Almost two years after Qantas grounded its 12-strong superjumbo fleet at the start of the pandemic, the A380s are taking to the skies again.
This week – indeed, today, Tuesday January 11 – sees the double-decker jet return to the Sydney-Los Angeles service.
It will initially feature three days a week on this flagship route (flying as QF11 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays), alongside one weekly Boeing 787 service (on Saturdays).
The frequency of those flights, and the number of 'A380 days', is expected to steadily increase as more superjumbos come back and once Queensland relaxes its strict quarantine rules which require Qantas' 70-odd Brisbane-based Boeing 787 pilots to undergo 14 days isolation after each international service, which prevents them from being fully utilised for other international flights.
Qantas brought one Airbus A380 out of storage in November for crew training, with a Qantas spokesperson adding this also gave the airline "some flexibility over the busy summer holiday period if we needed it".
And when that need eventuated due to Queensland's 14-day isolation periods, "having the aircraft and the crew ready to go means we're able to plug some of the gap created by having so many 787 pilots stuck with quarantine rules."
A second red-tailed A380 arrived back at Sydney over the weekend, and more will follow ahead of the upgrading of Sydney-Singapore-London to an A380 from June 19.
"The A380 is a favourite among our customers and our employees and it will be fantastic to see it back in the sky again months ahead of schedule." Qantas says.
Qantas now plans to have six A380s in its Sydney hangars by the end of this year, with four more slated to return to service by early 2024 – although the airline says two of the 12-strong superjumbo fleet will be retired "because they will be surplus to requirements."
For now, first class not for sale
However, the A380's first class suites between Sydney and Los Angeles are not being put on sale until March 27.
As Executive Traveller reported earlier this week, Qantas will instead offer all 14 suites as “complimentary upgrades for top-tier frequent flyers” travelling in business class.
They’ll still receive the same meals, drinks and service as anyone in business class – it’ll just be delivered in those spacious suites nestled away in the exclusive first class cabin at the front of the A380’s lower deck.
Executive Traveller understands that first cab off the rank will be Platinum One and Platinum Qantas Frequent Flyers booked in business class, who’ll be contacted several days before departure and offered the free upgrade.
What to expect on board the Qantas A380
But it's not just some travellers who are getting an upgrade. Before the pandemic, Qantas had begun the extensive and expensive process of upgrading its entire A380 fleet with a focus on modernising the premium passenger experience.
Each refurbished jet now sports the same business class and premium economy seats as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, plus two 'premium lounges' on the upper deck – one on either side of the staircase to the lower deck – plus a refresh of the first class suites.
The intention is for all of the returning A380s to have been modernised, although the superjumbo which takes on Sydney-Los Angeles from this week remains in its original configuration – with the older two-abreast business class Skybeds – as this particular jet was primarily brought back for crew training and as a 'spare'.