Qantas will downgrade its Airbus A380 flights between Melbourne and Singapore to the smaller Boeing 787 over the coming months, in response to lower passenger demand driven by the coronavirus outbreak.
As the Roo's Boeing 787 Dreamliners top out at business class, this also sees first class removed from Qantas' Melbourne-Singapore route, albeit temporarily.
Qantas is yet to finalise the changes in its booking systems, although sales of new first class tickets have been paused on QF35/36 for departures between March 29 and May 24 2020, inclusive.
First class passengers already booked on affected flights will be reaccomodated onto other services, which may include detouring via Sydney aboard QF1/QF2, or being shifted onto Emirates' non-stop Melbourne-Singapore flight, which offers first class and which Qantas sells as a codeshare.
“Coronavirus resulted in the suspension of our flights to mainland China and we’re now seeing some secondary impacts with weaker demand on Hong Kong, Singapore and to a lesser extent Japan," said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
“What’s important is that we have flexibility in how we respond to Coronavirus and how we maintain our strategic position more broadly. We can extend how long the cuts are in place, we can deepen them or we can add seats back in if the demand is there. This is an evolving situation that we’re monitoring closely."
Business class gets a boost
Although Qantas is in the process of revamping its Airbus A380s with new business class seats, most flights between Melbourne and Singapore are served by Qantas' unrefurbished superjumbos.
These come fitted with the airline's last-generation business class seating: Skybed IIs in a 2-2-2 layout, which don't provide direct and uninterrupted aisle access for each passenger.
The Boeing 787s being slotted onto the route instead come with a more passenger-pleasing 1-2-1 layout, sporting Qantas' latest Business Suites:
Qantas dials back other international routes
Melbourne's A380 aircraft swap comes as part of a broader reduction of flights and capacity on Qantas' Asia routes, with the number of available seats dialled back by 16% overall.
Flights between Sydney and Shanghai – previously suspended until March 29 2020 – will remain paused until at least May 24 2020, per Qantas' booking schedule.
Sydney-Hong Kong flights will also be reduced from twice-daily to a single daily service between March 30 and May 24 2020, returning to normal schedule from May 25 2020.
As previously reported, Melbourne-Hong Kong and Brisbane-Hong Kong flights will also be reduced to five and four weekly return flights, respectively.
These cuts for Melbourne and Brisbane were to originally take effect until late March, but have been extended "until at least the end of May."
Additionally, Qantas will trim some flights to Auckland from both Sydney and Melbourne over the coming months, and from Brisbane to Christchurch, reducing available seats by 6%.