Qantas eyes Airbus A380 upgrade for Sydney-Tokyo

By Chris Chamberlin, June 3 2019

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.

Read: Tokyo's Haneda and Narita airports – a business traveller's guide

Chris Chamberlin is attending the IATA AGM in Seoul as a guest of IATA.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

oliver_dvs

oliver_dvs

08 Jul 2016

Total posts 3

New J seats long overdue for TYO considering both NH/JL provide better products

tomJ

tomJ

02 Nov 2017

Total posts 35

An A380 on this route would make sense.


That being said, if ANA, SQ, TG, BA, or any of the other A380 operators haven't been able to convince HND to allow A380 operations, I wonder what ace AJ thinks he has up his sleeve.

If I recall correctly, the issue also has partly to do with the A380 exceeding load limits on the numerous taxiways that bridge over the highway servicing the airport, with alterations to the airport's operating patterns being required to accommodate the aircraft.

tomJ

tomJ

02 Nov 2017

Total posts 35

Edit: Scratch that. The reason you don't see A380s at HND is the airport requires greater aircraft separation for the A380. Combine with HND's congestion, and the airport really isn't too keen to introduce the A380 anytime soon.

eamond

eamond

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2014

Total posts 33

There's one catch though: QF arrives early in the morning (when there's really not many flights) and depart after 10 (although a fair bit of arrivals, but nowhere as many as during the daytime)

dm12

dm12

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 38

Couldn't they co-ordinate with JAL so QF flies up overnight and back during the day, and JL flys down overnight and up during the day? That way they save an A380 sitting on the ground all day and offer flexibility for travel both ways for those who really need it.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 925

They can't without something changing with the regulations.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 399

It seems sitting on the ground all day is the sticking

point as I suspect ANA or EK may want some space as well. It may be thin end of the wedge stuff for Haneda; so it may be two 787s. We shall see.

highflyer

highflyer

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 299

Pity QF have the aircraft sitting on the ground. With almost 17 hours ground time... maybe they could utilize the aircraft on some other route... ie, Tokyo - Taipei or HK return?

Lmc

Lmc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 55

I still cant get over how much time Qantas “parks” its A380 fleet. Either in London, LAX and Aus, surely they don’t need that much down time for maintenance.

Either way Qantas are making good money so I’ll go back to armchair CEO!

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 399

This all about offering flights at times people want to travel to ensure connections and avoiding Sydney curfews. They tend to spend much less time hanging around in Australia. They tend to arrive in the morning and head off soon after.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1376

It's a big aircraft. Loses a lot of money if it flies half full or empty - so better to fly it at times people want.

At least at LAX it gets maintenance with QFs dedicated shed

rowwdy

rowwdy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2013

Total posts 135

5th freedom to Seoul would be great!

oldfolky

oldfolky

02 Mar 2013

Total posts 27

The A380 sounds like a bait and switch for this ‘frequency solution’. A bunch of HND slots just got released for US carriers so it seems like it’s a good time to ask. Now if a ‘frequency solution’ included a Melbourne trip, that would be fine by me.

Austin

Austin

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Nov 2015

Total posts 24

Dont forget that QF25 used to go into Narita and sit on the ground there. Qantas then, a few years ago now, moved to Haneda with the 74’s. Maybe go back to NRT ?

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 925

QF21/22 were the SYD-NRT numbers, and they are still used on an adhoc seasonal basis.

Sydney787

Sydney787

American Airlines - AAdvantage

02 Jun 2019

Total posts 10

Showing a hole in Qantas fleet plans, no plane between a 787 and and A3800. 777-300ER would do nicely here.

Lmc

Lmc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 55

Id much prefer frequency over a single A380, a day and night flight in each direction would suit so many passengers better.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 925

I agree.

Depart SYD lunch time, Arrive HND 10pm

Depart HND midnight, Arrive SYD 10am

Depart SYD 9pm, Arrive HND 5am

Depart HND 7am, Arrive SYD 5pm

Would require Australia getting a HND day slot, or one flight going to NRT with slightly different times due to NRT curfew.

sakaiben

sakaiben

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Mar 2017

Total posts 10

I wonder how many people are actually travelling Melbourne to Osaka and are forced to go through Sydney or Tokyo. Each time I do the trip there seems to be many other fellow travellers.

danielrp

danielrp

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jan 2019

Total posts 6

One would think as a 'wildcard' option that Qantas could establish a fifth-freedom route between HND and SIN. This would allow the A380 to used on heavier routes between SIN and AUS if need be, whilst having a shuttle service between Tokyo and Singapore which in itself is a busy route.

