers, a business adds back capacity. This is running a business 101.

Only problem with the A330 is there is no wifi on many of them, and no entertainment right now.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 211

Probably 'news' because it's news, and isn't this good news to see a recovery in place? Also good for ET readers to be aware of the A330 option on some routes. Maybe lighten up on the news gatekeeping.

Agreed on the A330 WiFi, it's could be a roll of the dice, but no entertainment, isn't that across all Qantas flights due to the high licensing costs of content, or did QF bring IFE back only for the 737s?

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 127

There was a flight report recently done on the A330 which showed the IFE working completely including being able to watch movies. look here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j04UY99aZHo 

  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Oct 2019

Total posts 12

I was always told if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it. You could use this with just about every Qantas post @KW72.

Just be happy that travel is on the up.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 220

Where was anything negative said? I just didn’t think it was newsworthy (had a trip this week that was on a 330).

The entertainment and wifi comment is fact. The Qantas website even says entertainment paused, but seems some flights might have it again based on comments above?

David - maybe you would know but is Entertainment back on Qantas? Good news if it is.

Definitely a smart move not just for capacity but to one-up Virgin on east-west routes when it comes to quality of business class product and the experience. Still, you can fly east-west with Virgin for a lot less than Qantas, you just have to accept the lesser experience of the Boeing 737, but if you want the Qantas A330 business class then be prepared to pay for it. I don't mind this, it's good to see clear 'differentiation' and travellers can vote with their wallets.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 226

Good to see travel demand increasing, and should be the case for most of this year as Intl remains off the table but crew ready to go.

NZ is 3 weeks away - but are airlines taking bookings ex Australia at reasonable fares & will Virgin be doing flights to NZ ?

I personally think Qantas could hit 80 - 85% market share in the coming months, when I quizzed a couple Virgins high up in the food chain they didn't really seem to care about looking after their current customers. They had a very arrogant attitude and may I say a very Virgin knowledge of business, PR, customer relations and marketing so the next day I made sure my flights were with Qantas and those 120,000 points I just brought from Choice Hotels will go to business class upgrades on QF.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 211

Well Qantas as a group, which means also Jetstar and QantasLink, were at 74% market share in Dec2020 according to the ACCC, this was up from a pre-COVID 60% share of the market. Some of this might be from Tiger being shut down but I think most of it comes from Virgin being a smaller airline, fewer planes and fewer routes and reduced frequency.

I know a lot of Virgins, Club members, Double Platinums and Platinums, they are all feeling left out, seeing no directions, no disclosure of total offering which they say is no future. The QF P1s that I know who tried a Virgin flight are saying they miss the Qantas business lounges. With Qantas and Jetstar putting those bigger jets on domestic routes, Virgin not showing it's cards there is only one direction for Qantas a larger market share. If Qantas hits 80 -85% market share, it really becomes a point of no return for the opposition companies as the costs running a business out weigh the profits but maybe REX will survive.

I think Virgin/Rex lower costs will keep them very much alive. Qantas's very high costs & unions are major problem for Qantas, trying to cut costs.

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 123

No in flight entertainment, economy meals on nice plates, terrible selection of food in lounges....tell me when they turn pandemic mode off and I'll listen

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 211

No IFE but Virgin doesn't have it either, and do you really need movies and boxed set TV shows on SYD-MEL or even SYD-PER? Sure its nice to have the option but far from a 'deal-breaker'.

"Economy meals on nice plates"? I've flown Qantas business class four times already this month and the meals are certainly not "economy", they're the usual business class meals which I find are pretty decent, certainly better than what's served in economy.

"Terrible selection of food in lounges"? The Qantas Business lounges in SYD, MEL and BNE all pretty good for food, it's not as good as the original COVID service with the tray-around as they're back to that self-serve station, but still, MEL and BNE were good, certainly not "terrible" unless you've got very high standards, which might not be realistic these days.

"Tell me when they turn pandemic mode off and I'll listen", sorry to say but "pandemic mode" will be with us for some time, and a lot of that is being done under state or federal rules, and other parts under sound medical advice. If you don't want to fly until "pandemic mode" is turned off then you won't be flying until maybe the end of this year or maybe even until early 2022.

05 Dec 2017

Total posts 8

Actually Virgin does have IFE. THE Qantas reasoning for switching it off doesn't hold up and shows what they really think of you the customer.

