Jetstar's Boeing 787s fly into extended storage at Alice Springs

Most of the low-cost carrier's Dreamliners are ready to be tucked in for an extended snooze.

By David Flynn, January 27 2021
Jetstar's Boeing 787s fly into extended storage at Alice Springs
Executive Traveller exclusive

Jetstar will shift most of its Boeing 787 jets into extended storage at Alice Springs next month, where they'll wait out a restart of international flying – which now looks increasingly like being a 2022 proposition.

While Qantas has been able to find work for many of its own Boeing 787-9s, from cargo-only services to special repatriation flights, Jetstar's fleet of eleven Boeing 787-8s has remained grounded at Jetstar's Avalon base since March 2020.

The Dreamliners typically cover international routes into Asia – including Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam – as well as Hawaii, with those flights now on sale for travel from July 1, in common with the proposed international reboot of parent Qantas.

Starry-eyed forecast? Jetstar is now selling international flights from July.
Starry-eyed forecast? Jetstar is now selling international flights from July.

That timeframe has been disputed by the federal government, with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack saying "decisions about when international travel resumes will be made by the Australian Government," while Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy suggests that widespread international travel is unlikely in 2021.

A spokesperson for Jetstar confirmed to Executive Traveller "we are planning to relocate the majority of our 787 aircraft from Avalon to Alice Springs in the coming weeks. Once international travel borders open, we will look to operate our 787 aircraft in line with demand. At this stage our international flights are back on sale from 1 July."

The dry Northern Territory climate offers a better environment for longer-term aircraft storage than Avalon, which experiences higher levels of moisture due to its proximity to Port Phillip Bay.

Once sequestered in the red centre, it's estimated that the restart process would take around four weeks to see the Boeing 787s return from storage to sky.

The Airbus A320 remains Jetstar's best bet

Even if the long-awaited 'trans-Tasman travel bubble' opens up, it's expected that Jetstar's smaller Airbus A320-family aircraft would continue to be better fit for the Australia-New Zealand routes.

As previously reported, Jetstar has also pushed back the delivery of its longer-range Airbus A321neo LR jets, the first of which was slated for delivery in August 2020 with all 18 streaming through by the middle of 2022.

The A321neo LR aircraft were intended to not only open up new international destinations but also had the potential to do double-duty by flying to nearby Asian routes such as Bali overnight while being pressed into domestic service during the day.

Qantas could still end up adding the A321XLR to its fleet.
Qantas could still end up adding the A321XLR to its fleet.

Those 18 A321neo LRs are part of a larger order by the Qantas Group for over a hundred Airbus A321neo aircraft, which includes up to 36 of the extended-range Airbus A321XLRs.

When the order was placed in June 2019, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce deliberately left the door open for Qantas adding some of the A321XLRs to its red-tailed fleet for flights into Asia.

"It can fly routes like Cairns-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which existing narrow-bodies can’t, and that changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive," Joyce remarked.

“We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the Group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar."

Also read: This 'airplane parking lot' at Alice Springs has never been busier

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.

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 18

giving qantas money for an international flight scheduled for this year is just another way of saying, I just gave qantas an interest free loan

05 May 2016

Total posts 632

Indeed. I do not plan to book anything until the Federal government announces a firm date for travel resuming or relaxed rules that enable me to get a permit to travel.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Jun 2019

Total posts 10

I am not even booking intrastate until the week before these days. I hope airlines catch up that travellers will book last minute but only if the price is still right. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 996

If there currently was a market for pre-loved 787-8s, these would be for sale already.  As it is, it is hard to see them ever returning to JQ.  Maybe QF will eventually reconfigure them so they can replace the oldest A332s on domestic services otherwise I think they'll spend years in ASP.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 452

Why do you think they won't return to JQ service? I would think demand will pick up from Christmas 2021 into next year.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1021

I'd be expecting the JQ 788s to be sent to QF once the A321XLRs arrive for JQ.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1393

Himeno I can see the A321 xlrs in Qantas colours Canberra, Adelaide et al to Singapore and from  larger cities (Syd Mel) to, say, KL or Ho Chi Minh, or more frequent to Jakarta.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 307

IMO, I'd be tipping it'll be more likely to see a JQ liveried A321XLR to Kuala Lumpur or Ho Chi Minh rather than QF colours, considering the VFR nature of KL (the A321XLR is the right sized aircraft this time around as opposed to last time JQ tried KUL) or the 'Tourist'  nature (and nearby beaches) of the HCM (or the wider Vietnam) market.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 319

Good place for all Jetstar planes I would have thought, that way QF can’t keep offering them up instead of QF services.

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 101

If Qantas is mooting using new narrowbodies for longish regional flights then I wait with interest to see whether they will be offering full flat seating in business class. It's bad enough on the shorter overnight flights, such as from Denpasar. 

g6s
g6s

22 Jan 2021

Total posts 4

Great to see that Jetstar, and parent company Qantas, is using the Alice Springs storage facility and supporting AU enterprise. 

Recently I commented on an earlier article on Et about QF A380s being stored in California and was told in response by other members that the Alice Facility was full and the US facility was drier .... Well, it appears it's not full and that the relative humidity of Central Australia is more than acceptable for storage of expensive equipment. 

Thanks for doing this Jetstar, and parent company Qantas. Better late than never!

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 339

As I understand it, Alice Springs has recently been expanded and Jetstar didn't need to book this space for anywhere near the estimated 3 years that Qantas needs for its Boeing 787s, both those reasons would be behind Jetstar choosing Alice instead of Victorville.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 676

To be honest, I suspect that the JQ B788's have gone to Alice Springs only as a 'short-term' park. Whether that 'short-term' is 3-4 months or 6 months, will be debatable.

It seems that people are forgetting that these B787's fly on some interesting long haul routes, including Honolulu and to Japan. Now, I can appreciate that the A321XLR's might be good regional players - when they eventually arrive - but that won't be all that soon.

QF has already deferred some of these deliveries, since additional cap-ex right now would be ... er .. a little inconvenient. And whilst a few here might be keen to suggest that JQ could revert to the older A330's for HNL, I wouldn't see the logic in that. It would require another refit, for a start, of frames which have just recently been configured to the QF J Class interior. The same would be true for the Japan routes.

Whilst the A321XLR's will prove valuable for much of Asia (especially to Indonesia and SIN etc) it will be interesting to see how JQ adjusts schedules to replace the B788's on routes such as Bali and Vietnam.

Since the B788's are configured in a high density mode, it would be really, really interesting to see if JQ ultimately attempts to put them on mainline domestic Australian routes. That might constitute "biting the (QF) hand that feeds you" and cause some tears before bedtime. However, depending on how the "Rex / Virgin / QF domestic" battle plays out .. popcorn ordered for March already ... these frames might be the QF Group 'trojan horse'. It just depends on what colour the outside ends up with - being orange on silver OR red on white ?

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 52

With A321s doing south-east Asia, the 787s will be great for China, India, South Korea, Japan.

Interesting to see whether people will prefer direct flights post-you-know-what even if they are less frequent than options via Singapore or HK.


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