Qantas to mothball all Airbus A380s until at least 2023

Alan Joyce says the mighty superjumbo is likely to stay grounded "for at least three years."

By David Flynn, June 25 2020
Qantas to mothball all Airbus A380s until at least 2023

Qantas will ground its entire flagship Airbus A380 fleet until at least the middle of 2023 as the airline comes to grips with what's expected to be a prolonged downturn in international travel.

"We're parking the A380s for at least three years," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce confirmed to media during a press teleconference following the announcement of a sweeping three-year 'post-Covid recovery plan'.

With Qantas forecasting its international network to reach only 50% of its pre-pandemic capacity during the 2021-2022 financial year, Joyce said the A380s "don’t have any use during this period of time."

Joyce said he doesn't expect the Qantas' international network to restart "in any real size from July next year", with those flights led by the smaller Boeing 787 and Airbus A330 jets "to establish the network as fast as possible."

However, "the A380s have to remain on the ground for at least three years until we see those international volumes brought back," Joyce said.

"The aircraft are being put into the Mojave Desert, where the environment protects the aircraft (because) we have the intention at the right time to restart them, but that is a considerable amount of time away."

Can the superjumbo survive?

Although all 12 A380s will remain in hibernation, the six which have been upgraded with the latest business class seats and inflight lounges would be first to return to the skies.

The fate of the second six will hinge on the projected recovery for Qantas' flagship routes to London and the US, and the outcome of a sweeping review of the airline's entire international fleet to reshape it around post-coronavirus travel demand.

"There is a potential to bring all 12 (A380s) back (into service), but there is a potential to bring less than 12 back," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce told Executive Traveller on May 5, when he announced the review.

"That will depend on what the recovery scenario looks like.... we don’t know when the big markets like the US and the UK, which use the A380s, will open, and when,” Joyce added.

Over the next few years, the Boeing 787-9 will become Qantas' international workhorse "to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, London and Asia," Joyce said.

When flights to London eventually resume, those are expected to run only on the Qantas Boeing 787 between Perth and London, with Singapore downgraded to an end-destination served to by Airbus A330s and Boeing 787s.

If demand increases beyond the 236-seat capacity of the Boeing 787-9, Qantas would likely add a second daily Dreamliner service onto the route – enacting the same plan as announced in March 2020 when the Sydney-Singapore-London QF1/QF2 Airbus A380 service was set to be rerouted via Perth on a Boeing 787-9.

The airline is also winding up its Boeing 747 fleet, marking a fanfare-free end for the aircraft dubbed 'Queen of the Skies' by its fans, and which for decades was the backbone of Qantas' international fleet.

The iconic jumbos were due for retirement by the end of 2020 in favour of new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, but that timetable has been brought forward six months, with the last red-tailed Boeing 747 departing Sydney at the end of June, bound for Mojave's aviation 'boneyard'.

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.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 319

I'm surprised it is cheaper to fly them to Mojave for storage than to Alice Springs. I get they are a bit tight for space currently at Alice, but thought I read somewhere that they could increase capacity very quickly if required.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Aug 2013

Total posts 17

I would have thought storing them in Alice would be better than flying to California to store them.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 682

I believe Alice Springs currently has no capacity for additional parked aircraft at the moment though it intends on doubling the capacity in the short term. The cost of flying the A380s to Mohave compared with ASP is relatively minuscule given the overall cost to the business of parking them for three years.

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 45

And I'll be mothballing my QFF card, and firing up the Emirates Skywards instead (or whoever keeps flying the A380).

I always base my international flying provider based on the highest comfort ad services first, hence those flying an A380 to my destination get first byte of my dollars.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 472

Wont get me on a 787 for 18 hrs.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 3

Woomera has a strip that could easily handlen an A380. There's plenty of dry flat land, a railway and a major highway at the front door, plenty of vacant accommodation, an airport with flights to Adelaide every few hours just 70km away, a dry climate and most importantly, plenty of security. Why send the fleet to the Mohave?

22 Apr 2020

Total posts 7

Because there's more to long term storage than what you mentioned. It's quite specialised.

Maybe some of the A380's going to Mohave are currently parked at LAX? It that case it's very close.

01 Apr 2014

Total posts 88

Correct - OQB/OQF/OQJ are currently at the QF LAX maintenance facility which only has limited ramp space, which will likely be needed for B787 work when USA services resume. And the B787-9 provides much better cargo economics as it can fit up to 36 LD3 sized containers in the belly, whilst the A380 takes 38 containers, but at a much higher operating cost. An easy decision for the airline bean counters.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 167

I believe OQI is currently in Dresden so also closer to US than AU.