As for A330s - meh. From a Y class perspective they take forever to board and deplane. Much prefer a quick turnaround on a 737. If I want comfort I'll be in the lounge.

05 May 2016

Total posts 616

It’s quite possible if/when the A380s are brought back that those do some domestic flights to help get pilots and crews back up to speed quickly but that probably is at least a few years away.

Even when there was IFE I tried to bring my own entertainment. I had a flight from MEL-DXB where the IFE wasn’t working but because I brought my own device I didn’t have 14 hours of not being able to watch anything.

09 Aug 2015

Total posts 72

That's a good point, Qantas will need to get A380 pilots and crew trained back up for 'currency' I think it's called? Wow, imagine A380s doing Sydney-Perth or even Sydney-Auckland! Well, you can bet that Qantas would turn this into a special event and make a big deal out of the flights, maybe sell all the seats for points, make them charity flights, that sort of thing.

01 Mar 2019

Total posts 8

Give it a few months and we’ll be back to Qantas and Jetstar ,Virgin is not sustainable 

Virgin will take some Qantas passengers. Rex will take both Qantas & Jetstar passengers. I can see all domestic airlines surviving but Qantas profits taking another huge hit, while Rex & Virgin get back into the black.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2011

Total posts 52

Based on what? 

The other thing that the A330s can do for say Sydney-Melbourne is because they can carry almost twice as many passengers as a Boeing 737, Qantas can pull a Boeing 737 from that route without reducing overall capacity and then put that 737 onto another route where it can be used to add capacity, such as regional, or to better compete against Virgin and Rex. Qantas is holding all the cards here!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 428

True, but bear in mind that the turnaround time for the A330s is significantly longer than the B737.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 226

I think time will tell about QF operations, they can exceed their previous domestic market share, but a330s are expensive and will be deployed back into international in a year to 2 years time. They can run more frequent B737 flights without need to compete on product against VA at lower cost? The a330s being used isn't to necessarily to take market share it's to keep crew and aircraft at the ready. Increased market share also doesn't translate into greater profits...they had the market for last 20 years and only last few years turned profits.

People quick to hype up about virgin and say they won't be around in time - but given they are readying themselves to take on additional B737s, ready to go to short haul International and target a 30% market share is their calculated strategy to make their business work - they aren't trying to go after Qantas but make sure they carve a comfortable niche for their business..which seems doable. There's a comment above that suggest VA head office don't know what they doing...it's a business under a new helm I'm sure everything is calculated and strategized...it might not be what you want (i.e. delayed role out of business product)...but think logically here - they didn't need to role it out until domestic travel really started to bounce back. If Qantas group want 80% market share, Virgin 30% and who knows what Rex wants..then someones gotta come down in their expectations. Time will tell.

It will be a good case study in 3 years time who the winners are who are the losers and did Bain make a killing or lose

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2013

Total posts 10

A330s on the PER-BNE route would be nice.  Flight time is almost 5 hours..a bit much in a crowded 737

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jun 2014

Total posts 16

Just be glad you never had to do SIN to MUM and back on a 737... :-)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2013

Total posts 10

I did SIN-PER-SIN many times on a 737 when we lived in Singapore. I was overjoyed when they brought back the A330s :)

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

09 Jun 2016

Total posts 8

assuming MUM is Mumbai? Yep, i had to do that also, Jet Airways overnight flights 5+ hrs- an absolute horror show. 

LaR
LaR

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jul 2019

Total posts 2

Good news.  I took one on Thursday 18th  3.20 pm departure Perth to Brisbane.  Great having 2 chargers per seat in economy.  Used the WiFi to catch up on emails and messenger but I didn't get around to seeing if the entertainment system was operating.  Service was lovely as was the continuous offer of wine. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 59

Its an absolute pleasure had three a330 flights last week brisbane to melbourne and vice versa. I hope Alan keeps them on

The A330-200s doing those runs between Australian capital cities were there before COVID so I think they would be staying around, as long as there's demand and seats to be filled. Qantas might even put more A330s on east-west because it would be the clear winner over Virgin's Boeing 737s on those long flights.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 226

Yes agree somewhat, but the question is once things go back to a new normal...will QF roster as much A330s as they did pre covid given there's no need to compete with Virgin..will they be utilising more A330s overseas since lack of A380s and no B747s to Tokyo etc... and new destinations like Seoul and Taiwan and anywhere else for that matter. Why fly these expensive birds when they are very heavily focused on cash preservation to get out of debt borrowed against B787s. Outright costs on flying B737s much better case then A330s, and they have their market share anywhere.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2017

