Almost two years to the day that Qantas sent its first Airbus A380 into hibernation, on July 6 2020, the red-tailed superjumbo will return to the skies.
While the planned December 2021 restart of the airline's international network sees the flagship routes to London and Los Angeles dominated by the Boeing 787, Friday July 1 2022 shows the Airbus A380 back on the schedule for the Sydney-LAX QF11/QF12 service.
The superjumbo is initially listed for six days a week, with a Boeing 787 slotting in on Wednesdays; Melbourne-Los Angeles remains a Boeing 787-9 route, while Brisbane-Los Angeles will feature a long-range version of the Airbus A330 previously seen on domestic east-west flights as well as jaunts to Asia.
Qantas initially forecast its A380s would remain in mothballs down until at least 2023, but a handful are coming back early to cater for an expected surge in bookings based on high vaccination rates and pent-up demand for travel.
The Qantas Boeing 787-9s have 236 seats, including 42 in business class and 28 in premium economy, but the double-decker A380s more than double that seat count to 485 – including 70 in business class and 60 premium economy, along with 14 first class suites.
In addition, all of the returning A380s will have been upgraded with the latest business class and premium economy seats – using the same designs as the Dreamliners – along with two 'premium lounges' on the upper deck and a refresh of the first class suites.
The Sydney-LAX superjumbos will be followed by the upgrading of Sydney-Singapore-London to an A380 in November 2022.
"These were key markets for Qantas before Covid and given how well they have recovered, we expect travel demand on these routes to be strong enough for the A380" Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce noted last month.
Five more A380s are due to return to service by early 2024, "with timing dependent on how quickly the market recovers."
However, two of the 12-strong superjumbo fleet will be retired "because they will be surplus to requirements."
Qantas says all passengers on its overseas flights will need to be fully vaccinated; the airline will introduce a Travel Pass smartphone app to not only confirm vaccination status but also store and show the results of pre-departure Covid tests, which are likely to be a requirement of entry to many countries.