Travel onboard the A380 is just so superior to alternatives and I will be now be looking at Emirates for our regular trips to Switzerland & UK particularly as EK will be introducing PE next year. I hope that demand will allow QF to recommence A380 ops. at least with the 6 refurbished examples.

04 Dec 2017

Total posts 53

A sad day for passengers. It's all about survival for Qantas but the A380 is/was simply unsurpassed experience wise. Can anyone clarify if it is the newest 6 that are refurbed or a mix?.....if its a mix doesn't make sense they'd refurb the older iterations as I understand some had issues.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

04 Mar 2018

Total posts 20

Just checked the floor plans VH-OQA,B,C,D,E,F,G,I,L ARE showing 14F 64B 35PE 371E, with the Sky bed Layout

VH-OAH,J,K ARE SHOWING 14F 70B 60PE 341E, WITH the newer stagger business seats,

So it looks like the newer units got the upgrade. Makes sense if they are scrapping the older ones.

Suggesting I and L are marked as the probably next to be upgraded. That would be 5 with new fit out. Wonder if G would get an upgrade as that would be 6.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Oct 2019

Total posts 5

Qantas haven't updated their seat maps for a while so they only show OQH OQK and OQK on their seat map

However OQG as mentioned already has been refurbished and so have OQI and OQD. They haven't been added to the map yet, but those are the six.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Oct 2019

Total posts 5

oqh, oqj and oqk sorry. I can't edit the post

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 472

Qantas can hype up the 787 and even the A350 all they want but they need to realise neither will ever be the A380. The A380 is where passengers want to be for long and ultra long haul. I know it needs to be viable but I wouldn't be too hasty in ditching the fleet. I concur that I will always choose Emirates over Qantas if they have the A380 in service and Qantas does not(of course on QF paper). Even Qatar if they bring theirs back.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2016

Total posts 25

Absolutely. We flew to London in a refurbished Business Class in February and it was amazing. So much space. Even at the basic level there are only four seats wide - 1-2-1, which is so good when you compare there were 10 wide downstairs.

But if you consider the flat bed space - the four probably take the space of twenty seats (2 rows) down stairs. The staff are magnificent, the food spectacular, the comfort superb. Not to mention the actual volume of space in your "single" seat - storage, proper table, excellent TV, ideal controls etc. It is just a marvelous experience to fly Business in the upgraded A380's. Thank you so much Qantas, Alan and staff.

23 Jul 2017

Total posts 52

The A380 is far more spacious and comfortable to fly in than the squeezy Boeing 787 nightmare plane, but it's the now-departed Boeing 747, yes, Queen of the Sky, that had most comfort.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 975

Maybe if London and LA aren't in a position to get QF A380 operations, Tokyo will be.

Reopen QF21/22 and SYD-NRT (HND will only accept A380s during the overnight hours, only 1 on the ground at a time and they can't be there during the day slot hours).

07 May 2019

Total posts 1

If they stored them at Alice Springs they would have to make them airworthy again just to fly them to Mohave for scrapping.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 319

You can scrap them at Alice Springs as well. They have facilities for maintenance, storage and scrapping

08 Aug 2017

Total posts 42

Such sad news. My favourite aircraft as a long haul passenger. I loved the so-called ‘Emerald City‘ at the front of the upper deck.... Just so quiet and smooth.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Mar 2018

Total posts 35

Is Qantas just gonna standardize its widebody fleet to 787s?

But I am concerned that Qantas' shine as Australia's flag carrier may not resonate with a product that doesn't look decent enough to compete with others. Granted, Qantas new Economy is kinda luxurious but Thompson Vantage XL?

Thatt's the same product as China Eastern, Shanghai Airlines, SAS etc who all debuted their products back in the earlier 2010s. This is in competition with QSuites, SQ fugly but okay "lar" seats, EK pastel but at least bed is comfortable... All this dark coloring is not seen in good light by Asian customers who, if Qantas wakes up, is actually their biggest customers.

Can I say I never liked Qantas safety video. It is too Australian, for customers who are primarily not actually Australian. I get butterflies when United's vid flashes a moment of Singapore's skyline. To me, the customer it means I as a Singaporean, feel special.

My problem is that Qantas seriously tries too hard to be Australian when it comes off as unauthentic.

You don't need to CGI stuff and try to show parts of Australia so desperately.

Keep it simple, a la Delta, and speak with that cheerful accent that communicates Australia to one and all. English.

Ansett Australia's uniform fully embued Australia too. Qantas needs... a proper luxury brand designer (maybe Oroton)? Cos they seriously never got the uniform right cos they never bothered to tailor it. It's the little finer touches that matter, and Qantas lacks sophistication and finess. I don't understand why Jetstar branding and uniform comes off as so much more Australian and classier. I'm sorry ladies, the uniforms makes you look tired soccer moms. I really think the designers were friggin lazy.

