Qantas cuts A380 flights, trims New York schedule

A shortfall of superjumbos hits travellers bound for Los Angeles, South Africa and even New York.

By David Flynn, February 8 2024
Qantas cuts A380 flights, trims New York schedule
Executive Traveller exclusive

While international travel continues to surge, Qantas is being forced to rein in its ambitions for a larger slice of the pie.

The airline says ongoing ‘supply chain’ issues – including a shortage of parts, maintenance teams and even the availability of hangars – have further slowed the return of its flagship A380 jets.

While eight red-tailed superjumbos have returned to the skies since international borders reopened, one of these has yet to be upgraded with the airline's latest business class and premium economy, along with a fresh take on the upper-deck lounge.

Qantas previously planned to have all ten A380s back in the skies this year (down from the original dozen A380s, two of which have been junked), but now says the tally will stand at nine superjumbos by year’s end 

This has forced another reshaping of Qantas’ international schedule to plug some superjumbo-sized holes, and the airline has confirmed to Executive Traveller the following changes to three key routes.

Fewer flights to New York

The marathon Sydney-Auckland-New York route launched in June 2023 was in line to become a daily Boeing 787 service in August, but will now remain pegged at four days per week due to the need to roster additional Dreamliners onto other parts of the international network in place of the Airbus A380.

However, Qantas is confident of moving to six New York flights pre week from early October.

Compared: Qantas vs Air New Zealand for the Sydney to New York route

More 787s to Los Angeles

Los Angeles remains the top US destination for Qantas, even with many travellers now bypassing LAX (and who can blame them?) to fly straight into New York, and the double-decker A380 plays a major role in moving passengers en masse from Sydney Melbourne to LA.

But with only eight superjumbos out of an original 12 now flying, Melbourne’s daily flights to Los Angeles will now feature the A380 on just two days per week, with the Boeing 787 filling the remaining five days each week.

Qantas A380 to Johannesburg

July 2024 was to have seen Sydney-Johannesburg move from a Boeing 787 to an Airbus A380, which would also have delivered first class onto the 14-hour journey.

That’s now been pushed back, with the Dreamliner remaining rostered onto QF63/QF64 six days a week until late September, when the A380 is slated to step back in.

(Qantas has previously advised the Sydney-Jo’burg superjumbo will drop to between four and six times per week, depending on the time of year and demand.)

This comes as South African Airways gears up to restart Johannesburg-Perth flights from April 28.

Also read: Qantas to retire A380 from 2032, replace with A350

Qantas is now in the process of contacting passengers whose travel plans have been impacted by these changes, and says they will be re-accommodated but with the option of choosing travel credit or a full refund.

No more 787s from Sydney to Tokyo

The airline’s plans to launch Boeing 787 flights from Sydney to Paris in July, alongside seasonal flights to Rome from June, remain on track, as does the March 31 upgrade of the Sydney-Honolulu route from an Airbus A330 to a Boeing 787.

As previously reported, another change to make more Boeing 787s available for the likes of Los Angeles and Johannesburg is their removal from the overnight Sydney-Tokyo QF25 service (and of course the daytime QF26 return leg).

Starting today, February 8, the Dreamliner will be swapped out for an Airbus A330 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and as of March 31 the flight will shift to A330s on every day of the week – quite likely the result of Qantas being able to replace its own Sydney-Bangkok A330 with one leased from Finnair.

The modern Boeing 787 not only offers a quieter and generally more comfortable ride on those 9+hour flights, it also offers a compact premium economy cabin of 28 comfortable recliners, compared to the older A330s which lack this in-between cabin.

Qantas will begin retiring the A330s in 2027-2028 with a mixed fleet of both Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 jets, although some A330s will be refreshed and fitted with new economy seats to keep them flying well into the 2030’s.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Aug 2017

Total posts 13

If only they, I dunno, had a few spare A380s sitting around? Oh wait ... #ThanksAlan

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

20 Apr 2015

Total posts 33

I recently flew the A330-200 from Haneda to Sydney. Quite an embarrassment. The toilet doors were gaffer taped together. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 373

I find it somewhat strange that Qantas never planned to return all 12 A380s to service. Their fleet is under immense pressure and although there are more aircraft on order, these are still years away.

Yes, I think the decision to scrap those two A380s is coming back to bite Qantas now.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 385

This highlights just how wrong they got their fleet planning. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1204

Their fleet strategy is a bit of a mess.  You can use COVID as an excuse but you get the impression that the SLT were more interested in short term profits and incentive plans than actually having a strategy to come out of the pandemic as a better airline.

The fleet is stretched and ageing.  I have travelled into Asia several times in recent months and all flights have ended up on older A332s that would previously have been dedicated to largely domestic services.  On one flight, iPads weren't even available and passengers were told to urgently download the Qantas App before leaving the terminal so they could access the entertainment in Y.  

I partially understand the delays in the A380 upgrades but they would probably have been better off bringing back more A380s with old product and dedicating them to shorter routes such as SIN and HKG.  Instead, they have been forced into the Finnair wet-lease.

It is good that QF are trying new routes but, without the fleet in place, it has turned into a bit of a shell game.  Until the new 789s arrive in a couple of years, they'd probably be better easing off on any new network additions.

