Although Qantas has welcomed the move by NSW to end the requirement for hotel and home quarantine for fully-vaccinated travellers from November 1, the airline says it has no plans for an early return of its Airbus A380s.
The red-tailed superjumbos are slated to take wing from July 2022 between Sydney and Los Angeles, followed by the Kangaroo Route from Sydney to London in November.
While that's well ahead of the original 2023-2024 timeline, Executive Traveller understands the airline has ruled out bringing those A380 flights forward.
Qantas is restarting its Sydney-London and Sydney-Los Angeles flights from November 1 – they were previously scheduled to take off from November 14 – but bookings will be "limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and parents in line with Australian Government requirements."
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However, only ten of the 12 superjumbos will return from storage in California's Mojave Desert, with the airline confirming that two would be retired "because they will be surplus to requirements."
The good news – besides that the double-decker A380s are back – is that the ten set to take wing will all have been upgraded with the latest business class and premium economy seats, along with two 'premium lounges' on the upper deck and a refresh for first class.
The first five red-tailed Qantas Airbus A380s will begin flying between Sydney and Los Angeles from July 2022, and between Sydney and London (via Singapore) from November 2022.
The airline's rationale is that "the A380s these long-haul routes when there's sufficient demand, and the high vaccination rates in both markets would underpin this."
Five more A380s are due to return to service by early 2024, "with timing dependent on how quickly the market recovers."
Qantas initially forecast its A380s would remain stood down for at least three years, until demand rebuilt to pre-Covid levels in 2023-2024, although this was later revised to see as many as six superjumbos soaring back from the end of 2023.
Flagship routes remain strong for the A380
However, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce today announced the airline will "bring five A380s back into service about a year ahead of schedule – from mid-2022 onwards – to fly to the UK and US."
"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."
While Joyce noted that it was obviously up to the government to determine "exactly how and when our international borders re-open... with Australia on track to meet the 80 per cent trigger agreed by National Cabinet by the end of the year, we need to plan ahead for what is a complex restart process."
"There's a lot of work that needs to happen, including training for our people and carefully bringing aircraft back into service. We're also working to integrate the IATA travel pass into our systems to help our customers prove their vaccine status and cross borders."
"We can adjust our plans if the circumstances change, which we've already had to do several times during this pandemic. Some people might say we're being too optimistic, but based on the pace of the vaccine rollout, this is within reach and we want to make sure we're ready."