Andyzx

Andyzx

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2011

Total posts 18

Vote 2 for the SYD-SIN-HND-SIN-SYD route

QF81 A380 replacement, arrive early evening HND. Late night flight out of Tokyo and we get a new early morning (daytime) flight out of SIN.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 925

JAL has 3 daily flights from Tokyo to Singapore, 2 HND 1 NRT. QF codeshares on all 3. They have no reason to operate their own metal between TYO and SIN.

Reginald

Reginald

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 2

Qantas currently doesn’t served South Korea. Could they do HND-ICN shuttle codeshare with JAL to get it off the ground? I suppose that is a frequency issue with slots at HND though ....

Jedinak K

Jedinak K

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 212

HND-ICN is incredibly competitive. QF will run at a loss with the A380 even if it is at full capacity, because no one is going to spend hundreds of dollars for an hour flight ticket.

S

S

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 105

There are only 3 flights a day on the HND-ICN route. Almost all run HND-GMP. But I can't imagine GMP hosting any A380 flights.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 925

There are 35+ flights/day between Tokyo (HND and NRT) and Seoul (ICN and GMP) across 11 airlines. QF isn't going to jump into that, with a A380 no less.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 925

There are some things to unpack here.

HND has limits on A380 ops due to congestion and space requirements. IIRC, the only A380s that have been to HND were EK flights when EK first flew to HND.

HND is not part of the AU/JP open skies agreement. International slots are awarded to nations by the Japanese MLIT for either night slots (2200-0600) or day slots (0600-2200). Slots are mirrored so that a Japanese carrier and a carrier in the other nation get access. Australia currently only has 1 night slot, which are used by NH and QF to fly SYD-HND (NH keeps an aircraft in SYD all day, like QF keeps one at HND all day and their flight times are near identical)

There is a requirement for an airline getting HND slots to maintain service to NRT. This is why QF started the BNE-NRT flight when the SYD-HND flight started.

Without MLIT awarding another HND slot to Australia, Qantas can not send any other flights there, any 2nd SYD flight would have to go to NRT.

A number of slots for HND are about to be released after the USAF released some airspace around the Yokota Air Base back to Japan. In exchange, the US is getting a number of extra HND slots. The remainder should be allocated soon.

It is very unlikely that QF will be able to get A380 permission to HND. Much more likely of Australia getting another slot, then QF going to IASC for it and hope VA doesn't challenge.

The current QF25/26 flights are often full. QF26 on Monday night was oversold in W and J with people getting downgrades. Other times, Y is oversold with Japanese tour or school groups.

With the current flight times, Qantas could have a day flight north to arrive at 10pm and fly back at midnight, or they could do as they already do and park the aircraft all day. The other options aren't viable given when people want to fly and the availability (lack of) of ground transport in Tokyo to/from HND between 1 and 5am.

If Australia were to get a day slot, QF could fly twice daily with ~2 hour turns and HND arrivals around 5am and 10pm and departures around 7am and midnight.

Himeno

Himeno

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 925

JAL doesn't need a codeshare with a QF 5th freedom. They already have their own flights to Korea and codeshare on KE flights.

Chris2304

Chris2304

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 387

If an A380 gets put on here could that mean Sydney Dallas could change to 787?

Merry

Merry

07 Dec 2016

Total posts 28

Excuse me Chris, but Qantas is already doing Sydney-Haneda A380 flights, in a rather haphazard way. How is this common knowledge? I live in the Northern Beaches of Cairns and TWICE this year, we have had a Qantas A380 diverted from the Haneda Sydney route to Cairns. All other international flights to Cairns (e.g. Cathay Pacific, Southern China etc) are 2 engines, so when a 4 engine A380 monster flies past your balcony on full Final it is noticeable, not least because the diversions are too close! We are 25 metres from the beach and polite aircraft stay on the NW to SE flight path which is about 750 metres offshore. Have requested an explanation for these diversions from QF.

deanr

deanr

04 May 2015

Total posts 231

747s and A380s are two different planes, both just have four engines.

Austin

Austin

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Nov 2015

Total posts 24

I am always amazed at the depth of industry knowledge this sties contributors have.

A big thank you from me for what I am always learning on here.


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Qantas eyes Airbus A380 upgrade for Sydney-Tokyo