Total posts 79

Whilst I do prefer A330 any day it has no wifi

Not quite true, the international A330-300s which will be flying to Cairns don't have WiFi, but some of the domestic A330-200s were upgraded to WiFi, not sure if Qantas ever got around to completing the fitout across the whole fleet however.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1254

Do you really need to be online 24/7? Try disconnecting a little.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 211

Just because somebody wants WiFi on their flight doesn't mean they have to be online 24/7. If you fly Sydney-Perth for example that's five hours, and if your flight leaves in the morning which most of the QF flights do then you're in the airline the whole of Sydney's working day. Now personally speaking as a business traveller I would much rather have the ability to be online during that time and able to deal with some work, emails etc instead of arriving at Perth and having to deal with a bunch of emails when I check into the hotel, and that's because I don't want to be online around the clock, I just want to be online when I need to be and then be able to relax afterwards.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 190

Do the A332 have the newer business class? or still the 2-2-2 slantbeds

Always have looked out for 1-2-1 for domestics MEL-SYD

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 211

They've all got the new 1-2-1 'Business Suite' business class seats. The only real disadvantage of those is if you're flying with your partner for example and you choose the middle seats you can't lower the divider between the middle seats because it's a hard fixture, unlike the later version developed for the Boeing 787 and the A380 refit where this is a panel you can slide up or down.

JJ1
JJ1

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2015

Total posts 5

I flew the week before last from Sydney to Perth on an A330-300 and it did not have wifi. On the return I was on an A330-200. I was advised by the crew that the larger 300's are not equipped with wifi but the 200's are. Fortuntely I had entertainment already downloaded on my i-PAD

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 18

Flew SYD-PER return recently on the A330s (in Y) - was a joy after so much 737 flying.  One did have WiFi too.    Service was good too and almost like pre-COVID days. 

29 Jan 2020

Total posts 27

Other advantage for Qantas of increased 330 Domestic flights is the amount of freight they can carry.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 85

Oh, how times have changed: re. “No wifi or entertainment on the A 330”. 

Flying back from Santiago( Chile) to Sydney in Feb 2020, before boarding, we were summoned to the desk. Told that our J seats on the upper deck of a B747 would NOT be available because the IFE were on the blink and not usable until fixed. Now that is the kind of Qantas service I like to remember. Naturally we declined to be moved and enjoyed our IPads’ contents. Vale international travel, I remember it with great fondness

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 381

SIA would have offered the some vouchers or token bonus points for compensation for faults in IFE or seats

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Apr 2012

Total posts 57

My 'annual special' is Cairns this year.  Very happy, as last year 'stuck in ISO on the work Woolies trip'.  Snagged a 332 back to Sydney.  Yes while no wifi, I cannot wait to experience the fabulous suites on the 330s for 3 hours ... not the F Suites or Singapore or Hong Kong of 2019, but ... I am excited ! 

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 347

off topic a little and this was close to 40 years ago now does anyone remember the days of the then TAA A300 advantage with the wide bodies and inflight audio on all flights while their then opposition Ansett had none of that on the 727 and 737's of the day.history repeats itself today with Qantas and Virgin with their A330 and 737 respectively.it's a shame unlike the past Adelaide relies strictly on the 737 for all domestics on QF except for areas served by the Dash 8.I do remember ADL on the way SYD-SIN getting initially the 767 and later the A330 as domestic sectors(travelled on a few coming home connecting at Sydney returning from Canada and New Zealand in 1990 and from Bali in 2000).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 225

It's going to be quite hard for VA to compete with the comfort of an A330 on the Trans Continental Route compared to the B737.

Sure the fare is at this time cheaper but does the price difference really worry the Business Traveller or are they happy to pay extra for the huge difference in comfort and on board service available from the vastly bigger galleys?

I certainly would pay the extra for a very comfortable J Class flight BNE-PER on the A330 if I had a Business that paid for it.

Lets face it  most Business Class passengers aren't short of a dollar or three so perhaps the extra cost is of no consequence compared to the very much higher comfort and service level on a QF A330 compared to a B737.

Time will tell.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 307

Would like to see some Darwin flights included, used to fly the 767 regularly BNE DRW .

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1254

SYD-DRW is one of the longer domestic routes and would definitely benefit from an A330 operating the route.


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