Ironically, the current slowdown in demand to US may help them as they can restrict services without ceding too much revenue to UA etc.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 107

What really bugs me is the fact that I need to fly to Rome in May and September and find that to fly with my own national carrier it is well neigh impossible to fly direct, whilst a code share ticket with Emirates works out $ 10,000 cheaper. Obviously no sight of price gouging of course. 

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 154

A380s prematurely scrapped.  787 options and purchase rights cancelled...

Just think - in a different world, QF could be taking a share of resurgent demand for air travel amid a booming economy.  Instead, it's a barely-relevant bit player.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 121

Sad but 100% accurate. Hope they learn a good lesson. 

LOL that Qantas is a 'barely-relevant bit player'. Yes it could and should be bigger but come on, be sensible and dial down on the daft hyperbole.


02 May 2016

Total posts 62

Sadly some of this is the Alan Joyce legacy, fleet is the issue but surely there must be some used (2nd hand) A330’s in the market they can buy, Delta as an example have been magnificent in buying used aircraft, refitting them and flying them very successfully. The masses largely don’t care about the shiny new plane as they do about what’s inside and the service. Don’t know why Qantas need to “pull back”?

How is that not an accurate assessment of their international routes? They are very much hinging on their domestic customers to shell out premium dollar out of sheer loyalty for a more expensive and less refined product. They are not leaders in any of their international routes on value for money, offerings or service. Qantas is a national embarrassment and Australians needing to travel equally on domestic and international are practically hostage to this monopoly. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 100

It is a 'barely-relevant bit player' when I can fly to London from Melbourne using options of QR 2 times a day, EK about 3 a day, SQ about 5 a day not to mention all the other players leaving MEL to their hubs. And yet QF directs me to go via SYD to QF1 usually as their first and 'cheapest' solution, or via SIN on an A330, and are about to cut the 787 QF9 on Mel-Per sector meaning a domestic flight to Per. All usually for at least $4-6k more than the cheapest of above options in J. Absolutely pathetic... 

Despite all the well known issues and problems of Qantas it still has the largest share of the Australian market for international travel, something like 20%, followed by EK and SQ at roughly 16-17% each? Those were the numbers the last time I saw them. Even if Qantas has lost the top spot and it now at 15% that is still very far from being a 'bit player'.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 380

So you're saying 80% of international travel is on airlines other than Qantas. Considering the likes of SQ can only fly from AU to Singapore vs Qantas that flies from AU to a considerably larger amount of countries. I think "bit player" is fair.

And you're saying the largest share of a highly competitive multi-billion dollar market = 'bit player'?  LOL Does that mean SQ and EK which have smaller market share here are also 'bit players'?

SQ doesn't just fly to Singapore of course, it flies all around the world to so many places that Qantas doesn't, that's one reason it's ranked #3 in the Australian market, it's about the hub compared to Qantas being more point-to-point. Emirates is exactly the same of course, and it's at #2. None of these are 'bit players'.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Even if QF still had the two extra aircraft they'd still be awaiting the spare parts and outsourced maintenance availability...

But someone in Qantas has signed some bad contracts to have these supply issues occur.

With VH-OQA and VH-OQC still in Abu Dhabi awaiting refurbishment plus VH-OQL flying day to day un refurbished together with scrapped carcases of VH-OQE and VH-OQF in Victorville Boneyard it is a sorry state for Qantas and their A380's.

Worse is there is no update from Qantas with the 3 non refurbished A380's and as to when they are likely to return to service refurbished.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Oct 2012

Total posts 44

This just confirms to me why I'm moving my international spend to other carriers... QFF lifetime gold and current platinum so will get the benefit domestically, but I'm not prepared to fly a sub-standard product and pay a premium anymore.  I can fly from Asia to Europe at half the cost that Qantas does from Australia on biz... with up to 4 airlines.  I just do a short haul flight up to Asia and then jump on the other carrier and enjoy better service, product and far cheaper.  Essentially pays for accommodation or another flight...  yes it's a bit of a pain sometimes but when you are saving significant $s that more than offsets it... 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 37

I’m in the same situation re lifetime gold and current platinum but having severe reservations about throwing my dollars at them this year vs SQ etc

16 Dec 2016

Total posts 55

It is clear that these keyboard warriors don't work in transport or manufacturing.  There IS a serious issue with supply chain people and it is becoming a problem again with what is happening in the Middle East right now.  Of course Qatar and EK don't have to worry as they can do some 'different' deals. As for these aircraft contracts you are discussing, are you forgetting the negative cashflow over the pandemic? You are the same people that were crying foul about 'Government bail-outs (paid as Job Keeper to employees or as Charters to bring Australians home) which kept the airline afloat so I am not sure where Qantas was meant to get the cash needed to pay for new aircraft at this time? As soon as they became profitable they ordered new aircraft.  Singapore, Emirates, Cathay, Qatar are all Government backed airlines that don't need to answer to investors.  Virgin Australia went bankrupt and left hundreds of millions in unpaid debt.... If you don't think there is an issue with supply chain, or the labour force in Australia then you really don't get it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Sep 2021

Total posts 15

SYD-HND on JAL 787 was always a a better option than QFA330. ANA 787 much newer and better service than QF.

It’s now settled, why would you bother withQF to HND

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