Qantas hopes to upgrade its flights between Sydney and Tokyo to its flagship Airbus A380 next year as the airline winds back its ageing Boeing 747 fleet.
The jumbo-to-superjumbo swap could see a full first class service reintroduced on the premium route, as well as offer the superior comfort of the airline's new Business Suites on the 9½ flight once the A380s receive their mid-life refresh from later this year.
Although the second tranche of Boeing 787s – due for delivery from late 2019 through to 2020 – is nominally intended to replace the Boeing 747s, the popularity of Sydney-Tokyo ideally calls for a bigger jet than the Dreamliner.
But there's a catch, according to Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce: Tokyo's Haneda Airport doesn’t allow more than one Airbus A380 to be on the ground at a time, and the Red Roo's schedule sees the Sydney-Tokyo-Sydney aircraft parked at Haneda all day between its 5.15am arrival and 10pm departure.
“We’d like to go to an A380 (on Sydney-Tokyo), and use the aircraft there,” Joyce remarked on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting in Seoul, but the aircraft serving the Sydney-Tokyo route “stays in Tokyo the whole day and then leaves at night, which means no other A380s can be on the ground when it’s there” under the airport’s current policy.
"We need that (policy) changed, and we’re working to figure out how we’d do that."
If negotiations around Haneda Airport’s A380 cap prove unsuccessful, Joyce told Executive Traveller that Qantas will instead look at flying Boeing 787s between Sydney and Tokyo, and potentially twice daily, subject to slot constraints and traffic rights into Haneda.
“We’re currently talking about that – both governments (Australian and Japanese) are talking about that – so it may be a frequency solution if we can’t get an aircraft solution,” Joyce said.
While Qantas’ flights from Melbourne and Brisbane to Tokyo serve the distant Narita Airport, its Sydney flights use Haneda, which is located much closer to the Tokyo city centre and offers a quicker commute for business and leisure travellers alike when heading into town or beginning the journey home.
Chris Chamberlin is attending the IATA AGM in Seoul as a guest of IATA.