I also don't like the tail and the use of kangaroo anymore. They don't look like kangarros to me. From far they look like Cathay Dragon and Turkish Airlines or a red Lufthansa.

Sorry about the rant but Qantas needs to free itself from its traditions and brand itself better.

And communicating Australia is more important than Nancy Bird Ansett or Longreach. Australia has the population of Beijing. It is not that significant. The Mandarin names are messed up and do not convey that it is an Australia airline. In fact they actually become 快达航空 as in... Express Airlines.

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 162

So you don't like the 'Australian-ishness' of the branding but the cabin crew uniforms from Ansett and Jetstar are OK because they 'fully embued (sic) Australia' and 'come off as so much more Australian and classier'?

Sorry but I think you miss the point. SQ is very Singaporean, from the moment you arrive at the gate for a SQ flight you feel that. Same with QF, as soon as you board it feels Australian. It actually feels very authentic to me, faults and "she'll be right' attitude and all. Australia is small in many ways but it has a distinctive brand, the national airline should reflect that.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 41

Actually my gripe about the current 100 years celebration version of the inflight safety video is that the background music soundtrack is so loud that I have difficulty catching what was being said if I don't already know the content and the subtitles on display (in some versions). Worse for those pax who are not native English speakers.

As some other commentators had said in previous forums, the video is more about making us feel good about ourselves but does nothing to attract or gain loyalty with overseas clients, of which those from Asia will prefer Asian based airlines on the basis of in flight service rather than just being patriotic to their own homegrown airlines.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 12

No major loss in Business. A380 Business was crap, droopy seats, 2-2-2 on most aircraft. 787 and 330 into Asia much better. Putting in the new seats took too long, are still not on all.

Give me the A380 anytime over 787 when in economy though.

20 May 2020

Total posts 1

My first post today - So lazy of me waiting until I have just retired to become active although I have been following the platform for years. I have to say that I loved flying the Qantas A380 for many years primarily to Europe via LHR with the occasional trip to USA. My god Levinn there doesn't seem to be much about Qantas that you like? I don't agree with the less than authentic Australian feel - I must say that whenever I was returning from a tedious business trip I really looked forward to my champers in the Qantas business class J - Felt I was on my way home! Sure not every flight was great, often depending on the crew but I found the comfort level (and wine selection!) generally at least as good as Emirates and Etihad. I will be very interested to see how long it takes for demand levels to increase enough to warrant the recommissioning of the A380's. My focus has changed a bit I guess now concentrating on leisure rather than business travel. I had to cancel a RTW classic reward booking utilising 2 Qantas A380 legs and now my focus is on the complete travel experience rather than getting from A to B as quickly, economically and as comfortably as possible. I can see myself waiting until I can travel on the A380 again (preferrably Qantas but, if not, Emirates, Qatar or Etihad). That, together with being able to enjoy the usual service levels both in the lounges and on board, I think will mean that I will be looking at domestic only until late 2022 or early 2023.

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 28

I saw QF29 flying into Hong Kong yesterday, the usual A330. I guess the A380s are not very suitable for freight-only operations.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1204

This means there will no longer be a first class product on Qantas until 2023. What will happen to the first lounges I wonder.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 502

There are some of us that flatly DON'T buy this "mothball the A380 for 3 years". I suspect that they will be back within 18 months at the very latest.

What Alan Joyce needs to be aware of is a bill making passage through the US Congress which sets out specific and enforceable issues for safe distancing within aircraft flying into, throough and out of US air space. Further, as of today there is significant talk that a selection of vaccines will be available within 6-12 months. In particular, President Carrot-top is making noises about a 6 month timeline, whilst big pharma are talking a slightly more realistic timeframe of 9-12.

If this comes to fruition and the USA becomes a viable destination within the next 12-15 months, QF management may have to re-think their idea of leaving middle seats free and taking an unpalatable hit on 65% loads. After all, with the DFW-SYD A380 service pre-COVID19, it was de-rigeur to block >100 seats during much of the year due to weather.

Frankly, QF doesn't have sufficient B787-9's to sustain or even revive international routes from SYD, MEL, PER and BNE as virus numbers o/s begin to retreat.

Further, whilst Australians have been compliant in lockdown for the past 3 months, I doubt strongly that those same people will sit back and accept no international service from QF for the next 12 months when competitors are to be flying from October / November this year. Despite the nay-sayers alluding to 'no business', there is an acknowledged high backlog of travel demand which even Alan Joyce admits. That will include international - in what ever form it takes.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2016

Total posts 25

Please Alan - bring back the refurbed A380. Can't wait. They are so good. Even the non-refurbed Business in the A380 is fine, but the refurb is fabulous! Absolutely fabulous - layout, space, comfort 1-2-1. Absolutely idea.


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